Bahrain Roundup 2020: Interior Ministry Turns Ashura into Security Issue, Launches Campaign under Coronavirus Pretext

2021-06-11 - 6:36 م

Bahrain Mirror (Roundup 2020): The security authorities continued their ongoing campaign since 2011 against Ashura rituals during Muharram season in 2020 by systematic restrictions imposed on religious rites of Shiite citizens. Forms of targeting varied as follows: Working towards closing Husseiniyas, preventing mourning processions by force and intimidation, removing Ashura banners, repeated summonses of eulogy reciters and Husseiniya administrators, closing one of the mosques and a number of Husseiniyas as well as phone calls threatening Husseiniya administrators.

The Bahraini authorities exploited the Coronavirus pandemic to impose restrictions on religious freedoms related to the Ashura season through a series of security measures that started before Ashura and continued throughout.

On August 3, senior Shiite religious scholars issued a statement that read "following a careful study, consultation with specialists (...) we believe that the Husseiniyas (for men), and the manifestations of Ashura season commemoration should resume in accordance with the strict and determined health precautions, which according to Sharia (Muslim law) should be followed."

Despite the religious scholars' call to practice religious freedoms in accordance with strict health measures, the authorities reduced some precautionary restrictions such as the opening of commercial shops, gyms, outside playgrounds, swimming pools but excluded the Husseiniyas and mosques from these measures with the approach of the Ashura season.

On August 15, President of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, said that Ashura commemoration rituals should be restricted to remote broadcasting, and that only the staff responsible for filming and broadcasting should be present at the Husseiniyas. He stressed that the staff involved should adhere to all precautionary measures. He also noted that live broadcasting should not exceed 20 minutes in order to protect the safety of those present at the community centers. However, the Jaffaria Waqf called to restrict Ashura manifestations to black banners only in the space allowed in the perimeter of the Husseiniyas without any violations, explaining that speakers should only be used within these 20 minutes.

On August 16, the spiritual leader of the Shia majority in the country, Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, issued a statement in which he said: "No place in the whole country where gatherings are possible under certain conditions should be opened before the obsequies [mourning halls] are allowed to open under the same conditions. Obsequies should be a priority rather than keeping them behind."

However, the meeting held by the Jaffaria Endowments Council Chairman Yussef bin Saleh Al-Saleh on August 16 via a video call with the representatives of obsequies and Husseiniyas in the presence of representatives from the Interior Minister said that "the Jaffaria Waqf is just an executive body that follows the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments, and works within the department of government agencies and is committed to its decisions, especially the medical authorities, due the Coronavirus pandemic witnessed in the world."

On August 26, the Supreme Council of Health announced that it believes that the opening of mosques and the gradual return of mass worship and religious gatherings should take place, taking into account all necessary precautions and measures and the recommendations of the competent medical authorities, in coordination with the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments. However, the crackdown on religious freedoms did not stop even after this announcement.

A joint report issued by "Bahrain Forum for Human Rights", "Salam for Democracy and Human Rights" and "Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights" recorded a number of violations against Ashura manifestations this year, which started on August 9, in particular inside Jaw and Dry Dock Prisons, where a large number of prisoners launched a hunger strike demanding the prison administration to allow them to perform Husseini religious rituals. As a result, 5 prisoners in Jaw Prison were transferred from building (14) to ward (1) in isolation building (15) "as a punitive measure after they were accused by the prison administration of inciting prisoners in Building (14) to go on hunger strike over demands regarding the right to [medical] treatment and religious practice on August 09."

The security authorities summoned heads and members of Sitra obsequies and threatened them not to open the obsequies to hold mourning gatherings during Ashura. They also summoned all heads of Al-Musalla obsequies to interrogate them about hanging an Imam Al-Hussein banner, as well as the administrator of Al-Nuaim obsequy on August 20, 2020. A number of summonses were sent to several houses in the Northern Region over hanging Ashura banners on August 21. Administrator of Eskan A'ali obsequy was also summoned and ordered to shut down the outside speakers. Sayed Al-Shohadaa obsequy administrators in Manama were also summoned, interrogated and threatened with depriving them of their civil rights as citizens. On August 21, administrators of Al-Nuaim obsequy were summoned to Al-Nuaim police station over a number of charges, including the use of loudspeakers. Citizens from the Northern Region were summoned by the village police. While distributing summonses, police ordered the removal of black banners from rooftops and forced them to sign a pledge on August 22. Administrators of mosques in Hamad town were summoned to the police station at Roundabout 17 and were told they have to stop the mourning gatherings and other events related to Muharram, even mosques that were broadcasting from other areas on their channels on social media platforms. All administrators were forced to sign pledges not to read, air live or hold any other event related to Ashura commemoration. Administrators of Al-Zahraa Mosque in Hamad Town Roundabout 10 were summoned and informed to stop all the Husseini recitation events. Administrators of Al-Sayed Majed obsequy in Al-Qarya village were summoned to Al-Budai station and so was the case with the administrators of Al-Sanabis obsequy and some eulogy reciters who were summoned to Al-Maared station. A citizen in Al-Dair village was also summoned to Samaheej police station and was forced to sign a pledge to stop holding Ashura mourning processions and was threatened with arrest if he didn't comply. Mohammad Al-Hayiki from Al-Muharraq was summoned over hanging Ashura black banners from his rooftop and the administrators of Al-Qarya obsequy were summoned to Al-Budai security station. A number of citizens in Manama were summoned and so was Dr. Wissam Khalil Al-Orayed who was summoned over reciting "Ziyarat Ashura"' in a Husseiniya. Some Karana citizens were also summoned for hanging black banners over their houses. Al-Samakeen obsequy administrator in Manama and the administrator of Abu Saiba Husseiniya were summoned. A number of obsequy administrators in Al-Muharraq province were summoned and forced to sign pledges not to organize mourning processions.

As for cases of arbitrary detention, the manager of Al-Zahraa Mosque was detained in Hamad Roundabout 10, over hanging two Ashura banners and was later released after they were taken down. Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Ansari, Abdulnabi Al-Samma and Nasser Ali Nasser were also apprehended. In addition, seven people from Dar Kulaib were arrested over hanging Ashura banners and were later released after signing pledges. The security authorities ordered the closure of 5 obsequies and mosques: Shohadaa Al-Taf Obsequy, Sayeda Khadeeja Mosque in Hamad Town, Al-Zahraa Mosque in Hamad Town roundabout 4, Al-Zahraa Mosque in Hamad Town roundabout 10 whose locks were changed by the Interior Ministry. Imam Al-Hasan Mosque and Center in Sadad were also closed down.

With regards to the suppression of mourning gatherings and processions, the use of loudspeakers was banned at Al-Sanabis, Al-Qassab, Zubar and Modon obsequies in Manama. Al-Qaem obsequy in Eskan A'ali was prevented from using loudspeakers as well. The security authorities requested the removal of chairs placed outside the obsequy of Imam Ali in Al-Dair. Al-Malikiya obsequy received a warning against organizing a central mourning procession on the ninth of Muharram. Ansar Al-Adala obsequy in Diraz was warned against organizing a central mourning procession on the 10th of Muharram. One of administrators of Hamad Town mosques was informed that he was banned from airing live broadcasts of the Husseini procession on the official page of the mosque. Some citizens in Karzakan were warned against staging their annual procession towards Al-Malikiya village and were informed that the Jaffaria Waqf Directorate allowed holding a procession in the perimeter of the obsequies area only.

Cases of removing Ashura banners were recorded in: Ras Rumman, Southern Sehla, Samaheej, Karzakan, Al-Dair, Sitra, Wadiyan, Hamad Town roundabout 10 and Dar Kulaib. Ashura manifestations were vandalized in Bilad Al-Qadeem near Al-Qusaiseeb mosque.

The same practices were repeated on the Arbaeen of Imam Al-Hussein, as 36 summonses were recorded as well as 32 cases of arbitrary arrests. Two cases of arbitrary arrests were also recorded over the commemoration of Prophet Mohammad's death anniversary on October 16th.

The following are the names of people who were summoned over commemorating Arbaeen of Imam Al-Hussein in chronological order: Mr. Ali Mohanna- Al-Daih, Sitra Police Station (October 4, 2020); Haj Abdulmajeed Abdullah (Haji Sumoud)- Ras Rumman, Al-Khamis Police Station (October 6, 2020); Sayed Saeed Isa Hussein- Sitra (October 6, 2020); Mounir Mushaima- Sanaibs, Al-Moared Police Station (October 6, 2020); Ali Al-Jazeeri- Al-Daih (October 6, 2020); eulogy reciter Ahmad Al-Majed-Karzakan (October 6, 2020); eulogy reciter Habib Al-Mahdi- Karzakan (October 6, 2020); eulogy reciter Mahdi Sahwan-Manama, Al-Houra Police Station (October 6, 2020), eulogy reciter Abdulamir Al-Biladi, Bilad Al-Qadeem (October 6, 2020); head of Sanabis obsequy Faisal Al-Shamroukh-Sanaibs, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020), eulogy reciter Hussein Al-Maliki-Al-Malikiya, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Mahdi Hussein Al-Ali- Maqaba, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020), Ali Al-Hulaibi, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Abbas Ali-Karzakan, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Hussein Saleh Al-Qattan- Karzakan, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Saeed Khatem- Karzakan; Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Jawad Ahmad- Karzakan Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Abbas Mohammad Mahdi Al-Ghasra-Bani Jamra, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Sayed Adel Hamza- Manama, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020), eulogy reciter Kassim Marhoun, Al-Houra Police Station (October 8, 2020), eulogy reciter Matar Fateel- Sitra Mohza- Sitra Police Station (October 8, 2020); Ahamd Nasser-Al-Markh, Al-Houra (October 9, 2020); Hussein Al-Sameei- Sanabis (October 12, 2020); eulogy reciter Mahmoud Al-Fardan- Karzakan, Police Station 17 (October 12, 2020); Mohammad Abbas- Sanabis (October 12, 2020), eulogy reciter Hussein Qambar- Al-Houra Police Station (October 12, 2020); head of Jaffaria obsequy- Al-Daih, Al-Khamis Police Station (October 12, 2020); Jaafar Al-Shamroukh- Sanabis, Al-Houra Police Station (October 13, 2020); head of Sanabis obsequy Hasan Al-Moalima- Sanabis, Al-Houra Police Station (October 13, 2020); vice president of Sanabis obsequy Hani Yousif Al-Kareem- Sanabis, Al-Houra Police Station (October 13, 2020); eulogy reciter Sayed Ahmed Hashem Alawi- Sanabis, Al-Houra Police Station (October 14, 2020).

As for the arbitrary arrests and detentions that took place through summons or house raids, with most releases taking place after 300 BD bail was paid, they were as follows: Mr. Ali Mhanna- Al-Daih (October 4, 2020); Habib Al-Mahdi- Karzakan (October 6, 2020); Ahmad Al-Majed- Karzakan (October 6, 2020); eulogy reciter Sayed Hussein Al-Maliki- Al-Malikiya (October 8, 2020), eulogy reciter Kassim Marhoun (October 8, 2020); Mahdi Hussein Al-Ali- Maqaba (October 8, 2020); eulogy reciter Mahdi Sahwan- Manama (October 8, 2020); Ali Al-Hulaibi (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Abbas Ali- Karzakan (October 8, 2020); Hussein Saleh Al-Qattan- Karzakan (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Saeed Khatem- Karzakan (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Jawad Ahmad- Karzakan (October 8, 2020); Abbas Mohammad Mahdi Al-Ghasra- Bani Jamra (October 8, 2020); Sayed Adel Hamza- Manama (October 8, 2020); eulogy reciter Sadeq Matar Fateel- Sitra (October 8, 2020); Ahmad Nasser- Al-Markh (October 9, 2020); Ahmad Qambar- Nuwaidrat (October 10, 2020); Abdullah Khatem- Nuwaidrat (October 10, 2020); Hussein Qambar- Nuwaidrat (October 10, 2020); Ali Joumaa- Nuwaidrat (October 10, 2020), eulogy reciter Jaafar Sahwan- Sanabis (October 11, 2020); Sayed Hussein Hachem Al-Dairy- Sanabis (October 11, 2020); Sayed Hussein Hadi- Al-Malikiya (October 11, 2020); Sayed Abdullah Hassan (October 11, 2020); Yousif Ali Al-Maliki- Al-Malikiya (October 11, 2020); eulogy reciter Jaafar Fadl- Karana (October 12, 2020); eulogy reciter Mahmoud Al-Fardan- Karzakan (October 12, 2020); Hussein Al-Samei- Sanabis (October 12, 2020); eulogy reciter Kumail Ashour (October 12, 2020); secretary of Sanabis obsequy Mohammad Abbas Karim (October 12, 2020); Mahmoud Jaafar Dhaif- Sitra (October 13, 2020), Sayed Moayyed Mohammad- Al-Markh (October 13, 2020); Sayed Mazen Al-Alawi- Al-Dair (October 16, 2020); and Sayed Wael Al-Alawi (October 16, 2020).

Arabic Version