Bahrain: Religious Tolerance in the Crosshairs
Over the past ten years, institutional discrimination against Shiite citizens in Bahrain, including restrictions on religious practices, has been monitored and documented. This report is limited to monitoring violations that took place in the months of Muharram and Safar in 2021, two months in which Shiite citizens hold funeral processions and councils, where preachers address historical events related to Ashura. This report presents how the Government of Bahrain uses its institutions, such as security services, security personnel, police stations, and the prison administration to suppress religious freedoms and discriminate against citizens for their beliefs. It also it also investigates how the media fails to cover religious violations against Shiite citizens in Bahrain.
Since 2011, Bahraini authorities have been transforming Ashura – as well as months of Muharram and Safar of Hijri calendar – into an opportunity to practice collective punishment against Shiite citizens by systematically restricting religious rites on the occasion. Violations in previous seasons have included: severe restrictions placed upon prisoners who wish to practice religious rites, bans on the display of banners and other manifestations of Ashura, such as «black decals», the arrest and ill-treatment of preachers, “religious reciters” and Husseinat officials, who have been summoned to security centers for investigation into the content of their mourning speeches and chants, attacks on mourning processions with tear gas and fissile bullets, attempts to prevent central prayer on Ashura night in the Manama, criminalizing the opinions of preachers related to the history of Islam, and other forms of harassment. It is important to note that such abuses are the result of political decisions and state policy, not individual behavior: these actions are systematic and institutionalized.
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