In Bahrain, the government has been accused of working to erase the culture and heritage of Bahraini Shia by denying may of them access to a Shia religious education. This week Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, the director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council stated “the Bahraini government has worked on erasing the culture and history of the indigenous Bahrainis”.
The Bahraini government has be accused of pursuing this policy through its lack of promotion for Bahraini heritage sites and its educational bias against Shia Islam. Al-Wadaei stated that the Bahraini government has refused to upgrade its religious education system to include teachings that are different from those adhered to by the royal family. This is particularly troubling since Shia Muslims constitute the majority of Bahrain’s population yet they are kept from studying their beliefs in religious school.
Violent attacks against Shia Muslims have continued throughout the weeks as bombings ravaged Shia neighborhoods throughout the country. In the final week of September at least 43 Shia Muslims were killed in a mixture of bombings, and shootings. The largest casualties came on September 28th when 19 people were killed in a series of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. Shia Rights Watch continues to lobby the international community for a call to protect Shia Muslims who have been greatly affected by the bombing tactics of terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The international community cannot continue to ignore the violent deaths of this vulnerable religious minority.
Unfortunately an additional 24 Shia Muslims were killed in the first weekend of October as bombs were detonated in Baghdad’s main Shia neighborhood. On October 24th, three suicide bombers tried to breach the checkpoint at Adan Square in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood and after being denied access two of them detonated themselves. This busy checkpoint is one of the main access points for the Shia shrine of Kadhimiyah, which attracts many visitors on Saturdays. Updated casualty figures have at least 24 people killed and 61 wounded. The Baghdad Province of ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack on twitter by tweeting out the names of the bombers shortly after the attack occurred.
The continued violation of the religious freedom of Shia Muslims in Iraq by ISIS is unacceptable and the Iraqi government, in conjunction with the international community needs to do its part to protect places of worship, work, and rest for Shia Muslims.
In the first of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party’s annual conference in the city of Manchester, Prime Minister David Cameron urged Saudi Arabia not to execute Ali El-Nimr. Ali El-Nimr was arrested in 2012 at the age of 17 for “chanting anti-state slogans in illegal protests and inciting others to demonstrate” was recently sentence to death by execution. This draconian punishment for exercising one’s innate rights has enraged the international community as call have come in from many groups to halt this execution. This latest condemnation comes from one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest European allies, who has contributed millions of dollars in security and technical assistance to their government. Despite their close national security relationship, Prime Minister Cameron stated “we never stint in telling them that we don’t agree with them on this human rights issue”. While this condemnation is a far cry in addressing the numerous human rights abuses that are present in Saudi Arabia against Shia Muslims, we recognize the weight that this statement carries in the international community in getting the Saudi government to improve its human rights practices.