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Human Rights Day

 

December 10th, 2019, marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It was on this day in 1948 in which inalienable rights, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, economic, or political status, were engraved in a single document.

Shia Rights Watch observes this day with pride because all humans deserve to live with dignity.

SRW uses this internationally recognized day to renew its goals of raising awareness against human rights violations, promote grassroots advocacy, and empower communities to overcome adversity.

In correspondence, this year celebrates the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Thus, the 2019 Human Rights Day is an opportunity to showcase the galvanized role youth have in the sphere of Human Rights promotion and protection.

On this day, Shia Rights Watch highlights youth of minority groups, children of those who are frequently marginalized from their larger society.

Frequently, broader integration and minority-rights based endeavors fail to account for the needs of the minors. The multitiered barriers that inhibit their empowerment can go long unnoticed.

Minority children not only live under the pressures of adolescents, but they also spend their days with the realization that they differ from other occupants in the places they call home. The children who are most affected by this marginalization are those of minorities who are stigmatized.

For instance, take the case of Shia Muslims. While they make up the largest minority religion in the world, Shia Muslims are also one of the most targeted groups. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Malaysia, cultural violence is propagated against Shia Muslims through public education systems. Moreover, political systems show no support for their Shia communities in cases against violence or discrimination based on religious identity.  Thus, as young children, Shia individuals are pushed to the margins of society with signals that they do not belong.

Research in various fields notes that marginalization affects the development of such youth disproportionately.

Thus, in recognition of December 10th as the International Day of Human Rights, Shia Rights Watch calls for the empowerment of children as first-movers in the strive for social equality. This organization highlights the need for increased social support for this group as well as interventions that empower youth to initiate change in their immediate surroundings.

Here are some research-backed ways communities and organizations can uplift the leaders of the future:

Recognize

  • Recognition that youth are key stakeholders in peacebuilding is the first step in building a comprehensive human rights program. Today’s youth are the leaders of tomorrow. Thus, their current needs and grievances must be addressed in ensuring sustainable change in society.

Educate

  • At a young age, children must be familiarized with their rights and the rights of others. Initiate education of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in your community. Moreover, teach children to recognize rights and to voice violations of those rights.
  • Children are members of our communities with inherent dignity and rights. Parents and guardians are essential determinants in the harmonious development of children. Thus, they, too, must be educated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Empower

  • Youth understand what youth need, so include them in peacebuilding! Empowering children to be the primary change-makers should be a key goal in human rights endeavors. Create avenues in which children can ask for their rights and stand against human rights violations. Moreover, create grounds for which children can voice concerns and then promote peaceful conflict resolution.

As always, Shia Rights Watch calls on the international community to share their thoughts on social media through #StandUp4HumanRights and @ShiaRightsWatch

Incidents of Anti-Shiism, November 2019

Incidents of Anti-Shiism, November 2019

In November, Shia Rights Watch continues its oversight on anti-Shia incidents all over the world. Events noted in this statement are a collection of violence against Shia Muslims reported by grassroots activists and reporters. The organization notes that ongoing cases that follow up incidents cited in the previous analysis are not included in this monthly report. 

In addition to raising awareness, Shia Rights Watch uses Monthly Analysis to highlight events that address the Shia community. One such event was held by the Muslim Students Association and the Black Muslim Initiative and the Islamic Center of New York University, titled, “Making the Marginalized Mainstream: Being the Minority within a Minority.” At the event, university students discussed minority identities and physical appearances. Participants noted feeling marginalized by their “own community” based on their Shia beliefs and even more perception of discrimination based on skin color. Nawal Ali, a panelist at the event noted the hidden power of being a minority, “Even though I might have felt I wasn’t part of the mainstream, being different is your superpower,” Ali said. “I don’t know if mainstream should be our goal, but by being unapologetic we might be a window to Islam for somebody else, educating them.”  

Shia Rights Watch commends New York University for creating a space in which minority groups such that of the Shia identity can speak out and express their experiences. 

Shia Rights Watch notes in advance that incidents of violence, including death, injury, and social capital damage in the turbulent nations of Iraq and Iran, are not included in this statement. This organization notes that surveillance of anti-Shiism in these nations is ongoing. Due to the nature of the conflicts, however, Shia Rights Watch does not present findings in this report. More information on these conflicts and statements of this organization can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org. 

Bahrain

Anti-Shiism remains a prominent source of conflict within the Kingdom of Bahrain. In November, an approximate 100 people have been arrested and sentenced without proper due process; 43 of arrests occurred within the first half of the month.

Sources report that arrests occurred prominently through midnight or early morning raids.  According to international accords taken up by Bahrain, the arrests are deemed unlawful on multiple accounts.  

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention,” and that “anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.”

Individuals were not charged at the time of arrest, according to family members present at the time of arrests. Moreover, defendants are not given opportunities to address allegations through appropriate legal means. 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9:  “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should the occasion arise, for the execution of the judgment.”

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 14: “To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it” 

Once taken to detainment centers, Bahraini Shia are met with inhumane conditions. Sources within Jaws Prison note the centers deteriorating infrastructure. Moreover, prisoners report excessively time in solitary confinement relative to international norms. Prisoners report spending 23 hrs a day in cells

Conditions are even more heinous for those who suffer from medical conditions, pre-existing and acquired during their time in detainment. Early this month, the family of Hassan Ali ‘Abd al-Twana’ and Ayoub Adel expressed concern over their health citing negligence in Jaws prison. Adel has been refused medical attention for the second year despite rapidly deteriorating conditions.  

Not only do prison officials refuse to provide medical attention, but they also forbid provisions supplied by family members. Detainees are prohibited from communicating with family members. 

Many have protested against the aforementioned conditions. Among those in protest is Ali al- Hajee, who has uptaken a hunger strike of approximately 90 days.

Prisoners in Jaws, however, report increased violence as a result of protests against lacking conditions in Jaws. 

In November, two minors were among those arrested. Abdul Hadi Rajab, one of the underage individuals, arrested. The youth are currently held among adult detainees, despite the ratification of international treaties that calls for the separation of adults and minors. 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10: “Accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjudication. The penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation. Juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status.”

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 14: In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.

Saudi Arabia

For years, human rights activists have called for the halting of arms sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In increased recognition of Saudi Arabian involvement in violations against humanity, numerous nations stopped selling arms to the Kingdom-nation. 

In November, South Africa halted the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. South Africa cited a violation of a provision prohibiting the transfer of weapons to third-parties and failure to comply with facility inspection.

The countries director for conventional arms controls within the defense ministry, Ezra Jele, noted conventions of human rights and United Nations resolutions as part of the basis of the decision. 

The halted sales make-up one-third of South Africa’s arms exports. Many have criticized the defense ministry’s decision citing loss of jobs, income, and prospects for future diplomacy. Shia Rights Watch, however, honors the halting of business based on human rights violations. The organization notes that while the decision may affect the nation’s economy in the short term, the decision signals values that, in the long run, benefit the country domestically as well as internationally. 

An increasing international sanction on sales to Saudi Arabia enforces called for actions by both limiting the Kingdom and by signaling expectations. 

Human rights violations in Saudi Arabia are extensive, especially towards religious minorities. In a single incident in November alone, eight pro-democracy activists were arrested by Saudi officials. Abdulaziz al-Hais, Sulaiman al-Saikhan al-Nasser, Wa’ad al-Muhaya, Musab Fuad, Fuad al-Farhan, Abdulmajid al-Buluwi, Abdulrahman al-Shehri, and Bader al-Rashed were intellectuals and writers were taken from their homes in Riyadh and Jeddah. Arrests were arbitrary as no specific crime was cited by the plainclothed, un-announced officers who raided homes. 

Those arrested face unknown futures. Shia Rights Watch warns against a fate like that of Hussein Ali Abdulaziz Al-Ribh, a 38-year old Awamiyah resident who lost his life while in detention in Dhahban Central Prison near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Ribh was taken in a house raid in August 2017, from his home. Activists closely following the Al-Ribh’s case fear his death to be a result of torture and medical negligence. 

Shia Rights Watch calls on the international community to continue sanctioning human rights violations, not just in the Saudi Kingdom, but all agents of violence. Actions taken today can have substantial long term impact, especially when they are made in collectives. 

Orange the World: Elimination of Violence Against Women

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25

The United Nations General Assembly in 1993, defined violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Violence against women is a devastating yet persistent human rights violation. The United Nations reports 33% of women and girls experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

“Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.”

Gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere. However, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable, namely, those who live in climates of violence. Historically, and in some places today, sexual abuse is also used as a means of ethnic genocide in which violence against women is used to destroy the social structure of a group.

Women of minority status are even more vulnerable to violence- they are a double-minority. Not only are they a woman, but they are also of a race or ethnicity inherently discriminated against.

They are targeted at a higher prevalence, and authorities undermine violence against them. In general, stigma and shame inhibit the reporting of gender-based violence. However, gender-based violence is far less reported by minority identity groups. Fear of prosecution, further ostracization, and perceptions of incompetence are just a few motivations reported for not reporting violence to authorities. Moreover, some feel that the abuse previously reported were not sufficiently acknowledged.

Shia Rights Watch calls of all members of the international community to empower women and girls against gender-based violence. To reduce violence, we must all work together to destigmatize reporting sexual abuse and to increase social structures that support women and girls to overcome vulnerability.

We stand with activists on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to support efforts taken to create a violence-free environment for the next generation.

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in September, 2019

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in September 2019

The month of September corresponded with the holy month of Muharram. Shia Rights Watch took special attention towards violence that targeted Shia Muslims in their religious congregations. A special report that highlighted acts of violence in the first ten days of the Holy month can be found here

Pro-Shia Rights 

In addition to highlighting violence against Shia Muslims in the month of Muharram, Shia Rights Watch notes actions taken by national governments to protect Shia Muslims and Shia rituals. 

In Sri Lanka, Colombo authorities increased security around Shia religious centers upon information of nationalist groups planning to disrupt Shia processions. The identified groups were given restraining orders by Colombos Magistrate court.  More information on Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect Shia rights can be found here

In Pakistan, authorities increased health and security services in cities dense with Shia populations. Across Pakistan, approximately 40,000 forces were enlisted to protect Shia rituals. Traffic was lead away from areas that were home to Shia Centers, and such regions were secured with national security forces. More information on the protection of Shia rights in Pakistan can be found here

Shia Rights Watch and communication recognized the two nations was made with their embassies in acknowledgment of measures taken to protect Shia rights.  

Bahrain

Within the first ten days of September, an approximated 30 Shia clerics, reciters and program leaders were summoned and arrested by Bahraini authorities. The arrests came after authorities gave warning of increased restrictions to congregations and public expression. Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa announced crackdowns against Muharram commemorations.  He stated that Manama’s security services would be ‘monitoring’ the worshipers and that “raising slogans or pictures of religious or political figures or foreign parties … will not be allowed.” 

Names of those arrested and detained can be found on SRW report specific to violence during the first ten days of Muharram. 

Restrictions were even more enforced in detainment centers. Many identified reciters were separated from general crowds and place in solitary confinement. The general population was told they could only congregate between the hours of 7 to 9 pm. 

Later in the month, accounts of torture were released by the family of Hussain al-Sahlawi who has been detained since 2012. Authorities at Bahraini detention centers have on multiple occasions used torture as a means of extracting forced false confessions. 

Other detainees are restricted in their communication rights. Osama Al-Saghir has reportedly been deprived of his communication privileges for refusing to end his hunger strike.

Al-Saghir was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison after being arrested at a peaceful sit-in outside the home of Bahrain’s highest religious authority Sheikh Isa Qassim. Al-Saghir is one of over 600 detainees on a hunger strike. Hunger strike participants have taken a stand against lacking medical attention and subpar conditions in detention centers. 

Saudi Arabia

Specialized Criminal Court Saudi Arabia has sentenced Shia cleric and human rights activist Sheikh Mohammed al-Habib to 12 years in prison and imposed a five years travel ban on him which will be carried out after his term. Sheikh Habib was recently released after three years of arbitrary detention. 

Seven of those 12 years are based on alleged violations to a legal pledge. Five years of his sentence is part of a second case that punishes his support of protestors. 

The case of al-Habib is yet again another example of the lack of real reform by Kings Mohammad bin Salman. 

Kashmir 

The nature of minority groups makes them the most vulnerable in detriments of conflict. 

Shia Muslims in Kashmir faced particular restrictions by the enforcement of Indian-led security forces. In attempts to quell possible political rallies, authorities announced a curfew and a ban on the congregation. Shia neighborhoods were warned of arrests on the day before Ashura (the tenth day of Muharram). Ongoing processions were met with violence that resulted in the injury of 12 locals. 

Malaysia 

The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) called on the people of Malaysia in advance of Muharram to “always remain vigilant upon the spread of [Shia] deviant teachings in this nation…The Muslim Ummah must become the eyes and the ears for the religious authorities when stumbling upon activities that are suspicious, disguising under the pretext of Islam.” 

The JAIS is funded by one of the most wealthy states in Malaysia and has largely unchecked powers. On September 8, 23 Muharram program attendees in Gombak were taken to the Islamic Complex and told to denounce their beliefs. Those taken were released with warnings of re-arrest.  Among those taken were women and children. 

Shia Rights Watch notes that anti-Shia broadcasts have to lead to a cascade of anti-Shia sentiment which could endanger all religious and ethnic minorities in Malaysia. Moreover, the lack of government intervention against anti-Shiism signals approval of violent actions against minority groups. 

Nigeria 

Restrictions against the Shia population continue in Nigeria as forces attacked Shia processions in four different states. The mourning processions consisted of mourners peacefully chanting condemnation against those who propagated violence against Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.  The attacks lead to the death of 12 and the injury of numerous others. 

Iraq 

Sheikh Mu’ayad Musawi, religious clergy, a doctoral student of Islamic Studies at the University of Baghdad and a father of four, was killed by gunshot in the outskirts of Baghdad. Musawi was invited to a supposed congregation by the phone. He was killed upon arrival by unknown gunmen. 

The identity of the assailants has yet to be discovered. Shia Rights Watch worries of an increase in isolated assassinations that target supporters of Shia Muharram programs. 

 

Arbaeen Advisory

 

The occasion of Arbaeen marks the forty-day anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussain, son of Ali, and grandson of the Prophet Mohammad on the day of Ashura. Every year, millions of Shia and non-Shia from all over the world travel to the holy city of Karbala, Iraq to the shrine of Hussain to renew their vows against the violations of human rights and pledge support for world peace.  Following the traditions of Iraqi natives, pilgrims travel on foot. Many walking as little as 80 km from the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. Others travel more than 500 km from cities such as Basra, Iraq. 

With over 30 million travelers, the Arbaeen pilgrimage stands as the third-largest peaceful human gathering. 

On September 24, 2019, the Department of State held an Arbaeen Briefing for pilgrims who travel to Iraq on this occasion.  Among the speakers of the briefing were administrators and advisors of the Office of International Religious Freedom, Office of International Religious Freedom, American Citizen Services,  US Embassy in Iraq,  Transportation Security Administration, and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security.

Within the session, speakers discussed travel advisory for American citizens to the nation of Iraq. More importantly, the briefing made clear the immense need for the involvement of civil organizations in creating tools that can establish security for those who travel to Iraq for Arbaeen. 

 

With the aims of establishing the safety of Shia pilgrims in Iraq, Shia Rights Watch has initiated multitier projects. In addition to launching inter-organizational and grassroots programs within Iraq, Shia Rights Watch presents the following tips for Arbaeen congregates: 

The first defense against danger is awareness. Recognize risk factors that put you at an increased risk of attack. 

Risk Factors: 

  • Recent trends of violence in Iraq show increased risk for solo travelers, or travelers who are traveling in vacant areas. Shia Rights Watch encourages pilgrims to travel within crowds and avoid remote destinations. 
  • Despite increases in security measures, Southern Iraq is home to fewer terror attacks than Northern cities, namely Baghdad. Pilgrims traveling to and from the Baghdad International Airport (BGW) are encouraged to be on high alert and to avoid unverified transportation and aid individuals. 

Regardless of risk, precautionary measures are always a good idea. Minimize the dangers of possible targeting by being prepared.  

Precautionary Measures: 

  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP, https://step.state.gov/step/) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
    •  If you are not a resident of the United States, contact your local authorities for parallel services. If such a service is not provided to you, inquire about the creation of protective services from your authorities. 
  • Make copies of your documents and keep one on your persons at all times. 
  • Commit to memory emergency contact information. Shia Rights Watch encourages pilgrims to memorize and keep on their person contact information of the United States Embassy, the contact information of a trusted individual within Iraq and the contact information of a family or friend within your hometown. 
  • Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family and update loved ones and co-travelers of your whereabouts. 
  • If you are traveling solo, establish connections with other solo travelers. Share contact information and stay up-to-date on each other’s travel itinerary. 

Shia Rights Watch reinforces compliance with the security requirement and travel advisories of national governments. Travelers are encouraged to contact the Department of State or their national embassies to gain more information on ways to increase safety in their Arbaeen pilgrimage. 

In the event difficulties are encountered while participating in the pilgrimage, pilgrims are advised to contact their home country’s embassy and relevant authorities first, but also remember that trusted SRW  are on-call to give additional advocacy support.

In the event of an emergency, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad can be contacted here by travelers or their loved ones.

 

Anti-Shiism in Muharram 2019

Shia Muslims spend the first ten days of the holy month of Muharram in ritual mourning commemorating the death of Hussain, son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.  

Muharram rituals are central to the Shia faith. The nature of these rituals make this population highly visible, and thus, Shia Muslims are particularly vulnerable in this month. Previous to the beginning of this holy month, Shia Rights Watch published its annual Muharram Advisory. The advisory targets Shia Muslims and national and international authorities with guidelines that can reduce human rights violations. The Muharram 2019 Advisory can be found here

The first ten days of Muharram are notably dense in Shia commemorative events. The majority of anti-Shia targeting can be anticipated in these ten days. Within this document, Shia Rights Watch has compiled anti-Shia incidents in this duration. 

This report is an immediate notice of anti-Shia violence in the first ten days of Muharram. Anti-Shiism presented in this report are reports made to Shia Rights Watch in response to the organizational advisory published in advance of the Holy month. 

A retrospective look into human rights violations against Shia Muslims highlights the dominating role of national authorities in anti-Shiism. Shia Rights Watch has found that anti-Shia actions have been mainly in the hands of authorities. In contrast to previous years, attacks in the hands of extremist groups or individuals have been limited to Iraq.  

Bahrain

In Bahrain, authorities escalated limitations on congregation and arrested leaders of Muharram rituals. On September 4th, the Interior Minister of Bahrain, Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, announced crackdowns against Muharram commemorations.  He stated that Manama’s security services would be ‘monitoring’ the worshipers and that “raising slogans or pictures of religious or political figures or foreign parties … will not be allowed.”

A vast number of clerics, reciters, and religious leaders were summoned, in some cases arrested over their participation in Muharram-related events. 

Among those summoned are: 

Sheikh Isa Al-Moemen and Sheikh Mohammad Ali Al-Mahfouz, Sheikh Zuheir Al-Khal, Sayed Jaber Al-Shahrkani, Ali Hamadi, Mahdi Sahwan, Sayed Hadi Al-Biladi, Ahmad Al-Owainati, and Abdulla Al-Nouri

Among those arrested are: 

Sheikh Isa Eid, Sheikh Sadiq Rabie, Sheikh Fadhel Al-Zaki, Sheikh Abdulmohsen Mulla Atiya Al-Jamri, Sheikh Mounir Al-Maatouk, Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Ojaimi, Sheikh Hamed Ashour, Sheikh Jaafar Al-Saegh, Mulla Kassim Zainuldin, Mulla Jawad Al-Mirza, Sheikh Mohammad Ali Al-Mahfouz, Sayed Jaber Al-Shahrkani, Sheikh Zuheir Al-Khal as well as Sheikh Isa Al-Moeme,Abdullah Al-Buri, Leaders: heads of “Ansar Al-Haq and Sheikh Hussein Al-Asfour obsequies

Coinciding with the holy month of Muharram, detention centers adopted measures that directly restricted rituals associated with the sacred month. Jaws Prison authorities banned group congregation outside the hours of 7-9 PM. Clerics and suspected encouragers of Muharram rituals were placed in solitary confinement, forbidden even the meager time authorities claimed to allow Shia congregation. 

In response to the increased violence against Shia community leaders, Bahrain’s February 14 Youth Coalition called for rallies and increased attendance to Muharram programs as a show of solidarity against anti-Shiism. 

Al-Wefaq called on Manama to stop “ abhorrent sectarian behavior” Sheikh Hussein al-Daihi, the Deputy Secretary-General of al-Wefaq stated:

 “The regime’s targeting of clerics, preachers, and eulogy reciters, in addition to attacking some Ashura manifestations is a heinous crime not less than that committed by the tyrant of Iraq (former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) when he bombed the Dome of Imam Al-Hussein shrine. Those who insist on targeting Ashura every year should remember the fate of all tyrants who fought Imam Al-Hussein and failed and were followed by the curse of history.”

Sources report that restrictions in Shia practices specific to Muharram have incited action in support of Shia rights. Bahraini authorities aimed to quell activism and the diffusion of humanitarian sentiment in Muharram programs by arresting religious reciters and banning large congregations. Contrary to their goals, however, actions taken by authorities have encouraged more support for human rights efforts. 

 

Indian- Led Kashmir

Shia Muslims have become the target of restrictions amidst conflict in Kashmir. At the beginning of the holy month of Muharram, India announced a ban on all gatherings in the Shia-dominated district of Srinagar. Officials called the restrictions on religious expression as “precautions” to political rallies.

In anticipation of Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram, a curfew was put in place. On Sunday, September 8, police vans fitted with loudspeakers announced curfew-like restrictions in Srinagar’s city center Lal Chowk and adjacent areas, including Rainawari and Badgam. Clashes that aimed to thwart ongoing processions resulted in the injury of more than 12 locals. 

Sources report that a number of mourners have been arrested in confrontations resulting from enforcement of curfews. 

The history of Shia Islam in Kashmir reaches back to the late 660 AD under the Umayyad Dynasty when many Shia Muslims fled prosecution. The religion gained visibility in 1372 AD under the teachings of Sayyid Ali Hamedani, who had traveled to Kashmir with over 700 Shia individuals. The belief gained even more traction under Mir Shamsu-din Araqi in 1481. By 1505 AD, Shiism had been adopted by King of the Shah Mir Dynasty based in Kashmir and the Chak clan native to the area.  

 

Malaysia

On Friday, September 6, religious authorities in Selangor asked mosques to call in sermons on their congregations to be vigilant over the spread of Shia Islam. The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) said in a weekly sermon that Muslims should not be influenced by the practices of Shia Islam. The weekly sermon is broadcasted nationally and serves as a template for smaller, community-based sermons all over Malaysia.

The department stated on its website:

“I implore upon the Muslim ummah (community) to always remain vigilant upon the spread of [Shia] deviant teachings in this nation…The Muslim ummah must become the eyes and the ears for the religious authorities when stumbling upon activities that are suspicious, disguising under the pretext of Islam.” 

In the sermon, Shia Islam and practices were regarded as “extremist.. nauseating” and one which “ensnares its victims.”

Days later, on September 8th, 25 JAIS officers raided a Shia center in Gombak, Malaysia at 9:45 pm and arrested 23 individuals. A large portion of those arrested was minors and women. 

Those arrested were brought to the Islamic complex at Gombak and were told that they were being investigated under shariah law for opposing the fatwa on the practice of Shia Islam.  They were held until 5:00 am but told to denounce Shia practices and that they could be summoned again at any time. 

JAIS is the Islamic religious authority in Selangor. The institution is supported by the States vast economic funds. 

Shia in Malaysia report a lack of acceptance and fear of public practice. Religious institutions on numerous occasions denounced Shia Islam and labeled those that practice the religion as “deviants.” 

Shia Rights Watch notes that anti-Shia broadcasts lead to a cascade of anti-Shia sentiment which could endanger all religious and ethnic minorities in Malaysia. Anti-Shiism in Malaysia has hindered peacebuilding efforts across populations. Shia Rights Watch notes that the lack of government intervention into anti-Shia propaganda not only endangers Shia Malaysians, it incites violence that damages non-Shia communities. 

 

Nigeria

Government forces attacked Ashura processions that commemorated the death of Hussain in four different states, one of which was Kano. The mourners chanted slogans condemning the martyrdom of Hussain and carried with them mourning banners. The attack resulted in the death of 12 and the injury of many others.

Government forces have long perpetrated Anti-Shiism in Nigeria. Extreme violence has been the topic of condemnation by the United Nations and human rights organizations. Little action has been taken by State or National leadership to address anti-Shiism in the hands of authorities. 

 

Iraq

A singular attack in Karbala, Iraq stands in contrast to the nations mentioned above in which national authorities were the primary perpetrators of anti-Shiism. 

Sources report a religious clergy and doctoral student of Islamic Studies at the University of Baghdad, Sheikh Mu’ayad Musawi was invited to lead a supposed congregation in the outskirts of Baghdad over the phone. Upon arrival, he was shot by a gunman. It was reported that there was no Muharram congregation and that the clergy was lured to an unpopulated area to be assassinated. Musawi was born in 1985 and was a father to four children. 

Authorities have reported little information about motivations that lead to the perpetuation of the attacks. 

For years, Iraq has faced violence in the hands of extremist such as ISIS, which operate as a group and aim to exterminate the Shia en-mass. This attack was the first of its kind in Iraq.

 

Shia Rights Watch expresses concern for an increase in the assassination of Shia community leaders by armed gunmen and is working actively to aid investigations in the hands of authorities. 

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Shia Rights Watch continues to stand alert to violence that targets Muharram practices in continuation of Muharram. The organization condemns all acts of violence and encourages activism against human rights violations. 

Pakistan: Increased Security in Muharram

Shia Rights Watch expresses gratitude for increased security in Pakistan in deterrence against anti-Shiism on the occasion of Ashura, the 10th of Muharram. Shia Rights Watch recognizes the new measures as a response to protests by Shia Muslims in Pakistan and expresses appreciation on behalf of the international Shia community. 

Across Pakistan, authorities report increased health and security services in areas dense in Shia population, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Islamabad, and Nawabshah. Moreover, authorities have warned against anti-Shia propaganda and hate-inciting publications. 

The Sindh government declared 9th and 10th September (Monday and Tuesday) as public holidays on the occasion of Ashura. More than 69,545 police personnel have been added to provide security for mourners. 

In Karachi, 17,558 officers were enlisted. Moreover, forces will reorganize traffic to reduce congestion.  Jinnah Road was sealed with containers and other barriers and would remain unavailable for routine traffic on 9th and 10th Muharram. Roads joining Saddar Regal Chowk, corridor-3 to Saddar Dawa Khana were also sealed for traffic. The police sealed shops and blocked roads with containers. 

Non-Muharram related congregation and pillion-riding (Motorcycle passengers) were prohibited until after the 10th of Muharram. Such prohibitions were aimed at educing footstep traffic and reducing the feasibility of attacks in the hands of individual perpetrators. In previous years, assailants, both bombers and shooters, fled the scene of attacks by pillion-riding. 

In Hyderabad,  218 mourning processions were declared sensitive and 4,000 policemen were deployed for security on the tenth of Muharram in addition to the Rangers. A unit of Pakistans Army was also placed on standby position. 

In Peshawar, 12,000 policemen were deployed under a comprehensive security plan. Closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) were installed in a number of places to monitor suspicious activity. 

In the Sialkot district alone, 1,258 gatherings were anticipated and planned for. 

Sindh government has confirmed that mobile service was suspended in 245 areas in Karachi. Cellular signals were limited in”flashpoints” and where major processions and gatherings are held.

On rare occurrence of medical emergencies, six operation theatres, 16 ambulances, and 422 medical personnel were placed on high alert in Lady Reading Hospital. 

In the Pakistani province of Punjab, 3,000 security personnel were deployed in Rawalpindi to ensure the safety of the processions.

Shia Rights Watch expresses gratitude for the protection of Shia Muslims in their religious expression. Moreover, the organization notes that the new measures not only protect Shia Muslims, it prevents violence that leads to loss of life and damage to property of non-Shia individuals. The aforementioned increases in security measures were reported by state officials and news personnel. Shia Rights Watch invites Shia communities to retrospectively evaluate these measures and encourages feedback to local authorities in the aims of developing year-round security for the Shia of Pakistan. 

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in August, 2019

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in August, 2019

During August, Shia Rights Watch celebrated the Eid al-Adha by illuminating Time Square, New York. The organization called for solidarity against intolerance and injustice. SRW Eid al- Adha activity can be found here and here

Analysis of anti-Shiism in the first six months of 2019 was published as well. Within the report, SRW researchers shed light on 375 imprisonments, 190 cases of denaturalization, 275 deaths, 77 sentencings, and 143 injuries as a result of anti-Shiism. The report can be viewed here

On the occasion of the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Faith on August 22, 2019, Shia Rights raised awareness on the case of Shia Muslims and vowed advocacy against religious minorities all over the world. 

On the final days of August, Shia Rights Watch released its annual Muharram Advisory. The report notes measures that Shia communities and local and national authorities can take to prevent violence against anti-Shia violence. The report can be found here

Bahrain

Early this month, Osama al-Tamimi, a former member of the Bahrain Council of Representatives, was taken from his home. Al-Tamimi has faced endless harassment. In 2012, al-Tamimi called for the resignation of Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the Bahraini Prime Minister in a speech. 

Activism is quelled all over Bahrain, regardless of age. Seven minors were detained in house raids at dawn on the 19th. No warrants were presented at the time of the arrest. 

Hunger strikes in Bahrain have gained over 600 partakers within the month of August. The hunger strike began with a hand full of prisoners, and within a few weeks, has grown by 500%. Prisoners in Jaws Prison expressed grievance over inhumane restrictions, lacking conditions and torture. The movement has also gained traction on an international level. Ali Mushaima, son of Hasan Mushaima, resumed his hunger strike in protest of medical negligence in the prison in which his father is being held. Hassan Moushaima was the founding member of a-Wefaq and an active campaigner for democracy in Bahrain. Ali Musahima expresses concern for his father’s health as he suffers from, among others,  diabetes and high blood pressure. Hasan Mushaima is also a lung cancer survivor. His family worries about the relapse of his cancer under lacking conditions of the prison. 

Ali Mushaima held a first hunger strike in summer 2018 during which he held protests outside the Bahraini Embassy in London. In an open letter, Ali asked the  intervention, 

“I would like to ask your majesty to use the influence and strong friendship with the king of Bahrain to help me save my father. All I ask for is for him to be treated humanely, including access to adequate medical treatment, books, and family visitation without subjecting him to humiliating measures.”

The Bahraini government subsequently allowed PET cancer scans for his father and gave Hasan Mushaima access to medical attention as per Ali Mushaima’s requests.  

Mohammad al-Singace is another prisoner whose family has expressed immense worry for. Voice recordings from al-Singace tell tales of deteriorating health. Al-Singace is serving a 10-year prison sentence. He has demanded a fair trial and investigations into torture as conditions to end his hunger strike. 

Activists express concerns about increased violence in the hands of Bahraini authorities in the 2019 hunger strike. Late this month, sources within Jaws prison reported raids and beatings by correctional officers over participation in the hunger strikes. A number of prisoners have fainted as a result of the abuse; 20 others have been thrown into solitary confinement on accusations of inciting the hunger strikes. Visitation rights for many have been revoked raising questions of possible torture and deteriorations of health. 

Hassan al-Ghassra, a prisoner at Jaws, reports unjustified targeting of prisoners by guards. It must be mentioned that Jaws prison does not have a system in which prisoners can report the abuse of power and arbitrary violence in the hands of guards and prison authorities. An example of a lack of accountability is the case of Ali Hassan Daoud, who was granted medical treatment by a judge. Prison authorities have ignored the judge’s orders and have refused Daoud medical attention.  Daoud is serving a 15-year sentence (since 2015) and currently suffering from sharp drops in blood pressure, high fever and severe pains in various parts of his body. 

Shia Rights Watch sources report prisoners are not allowed to congregate in peaceful gatherings, nor are they allowed access to religious texts. 

The Bahrain Interfaith Center called for an end to limitations in access to religious texts and religious practice. Authorities have yet to respond to requests. 

Despite the ongoing conditions of human rights in Bahrain, Shia Rights Watch expresses hope for the release of activists unjustly detained. Najah Yusuf was released amidst other prisoners on an Eid al-Adha pardon  Yusuf was arrested for social media criticism of F1 races in Bahrain; In April 2017, she was arrested after posting a note on Facebook where she wrote “no to F1 race on occupied Bahraini land … the race is nothing more than a way for the Al Khalifa ruling family to whitewash their criminal record of human rights abuses.” 

A number of other prisoners were released under the Alternative Punishment Law. Amira Al-Qashaami, Faten Hussein, Hamida Joumaa and Mona Habib served two and a half of their three-year prison sentences and were freed early in August. 

The release of the activists above and the growing rate of activism for reform in the Kingdom of Bahrain support hope for change. Shia Rights Watch continues to advocate for democracy and human rights and encourages peaceful reform. 

Saudi Arabia

In August, two have passed away as a result of inhumane conditions in Tarfia Prison located in the Qassim region of Saudi Arabia. 

On August 3rd, Sheikh Saleh Abdulaziz al-Dumari died of health complications he had developed at Tarfia prison. Dumairi suffered from heart conditions and was being kept in solitary confinement.

Within days, on the 9th of August, Ahmed Abdullah Abdulrahman Shaa’yi passed away. Shaa’yi was a pro-democracy activist. Circumstances surrounding his death are unknown. His family reports torture and medical negligence.  

Conditions in Saudi prisons are alarming. Leaked medical reports to King Salman indicate severe physical abuse, malnutrition, cuts, bruises, and burns on the bodies of prisoners. Among reports are the following: severe weightloss, continuous vomiting, lacerations on back, chest, abdomen, and thighs, facial pallor (change in skin color as a result of ailment) and reduced mobility as a result of torture. 

Sources report being tied to chairs lashed with cords and electrocuted as forms of torture and coercion to denounce their activism. 

Sources within the Saudi government report multiple advisories to the Saudi King to release ill prisoners to medical centers. Authorities have since ignored calls for medical attention to detainees. 

Shia Rights Watch expresses immense concern for detainees in Saudi Arabian prisons and calls upon authorities within the kingdom to stand consistent with diplomatic statements which state, “Saudi Arabia takes any and all allegations of ill-treatment of defendants awaiting trial or prisoners serving their sentences very seriously.”

Nigeria

Early in the month of August, the Kaduna State High Court granted release of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife on bail, allowing to couple to travel to India for medical treatment. Zakzaky himself suffers from shrapnel fragments in his eyes, hands, and right thigh from previous attacks. Medical reports released show toxins within his system that were linked to multiple strokes in his time in detainment. His wife, Malama Zeenah, has a bullet lodged in her body that should long ago have been removed. 

The couple was allowed treatment given the following conditions: 

  • They would have to accept their costs of treatment and travel, 
  • They would travel only with national security guards in whose hands were permission for any treatment and travel plan, 
  • They would sign an agreement which stated they would not apply for asylum in India. 

Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana criticized the conditions. He stated, “The so-called agreement is alien to the penal code and the administration of criminal justice law of Kaduna State.” 

None-the-less the couple traveled to India on August 12th. Upon arrival, Zakzaky released a statement stating,

 “We saw that we were practically brought to another detention facility which is even stricter than the one we were in back in Nigeria. They came here with police armed with guns and a lot of staff from the Nigerian embassy. And we also noticed we were brought into another detention that we only came based on trust. I see here that even when I was in Kiri Kiri prison, it wasn’t as constricting as in this situation. So I feel that it is not reasonable to leave detention to seek medical help and we are placed in different detention, and on top of that, we are handed over to be treated by people we do not trust. So based on this we think that Insha Allah by all apparent indications that there is a need for us to return home since we were allowed to travel abroad for medical care and India doesn’t appear to be a safe place for us. ”

Within two days, on the 14th of August, the couple returned from India with grievances of restrictions on their medical treatments. Upon arrival at the airport, the pair were taken in by Nigerian security agents to an unknown location. 

Exact whereabouts of the Zakzaky couple remain undisclosed. 

Afghanistan 

At 10:40 p.m local time on August 17,  a bomb detonated at a wedding in Kabul killing 80 and wounding 160 others; 60 of those dead died on-site, and the other 20 died during recovery- 14 of those deaths were from the family of the bride. A suicide bomber detonated a bomb-laden vehicle placed near the men’s section of the wedding hall located in west Quetta. The area is an area of the city densely populated by Shia Muslims, a fact well known by ISIS militants behind the attack. 

Shia Muslims are frequently targets of violence in the hands of extremist groups rampant in the immediate region.   

Pakistan

On August 16, an improvised explosive device placed under a wooden chair specific to the leader of the prayer in a mosque in Quetta’s Kuchlak area killed four and wounded 20 others on site. 

Quetta is home to a large population of Shia Muslims. The city has also been home to a high rate of bombings such that of the aforementioned incident which targets Shia congregation sites. Residents of Quetta express worry for the safety of their families and have stated that they feel that their local authorities fail to ensure their safety by stopping violence in the hands of violent extremists.

Conclusion 

In addition to presenting anti-Shia incidents in August, Shia Rights Watch expresses worry for the upcoming month of September as it falls coincidental to the holy month of Muharram. 

Congregation and expression of religion are critical parts of Muharram rituals for the Shia. Shia Rights Watch expresses concern for the safety of Shia Muslims in light of increased publicity. 

The organization continues to prioritize human rights and continues to monitor incidents of anti-Shiism. 

SRW Expresses Gratitude On Protection of Rights in Sri Lanka

To the Honorable Ambassador Rodney Perera; 

Shia Rights Watch expresses gratitude for the Sri Lankan Colombo Magistrate courts for their protection of Shia Muharram ceremonies by restraining the nationalist groups, ‘Sinhala Jathika Balamuluwa’  and ‘Ravana Balaya,’ upon awareness of their planned disruption of Shia practices in Bambalapitiya. 

Colombo, Sri Lanka is home to over 25,000 Shia Muslims who are active in citizenship and patriotism. Violence on the basis of religious belief in 2019 startled many and instilled fear in various religious minorities, not only in Sri Lanka, but also the region. The action taken by the courts, however, was a pioneering step in signaling coexistence in the nation of Sri Lanka. 

To the Shia community, the protection of the Magistrate signaled that Sri Lanka prioritizes the prevention of human rights violations, supports diversity and coexistence of minorities and that the courts will not stand in support of any act of injustice and violence. 

Shia Rights Watch thanks the Sri Lankan authorities for their active prevention of human rights violations against religious minorities in the nation. This action of Sri Lanka now serves as an example of violence prevention for all nations in the international community. 

In hopes of international peace, 

Shia Rights Watch 

Sri Lanka’s Pioneering Protection of Shia Rights

Shia Rights Watch expresses gratitude for the Sri Lankan Colombo Hultsdorf Magistrate courts for their protection of Shia Muharram ceremonies. 

It is estimated that over 25,000 Shia Muslims practice within Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

On the first of September, corresponding with the beginning of the holy month of Muharram, spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera announced that the courts ordered restraints against two nationalist groups, ‘Sinhala Jathika Balamuluwa’  and ‘Ravana Balaya,’ that planned to disrupt Shia gatherings in the Bambalapitiya area of Colombo. 

In his statement, Gunasekera said that upon the discovery of information that the groups were planning to inhibit Shia religious expression, Colombo authorities increased security around Shia religious center. Security forces moreover increased accommodations in the immediate areas surrounding the center. 

Sri Lanka has been a recent home of violence based on religious beliefs, the biggest of which was the Easter bombings of April 2019. Coordinated attacks in the hands of extremist groups in six locations, three of which were churches, lead to the death of 258 and wounding of over 500 civilians.  Concerns over increased intolerance and extremist violence were raised among authorities within Sri Lanka and the international community.  

With the protection of the Shia religious center, Colombo’s Magistrate court took a pioneering step in the promotion of religious freedom in the nation. The court’s decision signaled three essential things: 

  1. Prevention of human rights violations is possible,
  2. The protection of one religious minority against extremism is the protection of all minority rights, 
  3. The courts will not stand in support of any act of injustice and violence. 

Shia Rights Watch thanks the Sri Lankan authorities for their active prevention of human rights violations against religious minorities in the nation. Moreover, this organization invites other countries to adopt Sri Lanka’s practice of violence prevention and legal signaling against inhumane suppression of expression in the hands of extremist groups. 

 

 

UN Complaint