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Shia News Wire #54

February 6th to 12th, 2016

Pakistan

In Punjab, terrorists have recently threatened to poison the water tanks of the schools in the area, leading to the school administration and Punjab government to place the school water supply under strict surveillance. Efforts to thwart terrorist plans to poison the water include a rotating night watch as well as constant 24/7 guarding of the water supply. The Punjab area of Pakistan is home to a good percentage of Shia Muslims, which explains why anti-Shia terrorist groups are targeting that specific area.

On February 8th, Pakistan had also seen the death of an important Shia individual, Malik Iftikhar Ali Haideri. As the superintendent of the Government College of Technology, he takes public transportation each morning and was waiting at a pick-up location when the attack occurred. He was shot by several unidentified men riding motorcycles near the Kohati Gate resulting in fatal injuries. His family seems to have a huge target on their back as his brother, Jarrar Ali Haideri, who is an employee of the Directorate of Afghan Refugees, was killed in a similar way ten days previously while bringing his children to school. Another incident also occurred on February 8th in which an explosive bomb was set in a repair shop in the Zandi Akbar Khan area of Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of the two Shia store owners.

Syria

This week, Syria was the sight of three Shia Muslim deaths including two women and one six year old child. These deaths were the direct result of bombings to two Shia populated cities; Nubl and Al-Zahraa which had previously been under siege for the past three years by ISIS resulting in malnutrition, lack of education, medical aid, and many other resources. Although ISIS has recently stopped occupation of these cities, a huge anti-Shia stronghold remains, making these places extremely dangerous for their large Shia populations.

 

 

Shia News Wire #53

January 30th – February 5th, 2016

Malaysia

Four Malaysian Shia Muslims were summoned to Syariah Court and charged with Sections nine and twelve of Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1997, because of their Shia practices.

Thirteen Malaysians who have declared themselves followers of the Shia faith in 2013. In a Statutory Declaration, they have all stated that they are free from any terrorist activities, do not condone violence, and also declared loyalty to The Yang di-Pertuan Agong (head of state) or king of Malaysia.

On May 15th,2014, all thirteen of the Shia Malaysians were called upon to the office of Islamic Affair Johor (JAIJ) for investigation. It is notable that investigation sessions were closed to the public.

The thirteen individuals charged were bailed out on a fee of RM 2,000per person and their next hearing will be on April 14th, 2016.

Ongoing investigation on Malaysian Shia, ban to their publications, and increasing restrictions are some human rights violations that the Shia Rights Watch have been reporting. Malaysia must recognize its Shia population as lawful citizens and stop pressuring this minority based on their faith.

 

Bahrain

Human rights abuses and violations are  an ongoing phenomenon in  Bahrain.

A court in Bahrain has sentenced eight Shia Muslims to three years in prison. According to activists, the court accused and charged Shia Muslims because they  blocked aroad during a protest. Hundreds of peaceful protestors were charged and are currently jailed in Bahrain under the false pretence of national security.

Moreover, the Bahraini security forces recently arrested six children from the Sar region:

This includes two sixteen year olds named Sayyid Ali Abbas Mohammed and Jassem Mohammed Hassan, two fifteen year olds named Hassan Mohammed Hassan and Fadhel Mohammed Hassan, one fourteen year old named Sayyid Fadhel Saeed Shams, and finally one thirteen year old named Sayyid Mohammed Hashem. The prosecutor general ordered for the children to be detained while they were investigated for political crimes, which in most cases, means  participation in peaceful protests.

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in January 2016

Overview:

This report will analyze the data compiled on Shia deaths, injuries, and arrests that occurred between January 1st and January 31st. This month there were 140 known deaths within the Shia community. Most significant bombing  left seventy-one known deaths. However, news released from the Zaria massacre showed 705 people have been declared missing. The data for this report was gathered from a variety of different sources. The most well-known incidents of anti-Shiism were retrieved from stories that are reported to Shia Rights Watch by eyewitnesses. Each incident is thoroughly evaluated for both authenticity and relevance. For an incident to be included in this report it has to show clear intent to target Shia Muslims on the basis of religious beliefs. The subsequent sections will present and analyze the data gathered by Shia Rights Watch for January.

Where have Shia Muslims been targeted? 

Shia Rights Watch Chart 1

 

In January, Shia Muslims were victims in seven countries: Iraq, Bahrain, Nigeria, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. There were a total of 140 deaths this month, 123 wounded, 171 arrested, and an estimate of 705 people declared missing. The biggest news this month was the release of the 705 names of people declared missing after the Nigeria massacre last month.

Iraq

This month saw a huge decrease in Shia deaths in Iraq, with only 55 people being killed, compared with last month which had 221 deaths.  Unlike in past months. The city in Iraq with the most killings was Muqdadiyah with twenty deaths, followed by New Baghdad, Baghdad/ Taji, and finally, South-east Baghdad. Most of the attacks in Iraq were resulted from bombs include suicide bombers, car bombs, and other bombs. The New Baghdad attack also had instances of gunfire attacks. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack on South-east Baghdad, but no one has claimed responsibility for the other attacks in Iraq as of now.

Bahrain

This month saw a huge increase on the amount of Shia Muslims arrested in Bahrain, with a total of 163. All of these arrests were sanctioned by the state with the unfair arrests being done by the Bahraini government, the Bahraini Security Forces, and the Bahraini Judicial system. The arrests done by the Bahraini Judicial system was a fifteen year extension for people already arrested following peaceful protests against the current regime. This extension was done on the grounds that prisoners were “disobeying orders” and “destroying furniture” at Jaw Prison. Protests against the currently regime have been common since 2011, making arrests a common occurrence in Bahrain. Also, according to the freedom house report, Bahrain is considered Not Free as they recently stripped many Shia Bahraini peoples of their citizenship.

Shia Rights Watch Chart 3

Nigeria

Nigeria also witnessed a huge decrease in deaths this month, with only approximately ten occurring in January. The deaths this month resulted from a suicide bombing attack on a Mosque in Cameroon by Nigerian militant group, Boko Haram. Following the Nigerian massacre that occurred last month, a list of 705 names was just released of all the people declared missing following that massacre. However, all that is known is their names, not which of these missing persons are still alive, nor where they are being held.

Pakistan

This month no Shia deaths occurred in Pakistan, which is great news, but there were eight people arrested by the Pakistani government. Innocent Shia youngsters and trustees of mosques/Imambargahs have been arrested by police in a raid from Mehmoodabad area of Karachi, Pakistan. All of these arrests occurred without any crimes or charges being made, making it a case of police terrorism, as locals have started calling it. Families of the arrested declared the government is demanding 2 Lac for the release of the prisoners, which is equivalent to 100,000 rupees.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan had a total of one injury in January. Shia Muslim theologian and prisoner of conscience Taleh Bagirov was subjected to “severe torture” including a broken nose while being held in detention at the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Struggle with Organized Crime since December 2015. Since being in jail, Bagirov has complained about severe torture in prison, not being allowed contact with his lawyer, and not being allowed contact with his family.

Saudi Arabia

January saw a total of four deaths and eighteen people wounded in Saudi Arabia. This was an increase from last month in which neither deaths nor injuries occurred. The attack was due to a suicide bomber that targeted the Imam Rida mosque, a Shia Muslim mosque located in the eastern province town of Mahasen. No official claims of responsibility have been made, but this attack mirrors past ones by ISIS, making the Islamic State a strong contender. Security forces prevented the bomber from being allowed inside the mosque, but he blew himself up right outside of it, killing four people with him.

Shia Rights Watch Chart 2

Syria

This month a total of seventy-one people were killed, and about 100 were injured following bombings claimed by ISIS near a revered Shia shrine, Sayyida Zeinab, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus. Last month Syria was not listed as a place which targeted Shia Muslims, which is a bad sign for the month of January. According to witness statements, there were either two or three bomb explosions; the first a suicide car bomber, and the following one(s) suicide bombers which released bombs into a huge crowd. These attacks also concluded in an estimate of 100 injuries.

Conclusion

As a whole, the number of Shia Muslims being targeted in January 2016 has exponentially decreased, which is a good sign for Shia Muslims across the globe. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure this group is completely safe as they have still been dealing with murders, unlawful arrests, injuries, and other instances of anti-Shia behavior by both their governments as well as militant/ terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. It is upsetting to note that many of the bombs this month were set off during peaceful protests and mosque services. The Shia Rights Watch hopes that attacks against the Shia population will continue in this downward trend. The organization also wishes for the safe release of the 705 people declared missing following the Nigerian massacre.

Shia News Wire #52

01/23 to 01/29/16

Saudi Arabia

On Friday January 29th, a Shia mosque was targeted by two gunmen wearing suicide belts in yet another

anti-Shia rampage. Early reports are confirming at least two people were killed and seven injured at the

Imam Rida mosque in Mahasen, Saudi Arabia, however this number may rise. According to witnesses at

the scene, one attacker detonated himself in the mosque while the other opened fire. The second

gunman was prevented from detonating his suicide vest by mosque attendees. The Friday prayer which

was the subject of the attack was targeted for holding a memorial service for Sheikh Nimr, the Shia cleric

who was executed by the Saudi government at the beginning of the month for his peaceful resistance to

the regime. Mohammed al-Nimr, sheikh Nimr’s brother was in attendance at the mosque at the time of

the attack and expressed his worries that the death toll may rise. Video of the aftermath of the attack

has circulated the internet and it shows numerous worshippers bloody and either laying on the ground

in pain or fleeing the scene. A responsible party for these attacks has yet to emerge but it is highly likely

that this was perpetrated by ISIS who has attacked numerous Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia in 2014 and

2015. Shia Rights Watch strongly condemns this attacks and call for a full investigation and for the

responsible parties to be brought to justice.

Azerbaijan

News has emerged of the torturing of a prisoner of conscience in Azerbaijan at the end of 2015. A

Eurasian news agency has reported that Shia Muslim theologian Taleh Bagirov was subjected to “severe

torture” during his detention at the Main Directorate for the Struggle with Organized Crime which is run

by the country’s interior ministry. Exact details on his torture are unknown but it is known that he

suffered a broken nose. Bagirov was one of the prisoners who were arrested in the November 26th raid

which we reported a few months ago and it currently awaiting trial. Shia Rights Watch condemns the

maltreatment of Taleh Bagirov during his detention and seeing as how he committed no crime, calls for

The overreach of the Bahraini judicial system has continued as a court in the island nation gave an

additional 15 year sentence to 57 prisoners at the Jaw prison who were involved in a mutiny in March

2015. Of the prisoners, the court revoked the citizenship of 23 of them and fined two of them 200,000

dinars ($530,000). This is a clear example of a judicial system that lacks due process. These steep

sentences, fines, and the revocation of citizenship is a punishment that far outweighs the crime. Shia

Rights Watch calls for the immediate reversal of this decision.

Bahrain

The actions of the Bahraini government in 2015 have come under increased scrutiny and that has

emanated from two of the largest human rights NGOs in the world. This past week, both Human Rights

Watch and Amnesty International have highlighted the poor human rights record of the country.

Amnesty International mentioned that the Bahraini authorities continue to silence the opposition

through unnecessary for and continue to torture detainees. Human Rights Watch in their annual report

stated that “the torture of detainees continued due to the failure of authorities to implement effectively

recommendations for combating torture” such recommendations were put forth by the Bahrain

Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011. Overall they wrote that the abuses occurring in the country

“points out the ineffectiveness of institutions established by the state since 2011 to safeguard detainees

and the persistent failure of authorities to hold officials accountable for torture and other serious rights

violations. The time has come for Bahrain’s actions on human rights to live up to its commitment to

In the wake of the Zaria Shia massacre, many questions are left unanswered and the Islamic Movement

of Nigeria has pressed the government for answers. This week the group published a list of members

who had gone missing following the attack. This extensive list contains 705 names. Should the worse

that people expect come to fruition, this would drastically raise the official casualty list for this attack.

The government has launched an investigation but it has come under immense scrutiny from the Shia

community both in Nigeria and around the world. Shia Rights Watch is calling for an independent

investigation of this incident to bring the truth to the light and restore the faith of the Shia community in

the country’s democracy. For the full list of names missing, visit the link below.

Shia News Wire #51

Pakistan

A Shia Muslim Chemistry teacher is being hailed as a hero today in Pakistan for his efforts to protect his students during a deadly terrorist attack. Syed Hamid Hussain, an assistant professor of chemistry at the Bacha Khan University of Charsadda, attacked three Taliban gunmen as they approached his classroom and made it possible for his students to escape. According to student accounts, Hussain first ordered his students to stay inside the classroom and as the Taliban gunmen approached the department he jumped out of the classroom and shot at them before being killed. The students used this opportunity to escape the school. At least 21 people would be killed in this school near the city of Peshawar. Peshawar is the site of another deadly terrorist attack at a military school that killed over 100 children.

 

Bahrain

Since the beginning of the year, Bahrain has sentenced numerous political dissidents to staggering jail sentences and this week was no different. News has emerged from the island kingdom on January 17th that since the beginning of the year, 82 Bahrainis from the village of Bilad Al-Qadeem were sentenced to a total of 911 years in prison. This includes 45 prisoners who are serving more than five years each. Notable Shia opposition clerics are among those sentenced such as Sheikh Ali Salman, Sheikh Abdul Jalil Al-Moqdad, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Miqdad and Sheikh Mizra Al- Mahroos.

Later in the week on January 20th, news emerged that the High Criminal Court of Manama sentenced 17 year old Ahmad al-Arab to an additional 10 years in prison on charges of protesting the regime and alleged terror acts, raising his total sentence to 130 years in prison. Furthermore the court has ruled that Ahmad Al-Arab will be stripped of his citizenship upon release, when his is 147 years old. Charges of protesting the regime and terror acts are charges regularly handed down to political dissidents in an attempt to intimidate protestors who voice their discontent with the ruling government.

On the same day, the High Criminal Court of Bahrain sentenced 23 people to 10 years in prison each over their alleged involvement in an attack on security forces and unlawful assembly in the village of Bani Jamra. According to Bahraini media, the accused detonated explosives that were intended to kill members of the security forces.

Shia Rights Watch strongly condemns the systematic oppression of Shia Muslims in the country. The encroachment upon the free speech and assembly of Bahraini citizens through unlawful detainment displays character that is out of line with the standards of the international community. The time has come for the release of all political prisoners and an independent review of government and police practices against Shia Muslims.

Shia News Wire #50

Iraq

ISIS continued to terrorize Shia Muslims in 2016 when gunmen stormed the al-Jawhara shopping center in New Baghdad on January 11th. The two assailants began shooting and when security forces entered the mall to confront them, they detonated their explosive vests. In total, 18 people were killed in this Shia majority area.

Almost simultaneously, another bomb detonated at a tea shop in the town of Muqdadiya 50 miles north of Baghdad. In this incident, 20 people were killed. Later in the day, a car bomb exploded in south-eastern Baghdad which killed five civilians.

While no group initially claimed responsibility for these attacks, ISIS would later post a message online that stated that they had targeted the “rejectionist heathens” through these attacks.

On January 14th further attacks were carried out against the Shia community around Baghdad and 10 civilians were killed. The first attack involved the detonation of an improvised explosive device which killed two and injured four others in the town of Taji.

More explosions and shootings occurred in the areas of Sheikh Omar, Hussainiyah, al-Jihad, Shaab, and Latifiyah.

Unfortunately rather than slowing down, the attacks against Shia Muslims has increased. Shia Rights Watch condemns these attacks and calls for greater protection of the Shia community in the face of this renewed violence.

 

Bahrain

On January 12th, gunmen attacked a Shia religious center in Sitra. Gunmen drove by the Al-Marzouq Hussainia hall and fired upon it and quickly sped off. Nobody was killed in this incident and the gunmen have yet to be identified or apprehended. Shia Rights Watch condemns these actions against the Bahraini Shia community and calls for greater protection for Shia Muslims at their places of worship.

January 14th marks the start of Sheikh Ali Salman’s trial and Shia Rights Watch reiterates its call for his release. The Sheikh was arrested on December 28, 2014 and charged with attempting to overthrow the regime and collaborating with foreign powers. As the leader of the main opposition group, this trial is yet another way for the Bahraini government to stifle dissent within its borders.

In a new report published by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, 42 citizens (including 5 children) were arrested in the first week of 2016. Of these 42 citizens, 43% of them were arrested during a police crackdown on a rally to show solidarity with Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr who was executed on New Year’s Day. In addition to the arrests, the Bahraini judicial system sentenced three people to life in prison and six others received a total of 30 and a half years in prison. Shia Rights Watch condemns the excessive nature of the Bahraini security forces and judicial system. A top-down reform of law enforcement needs to be conducted immediately.

 

Kuwait

The nine Shia lawmakers in Kuwait’s parliament boycotted the national assembly on January 13th and 14th due to growing anti-Shiism among the assembly. The lawmakers cite accusations made by their colleagues saying that they are agents of Iran and members of Hezbollah. In addition to accusations made by their colleagues, the Shia members state that a recent judicial decision to convict 22 individuals including an Iranian national. The Iranian national was charged with recruiting Kuwaiti nationals to travel to Lebanon to fight with Hezbollah. This trial has been condemned by many for being flawed as it is likely the confessions obtained from the defendants came after torture from security forces.

 

Shia News Wire #49

Sheikh Nimr

As 2016 begins, the aftermath of Sheikh Nimr’s execution has been an overwhelming concern of the human rights community and the Shia community. Since the execution last week, there have been protests around the world, in some places these occurred daily. In Saudi Arabia, the place of Sheikh Nimr’s execution, daily protests have condemned the regime’s actions. Shia protesters in the eastern province have continued the work of Sheikh Nimr by calling for greater freedoms for the Shia community in the country. In Bangladesh, the Shia community has staged demonstrations condemning the actions of the Saudi government. Around the world, the Shia community has staged peaceful demonstrations to show solidarity with the Saudi Shia community and condemn Shiekh Nimr’s execution.

 

Australia

In Fawkner, Melbourne, the more than 1000 member Shia community has been denied access to the Imam Ali Islamic Center and roughly 150 worshipers were subsequently forced to pray in the adjacent street. Following a dispute with the local council, the prayer hall was rendered inaccessible to the mosque attendants. The local council cited fire safety deficiencies in its decision to restrict access to the Islamic Center however the Shia community leaders stated that they were given insufficient time to rectify such issues. Shia Rights Watch urges both parties to quickly negotiate a settlement to return access of the center to the Shia community. Such a closure interferes in the free worship of the Melbourne Shia community.

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/01/08/melbourne-shias-denied-access-prayer-hall

 

Pakistan

The targeted assassinations of Shia shopkeepers has continued in Pakistan as Naveed Haider, 22 was shot and killed on Sarki Road in Quetta. In addition to Naveed Haider’s death, his brother Javeed Haider, 24, was also showt and is currently critically injured. According to reports, the assailants belong to Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) however they have yet to be identified or apprehended. Despite recent arrests by the Pakistani government of such terrorists, the actions have continued and Shia Rights Watch urges that more be done to protect the Shia community.

 

Bahrain

The Bahraini government has heightened its anti-Shiism following the execution of Sheikh Nimr. In addition to cutting diplomatic relations with Iran, it has worked to crush any dissent internally relating to the execution. Reports have surfaced saying that Bahraini Security forces have arrested Sheikh Ahmad al-Jidhafsi who is a senior Shia cleric after he attended rallies condemning the execution. This follows a year of tremendous onslaught from the Bahraini government against the majority Shia community. Shia Rights Watch condemns this arrests and calls for the release of all detained political prisoners.

 

Shia News Wire #48

Bahrain

The Bahraini judicial system has continued to display intolerance towards opposition as this week they sentenced one Shia citizen to death and 22 others for life under the charges of forming a terrorist group.

This group, according to the Bahraini government, killed two people, including a policeman. In addition to these charges, the 23 prisoners had their citizenship revoked and two of them were fined 200,000 dinars. These charges have been unsubstantiated and the punishments handed down are excessive. The Bahraini judicial system has routinely violated due process and continues to hand down punishments against Shia Muslims that far exceed any actions taken by the defendants. While tough punishments are handed down to Shia Muslims, members of the security forces that use excessive force and engage in torture against prisoners are rarely indicted. Shia Rights Watch condemns the most recent actions of the Bahraini judicial system and calls for an investigation into court rulings against political dissidents and marginalized groups.

On Monday December 28th, Bahraini Security Forces arrested Hamid Al-Basri, former member of the municipality council. This occurred during an early morning raid where Al-Basri’s mobile phone and laptop were confiscated without a warrant. Shia Rights Watch condemns the excessive actions taken by the Bahraini security forces and urges a review of police practices in the country.

 

Nigeria

As mentioned in the previous news write up, the whereabouts of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky are unknown and the reports that have emerged are conflicting. Whereas initial reports stated that the Sheikh was in the custody of Nigerian Security Forces, the Controller of Kaduna Prisons stated otherwise. In a statement given on December 31st the Controller stated “we only have 191 followers of the Shi’ite leader in our custody. But we do not have their leader”. Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is the leader of the Nigerian Zaria Shia community and a well-known public figure in Nigeria. Shia Rights Watch urges all parties to work together to confirm the whereabouts of Sheikh El-Zakzaky in order to work toward the restoration of justice in the aftermath of this unthinkable tragedy.

 

Iraq

Unfortunately the year in Iraq ended the same way it started, with a barrage of bombings and shootings against Shia Muslims. In the final week of 2015 there were six attacks against Shia Muslims, killing 28 people. The most deadly attack came on December 26th when eight people were killed by an IED and gunfire. As the year closes Shia Rights Watch condemns the horrific actions of terrorist groups against Shia Muslims in Iraq and calls for greater measures of protection for this group and other vulnerable populations in the country.

#Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimer al Nimer

Shia Rights Watch expresses it deepest sorrow after Saudi Arabia executed another pro-democracy Shia advocate.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi vocal advocate was executed along with other 47 Shia Muslims early Saturday, according to Saudi officials. He was shot and arrested after the 2011 uprise in this country.

Although Sheikh and many others were executed due to their pro-democracy and equality wishes, Saudi accused them as terrorists.

Execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is a clear message that the Saudi kingdom is not taking promised steps towards equality in this country” says Mustafa Akhwand, the director of SRW. Hundreds of Saudi Shia are being punished because they want to have access to their basic rights of human dignity, yet Saudi  Arabia kills them under the umbrella of “terror activity”, Akhwand continued. Such behavior and the world’s inability to take action is a strong sign of weak international leadership.

 

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in December 2015

Overview:

This report will analyze the data compiled on Shia deaths, injuries, and arrests that occurred between December 1st and December 31st.  December has been a relatively low risk month for Shia around the world with the exception of the massacre in Nigeria.  The attacks towards Shia stretched from Nigeria to Pakistan and they were focused in 6 countries.  Iraq, like the previous months, had a constant rate of Shia killings.  A total of 549 deaths of Shia were officially reported and 106 were wounded.  For this report we used the most conservative estimate of the Nigeria massacre which was reported between 300-1000 deaths.  The data for this report was gathered from a variety of different sources. The most well-known incidents of anti-Shiism were retrieved from stories that are reported to Shia Rights Watch by eyewitnesses. Each incident is thoroughly evaluated for both authenticity and relevance. For an incident to be included in this report it has to show clear intent to target Shia Muslims on the basis of religious beliefs. The subsequent sections will present and analyze the data gathered by Shia Rights Watch for December.

Where have Shia Muslims been targeted? 

Shia Rights Watch_December_1

In December, Shia Muslims were victims in six countries: Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Azerbaijan. There were a total of 549 Shia deaths this month, 106 wounded, 65 arrests and one Shia was sentenced to death.  One major event happened this month that devastated all human rights activists and the Shia communities around the world: the massacre in Nigeria which is officially reported with 300 deaths, but many credible sources believe the number is closer to 1000.

Iraq

Compared to last month there has been a %58 decrease of death tolls in Iraq.  The December deaths and casualties in Iraq shows that Iraq continues to be the most persistent and continuous high risk country for Shias. The number of injuries in December are half of November’s.  This month, like the month before, the city of Baghdad had the highest number of Shia killed.  IEDs and gunfire are the most common reason of deaths in Baghdad.  ISIS is still the main responsible group for these killings.  The lower number of bombings and deaths in Baghdad is believed to be connected to the mass anti-ISIS campaign in Ramadi which has been challenging ISIS worriers and gaining their attention for this battlefield.

Nigeria

In the middle of December, we witnessed the most brutal massacre of Shia in Nigeria.  This massacre was executed by the Nigerian National Army.  Many observers believe the death toll is near 1000.  Official reports confirm at least 300 dead.  There is an immense lack of clarity regarding the number of casualties and deaths because every other day mass graves are being discovered and the Nigerian National Army arrests activists and reporters who investigate this incident.  The Human Rights Watch has confirmed that the Nigerian National Army buried all the bodies without the permission of family members.  The leader of the Shia in Nigeria, Sheikh Zakzaky, was heavily beaten and injured during this raid.  He is currently arrested and there are many reports about the lack of proper health care for him.  Shia Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the continuous assaults on Shia in Nigeria and their lack of basic human rights.

Shia Rights Watch_December_2

Pakistan

A bomb has been exploded in the central market of the predominantly-Shia city of Parachinar in Pakistan’s sprawling tribal belt.  At least 23 were killed and many wounded.  There is no official data for the number of the wounded but the police announced at least 23 bodies were identified.  There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Pakistani security agencies believe it comes within the context of ongoing Sunni-Shia sectarian violence that has claimed thousands of lives across Pakistan over the last three decades.

Azerbaijan

Since last month (November 2015) there has been an ongoing cycle of assaults against the Shia of Azerbaijan.  The population of Azerbaijan is %85 Shia, and although the country is secular and relatively safe, the government does not tolerate any kind of religious activity that expressed any level of criticism towards the President.  Azerbaijan’s Interior Minister, Ramil Usubov, said that the Shia had been targeted in the eastern village of Nardaran for allegedly plotting a coup against the government.  He mentioned that 5 Shia (members of the Movement for Muslim Unity) were killed and 32 were arrested.  Azerbaijan’s parliament has been debating a law to ban the display of flags honoring the martyred Shia Imam Hussein on streets and also prohibiting those Azerbaijanis who have received religious education abroad from performing religious ceremonies.  The incidents in Azerbaijan are extremely concerning for the Shia Rights Watch, since the government does not allow any independent human rights organization to operate and investigate in that country.  We believe that Shia of Azerbaijan will face more human rights abuse since this country has been under the radar and does not receive any coverage regarding its human rights abuse.

Shia Rights Watch_December_3

Saudi Arabia

Abdullah al-Zaher, the youngest person currently sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to death by the Saudi court.  Zaher, who is 19 years old now, was just 15 when he was arrested after attending an anti-government demonstration.  He was sentenced to be beheaded.  There is still no information about the date of the execution.  Many human rights organizations condemned his trial and believe it was unfair and flawed.  His father believes that Zaher was forced to confess to crimes he did not commit and he was denied the right to consult with a lawyer or with his family.

Bahrain

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) said that the Bahraini authorities arbitrarily arrested 13 citizens during the first week of December.  Meanwhile A Bahraini court sentenced a Shia citizen to death and jailed 22 others for life for forming a “terrorist group”.  The court also revoked the citizenships of the 23 convicts and some sources said that they were tried in absentia.

Conclusion

Although the number of Shia deaths and assaults in December has been almost the same as the previous months of 2015, the level and type of December’s assaults have been immensely worrisome.  The Nigeria massacre has shocked many around the world, since it has been one of a kind in the recent history of Nigeria.  The maltreatment of Shia communities in Nigeria and taking away their basic human rights is the start of a horrific cycle of violence and religious intolerance.  The incidents in Azerbaijan are also important, not by number, but by the context of the assaults.  It is highly expected that the government of Azerbaijan will increase its raids on Shia ceremonies and most likely we will observe more violence and systematic intolerance against Shia activists in Azerbaijan.  In Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia although the number of anti Shia incidents were significant, they were not surprising to us compared to the previous months of 2015.   The lack of a clear and just judiciary procedure in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia remains a highly sensitive issue for the Shia Rights Watch, and the recent advances in Iraq by the Iraqi government in liberating Ramadi gives us hope to see less violent activities in the Capital city against the Shia Muslims.

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