The Persecuted Shia Majority in Bahrain

Introduction Why this report In this report, we will attempt to shed light on the situation in Bahrain in regards to persecution and discrimination against the majority Shia Muslim population – carried out by the Al Khalifa ruling regime. The Al Khalifa family are considered subscribers to the Sunni school of Islam but in reality do not represent them politically or religiously. It has plans to marginalise and make a minority of Sunni aswell as Shia Bahrainis by carrying out mass political naturalisation, maintain continuous discrimination and persecution against the indigenous population and strip citizens of their Bahraini nationality. This report is intended to illustrate a basic picture and explain how the majority Shia Muslim population endures continuous sectarian persecution and discrimination. Making the situation clear to the international community, to the different countries, institutions, organisations and activists, to ensure obligations and allow for stronger prevention of sectarian persecution and alterations to the indigenous Bahraini demographic. Bahrain’s Demographic Bahrain is a small island country composed of 33 smaller islands situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf, with a 765.3 km2 area. The five key islands are Muharraq, Manama, Sitra, Huwar and Um Ni’saan. The indigenous Arab Bahraini population are Shia from the tribes of Abdulqais, Tamim and Rabia. Historically there have been many migrations coming to Bahrain, especially in the last few decades, from Gulf and Asian countries – commonly for employment and residence. In most instances, such groups, which had vast numbers of people, managed to live peacefully with the indigenous Bahraini population. The regime in Bahrain does not publish any official statistics regarding the population, which makes political naturalisation easier to implement. It also allows for districts and societies up for elections to be manipulated and misrepresented, which has been of particular concern in the last few elections that occurred in Bahrain. However, according to the US Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2006, Bahrain’s Shia equate to approximately 70% of the entire Bahraini population. This has been backed by statistics from the International Crisis Group. The remaining 30% are a mix of Sunni Bahrainis from the four different schools of thought, along with the Al Khalifa family and their supportive tribes. Even though it is evidently clear Shia Bahrainis represent the majority of the population, the regime insists they are not. The Role of Bahrain’s Shia Muslims in the Independence of Bahrain In the year 1783, Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa spread his rule across Bahrain, with his family referring to him as the “Conqueror”. He instigated a nepotistic rule where his descendants sequentially ruled one after another to this day. In the year 1861, the Al Khalifas brokered an agreement with the British for protection in exchange for relinquishing conducts of piracy and slavery trading. This agreement was renewed on 1880 and 1892, sealing Bahrain’s status as a British protectorate state. Between 1968 and 1969, there was a joint agreement between many sides, with Britain and Iran at the forefront of this negotiation, to take Bahrain’s case to the Secretary-General of the UN to resolve its future status. The then ruler of Bahrain, Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, visited prominent Shia authority in Najaf, Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakim, urging him to express support of independence to the majority Shia population of Bahrain, and vouch to the promise that their rights will be protected. A referendum was created asking the nation if it they wanted Bahrain to be an independent democratic Arab country. The country was declared an independent Arab state on 14 August 1971, aswell as lodging an application for membership in the UN, which accepted three days after the submission of the application in the UN Security Council meeting on August 18. After this, Bahrain joined the Arab League on 11 September 1971. In 1973, a constituent assembly was organised to draft a constitution with one of the focal principles being that Bahrain will become an Arab Islamic independent state that has a democracy, and that its people are the source of all the powers and authority. This newly drafted constitution was suspended and the National Assembly was dissolved in 1975 – in addition to an enforcement of State Security Law. National Action Charter Crises unfolded in Bahrain, with the most prominent occurring in the 1994 revolt following a poll, headed by Sheikh Abdulamir Al-Jamri, demanding of Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa to reinstate the 1973 constitution, allow the Parliament to have an authoritative role and cease the Security State Law. This revolt continued for six consecutive years until the death of Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa and the assumption of rule by his son Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. In the year 2001, after negotiations, the ruler Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa accepted demands from the nation, which included returning the 1973 constitution, reinstating the National Assembly, repealing the State Security Law, and preserving human rights. In addition to this, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa suggested a National Action Charter which attained the support of majority Shia political figures, especially from those released from prison, causing 98.4% of the voters voting ‘Yes’ to the Charter. This was all under the assumption that the country will become a constitutional monarchy in return for the 1973 constitution being returned, the National Assembly being reinstated with all members elected by the people and having complete authoritative and constitutional powers, for the people to be the source of all powers, and for the removal of the State Security Law. The role of Shia in National Peace Specifics of Bahrain’s People The people of Bahrain are part of a civilisation that stretches thousands of years. Bahrain is geographically placed centrally in the Gulf, and its composition of islands allowed its people to pearl-dive, pursue agriculture and catch fish. Thus, the population of Bahrain have excelled and advanced in areas over its neighbours before the oil-boom in the region, with some of its neighbouring countries then still observing a tribal and basic living. Civil duties and established customs are rooted in the indigenous people of Bahrain, making the nation steeped with amiable character and humbleness. The indigenous people are not known for extremism or aggression against other peoples or people with different nationalities. Respect, regardless of religious or ideological affiliations, is a fixed character of the people of Bahrain, allowing it to be an important financial centre and trading spot over the last centuries and in recent times. This small and civil community since a long time managed to live in harmony amongst themselves, with many tribes opting to migrate and reside with them because of their peace, hospitality, and aversion from oppression. Rejection of Aggression and Sectarianism The people of Bahrain historically enjoyed peace and tranquility due to its connected community, common culture and religious affiliation, and managing to live with new tribes flocking in from neighbouring countries. It was able to develop a modern, civil community that was built on principles of humanitarian principles, avoiding any religious or tribal hostilities. The people have historically opposed, and to this day, any call from extremists inside or outside the country, and even that which is adopted by the State through media or official senior figures. It has commenced through civil institutions which are operated by independent political and human rights figures, aswell as Shia religious scholars to stand against any call for aggression or sectarian strife. This has been documented and strengthened in declarations of Nonviolence and Islamic Unity and adoption of demands posed by the nation aswell as national unity. Document on Nonviolence On 7 November 2012, six societies issued a declaration (Wa’ad, al Wefaq, Al-Minbar Al-Ta
qadumi, Al-Tajamu’ Al-qowmi, Al-Ikhaa’ Al-watani and Al-wahdawi), preventing any aggression or breach of human rights and democratic principles in any actions or activities, articulating their condemnation of aggression in all its forms. Titles of the principles within the Nonviolence document:- To respect the basic rights of individuals and civil powers, and fight to protect them To abide by the principles of human rights, democracy and pluralism To not incorporate any aspects of aggression or overreach of human rights and democratic principles To condemn aggression in all its forms To defend the rights of the citizens for freedom of expression, peaceful gatherings, and formation of societies. All this in compatibility with accepted international declarations, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To dedicate and incorporate within our discourses and programmes the principle of Nonviolence and to pursue peaceful and civilised endeavours. Document on Islamic Unity On 18 July 2013, the Islamic Ulama Council drafted and released the Islamic Unity Declaration titled “Religious Identity, Sound Mind, Importance of Life”, to curb any extremist and sectarian thoughts in a variety of Islamic sects and ideological subscribers. The Islamic Unity document contains ten principles: Respect as a Muslim any one who declares the Shahadatayn (oral declaration of Islam acceptance), and does not reject the necessities of the religion. Such a person’s blood, relations and assets are protected. Reject with vigour any Muslim excommunications, and welcome cooperation with all Islamic sects, avoid accusations, or condemning one sect because of views held by some. Differences in theological understandings and theoretical differences should not result in real-life enmity. Reject with all powers the threat of sectarian strife, and reject the instigators regardless of their affiliation to any Islamic sect, aswell as rejecting activities that may result in confrontations between different sects. Support and back the right of all Islamic Nations in self-determination efforts, and the choosing of the governing political system, after consideration of the various rights, humanitarian values, and Islamic principles. Reject the violation of any holy sites of any the sects, and urge for mutual respect between the sects. Confirm the centrality and importance of the Palestinian case, and reject the Zionist movement along with their supporters in regards to the theft of Muslim’s lands. Aswell as support the resistance against the occupying forces and conversely reject terrorism and violations against innocent people. Believe in the importance of understanding and cooperation between Muslim nations and governments, and avoid fabricated enmity between Muslims. In the event of misunderstanding, it must be resolved through communication and proper frameworks. In the event of a dispute between the two sects, it is not permissible for any person to sensationalise and report the dispute as a sectarian or religious dispute. Consideration of the Quranic Surah Al-Hujarat, Verse 9 is advisable to resolve such disputes. Religious scholars, thinkers and large political organisations must bear the burden of ensuring the Muslim community does not slip into sectarian confrontation and extremism. In addition, they must attempt to preserve the principle of moderation. Calls for Dialogue and Preserving of Unity and National Demands The people of Bahrain have endeavoured historically, due to their positive character and civil nature, to maintain passages of dialogue and preserving national unity. This has been evidenced in an array of activities and demands of protesters since the start of the 14 February 2011 uprising to this day. Examples include the chanting of “Brothers Sunni and Shia; this nation will not be sold”, and all the programmes and activities organised by the opposition being called out in inclusive and warm expressions. This has been maintained in spite of clear attempts to instigate turmoil and push the opposition to violence. Persecution and Discrimination against Shia Muslims Constitutional articles: Bahrain’s 1973 Constitution decrees the following: “People are equal in human dignity, and citizens shall be equal in public rights and duties before the law, without discrimination as to race, origin, language, religion or belief.” Article 18 [Human Dignity] Further, under Article 4, the following is stated: Justice underlies the system of government. Co-operation and mutual understanding are firm bonds among citizens. Liberty, equality, security, tranquillity, education, social solidarity and equal opportunities for citizens are the pillars of society guaranteed by the State. Article 4 [State Principles] Such articles are designed and intended to ensure reform, dialogue and avenues for political solutions but they have been completely disregarded by the Bahraini authorities. The reverse is happening whereby the majority of the Bahraini indigenous people are discriminated against, simply for their political views and demands for their basic human rights. We will attempt to shed light on the most prominent discriminatory violations committed by the Bahraini authorities against the Shia Muslim Bahraini indigenous people. First: Civil and Religious Persecution History of persecution Many international reports have alluded to the persecution and exclusion of the Shia Bahraini by the ruling family. J.G Lorimer, an Officiating British Resident present in the Gulf during the early 1900s described the situation of the “Baharna”, colloquial term for Bahraini Shia Muslims, then as: “Even though the Baharna are superior in terms of numbers, they are not relevant in the political landscape. In reality, their situation is slightly better than the slaves.” (1) This continued into the 20th century until the Shia Bahrainis started petitions and complaints regarding their bad circumstances. In the year 1921, 50 prominent Shia figures presented a petition to the British Ambassador demanding him to implement reforms, and in December of that year asked him to provide protection for the petitioners. Whilst in 1922, a substantially large petition was signed by the Shia Bahrainis confirming that they are indeed discriminated against, where they are discriminately barred from all official bodies, including the judiciary and the customary council. (2) The British administration in Bahrain were indifferent to the dire political reality the Shia Bahrainis were experiencing, and ensured the status quo whilst endeavouring to progress the Al Khalifas political power. However, observers noticed a slight shift in the British attitude to the Al khalifas rule after changes in the region, choosing to isolate and question the ruler Isa Bin Ali Al Khalifa regarding the persecution and discrimination of the Shia Bahrainis – realigning their interests with the changing political landscape in the region. This was exclusively alluded to by a British Resident, Sir Percy Cox, in the inauguration of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa as ruler of Bahrain. Captain Nox articulated this aswell in 26 May 1923, directed at the Shia Bahrainis, saying: “The majority of the turmoil you have witnessed in your country were fabricated… do not expect equality with the Sunnis at all.” (3) Absence of Religious and Scholarly Identity in the Country Since their rule in Bahrain commenced, the Al Khalifa family have attempted to eradicate the religious identity of the country, predominantly through: Falsifying the Islamic history of Bahrain and linking Islamic practice with the start of Al khalifas rule, constantly referring to the arrival of the family as a “conquest”. In all historical books, a conquest refers to the coming of Muslims into a non-Muslim country, changing the religious identity into a Muslim one. This not only rejects the historical presence of Shia Muslims in Bahrain since the days of Prophet Muhammad
(s), but also poses distrust and sectarian tension in the country. Official statements from senior officials and official and part-official news agencies jointly working together to erode any facts or details relating to the Shia Bahrainis being the majority. This is so to uphold policies that obstruct the rights and benefits enjoyed by a majority, continue persecution, and further build new policies and systems based on minority treatment of Shia Bahrainis. Vandalising and destroying historical landmarks and artifacts that evidences Shia Bahraini presence in Bahrain. This includes the oldest mosque in Bahrain in the Khamees district, even changing the name of the mosque as it represents the Shia Muslim identity. Destroying of one of the oldest mosques in Bahrain, the Al-Barbaghi mosque, which is approximately 400 years old. One of many mosques destroyed during national security curfews in 2011. Connected in the history and identity of Bahrain are Shia scholarly figures, and this has been constant to this day. But the Bahraini authorities are seeking to overlook and distort the involvement and presence of Shia scholarly figures by purposely omitting their existence and descriptions from historical documents and descriptions. They are not mentioned in school curriculums or covered in official historical documentaries and official public channels. Rather the opposite is occurring, demonstrated recently with the stripping of nationality and deportation of Ayatollah Najati, and the repeated raids on the house of the highest Shia religious authority in Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Qassim. Numerous Shia scholarly figures are currently detained and imprisoned, and all have complained of direct insults against their sect and beliefs. More broadly, even Shia religious orators, lecturers and chanters are targeted persistently by the Bahraini authorities. Targeting grave-sites of historical Shia religious figures that originate as companions during the time of Prophet Muhammad; prominent example being the grave-site of Sa’sa’a bin Suhaan whose grave has been subject to repeated vandalism and risks being destroyed. Permits discriminately not given for Building Mosques Shia Bahrainis are prevented from building mosques in Shia majority cities like Riffa, Hamad Town or Isa Town, and not allowed to build hussainiyat (Shia Muslim religious centres) in close proximity to public roads, diplomatic areas or business districts (prevention imposed from building the Hassan Al-Aali mosque near Seef Mall). Prevention of building of Shia religious centres for Shia Bahrainis in Hamad Town. The construction of the three most recent cities, Isa, Hamad and Zayid Towns (built in the seventies, eighties and nineties, respectively), have an approximate total of 73 mosques, but only 14 out of the 73 are Shia Muslim mosques that were allowed to be built. (5) There are thousands of Shia Bahrainis in the Buhair area in Riffa, but no permission was given to use any of the land for the purpose of building a mosque for the Shia Bahrainis there. (6) Destruction of Mosques and Attacks on Places of Worship In 2011, during the imposition of emergency law – commonly referred to as period of national safety – the Bahraini security forces with the assistance of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) forces demolished 38 mosques. A further eight hussainiyat (Shia Muslim religious centres) were subject to part-destruction and vandalism (reportedly many more were further vandalised according to the Shia Endowment Authority). Additionally, two gravesites were vandalised and damaged during the same period. (7) The Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI) documented and confirmed such violations against mosques, and independently investigated the demolition of five mosques and concluded no official or persons have been sentenced to this day. The repeated demolition of mosques that were rebuilt during the three years after the original demolition. Further preventions have been placed from rebuilding demolished mosques, one example being the Barbaghi mosque. There is strong evidences that these demolitions are not isolated events, rather a political policy that is being sustained. The closure of the gravesite of Su’su’a bin Suhaan in Askar, after barring visitors from visiting the site and numerous vandalism attempts. Targeting Religious Signs Attacks have been carried out on religious mourners, hussainiyat and mosques, aswell as preventing citizens from carrying out religious processions. Al Wefaq’s human rights report for the year 2013 described the numerous violations against places of worship and restrictions on religious freedoms. 118 cases were reported, which include an array of violations from targeting and suppression to baseless investigations and destructions. (9) The hiding away of any manifestations of religious Shia Muslim festivities, preventing any coverage to the public including newspapers, the news or any other media outlet. Even loudspeakers are banned from use for such festivities to limit any attention. Bahraini security forces have been recorded in videos aswell as sound notes, showing them purposely and systematically targeting and destroying Shia religious banners, flags, stalls, and any other manifestations of Shia religious celebration or processions.   Violations against religious freedoms and restrictions on religious opinions Arrests and torture of many religious Shia scholars simply for their expression of opinion. The issuance of decisions to restrict religious discourse, preventing prayers and speeches in many mosques. Intimidating Shia religious orators, reciters and chanters, and obstructing any attempts by them of exercising their religious activities. Revoking the right of Shia scholars from organising propagation activities. This has been demonstrated by the political decision, disguised under a judicial judgment, to close the Ulama Islamic Council. This has been previously revealed in the Bandar Report which exclusively mentions the Islamic Ulama Council and the plan to target and control Shia religious issues aswell as encircle Shia scholars and their institutions. Confiscating the rights of Shia religious agencies of prominent Shia scholars from helping the poor and dealing with religious affairs. The Bahraini authorities have went a step further and deported one of the most prominent Bahraini religious scholars, Sheikh Al-Najati, in addition to revoking his nationality, with many baseless accusations being directed at him. For clarity purposes, Shia religious agencies are analogous to the mandate given by the Pope to bishops and priests to assist orphans and help the poor. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report in April 2014 confirmed that persecution against Shia is continuing. Further confirmed that there is an absence of legal account for those implicated aswell as the continuation of sectarian hate speech from official news agencies and regime loyalists. Corroborated the discrimination in employment opportunities against Shia, especially in the army, national security apparatus and Bahrain’s security forces. Moreover, confirmed the targeting of Shia religious artistic expressions and the arrest of numerous Shia Bahrainis during the Ashura 2013 commemorations. In the report, the Bahraini authorities were found to be telling unsubstantiated claims in regards to official statements untruthfully claiming 10 mosques that were demolished were rebuilt. (10) Hate Speech and Slander of Sect Beliefs Repeated practice by members of Bahrain’s security apparatus and army to slander beliefs of Shia Muslims, reaching a level where it can only be described as an organised and systematic practice. Numerous detainees and prisoners complained of slander against their beliefs during investigation, imprisonment and torture. Official news agencies (national television channel, reporting and national newspapers) broadcast hate speech in a structured and continuous fashion against all quarters of Shia beliefs – including accusations of disloyalty, doubting their origins, slandering of prominent scholars, and generally describing th
e Shia Bahrainis in derogatory terms. Further, describing Shia religious places, from mosques to centres, as dens harbouring terrorist activities. This was documented in the BICI report. Persecution in Religious Education From the commencement of formal education in 1919 to this day, the religious curriculum in schools are exclusively from Sunni teachings. The Islamic Ulama Council has attempted to push for some teachings that are from the Shia belief, endeavouring to produce publications suitable for teaching in state schools. The regime rejected this, and decided to shutdown the Islamic Ulama Council aswell as cease all its funds. The exclusively Sunni-orientated curriculum is imposed on all schools, and also incorporates sectarian teachings that are hostile against Shia and their beliefs. More than 100 different resources from the national curriculum were found to be in contravention of the beliefs of Shia Muslims. Domination of the Shia Endowment Authority (Awqaf Al-Jaffariya) The Bahraini authorities exclusively choose the administration of the Shia Endowment Authority, with actions carried out that are not approved and beyond the powers of members and Shia scholars. The Shia Endowment Authority is consistently subject to theft and embezzlement. Senior officials and some appointees that are exclusively placed are usually caught carrying out this offence. Former Head of the Authority urges Shia scholars to rescue the organisation, and stated: “Do you believe that a ground that is 170 square metres has a monthly rent of only 375 fils (one dollar), making the yearly rent 1 dinar and 670 fils (less than five dollars)?” (12) Persecution by the Media TV programmes and official news reports are void of any Shia-related news or information, with no coverage of any of their activities, anything representing the Shia Bahraini identity, or even the dialect of the Shia Bahrainis spoken by anyone on any official channel. After 2011, Bahrain’s national channel made all attacks against Shia Bahrainis public and clear. Reports and programmes referred to Shia Bahrainis as disloyal, referring to them in slanderous, racist and derogatory terms. Aswell as mocking Shia beliefs and activities. Bahrain’s national channel actively propagated a two-sided conflict between Sunni and Shia, referring to Shia as loyalists to Iran and not Bahrain, and of “Safavid origin”. Official newspapers and websites have made “alliances” with Takfiri groups, inflaming hatred against Shia and supporting incitements against them. These official news outlets that are forming such alliances, are part of a network operating from within the King’s Court. Persecution by the Security Forces Absence of Shia personnel in the army, police and National Guards, illustrating a gross discrimination. Shia Bahrainis constantly feel as if they are not citizens, and feel anxious and targeted during work hours where they feel unprotected and vulnerable. Shia are publically excommunicated, which poses risks to national peace. This is done openly and without accountability of the perpetrators across platforms affiliated with the Bahraini authorities, in addition to the various official media outlets. Persecution in Employment Since 2011, the executive powers in Bahrain have orchestrated mass dismissals against thousands of Shia Bahrainis from their jobs. Shia Bahrainis are barred from working in the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, National Guards or any part of the security apparatus. Even more preposterously, the security apparatus in Bahrain is one of the largest networks and provider of jobs, but employees are brought in from abroad, mainly from India, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen. The majority of unemployed and redundant nationals are Shia Bahrainis, with most of them sufficiently qualified and experienced in a vast array of disciplines. Trade unions affiliated to the State that are devised to harass labor unions formed by Shia to defend the rights of workers are backed and sponsored. Discrimination Sectarian discrimination in Bahrain is evident and supported by statistics. Shia Bahrainis only represent 15% of the executive branch, 12% of the judiciary, and 10% in all government institutions and companies. As for the National Guard, King’s Court and the army, Shia Bahrainis do not exceed 1% of the total. While the proportion of appointments as a result of King decrees and ministerial decisions during 2011 to 2013 for ministerial, agency, management, judicial and advisory roles equate to around 14.9% of appointments. Discrimination by the Law Prominent figures, from authors, preachers, clerics, ministers and advisors, are not held accountable by the Bahraini authorities even though they singularly target Shia Bahrainis in their written works and discourses without legal repercussions. Figures that publically attack Shia Bahrainis are protected under the State from any potential penalties. This has been made more obvious with the Prime Minister of Bahrain visiting a torturer who subsequently was found not guilty – further proving that the law is not imposed on the ruling family or their supporters. Discrimination in the Judiciary The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated in a report about Bahrain’s political reform that: “[…] discrimination is in place in Bahrain, and an independent judiciary is independent only in name.” Percentage of Shia Bahrainis in the judiciary is only 12%. (17) Former Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, referred to judicial judgments carried out by Bahrain’s judiciary as “political persecution.” Amnesty International described the judiciary in Bahrain as an aspect of “pseudo-justice.” Human Rights Watch described actions of the judiciary as “criminalizing the opposition and consolidating a culture of immunity.” Whereby the majority of the opposition are Shia Bahrainis and that the criminal justice system in Bahrain failed to achieve the minimum level of accountability and judicial neutrality. Economic Discrimination Representation of Shia Bahrainis in major companies and organisations are at 10%. (19) There has been a number of unjust actions against Shia Bahraini businesspersons and members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bahrain, whereby two members of the Board of Management were sacked for being Shia Bahrainis. Repeated attacks against business premises of a prominent Shia Bahraini businessman. Prevention of any Shia Bahraini from purchasing assets in numerous Bahraini cities including Riffa, parts of Muharraq, Al-Houra and Al-Qassaibiya, for unfair reasons. Shias are even prevented from living in approximately 40% of Bahrain’s lands. (20) Discrimination in Education The Ministry of Education in Bahrain is one of oldest institutions that exercises discriminative practices. Opportunities for senior positions in the Ministry are based on discriminative factors, including minor or usual roles like that of a teacher. Teachers are usually contracted from other Arab countries, leaving Shia Bahrainis with full teaching qualifications unable to apply or find teacher roles. For the educational year 2012 to 2013, 129,000 students were Shia Bahrainis, whereas the administration of the Ministry along with senior positions such as the Education Minister and heads of departments are not of Shia Bahraini representation. (21) Shia Bahraini students are frequently rejected from specialist subjects that they have applied for regardless of grades and qualifications. Most of the decisions are carried out under vague and suspicious processes for both national and international scholarships and other educational opportunities. There seems to be discrimination in senior academic and administrative positions in the University of Bahrain, where many Shia Bahrainis are rejected even though they possess doctorate and master’s degrees. Many are obstructed during their application whereas others that are not Shia Bahrainis do not suffer similar hindrances. Discrimination in the Medical Sector Sustained media campaigns have smeared Shia Bahraini doctors and medical workers. The only public hospital, Salmaniya
Hospital, was militarily controlled causing Shia Bahrainis to shy away from visiting the hospital due to threats and dangers of accusations and arrests. Shia Bahrainis are prevented from seeking employment in hospitals controlled by the army, such as the Military Hospital and King Hamad Hospital. Other Forms of Discrimination The Higher Defence Council in Bahrain is made-up of 14 members, where 13 are representatives from the ruling family and 1 representing Sunni Bahrainis. This Council is completely void of any Shia Bahraini representatives. Discrimination against Shia Bahrainis in senior positions in companies and official functions regardless of their competencies, with many being sacked from their positions. Changes to the names of areas with Shia-related heritage, intended to erode the Shia historical identity it contains. Areas including al-Jufair, Karbabad and Nuwaidrat have all been subjected to such discriminative alterations, and there are further preventions from naming roads, hospitals or schools on Shia figures. Political Naturalisation Political naturalisation was increased rapidly in Bahrain during the nineties, and further expedited since 2001. It has been described as a strategic project by Dr Salah Al Bandar, who was an adviser in the Cabinet Affairs Ministry. The Al Bandar Report elaborated on the details of the project, including plans to change Bahrain’s demographic, making the majority Shia Bahraini population into a minority. This project continues to today. Al Bandar Report: Is a report named after the aforementioned Dr Salah Al Bandar, that was leaked between July and August 2006. The report contains plans to exclude and marginalise Shia Bahrainis in all executive branches, “cleanse” their existence from national institutions, and prevent them from educational opportunities and some benefits. This would be done through discriminative policies, adoption by some governmental bodies, substitution of civil societies with Shia administrations for government operated bogus NGOs (GONGOs) and creation of internet forums fomenting sectarian tension. Huge funds were set aside for this project. The project was led and financed by Ahmed bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, with collaboration from members of the National Assembly, ministers, religious figures, journalists and others mentioned in the report. According to official statistics, 95,000 people were naturalised between 2004 and 2010. In an unofficial statement by the former National Assembly House Speaker, Khalifa Al-Dhahrani, stated that 120,000 people were naturalised during that period. This project of political naturalisation is a threat to the make-up and demography of Bahrain, attacking the identity of Shia Bahrainis at a fundamental level. After careful studies on official statistics (until 2010), it is clear that the 95,372 have been brought in from abroad and politically naturalised, accounting to an addition of 17.3% to the population. Hence, the continuation of this process will turn Bahrainis – both Sunni and Shia – into a minority after ten years. Political naturalisation has therefore moved from a theoretical project into a political reality that threatens national security and civil peace. In addition, the State has recently altered voting districts, essentially dissolving 32,000 votes by Shia Bahrainis. The effects can now be felt in elections, where 30 to 40% of votes come from newly naturalised citizens, diminishing a great number of votes by Shia Bahrainis. It should be noted that one of the most prominent purposes of the expedited naturalisation process is so to recruit them within the national security sector. According to a 2013 report by the institute of Peace and Economy, found that Bahrain has an unbalanced ratio of police to population, one of the highest in the world, where the index was 6 times the global average. Also, the State provides vast job opportunities for newly-naturalised groups, both in the security and military forces, and along with their families various benefits from social housing to healthcare. Shia Bahrainis are unable to work within such military institutions under the excuse that they lack elements of loyalty. 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, with vast numbers of foreign individuals and groups being brought in by the ruling family, whilst the indigenous people are subject to citizenship revocation, deportation and actions to turn them into a minority. Recommendations 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. 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’s recommendations in 2012. Stop the different form of support Bahrain enjoys 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. 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. 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. Sources Al Bandar Report Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry Report 2011 “Sectarian Discrimination in Bahrain… Truths and Numbers” – Al Wefaq National Islamic Society Human Rights Reports by Bahrain Human Rights Observatory and Bahrain Center for Human Rights Report on Administration of Waqf Al-Jaffariya – Al-Wasat Newspaper; Edition 3182; Wednesday 25 May 2011 US Commission on International Religious Freedom 2014 Annual Report; published 30 April 2014 A Study on “Second-tier Citizens, Sectarian Screening Policies in Bahrain”; By Bahraini Researcher Abbas Al-Murshid A Study on “Sectarian Discrimination in Bahrain”; By Bahraini Researcher Yusuf Maki; Published in Al-Wasat Newspaper; Edition 1980; Thursday 7 February 2008