Bahrain: Targeting Freedom of Belief in Order to Create a Sectarian Conflict to Control Public Protests

Photo: Shiia religious venues “called “Matam” in Arabic”

19 November 2012

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their grave concern for the measures taken by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior against a group of Shiia clerics and a group of those responsible for Shiia religious places, after summoning and threatening them.

On the 12th of November, 2012, the Bahraini Minister of Interior met with the head of Shiia religious venues – called “Matam” in Arabic – where he issued a warning against addressing political issues that are related to local affairs during the month of Muharram. During this month, Muslims, and especially Shiia, hold events to mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandchildren – and the Minister warned the clerics against addressing any political issues in Bahrain. (Refer to the Ministry of Interior statement:

On the 17th of November, 2012, the Bahraini authorities arrested the cleric Mr. Kamel Al-Hashimi, and the prosecutor ordered a seven-day imprisonment pending further investigation. The cleric Mr. Ahmed Al-Majed was also arrested because of speeches he gave in this religious place, Matam, after he addressed the political situation in Bahrain.

On 18th of November, 2012, the Bahraini Authorities summoned the clerics Mr. Elias Al-Marzooqi, Mr. Hasan Al-Aali, Mr. Mahmood Taheri, Mr. Jaffar Saegh, Mr. Kadhim Darwish, Mr. Hussein AlAmiri, the Islamic singer Mahdi Sahwan, the Islamic singer Abdul-ameer Al-Biladi, the Islamic singer Abather Al-Halwaji, the Islamic singer Hussein Ahmed, the Islamic singer Sayed Alawi
and others for interrorgation.

The Bahraini Authorities also summoned those responsible for the Shiia religious places – Matam – in the following villages: Bani Jamra, Aali, Saar, Bilad-al-qadeemKarzakanSanabisIsa Town and others, and they warned the clerics against addressing the current state of political affairs of Bahrain.

The Security Forces removed religious signs and banners belonging to the Shiia sect from roads and buildings (especially religious places). The Security Forces also warned people not to re-install these signs and banners in more than 8 villages.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believe that the Bahraini authorities, through these measures against the Shiia sect, intend to restrict the freedom of belief and to create a sectarian conflict between Shiia and Sunni muslims in order to distract the public debate away from the issues of corruption, racial discrimination and human rights violations that sparked the public public protests on the 14th of February 2011.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) call for the following actions:

1. Stop targeting freedom of belief and allow all sects in Bahrain to express their opinion.
2. The Bahraini Authorities must stop the frequent attempts of creating a sectarian conflict in order to confine the public protests.
3. Bring forth those responsible for targeting freedom of belief to justice.

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