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Incidents of Anti-Shiism, March 2021

March 2021 stood witness to continued violence against Shia Muslims. Anti-Shiism in the forms of arrests, sentencing, lack of due process, injury, and killing reported to Shia Rights Watch spanned four countries. 

The reports of violence listed in this report have been verified through collaboration with grassroot advocates and confirmed by local investigations. 

Shia Rights Watch notes incidents of violence on the basis of identity are often unreported by victims in fear of further violence and alienation. Trends listed in this report represent a fraction of Anti-Shiism faced by the international Shia Muslim community. 

Afghanistan

Locals report 91 incidents of direct violence in the nation of Afghanistan, spanning from the cities of Herat, Kabul and Nangarhar. 

Among attacks are the following. 

Kabul, the capital of the nation, is home to prominent attacks against Shia Muslims. Early in the month, two attacks kill 3 and injure 12 Shia Individuals. Within days, another attack kills one and injures one other. 

In Herat, a car bomb killed seven and injured at least 50 others. The bomb caused indiscriminate damage as many of those affected by the bomb were women and children. Locals further reported massive infrastructural damage in residential and commercial buildings. 

In Nangarhar, separate roadside bombs kill one and injure another in the city of Jalalabad. 

Shia Muslims in Afghanistan exist as a minority group. None-the-less, they occupy major cities such as Kabul and Herat. They play significant roles in the development of the country. However, due to the prominent Anti-Shia sentiment, their role in the nation is largely undermined. 

Bahrain

In the month of March, concerns over progression of COVID-19 in detention centers across Bahrain. Activists voiced concerns as authorities ignore basic human needs and fail to meet the medical needs of detainees. 

The spread of Covid-19 in detention centers continues. This week, Abd Ali Al-Singace tested positive. Al-Singace suffers from chronic disease that puts him at increased risk.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney voiced concern over human rights violations against political dissidents in Bahrain early in the month. He noted the denial of medical treatment to Shia detainees and called for the immediate release of Hassan Mushaima,  the secretary-general of the Haq Movement. Ali Mushaima, son of Hassan Mushaima, reports his father’s deteriorating health and Bahrain’s lack of compliance to the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela Rules. 

Sheikh Qassim, the prominent Shia cleric, also called for the immediate release of political prisoners. He furthered that the release of prisoners is the first step in successful reconciliation between critics and the government. 

“The release of political prisoners and all prisoners of the political movement is necessary for justice and will be a serious introduction to reform if it happens”

Shia Muslims in Bahraini detention centers face inhumane hardships. Authorities fail to ensure safety for the detainees and frequently ignore reports of violence.

The family of Shaikh Zuhair Ashour reported attempted murder at the hands of a prisoner detained on charges of rape and drug-related charges. In a statement, the family expressed concerns for Shaikh Ashour. 

“On Sunday (March 14, 2021), at 2 PM, while Sheikh Zuheir was going to the prison’s yard (the fence), he decided to head to the television hall at first. The criminal prisoner was at the same place, and as soon as Sheikh Zuheir was about to leave the hall after spending some minutes watching television, the prisoner attacked him from behind and tried to strangle him and break his neck. Sheikh Zuheir defended himself and could escape. While Sheikh Zuheir was attempting to defend himself, the prisoner’s officers came and took the criminal prisoner to another place.”

Bahrain’s failure to protect and meet the needs of it’s detainees is in large part due to negligence. 

Iraq

Across Baghdad, Kadhimiya, Diyala, Kirkuk, Karbala, and Saladin, Anti-Shiism has led to the death of 21 and the injury of 33 others. 

Despite a reduction in ISIS activity being reported by the authorities, Shia Rights Watch notes continued targeted violence against Shia Muslims by the extremist organization. While a number are foiled, there remains a high prevalence of violence in the hands of Shia Muslims. 

In many cases, Shia individuals are assassinated by gunmen who go unpunished. Mass-violence is also seen in locations with religious significance to Shia Muslims. 

On March 9, suicide bombers threw 2 hand grenades into a crowd of pilgrims in Kadhimiya, north of Baghdad. One of the bombs detonated in a garbage can near the al-Aimmah Bridge, while the other was thrown directly into the crowd of pilgrims traveling on foot to the local shrines in a commemorative ceremony.  Local authorities report three assailants had already been detained and their plots had been foiled. 

Later in the month, authorities in Karbala, a major hub for Shia Muslims, reported the arrest of an assailant traveling on a bus. The assailant feigned ailment to avoid scrutiny. 

Saudi Arabia 

In the month of March, nine incidents of direct violence were reported to Shia Rights Watch. The majority of Anti-Shiism reported was perpetuated by the authorities. 

Family of martyrs Ahmed and Hadi Tariq al-Faraj and the al-Salma family reported raids on their homes. 

Two were arrested from the al-Salma family. 

Shia Rights Watch notes violence against Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia is largely systemic and cultural. None-the-less, direct violence is frequent and perpetual. 

Ramadan Kareem!

Shia Rights Watch expresses its warmest regards to the international community in the auspicious month of Ramadan.

The Holy month of Ramadan is a time of consciousness, generosity, and spiritual fulfillment.

At Shia Rights Watch, we stand in remembrance of those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including but not limited to the marginalized populations scapegoated and the individuals denied lifesaving medical attention based on their faith. 

This holy month serves as a time of unity for people everywhere as we journey towards a more peaceful and equitable society. We honor those who took charge and spearheaded education efforts and promoted safety within their local and national communities.

Having experienced a global pandemic in which families were separated from each other and traditional means of congregation became obsolete, Ramadan 2021 will be a year like no other.

Despite all that has changed, the spirit of Ramadan continues to illuminate our hearts and minds.

Shia Rights Watch invites all members of the international community, regardless of age, race, nationality, and religious orientation, to use this month as an opportunity to renew commitments to promote human rights and support efforts to hinder the promotion of hate.

This Ramadan, Shia Rights Watch encourages the adoption of creative expressions of unity among communities and calls for the respect of fundamental human rights by policymakers and national leaders.

 

 

 

Flashback Friday, April 9,2021

 

 

Manama, Bahrain

On April 6, authorities announced the death of Abbas Hassan Malallah, a ten-year detainee of Jaws Prison.
A statement was released by the Prisons Directorate, communicating the cause of death as a heart attack.
The statement can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.
Also, this week, Sheikh Hassan Issa was transferred to the hospital after reporting fatigue and muscle weakness as progressions of COVID-19 infection.
Activists express concerns for the health of Sheikh Issa, given the prison system’s fail to meet the medical needs of Shia Muslim detainees.
Prominent cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim demanded the release of imprisoned opposition.
“Show the world how the oppressed people stand up for their rights and never compromise on them. At the same time, they do not allow their anger and outrage to take them away from observing the norms of their religion and wisdom,”

Abbas Hassan Malallah: Yet Another Victim of Negligence in Jaws Prison

On April 6, 2021, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior Prisons Directorate announced the death of Jaws Prison detainee Abbas Hassan Malallah. 

Malallah was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in detention in 2011 on charges of ‘national security.” He was 50 years old at the time of his death.

Hundreds participated in Malallah’s funeral processions in Nuwaidrat in the days following his death. 

Statement Made by the Ministry of Interior

The Prisons Directorate statement stated,  

Inmate Abbas Hassan Ali (50) died a natural death early this morning, after suffering a heart attack, per the coroner’s report.”

“The inmate fell unconscious after exiting the bathroom, so he was immediately transferred to the infirmary, and the necessary first aid was administered until his health condition stabilized,” 

According to the statement, Malallah died ‘upon his transfer to Salmaniya Hospital.”

The statement furthered that Malallah “did not suffer from any chronic diseases” and that “his last medical check-up was at the center’s clinic on September 20, 2020, when he was complaining of ear pain.”

Counters to the Statement

Prisoners held with Malallah report that the deceased had asked for medical attention the day before his death, complaining of severe pain in his chest and abdomen. The prison administration denied his request. 

Advocates counter the claims made within the statement that the deceased did not have a chronic illness. Malallah suffered from colon and stomach ulcers which were denied treatment while in Jaws Prison. 

Moreover, reports of injury from shotgun pellets in the hands of authorities exist from 2012. Previous statements of Malallah being held in the intensive care unit after interrogative violence have been documented. 

The statement made by the Prison’s Directorate fails to acknowledge the inhumane infrastructure of Jaws Prison that has led to the death of a detainee. Overcrowding, denial of treatments, unsanitary conditions, and abuse have been causes for concern for advocates and families with loved ones in detainment. Yet, these concerns have been disregarded, and the death of Malallah was labeled as enforced by “natural causes” despite his history of mistreatment within Jaws Prison. 

Abbas Malallah’s recent death signals a dire need to re-evaluate arrests and harsh sentences handed to protestors after the 2011 protests. Malallah had spent 10 years of a 15-year sentence for participation in pro-democracy protests. His charges were under concerns of ‘national security,” a label scripted into law after a public call for democracy in 2011. Many of those arrested were met with lacking due process. Defendants were, and to this day continue to be, denied counsel and the right to defense. Reports of torture and forced interrogation were disregarded, and many civilians were tried in military court. 

Furthermore, Shia Rights Watch calls for long-overdue institutional changes within the Bahraini detention center. Conditions within detention centers are dangerous and inhumane. Officials must allow for third-party oversight and announce actionable plans to reduce the population of detainees, increase the availability of medical resources and comply with basic human rights long denied to detainees. 

 

Flashback Friday, April 2, 2021

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, 
Saudi Arabian officials continue to quell the nation’s Shia Muslim population. 
In late March, forces raided numerous homes in Al-Awamiya and Qatif. National forces forcibly entered the homes of Ahmed and Hadi Tariq al-Faraj and the Salma family, both family of martyrs previously executed. Moreover, two members of the Salma family were arrested. 
Those arrested face inhumane hardships such that of denial of medical care. 
Karbala, Iraq,
Security officials stopped a suicide bomber targeting pilgrims traveling to the Holy City for 15 of Sha’ban, the birthday of the 12th Shia Imam. Traveling on a bus designated for pilgrims, the terrorist pretended to be deaf to evade security searches. 
Officials suspect the arrested individual to be inspired by ISIS ideology.  
Manama, Bahrain,
Shia Cleric Kamel Al-Heshami sustained a heart attack while detained in Jaws Prison. 
Al-Heshami has since been transferred to a hospital with the advocacy of his family. Six months remain from Al-Heshami’s sentence. 

Flashback Friday March 26, 2021

Punjab, Pakistan, 
Raja Basharat, Provincial Law Minister, took measures to address systemic discrimination against Shia Muslims in Punjab Province. The minister assured local Shia delegations to withdraw cases against Shia mourners and to investigate cases brought forth by anti-Shia discrimination.
Shia Muslims report discrimination and bias within social systems that falsely incriminate practices of religious expression. 
Nangarhar, Afghanistan,
Separate roadside bombs kill one and injure another in the city of Jalalabad. Authorities have yet to report any arrests. 
Saladin, Iraq,
Detonation of a bomb in north Saladin injured two and killed one. Authorities suspect ISIS involvement and report increased attacks in the area recognized as the “Triangle of Death” between Kirkuk, Saladin, Diyala.
Manama, Bahrain,
The spread of Covid-19 in detention centers continues. This week, Abd Ali Al-Singace tested positive. Al-Singace suffers from chronic disease that puts him at increased risk.

Flashback Friday March 19, 2021

Manama, Bahrain,
 The family of Shaikh Zuhair Ashour reported attempted murder at the hands of a prisoner detained on charges of rape and drug-related charges. In a statement, the family expressed concerns for Shaikh Ashour. 
“On Sunday (March 14, 2021), at 2 PM, while Sheikh Zuheir was going to the prison’s yard (the fence), he decided to head to the television hall at first. The criminal prisoner was at the same place, and as soon as Sheikh Zuheir was about to leave the hall after spending some minutes watching television, the prisoner attacked him from behind and tried to strangle him and break his neck. Sheikh Zuheir defended himself and could escape. While Sheikh Zuheir was attempting to defend himself, the prisoner’s officers came and took the criminal prisoner to another place.”
Shia Muslims in Bahraini detention centers face inhumane hardships. Authorities fail to ensure safety for the detainees and frequently ignore reports of violence.

Flashback Friday March 12, 2021

 

Baghdad, Iraq, 
Bombings in the Kadhimiya area of Baghdad killed and injured numerous pilgrims traveling to the local Shrine on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Musa al-Kadhim. Millions of Shia Muslims traveled on foot from nearby provinces.  
An assailant threw a grenade into the crowd at the Aimmah Bridge. 
The attack came shortly after authorities announced the arrest of two individuals attempting suicide bombings. 
Manama, Bahrain, 
Sheikh Qassim, the prominent Shia cleric, called for the immediate release of political prisoners. He furthered that the release of prisoners is the first step in successful reconciliation between critics and the government. 
“The release of political prisoners and all prisoners of the political movement is necessary for justice and will be a serious introduction to reform if it happens”
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
Local activists report prisoners taking up hunger strikes in protest of inhumane conditions faced by Shia Muslims in the country.
Detainees have long reported sexual violence, torture, and solitary confinement. 
 

Incidents of Anti-Shiism, February 2021

In the month of February, 84 incidents of violence against Shia Muslims were reported in the nations of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. 

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 world’s 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.

Afghanistan 

On the 20th of the month, a roadside bomb injured three people and caused significant property damage in Kabul. 

Later in the month, extremists assassinated five family members of a journalist who had previously been killed months ago. 

Shia Muslims in Afghanistan live as a targeted minority. Extremist organizations such that of the Taliban and individuals in association with ISIS consider Shia Muslims to be “vermin” and “infidels” deserving death. 

Those identified as Shia Muslims are at higher risks of facing violence. Despite the notable targeting of Shia Muslims in the country, authorities have done little to protect the group against human rights violations. 

Bahrain 

Shia Rights Watch recorded 45 incidents of anti-Shiism in the Kingdom of Bahrain. 

Among those sentenced in the month of February are Sheikh Hussein Al-Qafoud, Ali Muhammad Abdul Hadi Al-Ajimi,  Syed Rida Syed Baqer,  Sayed Falah Sayed Hassan, Hussain Sahwan, Mahdi Sahwan, and Ahmed al-Halwaji. 

New arrests also took place this month. The arrested include, but are not limited to,  Alaa Hamid Al-Sami, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Syed Hussein Amin, Muhammad Hamid, Syed Muhammad Jasim, Abd Allah Karimi, Ali Mahdi, Ahmed Mahdi, Muhammad Mahdi, Hassan Al-Sufi, Ali Hantoush, Hassan Al-Barshim, Hassan Al-Mushaima, Hassan Ali Ibrahim, Muhammad Hani al-Watari, Abdullah al-Tabal, Rida Abbas Abdullah, Sadiq al-Alawi, Mohammad al-Sayed Mahmood, Mesreddin Issa al-Fardan, Sadiq Jafar AbdAli  and Muhammad Jaafar. 

The father of Ali Mushaima was arrested in mid-February. Ali Mushaima died after sustaining injuries from birdshot pellets shot at close range by security forces. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry established by King Hamad to investigate the February 14 uprisings concluded that Mushaima’s death resulted from unjustified “use of excessive force by police officers.” 

Shia Rights Watch expresses concern for detainees as sources announced cases of COVID-19 among those held in Jaws Prison and the Dry Docks Detainment Center. The authorities have yet to instituted life-saving interventions to limit the propagation of the disease. 

Iraq

Local activists report 12 Shia deaths and 7 injuries as a result of individual assasinations and small bombs. Attacks occurred in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Diyala. The attacks were spread across the month. 

Lebanon

On February 4, prominent critic Lokman Slim was found deceased. Slim, publisher and filmmaker, was shot multiple times in what those close to him call a political assassination. 

Nigeria

After being diagnosed with Covid-19, Malama Zeenah Ibrahim, the wife of Shaikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, was temporarily released in order to receive treatment.  

In a recent interview, the Chairman of the Resource Forum of the IMN, Professor Abdullahi Danladi, discussed the detainment of Sheikh Zakzaky. Details on the interview can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

Saudi Arabia

The death sentence of Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah Zaher, and Dawoud al-Marhoun, all minors at the time of their arrest, were commuted to 10 years in detainment. 

Later in the month, the parents of Ali al-Nimr were arrested following a house raid. 

Ali al-Nimr is the nephew of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an active critic of the Saudi Arabian government, who was executed in January 2016. 

Also commuted was the sentencing of Isra al-Ghamgham. Originally sentenced to be executed, al-Ghamgham’s sentence has been commuted to eight years. 

Her husband, Musa Hashem, was among those newly sentenced in February. Ali, Aoicher, Khalid Ghanim, and Mojtaba al-Muzayen. 

Syria

A detonation of an explosive-laden car in Afrin city, Aleppo, killed six and injured two dozen others. Locals report damages to nearby infrastructure as well. 

Shia Muslims made up a minority in the nation. Predominantly concentrated in villages and towns, Shia Muslims became prominent targets of violence in the hands of ISIS. 

Despite the weakening of the extremist organization, violence targeting the Shia Muslims minority continues to be fueled by extremism. 

Anti Shia Remark John Kirby

March 5, 2021

As the Pope is set to visit Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Saturday, the Department of Defense’s Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and spokesman, John Kirby makes an Anti-Shia and xenophobic statement that has outraged religious and minority rights activists.

In the Pentagon briefing on March 3, 2021. John Kirby associated active militia groups with the faith of Shia Islam, a rhetoric that is false in association and harmful to the millions of Shia Muslims who actively condemn violence.

John Kirby’s remarks vilify the Shia faith and marginalize the millions of Shia Muslims who live in the United State of America and damage relations with the international Shia community.

His remarks are a stark contradiction to President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support Underserved Communities through the Federal Government and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin’s commitment to enhance diversity and combat hate in the federal government, by creating a “working environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment.”

Shia Americans serve in many governmental agencies such as the U.S military, and many Shia Iraqis and Afghans died alongside Americans in fighting ISIS and AlQaeda.

Mr. Kirby is creating an environment of hate against Shia Muslims in America and around the world by using the word “Shia” as pejorative and this label is unacceptable.

We consider Mr. Kirby’s labeling of violent groups in Iraq as “Shia-backed” to be harmful to the international Shia community and a serious cause for concern as it incites anti-Shia rhetoric within American foreign policy.

Shia Muslims have long condemned singular political associations and links to any particular nationality.

In addition to an unambiguous apology, Mr. Kirby should meet with Shia American intellectuals in Washington to gain an accurate understanding of the Shia Muslim community, a global population stretching from Australia to the American heartland in Ann Arbor Michigan, home to the largest mosque in America.

We urge the current political administration to take immediate steps to promote inclusivity for all religious identities and to refrain from using anti-Shia rhetoric in their statements.

UN Complaint