BCHR:Nabeel Rajab's participation in congress breifing Religious Freedom for Shi’a in Bahrain:
Religious Freedom for Shi’a in Bahrain: "Systematic Suppression and Marginalization" Bahrain has a population of 1,050,000, according to a January 2008 government statement. The citizen population is 99 percent Muslim; Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Baha'is constitute the remaining 1 percent. Muslims belong to the Shiite and Sunni branches of Islam, with Shiite’s constituting an estimated 70 percent of the Muslim population . 1. Participation of Shi’a in the Political system:
While Shiite’s amount to approximately 70 percent of residential citizens they occupy only 13% of the high ranking positions in government institutions . The low percentage of Shiite’s in political institutions and high ranking positions does not reflect their entitlement amongst the top 30 high level graduates of public high school, which was 78% in 2007/2008 . It also does echo the proportion of Shiite’s in University of Bahrain, which was estimated to be close to 70 percent of Shiite’s in the general population .
Establishment Percentage of Shiite’s The Supreme Defense Council: The (SDC) is the highest level of decision making in regards to national defense and security . It consist of 14 members of the ruling family, who are the most influential personalities in the system including; the king, the Crown Prince, the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Royal Court and the heads of sovereign ministries . According to a report in 2006 by a former government consultant, Dr. Salah Albandar, the Supreme Council is responsible for the creation and supervision of a secret national security plan which considers Shiite’s as a major threat to the regime and establishes a secret web working on marginalizing Shiite’s in all aspects of life . 0% All high ranking positions at the: 1. Bahrain Ministry of Defense, 2. Bahrain Ministry of Interior, 3. Bahrain Ministry of the Cabinet Affairs, 4. General Organization for Youth and Sports, 5. Central Informatics Organization, 6. Survey and Land Registration Bureau, 7. Bahrain Royal Court and 8. Crown Prince Court 0% The Bahrain National Guard and the Special Security Force: The SSF consist of around 15,000 most of whom are newly naturalized tribal-Sunnis recruited from Yemen, Jordon, Pakistan and Syria, who are used mainly in suppressing demonstrations and protests in Shiite villages. 0% The Judiciary: The civil law courts, through their criminal and civil branches, adjudicate all civil and commercial cases . The criminal branch and the Attorney General Office are used affectively against Shiite activists. 5% The high ranking positions in the public sector: (Shiite proportion dropped from 18% in 2003 to 13% in 2008) 13% The Constitutional Court 18% The Executive Power - the cabinet: Only 4 out of 24 ministers are Shiite, while 12 (50%) of them are members of the ruling family including the prime minister and the heads of sovereign ministries. It is a further setback from 2002, when 7 out of 24 ministers were Shiite and 9 were members of the ruling Family. 17% The Legislative Power: the Council of Representatives: 17 Shiite’s out of 40 members who were elected based on gerrymandering and the use of the votes of thousands of newly neutralized non Shiite’s. As a result, Shiite representatives got 42.5% of seats despite the fact that they collected 62% of total votes. In 1973, the Shiite members in the National Assembly were 57%. Due to constitutional changes introduced by the current king, the Council of Representatives has no real legislative or monitoring power. 43% The Legislative: Shura Council- (19 Shiite’s out of 40 seats) appointed by the King. 48%
2. Geographic Sectarian Apartheid:
As a clear practice of segregation, Shiites are prohibited from inhabiting one of Bahrain's largest districts, Riffa, which consists of more than 40% of Bahraini land, in which a majority of the ruling family members reside . The Directorates of Muharraq city and the Capital Manama have declared restrictions on selling and buying lands in the old Muharraq and Hoora district in order to combat wider influence of Shiite’s.
3. Shiite children, at schools, are taught against their beliefs:
Islamic studies are mandatory part of the curriculum in government for all public and private schools. The Maliki school of Sunni jurisprudence forms the basis for the decades-old curriculum, which does not include the Ja'afari traditions of Shiite Islam . . As a result, Shiite children are obliged to learn Islamic studies according to another theology which labels Shiite as nonconformists. In May 2006, the minority Shiite members of the Council of Representatives (CR), made an attempt to reform the Islamic studies curriculum to include all schools of Islam, but was rejected by the Government and the majority of CR members.
Other Facts Regarding Discrimination against Shiite citizens :
4. The right to practice religious beliefs:
In new towns, which often have mixed Sunni and Shiite populations, such as Hamad Town and Isa Town, number of Shia mosques are disproportionate to their population. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has not finalized practical steps to respond to over two-decade application for the Shiite community to establish their only Ma'tam (community Center) in Hamad Town. As an alternative, individuals in the Shiite community have converted parts of their homes into Ma'tams.
Not all Shiite waqfs (Endowments) are well-endowed and able to fund mosque construction. New mosques are dependent upon government approval of land allocation. The government's approval of land allocation for mosques was not transparent and reportedly not proportionate to the Shiite community's relative population in the country.
During the year, the government permitted public religious events, most notably the large annual Shiite holiday of Ashura, but police closely monitor and limit these gatherings.
5. Job opportunities:
Discrimination against the majority Shiite population remains a problem. Non-Shia receive preference for employment in sensitive government positions and in the managerial ranks of the civil service. The royal family is Sunni, and the defense and internal security forces are predominantly Sunni. Although Shiite citizens hold very few posts in these forces, with few exceptions, positions are not high-ranking. In the private sector, Shiite’s tend to get employed in lower paid, less skilled jobs. Educational, social, and municipal services in most Shiite neighborhoods are inferior to those found in other communities. Although the percentage of Shiite students is close to the approximately 70 percent of Shiite population in the country, only about 40 percent of university faculty is Shiite. Shiite’s compose a high percentage of the country's unemployed.
6. Demographic Engineering:
There were many reports indicating that the naturalization process, resulting in the abnormal increase in the population, is politically driven to manipulate demographics for voting purposes and to keep Shiite’s out of the police and defense forces, which are dominated by naturalized Sunnis. Although naturalization requirements are clearly defined in law, adjudication of naturalization applications is neither transparent nor impartial. The government reportedly is more lenient with naturalization requests from expatriates in the security forces. Shiite’s and non-Arab applicants reportedly experience longer delays in the processing of their cases. The government occasionally grants citizenship to Sunni residents from neighboring countries. The government stated that some of the Saudis who had received citizenship were the grandchildren of Bahraini citizens who had immigrated to Saudi Arabia.
7. Gerrymandering: Manipulation of the Election:
The government drew the unified electoral districts for both the municipal council and the legislative elections to protect its interests by creating several districts with small populations likely to elect a Sunni candidate. In contrast, districts where a Shiite candidates are likely to win, were drawn to include large numbers of voters, a formula that diluted the voting strength of the Shiite community. According to voter lists for the elections, divergence in the electoral population per district is significant—the number of eligible voters per elected representative can vary by as much as a factor of 13. The election law prohibited speeches at most public locations and limited the areas where campaign material could be placed.
The law grants citizenship to applicants who have resided continuously in the country for 15 years, for Arabs, and for 25 years, for non-Arabs. However, there is a lack of transparency in the naturalization process, and there were reports that the citizenship law is not applied uniformly. For example, there are allegations that the government allows expatriate Sunni Arabs who had served less than 15 years in the security services to apply for citizenship. There are also reports of Arab Shiite’s who had resided in the country for more than 15 years and non-Arab expatriates who had resided more than 25 years who have not been granted citizenship. The Ministry of Interior has acknowledged the naturalization of 5,000 people between 2003 and 2006.
8. Unrest and Violations of Civil Rights- during 2007:
During the year, there were reports of clashes between the government and elements of the Shiite majority population, who were often critical of the Sunni-dominated government. Problems continued to exist during the year, stemming primarily from the government's perceived unequal treatment of Shiite’s in the country. Many of these incidents involved Shiite protestors burning tires or throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces. There were reports that the security forces used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up some of these demonstrations, which Shiite protestors and other local human rights observers alleged lead to the death of a 31-year-old man after a December 17 protest.
On May 18, the king ordered the public prosecution to drop all charges against Hassan Mushaima, head of the Haq Movement; Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Director of the dissolved BCHR; and Shaker Abdulhussain, a Shi'a activist. Police arrested the men on February 2, and prosecutors charged them with inciting hatred, encouraging law-breaking, and publishing false news. The arrest sparked riots in several Shiite villages.
However, on December 17, a 31-year-old man, Ali Jasem, died after participating in a protest where Shiite activists clashed with security forces. Although the official autopsy reported that he had died of “acute cardiovascular and respiratory collapse,” local human rights observers alleged his death was linked to inhaling tear gas used to disperse demonstrators.
On December 24, according to the Associated Press, Hafez Hafez, a lawyer for some of the detainees who were arrested by police following the December 20 clashes between Shiite protestors and security forces, reported that the government refused to allow the detainees access to legal counsel or family members.
On May 19, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a seminar in support of political activists Hassan Mushaima and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. A number of MPs and Sunni and Shiite clerics were in attendance. Chairman of the Wa'ad Society Ebrahim Sharif reportedly suffered minor injuries.
On May 21, police broke up a gathering near the house of political activist Hassan Mushaima and arrested Ali Saeed al-Khabbaz and Hassan Yousif Hameed. According to a June 1st Human Rights Watch report, police beat Al-Khabbaz and Hameed while in custody. On June 7, both men were released.
On December 18 and 20, street clashes between Shi'a protestors and security forces also occurred. On December 20, according to press reports, approximately 500 protestors rallied over the December 17 death of Ali Jassem. The police reported that some attacked and severely beat a policeman and stole his service weapon. Protestors set a police vehicle on fire. Security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. According to Reuters, during and following the clashes security forces arrested dozens of protestors, including opposition political activists. At year's end, fifteen individuals faced charges of arson, attempted murder of a police officer, and theft of a weapon.
The MOI reportedly told the owners of some venues to close their premises to prevent meetings from occurring, primarily at mosques and "ma'tams," or Shiite community centers. The number of times this happened was unknown.