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Incidents of Anti-Shiism in November, 2018

Shia rights violations continued in November.  Anti-Shia incidents were witnessed in some countries. Most violation reports are from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan,  and Afghanistan.  Anti-Shia violations, including but not limited to, imprisonment, physical and emotional torture, limited or no access to medical assistance, hate speech, explosion, and executions.

Shia Rights Watch notes that violence against Shia Muslims is largely unreported by victims and unreported by media outlets.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi kingdom has been under international pressure to explain its involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2nd. Although Saudi Arabia has said the prince, heir to the throne of the world’s top oil exporter, had no prior knowledge of the murder the world is refusing to accept that answer given the country’s long history of suppressing its oppositions. The killing of Khashoggi affected the high-profile investment summit in Riyadh as prominent businesses and media groups have pulled out.  Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 project, the master project of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is strongly dependent on overseas investment.  The killing also prompted some political critiques too. U.S demonstrators called for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen, which was launched by Prince Mohammed in his role as defense minister in 2015. However, since Saudi Arabia plays a fundamental role in maintaining security in the Middle East this country is given the green light to maintain its human rights violation without the fear of facing serious political consequences. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told U.S. senators,  in a closed briefing, that “I must note we are seldom free to work with unblemished partners … Our security interests cannot be dismissed, even as we seek accountability for what President Trump described as the ‘unacceptable and horrible crime’ of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Mattis stated to reporters.

Khashoggi’s murder is becoming a worldwide challenge, testing countries for their human rights priorities and political interests.

Political interest of the international committee has contributed to more violations against minorities in Saudi Arabia. Shia, the largest minority group within this kingdom, has been oppressed throughout the history of this kingdom without any international intervention. Based on most recent reports 34 Saudi Shia are on death row, including four minors. Twelve of these Saudi prisoners are at risk of “imminent” execution.


Afghanistan witnessed some explosions throughout the month mainly in Kabul.  At least 73 civilian casualties are reported throughout the month, with more than a hundred wounded individuals, some of which are in critical condition. Some of the explosions such as one in Malack Asqar, Kabul targeted Shia population and some targeted civilians in mixed communities. Therefore it is unclear how many of the killed belong to the Shia community. Shia Rights Watch advocates for the human right for all.

Election and peace talks between the government and Taliban have created more opportunity for unrest in the country. President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but an implementation of any deal will take at least five years.

“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society,” Ghani said, adding that any deal must fulfill certain conditions, including respecting the constitutional rights of women.


The election was the hot topic of November as Bahrainis voted in parliamentary elections on the 24th.  The polls opened in Bahrain on Saturday to elect a new parliament, but absent from the ballot is the country’s Shia dominated the opposition, whose most prominent figures are serving lengthy prison sentences. It’s the second election in Bahrain since mass protests led by the country’s Shia majority erupted in early 2011. Rights groups say this election is taking place in a repressive environment that is not conducive to free elections. Human Rights Watch noted that in June, King Hamad signed legislation that disqualifies opposition candidates from these elections by banning anyone who belonged to a dissolved political organization or who was previously convicted and sentenced to more than six months in prison from running for political office.

Shia rights violations are constant and ongoing in Bahrain and do not stop even after arrest. Bahrain prisons have become the worst known prison.  Two Bahraini detainees, Naji Fattal and Ali Al-Haji, have been transferred to solitary confinement after the release of audio recordings in which the prisoners allege torture and other abuses.  Fattal and Al-Haji also claimed that they were being denied access to desperately needed medical care to treat injuries they sustained during the grueling torture. Medical negligence is widely practiced in Bahrain’s prisons, according to activists.  Sheikh Mirza al-Mahrous who is suffering from illness in his colon, and Ammar Sahwan who needs medical attention due to gun wounds are other examples of inmates whose right to access medical attention is denied under Bahraini authority supervision.

Families of prisoners report that their visitation time has been reduced to half an hour in a month. Previously we have reported that inmates are forced to pay for their mandatory prison uniform. There are also reports of prisoners who’s location and detention status is not revealed to their families such as Ali al-Rayes who was arrested in October, yet authorities refuse to share any information on his case with his family.

November stood witness to the detention of minors. At least five minors have been reported detained by authorities due to their participation in pro-democracy protests.

After the Prophet of Islam’s birthday, the prisoners reported that they were told not to participate in any celebratory rituals.


Anti-Shiism varies in nature in Pakistan. In the past Shia population were threatened by roadside bombings and suicide explosions. More recently, an increased trend of hate speech has been reported. Witnesses reported that a cleric in Punjab critiqued his audiences for attending a Shia woman’s funeral.  He told the attendees that they are “no longer considered Muslims” and must “convert to Islam.” He further told them that “if they are married, their marriage has to be re-done.” This behavior was previously observed in Saudi trained clerics in Malaysia and  Indonesia. The clerics use their platforms to spread anti-Shia ideologies and encourage people to keep a distance from Shia individuals because they are considered non-Muslim. This NGO believes hate speeches are directly linked to increased motivation in suicide bombing such as one that claimed at least 25 Shia Muslims lives and injured dozens outside the door of a religious seminary in Hangu’s Lower Orakzai area on November 23rd.


Iraq continues to be an unsafe place for its majority Shia. An explosive device placed in a farm claimed two farmer’s lives in Diyala.

Different areas of Baghdad witnessed some explosions. Roadside bombs killed four civilians in Baghdad, another three civilians were wounded by a different roadside bomb south of Baghdad, and a third roadside bomb exploded near a commercial shop in the district of Al-Turath district south of Baghdad, wounding three civilians.

Three killed, five wounded in explosion east of Baghdad: A roadside bomb in Sadr City killed three people and wounded five others.

A civilian was killed, and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded east of Baghdad roadside bomb near the northern Iraqi city of Aden killed two civilians and wounded four others, police said.

In a separate and unique case, unknown gunmen shot a cleric when he was near his house in a residential area of Basar. The cleric has since died from complications as a result of the gunshot.


Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan remain the most dangerous countries for Shia Muslims. SRW invites all countries to respect human rights of Shia Muslims as this population has proven to only participate in peaceful activities. We also urge all governments to free all prisoners and return any seized belongings.

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in September, 2018

In the month of September, that coincide with Muharram, Shia Muslims commemorated the death anniversary of Hussain ibn Ali, an international revered defender of human rights. On the occasion, Shia Muslims gather to renew their religious commitment in standing against human rights violations. Because Shia processions are public in ritual, processions have become targets for direct violence. Shia Rights Watch called upon grassroots to monitor violations targeting Muharram rituals by using #Muharram2018 on social media.  

In this report, violence targeting sShiareligious practices are well as cultural and social violence against Shia Muslims are compiled. Data presented in this report are as a result of grassroots reporting and reports of Shia activists.  

Shia Rights Watch notes that violence against Shia Muslims is largely unreported by victims. However, explicit reporting of anti-Shiism has been seen in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, India, United States, Iran, and Pakistan. Arrests and discriminatory judicial proceedings, and damage to property prevailed as explicit forms of violence.


Despite the people’s efforts to reduce humanitarian violence in the country, they are met with an increased prosecution. Shia Muslims of Bahrain are treated as the second-class citizen. In the month of September, incidents of violence were diverse in nature.

On September 3rd, Mohammad Khatim was reportedly hospitalized on just over a week into his hunger strike. Khatim was arrested in late August for the second time in less than two months for staging a peaceful protest over discriminatory employment practices against Bahrain’s Shia majority.  

Since then, Khatim’s detention has been extended over allegations that he was ‘inciting hatred against the regime’.

On the 10th day of this month, the authorities arrested five Bahraini minors in the kingdom’s northwestern village of Diraz. Countless rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), blasted Manama in the past for “routinely” detaining children and subjecting them to “ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture”.

Ill-treatment and torture are repeatedly reported by activists. Sadiq Rida Hassan Abbas Aborwais is another example of a prisoner who was brutally beaten and electrocuted by guards at the prison in the month of September.

Refusal of medial attention was also reported from Bahrain. Habib Allawi a 22-year-old whose eye was injured by birdshot pellets is denied access to medical treatment  Allawi, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence has repeatedly complained of severe pain in his left eye.

Prisoners in Bahrain are also prevented from participating in or observing any participation in their rituals. Hajar Mansoor Hassan, Medina Ali and Najah Ahmed Yousif are reportedly denied the right to observe Muharram commemorations. Last month, Hajar Hassan alleged that prison authorities tore up clothes she received as a gift for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Prisoners are not only people whose rights to freedom of religion was denied. As Muharram with September, Bahraini security forces forcibly removal of all displays associated with the occasion from Shia populated areas of the city and mosques. A number of raids to private gatherings were also reported by activists.

Bahraini Shia clerics were detained on 16th after being interrogated by police for over nine hours. Sheikh Hani al-Banna, Sheikh Mohammed al-Reish, and Sheikh Yassin al-Jamri were reportedly transferred to the Budaiya Police Station for integration.


Moreover, Sheikh Yassin al-Harami, Sheikh Hani al-Bana’, and Sheikh Mohammad al-Sahlawi were summoned for questioning over the content of their religious sermons in the lead up to the annual Muharram commemorations.

Beside clerics, commemoration organizers were targeted by the authorities too. Mohammed Bu Humayed and Abdullah Burashid were arrested along with nine other Bahraini youths shortly after they took part in marches commemorating Muharram.

Activists also reported authorities are targeting female activist more than before. Later this month, a three-year sentence was upheld for Medina Ali and Fawzia Mashallah despite evidence of torture and forced confession. Medina was scheduled for trial at the beginning of the month, however, her trial was postponed to September 29th without any explanation. Manama’s High Criminal Court also postponed appeal proceedings against other four Bahraini female detainees until September 24. Muna Habib, Hamida Alkhor, Amira Al-Qashaami, and Faten Hussein are appealing 5-year prison terms, which they received in February.

Bahraini court reportedly and repeatedly postpone and reschedule court dates and appeals as a mean to emotionally torture the victims and their families.

In general, Bahraini authorities interrogated more than 30 Shia religious figures and administrators, 13 of those were remanded in custody due to their involvement in Muharram commemorations.

Due process in the case of Shia Muslims is rarely upheld. Allegations lack sufficient proof and arrests are in the form of illegal raids.


Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabi’s “reforms” don’t include tolerance of Shia community, and the month of September witnessed more violation toward this community as they commemorate Muharram.

As it was reported, Shia cannot broadcast rituals inside some of their Husseiniyas (religious gathering spaces) via loudspeakers, and Saudi authorities have removed food vendors that sell clothes, books, and flags. It also reported that public mourning rituals have been restricted to certain hours.

On the 13th of September, government forces attacked tents housing Muharram rituals in Qatif. Sources report 20 tents which were destroyed by Saudi forces. Visual representations were called “visual pollution” and torn.

In a separate occasion, seven were injured in a raid on Fatah mosque in Qatif. Among those injured were elderly Saudi natives. Sources report increased security around the region as well as increased frequency of raids on homes and religious buildings.

Despite comprising a large portion of Qatifs population, Shia Muslims have little to no governance in their hometown. Shia authorities make up less than 1% of the Saudi government. Shia Muslims have on numerous occasions expressed willingness to engage with their local governments with aims of finding avenues of dialogue, however, reciprocation has yet to be seen.



Yet again, Kabul was home to twin bombings targeting Shia communities of the city. On September 5, more than 20 were killed and 70 others injured as ISIS agents detonated explosives in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul. A second explosion in the form of a car bomb was set off 40 minutes later targeting rescue aid.

A day later, Amaq news, reported ISIS’s claim on the incident, conveying their goal of targeting “a gather of apostates”.  Last month, 50 students were killed in Dasht-e-Barchi. More information on this incident can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

On the same day, a suicide bomber marked the 18th incident of violence in Kabul in 2018 when he set off his explosives belt inside a sports club, again in a densely Shia populated area of Kabul- four were killed and 18 others were substantially wounded.

These incidents served as a reminder that dehumanization of Shia Muslims has led to a larger danger such that not only this population faces death, but anyone who associates or provides aid is subject to targeting.

A trend of violence highlighted in September was the targeting of Shia journalists. Since January 2018, 11 journalists have been reported dead as a result of suicide bombings in Kabul alone. Lack of protection for Shia Muslims has allowed violence to permeate to all Afghan populations. Shia Rights Watch emphasizes a need for increased security measures in Kabul and recognition of Shia Muslims as targets of violence by extremist groups.



Parallel to the growth of the Shia population in Nigeria, state-induced incidents of violence against this minority group has also increased. On the 20th of the month, Shia populations of Zaria gathered in Muharram religious ritual. Their congregation was met with violence from government forces who attacked gatherers with the utmost violence.

In the last five years, Zaria has been home to one of Nigeria’s most evident cases of religious discrimination. Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, a prominent leader in the area, remains in state detention despite national orders for his release. More on the case of Sheikh Zakzaky and the Shia of Nigeria can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.



Shia of Kashmir report being met with violence in the hands of state operatives while participating in Muharram rituals. Indian Shia, and other Shia residents of India have faced violations of their freedom of religion during Muharram of 2018. Witnesses reported raids, violent attacks to Shia Muslims, use of baton-charge and tear-gas shelling on Shia mourners in different areas of the Kashmir, one such area being Srinagar.

SRW contacted the president of India through a letter to express its concern regarding violation of human rights in this country as The Right to Freedom of Religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.



Shia in Chakwal City reported their Muharram gathering was attacked on September 28th. According the witnesses, police were present but did not prevent the attack nor did they help the Shia. Pakistani Shia has always been a target of violence and authorities have not taken any action to protect this population.  


United States

A mosque on Van Dyke Avenue in Detroit, US state of Michigan, caught fire twice. The first fire happened Saturday 22nd, night in front of the building, and the second started on the second floor at about 11 a.m. Sunday the 23rd. No one claimed the responsibility yet.



On September 20th, 2018,  two women were arrested in Qum, Iran. Witnesses report that unknown number female special security forces raided a Muharram gathering in a private property, insulted the participants, forcefully removed headscarf from one of the victim’s head and seized ritual books and other personal materials.

The victim’s families reported that the authorities have previously raided their home, summoned the female victims to the local police station, and ordered them to avoid participating in Muharram rituals, even in the privacy of their homes.  

Although attack, and arbitrary arrests during the month of Muharram from ritual gatherings is not new, such violations toward women appear to be a new and worrisome trend.



Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan remain most the dangerous countries for Shia Muslims. Most human rights violations in September were related to Muharram commemorations. SRW invites all countries to respect human rights of Shia Muslims as this population has proven to only participate in peaceful activities. We also urge all governments to free all prisoners and return any seized belongings.

A Call for Reformation Against Anti-Shiism in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Shia Rights Watch invites the Human Rights Councils immediate attention to the escalation of human rights violations towards Shia Muslims in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As the representation of the worlds humanitarian voice, the Human Rights Council holds a responsibility to demand justice for violations against of all those quenching for civil liberties and fundamental human rights.

Within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, religious minorities are not recognized as official entities. In his rise to power, King Mohammad bin Salman claimed reformations that would reduce intolerance in the nation, yet the issue of systemic discrimination against religious minorities has not been met.

On behalf of Shia Muslims residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Shia Rights Watch inquires your support for expedited reform. Specifically, the officiation of religious minorities, namely Shiism, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Given King Mohammed bin Salman’s call for reformation, now is the opportunity to support religious minorities within the country. Shia Muslims comprise approximately between 15% to 20% of the Saudi population. Mainly occupying the Eastern Province, Shia Muslims live in the nation’s most mineral-rich areas, yet they are granted the least public resources. Local activists report the Eastern Province as being the least developed region of the country.
Moreover, Shia Muslims report being discriminated against in education and occupation. Shia individuals working with the aim of empowering Saudi ideals are met with a glass ceiling to which their opportunities and growth are limited.

Due to the lack of recognition of Shia Islam as an officially recognized religion, human rights violation against religious minorities is justified. By identifying followers of Shia Islam as “apostates” or deviants from Saudi Arabian norms, Saudi officials legitimize violence and discrimination against this population.

Since 2015, Shia Rights Watch can account for 918 cases of violence in the form of home raids, arrests, arbitrary sentencing and killings in the hands of government officers, in addition to the demolition of Awamiya, a historical Shia residential town with 400-years of heritage.

The Case of Israa al-Ghamgham: The first female sentenced to execution

Within Saudi Arabia, not only are the Shia deemed infiltrates of foreign powers and treated as “vermin,” advocacy against discrimination by identity is criminalized. All avenues of civic engagement are cut off, and Shia Muslims advocating for equal rights in their homelands are penalized harshly on the most basic human freedoms, including but not limited to the freedom of religion, freedom of congregation, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

In a recent trend, Saudi officials have intensified anti-Shiism by sentencing the first Shia female to death. Israa al-Ghamgham, a Shia Rights activist was arrested with her husband Musa Jafar al-Hashim. Al-Ghamgham has been detained in the General Intelligence Prison in Dammam, where she has been charged with recruitment in Qatif.

The Saudi regime has arrested several women from the Eastern Province with political involvement accusations, including but not limited to Naima Al-Moustoud, Fatimah Nassif, and Nasima Al-Sada.

While Al-Ghamgham is not the first female arrested, her death sentence raises immediate concerns for women of religious minorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the harsh sentence is a sign of heightened anti-Shiism across genders.

Anti-Shiism in Hajj

Extreme anti-Shia propaganda by the Saudi government is a detriment to not only Shia Muslims native to the Kingdom, but also Shia Muslims who are active citizens of other nations. Saudi Arabia is home to two of Islam’s most sacred religious sites, and every year, millions of Muslims flock to the Kingdom to make their Hajj pilgrimage. Contrary to Hajj rituals that are meant to cultivate unity amongst Muslims, Shia Hajj participants report physical and psychological abuse. They face targeted discrimination by Saudi law enforcement agents, such as incidents of sexual harassment, unreasonable stop and search tactics, unwarranted searches, summons, imprisonment, and general harassment.

Shia Rights Watch calls for immediate action by the Human Rights Council in response to escalating incidents of anti-Shiism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Recognition of Shia Muslims as lawful citizens would be a definite step towards reducing human rights violations, not just in the nation but throughout the Gulf region. Furthermore, systemic recognition of Shia Islam within the area would reduce existing social tensions, increase the nation’s economic prosperity and promote civility in the Middle East.


Muharram Advisory 2018

Muharram Advisory

Dear Fellow Shia Muslims,

As a human rights NGO dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of Shia Muslims globally, we are writing to bring to your attention the veneration and importance of practicing safety in your community in the month of Muharram.

Muharram, the first month of the lunar calendar marks not only the beginning of a new year but historical events that stand as a cornerstone to the Shia faith. On the Tenth of the Holy month, Islamic history marks the martyrdom of Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad along with 72 of his supporters in the modern-day Karbala, Iraq.

While the event of Muharram is recognized as central to the Shia display of religious identity, Hussain’s message of human dignity is recognized not only by Shia Muslims but also populations of Christians, Zoroastrians and even Hindu’s all over the world. Observers of Hussain’s sacrifice against tyranny congregate with aims of education in the value of human life and the importance of human dignity in the face of violations.

Muharram is the time Shia Muslims openly campaign against the terrors of their time, and therefore they are subject to many violations. Forms of anti-Shiism range from direct violence to discrimination and limitations in expression. Every year thousands of Shia Muslims are either killed or wounded or their centers closed

To prevent such violations and to ensure the safety of Shia community, SRW presents following tips with the aim of creating a united platform for expression that not only meets religious guidelines but also lends to international and domestic regulations.

We encourage you to pay attention to following advisory tips:

Know your rights as knowledge is key to rights,

  • As constituents your nation, you have civil liberties. Familiarize yourself and your community with the nation’s defined human rights and freedom of religion.  

Build a relationship with your community law enforcement   

  • Approach your community law enforcement and communicate your observations for the month of Muharram.
  • Seek consultation from your local police department on the placement of security measures such as camera systems and alarms.
  • Ask for increased security. In many communities, police provide special security for your institution given your coordination. Keep in mind increased security measures must be requested in advance.  
  • If needed, obtain the necessary congregation permits in advance.

Reach out to Government Representative:

  • Meet with the governor and mayor of your town. Have a conversation of your concerns. Reach out and open a line of communication.

Be cognizant of your non-practicing community

  • Recognize that you are a part of a larger community that may or may not commemorate Muharram.
  • Respect local regulations.
  • Reach out and communicate an increase in activity to neighbors and surrounding institutions.
  • Prepare and provide brochure or pamphlets educating others on the significance and relevance of Muharram.  

In case of a human rights violation, Know Your Resources!

  • In case of emergency, contact your local police immediately.
  • Contact Shia Rights Watch to inquire rights based counseling and broadcast.
  • Use #Muharram2018  to update the international Shia community as well as media outlets of recent anti-Shia incidents.

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in August, 2018

The month of August stood witness to 286 cases of anti-Shiism, or violence against Shia Muslims. In this month, Shia Rights Watch published its annual Hajj advisory in the protection of religious minorities under threat in the Islamic Hajj ritual. The advisory can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

Anti-Shiism in the form of direct violence, discrimination, and marginalization, was reported in the nations of Canada, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It is important to note that cases of violence noted in this report are in fact only a sample of the incidents of anti-Shiism faces by the worlds Shia minority. Shia Rights Watch recognizes that incidents of violence are in large part not reported as many religious minorities live in fear of further persecution on the basis of their religious identity.

New this month, Shia Rights Watch categorizes anti-Shiism in the form of lack of action or ignorance. As a trend, incidents of anti-Shiism in the West are through the lack of recognition of the Shia population as peoples in danger. Example of such violence is seen in the case of Canada.


Amidst increased political rifts between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Canada,

Canadian Judge Roger Lafrenière, ordered the deportation of a Shia Saudi Arabian who had sought political asylum in the country. The man, who will not be identified by name to ensure his Saudi-residing family’s safety, was set to be deported until the United Nations ordered the re-examination of the case for asylum.

In opposition of granting residence in the country, Lafrenière noted a “lack of evidence” that as a Shia man, the individual does face danger in his native country of Saudi Arabia.

Cases of violence against Shia Muslims is well noted by Shia Rights Watch as well as other internationally renowned human rights entities.

While Shia Rights Watch notes and acknowledges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “concern with the sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia, [the nations] concern for defending human rights and …shared values all around the world,” Shia Rights Watch notes this case as an explicit show of Canada’s lack of understanding of the dangers Shia Muslims face. Such failings have cost Canada resources, as well as the nation’s reputation as an altruist nation.

Western nations must begin to increase their knowledge in regards to the identity of Shia Muslims and the influence anti-Shiism on international systems if they aim to truly defend human rights violations.


Religious and political oppression of the Shia-majority nation of Bahrain continues as Bahraini authorities harass, imprison, and abuse Shia individuals.

Recent updates into incidents of anti-Shiism in the nation are as follows:

A raid carried out by the government in the village of Al-Daih has resulted in Bahraini youth Sadiq Al-Ekri being arbitrarily arrested.

Hassan Mushaima, a Bahraini opposition figure, has been held in inhumane quarters and denied basic healthcare needs. The 70-year old is a cancer survivor and suffers from various other ailments. His son has declared an open-ended hunger strike in protest over reports that authorities have withheld medication and prevented regular medical screenings.

State-sponsored oppression continues as bulldozers have destroyed the recent attempts at reconstruction of the Al-Alawiyat mosque that was destroyed in the 2011 uprising.

Manama’s security forces have detained a 16-year-old that was returning from a religious pilgrimage in Iran. Ali Husain Al-Mansi was taken into custody and the minor’s current location is unknown. While two were released from detention frequencies of harassment prevail in the nation. Of those released was the Secretary-General of Bahrain’s Unitary National Democratic Assemblage Hassan Marzooq after spending 10 days in detention on undisclosed charges. Another released is Cleric Sayyed Mohiedin al-Mashaal. Al-Mashaal was arrested August 2017 on accusations of “inciting hatred against the regime”.

Despite over seven years of Shia activism in Bahrain, residents of the archipelago continue to practice their faith under repression. Congregations are denied and basic human rights are held-back all on the basis of religious faith.

Furthermore, activists arrested face dehumanizing conditions in the Dry Docks Prison and the Jaws Detention Center. Early this month, sources reported a lack of running water at the Dry Docks Prison, leaving detainees without sufficient showers and drinking water. It is important to note that the Dry Docks Prison largely holds minors (detainees under the age of 18).

Prisoners are prohibited from communicating with lawyers and families. Many have been denied necessary medical care. Sayed Kadhim Abbas, a prisoner held in Bahraini detention was denied medical care despite recognition of his pre-existing condition of a brain tumor- sources report he has since lost his sight.

Saudi Arabia

New in August is the escalation in charges against Shia activists in Saudi Arabia. Israa al-Ghamgham, is a detainee and a female Shia rights activist is sentenced to the death penalty for her involvement in peaceful demonstrations in Qatif. Al-Ghamgham is the first woman to be sentenced to the death penalty. The Saudi regime has arrested a number of women from the Eastern Province with political involvement accusations, including Naima Al-Moustoud, Fatimah Nassif, Nasima Al-Sada.

Shia Rights Watch raises concern over the case of al-Ghamgham and escalation of human rights violations in the form of direct violence.

Saudi Shia not only face violence in their native country, they also endure a lack of support from the international community. Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia need political recognition by leaders of the free world.  

The international community must recognize that while Shia Muslims strive to be active citizens of their nation, they face resistance reinforced by cultural discrimination. Despite the Saudi Shia’s struggle for involvement in their nations political systems, Shia civilians face the harshest of criminalization. Shia Rights Watch raises the need for international recognition for the condition of Shia Muslims and their status as a minority in danger.  



August stood witness to 2018 second largest attack on Shia Muslims in Afghanistan. In mid-August, 48 were killed and 67 were injured in a bombing of a university in Hazara community in Kabul. Those killed were university level students. The attack was claimed by ISIS militants.  

The Hazara minority is a community of ethnically distinct Shia Muslims originating from Hazaristan. The Hazara count has been reduced by approximately 60% of their total population due to anti-Shia targeting by extremist

Major Incidents of Anti-Shiism in Afghanistan: August

populations. Today, the population lives as diaspora in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and even some Western nations.


In another incident, a Shia mosque, Khawaja Hassan, in the Paktia Province in Gardez city, Kabul was bombed while Shia worshippers were doing their Friday Prayers. The total number of casualties is expected to grow, but latest reports say at least 39 were killed and 81 were injured. ISIS has claimed responsibility.

To this point, sources report 13 cases of violence against the Shia communities of Kabul alone.

The recent attack in Afghanistan notes the trend of anti-Shiism much similar to those in Baghdad, Iraq- targeted bombings in highly dense Shia-civilian populated areas.


While the general media emphasizes the downfall of ISIS, incidents of anti-Shiism in Iraq remain an international concern. Baghdad remains home to countless bombings and Shia neighborhoods are still unsafe.  Shia Rights Watch notes that despite a lack of reporting, targeted violence against Shia Muslims persists. Sources report persistence in kidnappings and physical abuse, most likely as a means of ISIS maintenance of fear in Shia communities.

Shia Rights Watch notes a need for integrative measures to monitor violence targeting Shia Muslims in the nation of Iraq. In addition, a need exists for social services which meet the needs of civilians affected by ISIS related violence.  



Data presented in this report is a limited sample of incidents against Shia Muslims. Shia Rights Watch notes a need for the recognition of this population as people in need of protection.  Across nations, Shia Muslims have shown eagerness to be active citizens in their nation-states. However, cultural and systematic discrimination have prevented Shia individuals from being vital members of their larger communities.

Shia Rights Watch urges immediate action against Shia Rights violations in the global community. Furthermore, Shia Rights Watch calls upon leaders to join the monitoring of religious discrimination against minority groups.

First Woman to be Sentenced to Death Penalty in S.A

Shia Rights Watch is extremely concerned as Israa al-Ghamgham, a detainee and a female Shia rights activist is sentenced to the death penalty for her involvement in peaceful demonstrations in Qatif.

Al-Ghamgham is the first woman to be sentenced to the death penalty and that raises the concern in regards to Saudi’s elevating Shia rights violations. The Saudi regime has arrested a number of women from the Eastern Province with political involvement accusations, including Naima Al-Moustoud, Fatimah Nassif, Nasima Al-Sada and others. Despite frequent arrests, al-Ghamgham is the first ever female sentenced to the death penalty.  

Al-Ghamgham was arrested by Saudi forces with her husband, Musa Jafar al-Hashim, on December 8, 2015, after a raid on their home. Al-Ghamgham has been detained in the General Intelligence Prison in Dammam, where she has been charged with recruitment in Qatif.

While the international community praised gender equality for female drivers, anti-Shia violence in the Kingdom has been long ignored. As Saudi women are given the freedom to drive and play an active role in society, Shia women are not only arrested for seeking freedom of religion but now punished with unheard of sentences for women in this Kingdom.

Al-Ghamghams death sentences raised immediate concerns for women of religious minorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. SRW invites the international committee to take immediate action to stop al-Ghamgham’s sentence as it can open the door to more executions for women in Saudi Arabia.


On the Front-lines of Political Unrest

Today, Shia Muslims make up over 20% of the world population. The Pew Forum reports an approximation of one-fifth of the Muslims population lives in a non-Muslim country.  However, given that at this point in history there are only nations with self-proclaimed Shia governances, Iran and Iraq, a large percentage of Shia Muslims live in non-Shia countries.

Shia Rights Watch recognizes that data of the Shia population presented until now has not been far from statistical approximations (Visit ShiaRightsWatch.org for more information). While the accurate demographics cannot be reported in a world filled with anti-Shia sentiment, one thing is for sure: Shia Muslims are the most misrepresented and prejudiced minority group in the global population.

Shia Muslims live in geographical locations rich in natural and geopolitical resources. In Saudi Arabia, Shia Muslims dominate the Eastern Province, the Kingdoms most oil-rich area. The same is for the nations of Iraq and Iran. Shia Muslims populate border towns deemed primary in the bridge between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the two nations efforts against terrorist expansion.  None-the-less Shia Muslims are the least understood population, especially in the West.

In the second week of August, following the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s expression of disapproval for human rights violations by the Saudi administration, relations between the two nations went south, fast. Saudi Arabia retracted thousands of its students, and soon, flights between Canada and Saudi Arabia will be halted entirely.

Amidst the diplomatic chaos, Shia Saudi’s in Canada are left unsupported. Saudi Shia who seeks refuge from their home nations in Canada face the threat of deportation to a country in which their lives are threatened. In a notorious case, a man whose name remains undisclosed to ensure his and his Saudi-residing family’s security was scheduled to be sent back to the Saudi kingdom despite his numerous statements which pointed to his lack of safety in the Kingdom. His deportation was seized until further notice with UN intervention.

Canadian Judge Roger Lafrenière, who ordered the deportation, of Ottawa stated that his judgment was based on lack of credible proof of insecurity as well as a withdrawal of asylum case and travel to Saudi Arabia. Lafrenière noted in a seven-page decision statement,  “When a refugee claimant withdraws their refugee claim at the [Immigration and Refugee Board], they are counseled as to the consequences of this action, including but not limited to the fact that the person can never make another refugee claim in Canada,”

While Canada is renowned for being a refugee-friendly nation, this case points to a lack of correct understanding of the detriments Shia Muslim face in an anti-Shia country such as Saudi Arabia.

Within the Kingdom, Shia identified individuals are openly prosecuted, in many cases imprisoned and tortured indefinitely, and even executed purely by their religious beliefs.

Shia continuously faces discrimination and are called foreign agents in their native homeland. Not only are they denied equal representation, but they are also targeted to the point of extinction. In 2017, Shia authorities escalated anti-Shia rhetoric by seizing the town of Awamiya for almost a month. Snipers perched atop roofs killed anyone who dared walk the streets. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, yet the incident received minimal media coverage in the West.

For now, the Shia Saudi individual remains in detention in Laval immigration holding center in Quebec, Canada.

Anne Castagner, the lawyer defending against deportation, states, “The fact that it had to go up to the UN, for us, is a total waste of Canadian money, a total waste of resources and of time for everybody.”

Shia Rights Watch emphasizes the need for research into the Shia communities and recognition of anti-Shiism as a crime against humanity by leaders of the free world.

Fact is, Shia Muslims are at the center of the struggle for human rights. Until this population is sufficiently understood and recognized as one of the worlds most targeted groups, humanitarian efforts can only go so far.


Citizens of Tomorrow: International Youth Day

While youth make up a slight majority of the world’s population today, they make up all of tomorrow.

Of the world 7.6 billion population, there are 1.4 billion individuals between the ages of 15-24. If one were to use the internationally comprehensive classification of “young people,” the world is comprised of over 3.8 billion people between the ages of 10-35, 1.7 billion of which are Shia Muslims.

Given the prospective growth of Shia Islam in the next 50 years, the population of Shia Muslims is expected to rise even more than the numbers presented.

Youth is a transition age- a challenging time period in which individuals are left to make some of the most important life decisions. Youth is an epitome age of momentum, and even more importantly, youth establishes a basis for the development of social activeness.

Shia Rights Watch calls for the observance of August 12,  International Youth Day, as an opportunity to recognize the significance of the youth in promoting human rights in all areas of the world.

Involving youth in pro-peace endeavors leads to long-term civic engagement, and given the growth of the global community, youth will not only engage in local peace endeavors but also international conflict resolution efforts.

With opportunities, young people present immense willingness to collaborate and shed new light on age-old problematic social systems.

Shia Rights Watch recognizes the need for an all-inclusive platform for Shia and non-Shia youth to engage in dialogue with the aims of promoting human rights all over the world. Its time youth are taken out of marginalization and included in efforts for establishing peace in the international community.


What Pakistan’s Elections Mean for Shia Muslims

Author: Hannah Westphall

The recent elections in Pakistan have been fraught with worry. In a place where the military has directly ruled for roughly half of its 70-year existence and has seen only one peaceful transition of administrative power uncertainty has plagued the entire process. For the roughly 200 million people living in Pakistan, this election comes at a critical moment for a region riddled with war and unrest. Of Pakistan’s 200 million, approximately 97% are Muslims, and an estimated 15-20% of those are Shia Muslims.

Religious minorities in Pakistan, including Shias, have been continually targeted by the proliferation of unchecked extremist groups in the region. According to a report released in April of 2018 by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), over 500 members of the Hazara community were killed and an additional 627 injured in terrorist-related incidents in Quetta, a Shia-dominant region, in the last 5 years. The same commission has also condemned the authorities for turning a blind eye to the continued forced disappearances of those perceived as being critical of the government. HRCP reports that in 2017 alone, Pakistan’s commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances received 868 cases. HRCP spokesperson I.A. Rehman told reporters that the authorities continue to ignore “intolerance and extremism,” which allows for attacks on religious minorities like those of the Shia faith.

Because of widespread unrest and rampant terrorist activity, election cycles in Pakistan have historically been plagued by turmoil and violence. Unfortunately, this year was no different. While military guards at polling stations increased their numbers by nearly five times compared to the 2013 election, forces were unable to prevent terrorists from wreaking havoc at the polls. In early July, an ISIS suicide bomber murdered 149 people participating in an election rally. A few weeks later, on the day of the general election, another suicide bomber killed 32 and wounded scores more in an attack on a polling station in Shia-dominant Quetta.

These types of voter intimidation tactics are incredibly damaging and are designed to instill fear in the Shia community and prevent them from engaging in civic activities. In the past, Pakistan has seen an array of incidents targeting prominent or professional Shia Muslims, a strategy designed to keep the Shia community from achieving socio-economic equality. Examples include Professor Akhtar Hussain, shot on the street by unidentified motorcyclists, and layers Atif Zaidi, Ali Murtajiz, and Syed Raziul Hasan Shah, all killed for no apparent reason other than their Shia faith affiliation. This trend in targeting killing and suicide bombings, combined with a growing number of instances of forced disappearances, is being carried out with near-impunity as an attempt to cripple the Shia community and drive them down into submission and, eventually, oblivion.

Since it is widely acknowledged that terrorist groups continue to target Shia Muslims, it is particularly disturbing that several anti-Shia political parties have emerged this election season running on platforms that include promises to “punish those who blaspheme Islam.” This includes the banned political party Ahl-e Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWL), a hardline Sunni group associated with both al-Qaeda and ISIS, and who are responsible for the murders of hundreds of Shia Muslims, whom they consider heretics. Even more troubling is that the courts have allowed several individuals who are on Pakistan’s terrorism watchlist, known as the “fourth schedule,” to run as political candidates, stating that “there aren’t enough valid complaints to prevent them for competing for public office.” One example is Aurangzeb Farooqi, leader of one such political party, who in video clips of speeches can be seen shouting, “Shia are infidels!”

Fortunately, these extreme, terrorist-affiliated groups, while not entirely defeated, failed to pick up the desired number of seats in the election which was held on July 25th. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party garnered the largest amount of votes, breaking the duopoly that has long been held by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The PTI, lead by former professional cricket player Imran Khan, has ostensibly run on a platform of inclusivity and has promised to bring Pakistan into an era of social harmony, where citizens of all religious, racial, and ethnic communities can prosper economically. While SRW does not endorse any politicians or political parties, we hope these results signal that a new era of tolerance and pluralism is on the horizon.

SRW urges the newly formed Pakistani government to act swiftly on the PTI’s promises to ensure protection and equal economic opportunity of all religious minorities, including Shia Muslims. Additionally, SRW recommends that the new government immediately repeal harsh blasphemy laws that facilitate discrimination against religious minorities. It is vital for the future of peace and security that new measures are enacted that hold accountable all individuals or groups who engage in violent and destructive terrorism designed to target Shia Muslims. Finally, the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly should be rigorously and institutionally protected as vital elements of a strong, healthy society.

UN Complaint