What’s Inside US Department of State Religious Freedoms Report regarding Bahrain?

2017-08-24 - 3:07 ص

Bahrain Mirror- Exclusive: In the report it recently issued about 2016 International Religious Freedom Report, the US Department of State discussed Bahrain's condition and tackled some unresolved issues in this file.

The US Department of State pointed out that the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador, visiting U.S. government officials, and U.S. embassy officers met with government officials to urge them to implement fully the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations on the reconstruction of places of worship; to end discrimination against Shia in government employment and education; to pursue reconciliation between the government and Shia communities; and to allow prisoners to practice their religions.

In this connection, U.S. officials urged the [Bahraini] government to observe the religious freedom provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). U.S. officials also continued to advocate for the [Bahraini] government to pursue political reforms, which would take into consideration the needs of all citizens regardless of religious affiliation. Embassy officers met regularly with religious leaders of all faiths and representatives of NGOs to discuss freedom of worship.

The report stated that the Bahraini government does not publish statistics regarding the sectarian breakdown between Shia and Sunni Muslims; most estimates state Shia constitute a majority (55 to 60 percent) of the country's citizen population.

The US Department of State mentioned some of the Bahraini government's practice, including surrounding Diraz village, hometown of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, after his supporters staged a sit-in demonstration around his home. It went on to say that the police detained over 70 individuals in connection with the sit-in, and judges sentenced two Shia clerics to prison terms for participating in the sit-in. The authorities also brought money laundering charges against Qassim, but he chose not to attend the hearings and the trial continued in absentia at year's end.

In addition, in December an appeals court agreed with an earlier appeals court and resentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of the Shia opposition political society Wefaq, to nine years after he continued to appeal his 2014 conviction and four-year sentence on charges of inciting hatred and promoting disobedience to the law. In June the authorities obtained a court order to shut down the Shia Wifaq, accusing it of creating "an environment for terrorism, extremism, and violence."

International human rights organizations published reports stating Shia prisoners were vulnerable to intimidation, harassment, and ill-treatment by prison guards because of their religious affiliation. Shia community representatives complained about what they said was ongoing discrimination in government employment, education, and the justice system. Public officials continued to allege some Shia opposition members were supporters of terrorism and claimed that they [Bahraini officials] engaged in what was termed "treasonous behavior".

The government charged some individuals with crimes related to defamation of religion and inciting hatred against another denomination. On October 9, the authorities arrested journalist Faisal Hayyat and charged him with making "defamatory statements against one of the country's main Muslim sects" in conjunction with tweets Hayyat had posted. The lower criminal court found him guilty on November 29 and gave him a three-month prison sentence.

On September 15, police questioned Sheikh Ali Salman in connection with a letter submitted with his name on it to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, but as of year's end, the authorities had not filed any new charges against him.

The government continued to not provide regular statistics on detainees, but according to a report on Jaw Prison published in January by the government funded Prisoner and Detainee Rights Commission, the courts had sentenced 1021 of the 2468 inmates in the facility [Jaw prison] for riot-related crimes.

During the year, the authorities issued at least three individuals limited validity passports and immediately deported them to nearby countries with significant Shia populations, including Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta on February 22, Hussein Khairallah Mahood on February 24, and Masaud Jahromi on March 7. The government had publicly announced it had stripped the citizenship of all three, along with 69 others, in 2015 on the grounds they supported terrorist organizations.

The [Bahraini] government again reported no significant reconstruction work had been done on the three remaining Shia mosques from the 30 it had damaged or destroyed in 2011. Some in the Shia community remained dissatisfied with three of the 27 reconstructed mosques because they had been rebuilt in different locations from where the old ones had been. Shia leaders stated the mosque grounds should have been preserved as they were. There were social media postings critical of the Shia Waqf for not pressing the government harder on these cases, as well as complaints about a mosque in Zinj, which had been destroyed by the government in 2011, but was not listed in the BICI report, and had not been reconstructed.

Shia politicians and community activists continued to make complaints about the government's naturalization and citizenship process, which they said favored Sunni applicants over Shia applicants.

Human rights activists [in Bahrain] reported discrimination against Shia in education continued. They stated the government hired foreign teachers over qualified Bahraini Shia teachers.

Arabic Version


التعليقات المنشورة لا تعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الموقع

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