2023 Portfolios: Influential Figures Seize Jaafaria (Waqf) Endowments, Sa'Sa'a Shrine Vandalized and Closed Off with Concrete Blocks

Sa'sa'a bin Sawhan's shrine closed off with reinforced concrete blocks
Sa'sa'a bin Sawhan's shrine closed off with reinforced concrete blocks

2024-02-27 - 2:57 p

Bahrain Mirror (2023 Portfolios): In early February 2023, Bahraini authorities seized a private endowment associated with the historic "Sheikh Saleh" Mosque in Tubli after demolishing it without legal justification, claiming it was "private property". Residents of the area were surprised to see bulldozers demolishing the historic endowment of the Shiite mosque and its surrounding fence, which dates back 500 years, located in the old Tubli area, also known as "Katakan". When questioned by locals about the confiscation and demolition of the endowment, municipal representatives said "the endowment is no longer an endowment and has become private property".

During his Friday sermon on February 17, 2023, the Imam of the central Friday prayer at the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque (AS) in Diraz, Sheikh Mohammad Sanqour, criticized the Jaafaria Endowments (Waqf) Directorate's silence regarding the protection of endowments belonging to Bahrain's Shiite community, stating, "What exacerbates the situation and causes concern and fear for the fate of these endowments is the occasional transformation of many of these endowments into private properties, despite being registered in the Jaafaria Endowments Directorate," noting that "many are often leased through official contracts from the Endowments Directorate, in addition to being traditionally recognized as endowments of this mosque or that mourning hall for decades, some even for centuries."

On February 21, documents revealed further Shiite endowments being seized by the government or individuals from the ruling family. Documents showed the seizure of a large land plot of the Jaafaria Endowments Directorate in the Karzakan area totaling 4689 square meters.

The government had signed a lease agreement with the Jaafaria Directorate in 1986 for an annual rent of no more than two thousand dinars to build on the land plot a hospital serving the area, with ownership of the building reverting to the Directorate after the contract expired. However, the contract ended and ownership of the land reverted to the Ministry of Health by royal decree without the Jaafaria Directorate's knowledge and without any financial compensation.

Bahrain Mirror obtained two official documents indicating the Jaafaria Endowments Directorate's ownership of the land on which the medical center was built, consisting of a lease agreement between the lessor, the head of the Jaafaria Endowments Directorate, Sadiq Al-Hajj Mohammad Al-Baharna, and the lessee, Health Minister Jawad Salem Al-Arrayed, and a document leasing the land from the Endowments Directorate to the Ministry of Health for the northern and southern sections of the Karzakan area to establish a health center in exchange for an annual rent.

However, the authorities registered the entire land on which the health center was built in the name of the Ministry of Health without any legal basis for this seizure.

In a statement on February 27, 2023, Hanan Fardan, Vice Chairperson of the Public Utilities and Environment Affairs Committee in the Parliament, called for "referring to the historical document of the Jaafaria Endowments Directorate issued by Judge Sayed Adnan Al-Mousawi nearly a century ago (1927), known as the 'Sayed Adnan Register', regarding mosque and hussainiya endowments being seized," expressing "growing concern among residents, especially those responsible for mosques and hussainiyas, about reports of endowments being seized by influential entities."

Under public pressure and in an attempt to alleviate concerns, Yousef bin Saleh Al-Saleh, Chairman of the Jaafaria Endowments Council, was forced to announce that "the Directorate has completed the documentation procedures for 100 endowments and received ownership documents in recent months".

Al-Saleh stated that "work is underway to issue more documents in cooperation with all relevant official authorities that provide full support and coordination with residents and administrators."

Despite receiving documents over a "few months", the announcement of these documents was made only during the period when the issue of Jaafaria endowment thefts by influential individuals was raised. Al-Saleh did not disclose any details regarding these endowments, raising doubts about the credibility of this announcement and whether it was merely a smokescreen to contain public anger.

In a related context, the shrine of the revered (Prophet's) companion, Sa'Sa'a bin Sawhan Al-'Abdi, located in the Askar area, which has been of great interest to Muslims in Bahrain for years, especially Shiites, and is nearly 1300 years old, was vandalized in March 2023. Photos of the interior showed that it had been smashed and its contents scattered. Citizens observed offensive phrases written on the mosque wall, similar to those used by torturers against prisoners.

On May 19, 2023, the National Islamic Al-Wefaq Society called on the authorities to reopen the shrine, which has been closed for over a decade. They released a video showing the extent of the damage caused to the site by vandalism.

However, in response to the popular campaign calling for its reopening and restoration, authorities closed off the shrine's entrance with reinforced concrete blocks in June 2023 and banned entry.

This attack coincided with a campaign launched by citizens under the hashtag #Open_Sa'sa'a_Shrine, demanding the regime to reopen and repair the shrine and put an end to the persecution of Shiites and the tampering with their mosques, hussainiyas, and prayers, and stop the deliberate targeting of them.

Since 2011, the Sa'sa'a Shrine has been subjected to at least 5 attacks, one in March 2012, another in January 2014, two in April 2014, one of which targeted the grave itself, and one in July 2016.


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