Ashura in Bahrain: Preventing freedoms and prohibiting “black flags”

Bahrain has been celebrating, since ancient times, the commemoration of “Ashura” with distinguished events and activities, which have a special meaning for Bahraini citizens. With the approach of the “Muharram” season, the Bahraini government has banned the holding of “Ma’atems” under the pretext of the “Corona virus”. The government also banned the practice of religious rites such as the black flags which can be considered a religious ritual inherited by the Bahrainis.

The “Bahrain Center for Human Rights” (BCHR) calls on the Bahraini government to respect the religious freedoms, the freedom of belief, and the ability to hold rituals without neglecting the state of health. The President of the Supreme Council of Health limited the duration of the live broadcast to 20 minutes, in addition to banning processions and banquets. BCHR believes that this decision violates the rights of citizens to practice their religious rituals. The duration of the “Husseini majles” is used to enrich the listener with spiritual, social and religious speeches, in addition to the “oration” at the end of the majles, which cannot be shortened to 20 minutes.

The President of BCHR, Nedal Al-Salman, considered that the decisions of the Bahraini government, which met with popular objection, aimed at “preventing the religious rituals of a balanced sect in the country, especially while allowing markets, gyms and others to carry out their work following health precautions.” Al-Salman also calls on the authorities to “stop the violations of religious freedoms and traditions guaranteed by international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on top of which are the “black flags” that do not harm public safety and do not affect the health situation in the country.

Taking into account all health precautions, BCHR commented that banning live commemoration can be replaced by broadcasting on official local channels so that all citizens can listen to the Majles, with the use of modern broadcasting technologies. The Center condemns the decision to allow the use of speakers during the Council’s time that does not exceed 20 minutes, and considers it a flagrant violation of religious freedoms because it is unjustified. The Center also monitors the Bahraini government’s infringement of banners in many regions, in addition to attacks on the manifestations of “Ashura” in Ras Rumman.

The Bahraini authorities have banned the holding of “funerals” and attending places of worship with a penalty of up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of ten thousand BD, and the preacher who performs the Hussaini majles in excess of the time allowed will be held accountable.

It is worth noting that the suppression of religious freedoms and violations of the right of citizens began last Ramadan. The government issued then a “shocking” decision prohibiting the use of loudspeakers, and it set a list of penalties with imprisonment and fines for violators, despite the fact that Husseiniyat and places of worship closed their doors voluntarily since the beginning of Corona pandemic, taking into account the health status in the country.