SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) and Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR) issued a joint report documenting violations during the Ashura season in Bahrain under the title “No Tolerance for Religious Rituals of Ashura”, which included: security summons and investigations intended for intimidation, arbitrary arrests, the confiscation and vandalisation of Ashura banners and flags in different parts of Bahrain, as well as prisoners of consciences being harrassed for practising their religious rituals in detention centers.
The report pointed out that most of the targeting which took place had nothing to do with politics, but rather with the religious beliefs and ideas of the Shia citizens, which is usually a matter to target preachers and religious leaders.
The report contains the following topics: an Historical Overview of Shia Rituals in Bahrain, the Systematic Targeting of Ashura, Government Responsibility in Securing the Protection of Religious Rituals, the “With Victorious Imam” Slogan Launched in Ashura, Central Prayer on the Tenth Night of Muharram, Field Monitoring of Ashura Violations, Shia Scholars Condemn the Ashura Offenses, and a summary of the report and recommendations.
On his part, Mr. Abbas Shubbar, head of the religious freedoms unit of SALAM DHR, said that the report called on the government of Bahrain to stop sectarian persecution, and to not restrict the practice of religious and Ashura rituals, in addition to recommendations, including: enacting laws and legislation criminalizing the violation of religious rituals, accountability of those who violate these rights, non-interference in the affairs of religious centers, ensuring freedom of practice within the framework of public order, allowing the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to visit Bahrain, the right of Shia citizens in Bahrain to freedom of religion and belief without restrictions, and the accountability of those involved in violations of religious freedoms, especially with regard to Ashura.
Moreover, according to Ghina al-Ribai, researcher at BFHR, during the Ashura season of 2019 Bahrain witnessed a total of 98 violations during Ashura rituals, with 51 summons and 8 arrests of preachers and attendants, and 39 events disrupted. In addition, Ashura signs were vandalised, banners and black flags were removed, and there were provocative practices towards the mourners by the security services in various regions.
Al-Ribai continued: “According to our monitoring in this report, the authorities involved in the violations were as follows: the Ministry of Interior (al-Hoora, Hamad Town, and Muharraq Police Station) and the Ministry of Justice ( Jaafari Endowments), the Ministry of Municipalities, and the Public Prosecution”. She added that “the majority of the cases of summons observed in the report relate to the restriction of religious speech practiced by scholars, preachers or religious singers in processions and funerals. The authorities, through its summons, interrogated them about the content and nature of their speeches and whether it contained criticism of the government or recent political affairs”.
Link to the report (Arabic)