On Tuesday July 14th a Saudi Shia man was arrested in the city of Khobar after learning about a weekly prayer meeting he held in his home. Zuhair Busaleh who is a retired airline ticketing agent was sentenced to two months in jail and 60 lashes. Busaleh remains free pending an appeal which will be considered on August 2nd.
In an interview with Agency French Press, Busaleh said that he held this prayer meeting in his home because Khobar has no Shia mosques. Khobar, which is majority Sunni, does not have religious facilities for Shia Muslims so they are left to either worship privately or go to Dammam which is the neighboring city. Dammam was the scene of a terrorist attack against Shia Muslims on May 29th as a suicide bomber detonated himself at the Imam Hussein mosque killing 25.
Busaleh had previously requested and had been granted permission by the prince in charge of the city to have prayer meetings at his home but other officials in the city had ordered him to stop. Zuhair Busaleh is now planning to take up his case with the prince.
Shia Rights Watch condemns the arrest and charges placed against Zuhair Busaleh as a violation of his religious freedom. To prohibit Busaleh’s worship in his home contradicts article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. This right includes the freedom to manifest one’s belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
To ensure the religious freedom of Zuhair Busaleh, Shia Rights Watch urges the Saudi government to drop the charges against him and work with him and other community leaders to facilitate the construction of a Shia mosque in the Khobar.