Bahrain: US Department of State’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom Condemns Religious Discrimination in Bahrain

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On 21 June 2019, the United States Department of State has released its 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom. As far as Bahrainis concerned, the report strongly condemns religious discrimination against the Shia population.

Non-Muslim religious minorities are tolerated and can “practice their religion openly without fear of interference from the government.” These religions include Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Sikhism. It’s been reported, though, that “societal attitudes and behaviour discouraged conversion from Islam.”

By contrast, “the government continued to question, detain, and arrest Shia clerics and community members.”Discrimination against the Shia community has affected this minority in every aspect of their life. Over twenty people, including Shia clerics, have been arrested during the Ashuraand “interrogated for the content of their sermons.”Several Shia clerics who have been arrested in 2011 during theBahraini uprisingare still in prison. Among the most famous cases, the report mentions the arrest and detention of Sheik Ali Salman.

The Shia community has been discriminated in the economic sectors, both in the private and in the public sector. Social mediain Bahrain are replete with anti-Shia commentary, including blatant allegations stating the Shia political figures are “traitors” and “Iranian servants.”

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the latest US Department of State’s Report on International Religious Freedom. However, this report failed to provide detailed recommendations to the Kingdom of Bahrain to address religious discrimination agains the Shia community.