Mass Arrests during the Ashura Season in Bahrain

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the restriction of religious freedoms by the government in Bahrain. The authorities arrested a number of preachers and clerics on the background of commemorating Ashura.

The Center has documented the arrest of Mullah Qassem Zain Al-Din at the Al-Hidd Center to present him before the Public Prosecution, on the background of a religious sermon. As well, the preacher Abd al-Nabi al-Sammak was arrested for reading “the visit of Ashura” at a Ma’atam in Arad. Additionally, Sayed Mohammed Al-Gharifi was summoned for questioning about the content of his sermon at a Ma’atam. BCHR also documented the suspension of the preacher Naji Ahmed Eid for a week on pending investigation by the Public Prosecution on the background of reading the Ashura visit on the tenth of Muharram.

In the same context, the president of BCHR, Nedal Al-Salman, considers that “the frequent arrests on religious grounds are inconsistent with guarantees of religious freedom and freedom of belief.” She also calls on the authorities to “work on strengthening the concept of religious freedom and accepting the other opinion in this country which comprises a sectarian diversity”.  Al-Salman believes that “the measures practiced by the government constitute unjustified arbitrariness and tangible restrictions on religious freedoms, as well as a flagrant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international covenants”.

BCHR previously monitored several violations committed by the Bahraini security authorities against the religious rituals of the Shiite community, such as the removal of banners and signs related to Ashura in at least three regions (Al-Sahla, Ras Rumman, and Al-Maameer). As well, the Ministry of Interior summoned the officials of at least 8 religious institutions (Ma’atem), and a number of citizens were also summoned after they hung banners and flags related to the ceremony on their homes; they signed pledges not to put signs on their homes again.