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Summary of Special Rapporteur report on Discrimination against Shia in Bahrain

March, 2016

Summary of Special Rapporteur report on Discrimination against Shia in Bahrain

Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, stated receiving concerning alleged patterns of continuous discrimination against Shia citizens (mainly Baharna and Ajam), which have been taking place since 2011 and are undermining their rights to freedom of religion, expression, and culture.

Shia Rights Watch has compiled summaries of each of these cases; you may find them below:

At the United Nations Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteurs reported discrimination against Shia in Bahrain such as…

  • Violence including arrest, torture, use of force
  • Destruction of places of worship
  • Destruction of signs of the presence of Shia citizens in the country
  • Shia marginalization
  • Misinformation regarding their religious and cultural identity through the educational system and the media
  • Citizenship revocation
  • Education and employment violations


In the immediate aftermath of the 2011 protest movement, the Bahraini authorities have targeted influential leaders of the political opposition as well as citizen protesters, in addition to the excessive use of force against political opposition and protestors.  It is alleged that repressive actions have been particularly aimed at, or were used specifically against Baharna and Ajam citizens; distinct ethnical groups whose members predominantly belong to the Shia faith.

Shia Heritage and Identity:

  • According to the report, Bahraini government has demolished or restricted access to several Shia mosques that were religiously and culturally significant. This included the three centuries old Abu Dharr Mosque and Al Khamis, one of the oldest Shia mosques in the peninsula.
  • Bahraini authorities censor education and historical narratives to marginalize the history of Shia’s, specifically Baharana’s, existence in the country for centuries. Increasing effort after 2011 is to associate Shia with Safavid loyalists who are foreign led and therefore do not share historical background with the rest of the population.

Media and Communication:

  • Numerous journalists and independent communication activists have been arrested, fined, and pressured to close protest and civil unrest coverage.
  • State media and information services use their outlets to spread hate speeches.
  • The Cyber Safety Directorate created in November 2013, blocks access in Bahrain to numerous websites expressing views about the Shia belief.

Employment and Housing:

  • Shia are excluded in almost all governmental positions. Although the government hires foreigners at department of education, Shia cannot be employed by the departments. Limitation in employment resulted in unemployment and therefore many Shia have to live in underprivileged areas that often lack clean water and other important services.


As of 2008, 2,000 people are stateless and majority of them belong to Shia groups such as Ajam and Bahrainis. Such status oppresses Shia furthermore as they cannot access social welfare, education, and employment. As the result this population often ends up living in poverty.

Based on presented report, the following articles were violated by the Bahraini government…

  • Articles 2, 18, 19, 20, 26, and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR)
  • Article 2, 6, 9, 11, 13, and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
  • Articles 5 and 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),
  • Article 29 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

SRW, along with other human rights NGOs, has been reporting such violations and this recent report by Special Rapporteurs is further evidence that the Bahraini government is violating many international laws including its own constitution in some cases and must be hold responsible for its actions by international committees.

Read original report here:



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