Mandates of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief in the United Nations Human Rights Council said they have received information concerning alleged patterns of continuous discrimination against Shia citizens (mainly Baharna and Ajam), which have been taking place since 2011 and which are undermining their rights to freedom in the area of religion, expression and culture. They said, “Such discrimination takes the form of destruction of places of worship and other signs of the presence of Shia citizens in the country, their marginalization in the historical narratives of the country, misinformation regarding their religious and cultural identity through the educational system and the media, as well as violence”.
In letter they sent out to the Government of Bahrain, requesting information on the mentioned allegations, they pointed out the use of excessive force and abuses targeting Shia Bahrainis and clerics.
The report highlights the government’s destruction of Shia mosques and marginalization of Shia in the public space, the use of historical narrative to marginalize Shia communities, discrimination in the state media and discrimination in public employment and in housing policies. It also highlighted discrimination in the educational system underlining that “The educational material, forming the basis of Bahraini compulsory education system, reportedly undermines the cultural and religious identity of Shia Bahraini”. Moreover, they said, “The Shia Jafaari tradition, followed by the majority of the Baharna population, is excluded by the Government from the curricula. Country wide, there is only one legally operating Shia specific school, the Jaafari Institute, which enrolls 1’200 elementary and secondary children. This is only a small fraction of the Shia children and adolescents of the country”.
While awaiting a reply, the UN experts urged that all necessary measures be taken to halt the alleged violations, prevent their re-occurrence and guarantee that the rights and freedoms of the above mentioned persons are respected.