Oppressed Majority: Ideal Persecution of Shia in Bahrain

The following is a summary on a report created by Bahrain SALAM for Human Rights aimed at illustratingthe reality Shia’s face in Bahrain, explaining how the majority Shia population endures continuous sectarian persecution and discrimination. Making the situationclear to the international community, to the differentcountries, institutions, organisations and activists, will ensure obligations and allow for stronger prevention of sectarian persecution and alterations to the indigenous Bahraini demographic.
According to the US Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2006, Bahrain’s Shiaequate to approximately 70% of the entire Bahrainipopulation. This has been backed by statistics from the International Crisis Group. Documentations and historical research have shown that Bahrain’s Shia played a key role in Bahrain’s independence referendum in 1971, which was supervised by the UN.
The population of Bahrain have persevered for the safeguarding of national unity and dialogue that has manifested itself in the principles and slogans of many Bahraini Shia figures in recent history. Bahrain’s Shia, through their religious and political institutions, endeavoured to preserve national peace, from which the following was established:-
In 2001, after negotiations with the Ruler of Bahrain and current King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, he agreed to demands posed by the population and suggested a National Action Charter, gaining widespread support from prominent Shia political figures and a turnout of 98.4%. However, after one year the King rejected the agreed points posed by the Charter.
During and after the February 2011 uprising, the opposition, which consists of majority Shia, continued their endeavour regarding national demands, national unity and dialogue. Moreover, in 2012, Bahrain’s opposition, which includes Bahrainis from different backgrounds and occupations, obligated themselves to the principle of Non-Violence. Whilst a year later, the Shia Ulama Council issued a declaration of Islamic Unity.
 
Discrimination against Shia
Both the 1973 and 2002 constitutions confirm the principle of equality of all the people of Bahrain in regards to all rights: human rights aswell as legal, civil and political rights and obligations. This principle in the constitution though has not been fulfilled and more disappointingly the reverse is happening.
Even though Bahrain’s Shia are a majority, they are represented as a minority in all constitutional and administrative branches. They occupy a proportion of only 15% of the executive branch, 12% of the judiciary, 10% of government bodies and companies, and only 1% of the King’s guard and security apparatus, which includes the army. Between 2011 and 2013, positions for public office like judges, ministers and advisers have been directly appointed by the orders of the King. On the flipside, thousands of Shia have been made redundant from 2011, with discrimination against them evident in many facets of Bahrain’s society, including employment, teaching, health, and housing.
 
Persecution of the Shia and absence of their identity
The ruling Al Khalifa family have endeavoured to erode and downplay the religious and cultural presence of Shiain Bahrain, and this has been attempted in many ways. Examples include senior officials’ comments and statements, media outlets and official and part-official publications. Such actions are intended to suppress the fact that the Shia are the majority in Bahrain’s demographic. What is even more disturbing, historical and cultural sites and artefacts that relate to the Shia identity and history in Bahrain are targeted, including grave-sites of Shia religious scholars.
Since the inception of formal education in Bahrain from 1919 to this day, the school’s religious education curriculum is based on teachings from the Sunni school of thought, with the administration of Shia authority being chosen by the State. Further, Shias are prevented from building mosques in Shia majority cities like Riffa, Hamad Town or Isa Town, and not allowed to build hussainiyas (Shia religious centres) in close proximity to public roads, diplomatic areas or business districts.
Concerning the discrimination in the media, there are no Shia-related representation on television programmes or reports, and no coverage of any of their activities, culture, or any part of their identity. Since 2011, official news agencies started publically referring to Shia as disloyal in discriminatory and derogatory terms and nicknames, with continuous association of the Shia Bahrainis with Iran.
In 2011, 38 Shia mosques were demolished with an additional 8 hussainiyas destroyed. Hussainiyat andgraveyards have constantly been vandalised, with Shia religious mourning marches attacked regularly. Numerous Shia scholars have been detained and tortured for their opinions, with their rights to propagation, charity, fund-raising and other humanitarian activities curtailed. The Shia Islamic Council has been forcibly closed. The Bahraini authorities have over the last few months revoked the citizenship of prominent Bahraini religious scholar, Ayatollah Al-Najati, and deported him along with his family from the country. Ayatollah Al-Najati is a representative of a prominent Shia religious figure in the middle-east generally and Iraq specifically, Ayatollah Sistani. 
 
Political Naturalisation
Political naturalisation was sanctioned and intensified in the 90s, and strengthened even more from 2001. According to various observers and an adviser to the King, Salaah Al Bander, who developed a report on this issue, political naturalisation has been seen as a strategic project to cause a change to the demographic make-up of Bahrain and to ultimately cause the Shia of Bahrain to become a minority. Human rights reports and media investigations have revealed and confirmed that more than 100,000 individuals have been given expedited citizenship in Bahrain.
 
Conclusion
Usually the minority are discriminated against due to an absence of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. But what we are seeing in Bahrain is a majority being treated as a minority aswell as being discriminated and persecuted. The ruling sectarian family does not even represent the minorities in Bahrain, neither politically or religiously; rather it exploits differences to target and discriminate against the majority Shia. The country is on track to having a new and modified demographic, withvast numbers of foreign individuals and groups being brought in by the ruling family, whilst the indigenous people are subject to citizenship revocation and deportation and ultimately become minority.
 
Recommendations

1. For the international community to have a fixed view of cases relating to human rights, democracy and discrimination, which is not decided by economic or military interests.
2. For the international community to oblige the Bahraini authorities to observe UN legislations and standards, and international declarations and covenants. Aswell as carry out the recommendations suggested by the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry in 2011 and the UN Human Rights Council’srecommendations in 2012.
3. Stop the different form of support Bahrainenjoys from various large countries like the US and UK, especially for the continuous attempts by the Bahraini authorities to cleanse Bahrain of its majority population and its policy of discrimination and marginalisation.
4. For the UN to expeditiously examine the case of political naturalisation in Bahrain and cease the policy of political naturalisation and stripping of nationality from Bahrainis.
5. For Bahrain’s case to be referred to the UN. For the UN to assume a position to sponsor a process whereby Bahrainis can enjoy their right to self-determination and freely elect their desired system of governance.

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