Photo: Shiia religious venues “called “Matam” in Arabic”
Arrest of Clerics and Censorship of Ashura related statements and banners

Update - 21 November 2012

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their grave concern for the measures taken by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior against a group of Shiia clerics and a group of those responsible for Shiia religious places, after summoning and threatening them.

On the 12th of November, 2012, the Bahraini Minister of Interior met with the head of Shiia religious venues – called “Matam” in Arabic – where he issued a warning against addressing political issues that are related to local affairs during the month of Muharram. During this month, Muslims, and especially Shiia, hold events to mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandchildren – and the Minister warned the clerics against addressing any political issues in Bahrain. (Refer to the Ministry of Interior statement: http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/532957?date=2012-11-13)

On the 17th of November, 2012, the Bahraini authorities arrested the cleric Mr. Kamel Al-Hashimi, and the prosecutor ordered a seven-day imprisonment pending further investigation. Mr Kamel was accused with “incitement against the regime” during his sermons marking the Ashoora festival. Mr. Kamel is also a researcher and a published author. The cleric Mr. Ahmed Al-Majed was also arrested after a house raid to his house at 4am on 17th November 2012 and without an arrest warrant. Although his family and lawyer asked about him at the public prosecution and several police stations they were not informed of his whereabouts or his charges until today (21 Nov 2012) when he finally called his family from the CID.

On 18th of November, 2012, the Bahraini Authorities summoned the clerics Mr. Elias Al-Marzooqi, Mr. Hasan Al-Aali, Mr. Mahmood Taheri, Mr. Jaffar Saegh, Mr. Kadhim Darwish, Mr. Hussein AlAmiri, the Islamic singer Mahdi Sahwan, the Islamic singer Abdul-ameer Al-Biladi, the Islamic singer Abather Al-Halwaji, the Islamic singer Hussein Ahmed, the Islamic singer Sayed Alawi Alalawi and others for interrogation.

Lawyer Abdulla AlShamlawi said that the cleric Hasan AlAali was interrogated on charges of “contempt of the Umayyad State” because he said during his speech that the “State of Yazeed is rejected by Muslims.” Cleric Mahid AlKarzakani was asked during the interrogation about whom he meant when he recited this Verse from Quran "incline not to those who do wrong". Islamic singer Abdul-ameer Al-Biladi was accused with “contempt of the regime”.

The Bahraini Authorities also summoned those responsible for the Shiia religious places – Matam – in the following villages: Bani Jamra, Aali, Saar, Bilad-al-qadeem – Karzakan – Sanabis – Isa Town and others, and they warned the clerics against addressing the current state of political affairs of Bahrain.

The Security Forces removed, burned and destroyed religious signs and banners belonging to the Shiia sect from roads and buildings (especially religious places). The banners contained statements and quotes that are linked to the battle of Karbala. One of the removed banners quotes “The peoples of the nation began to raise their voices with the same call of Imam Hussein: We will never be humiliated" and another quotes “No homage for Yazeed, drunker, killer of the respected soul”. The Security Forces also warned people not to re-install these signs and banners in more than 8 villages. In Aali alone, 15 men were arrested on 18 Nov 2012 while they were hanging the black flags symbolizing the mourning. When a family member asked about their crime she was told by a police officer: “I will charge them with something that keeps them in prison for a year.”

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believe that the Bahraini authorities, through these measures against the Shiia sect, intend to restrict the freedom of belief and to create a sectarian conflict between Shiia and Sunni muslims in order to distract the public debate away from the issues of corruption, racial discrimination and human rights violations that sparked the public public protests on the 14th of February 2011. The BYSHR and BCHR also express grave concern over the continued criminalisation of the freedom of expression as the authority prosecute people for their speeches and the hidden meanings of their words.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) call for the following actions: 1. Stop targeting freedom of belief and allow all sects in Bahrain to express their opinion. 2. Respect and protect the freedom of expression and stop prosecuting people for their words and speeches and release all those detained for simply exercising this right in accordance with the universal declaration of human rights. 3. The Bahraini Authorities must stop the frequent attempts of creating a sectarian conflict in order to confine the public protests. 4. Bring forth those responsible for targeting freedom of belief to justice.