«Saudi Arabia HUMAN Denied Dignity RIGHTS Systematic Discrimination and Hostility toward WATCH Saudi Shia Citizens Denied Dignity Systematic ...»
49 Saudi Arabia does not have a system of military conscription. See US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “International Religious Freedom Report – 2008: Saudi Arabia,” http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108492.htm; and Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tawfiq Saif (who participated in the meeting with Prince Khalid), August 5, 2009.
Denied Dignity 14 IV. Medina Clashes In late February 2009 a series of clashes between Shia pilgrims and Saudi security forces, including members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), occurred in the city of Medina. At the time, schools were closed due to mid-term holidays, and many children had accompanied their parents from the Shia areas around Qatif and Ahsa’ to Medina. Shia gathered on February 24 at the Baqi’ cemetery, adjacent to the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad, to commemorate the anniversary of the Prophet’s death. Al-Baqi’ cemetery is believed to contain the graves of several of the Prophet’s wives, many of his companions, and four of his successors whom the Shia recognize as rightful leaders of the Muslim community.
When Shia visit the tombs of venerated Islamic personalities, they customarily recite special prayers and perform other rituals, such as picking up a small quantity of earth from around the cemetery. This goes against the teachings of Wahhabism: Shaikh Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th century preacher, underlined the centrality of monotheism in Islam and thus considered practices like veneration of saints and special holidays to be a form of idolatry. Prince Nayef, the Saudi interior minister, said following the incidents at Baqi’ cemetery that they involved people who had gathered sand from tombs of companions of the Prophet Mohammed in defiance of Wahhabi norms. He added, “Citizens in some parts of the kingdom who belong to other sects.... should abide by this (Sunni doctrine).”50 Baqi’ cemetery events On February 20, pilgrims at the Baqi’ cemetery in Medina clashed with religious police after seeing a person they suspected of being an agent of the religious police filming women from an elevated position. Shia pilgrims said they considered the filming of women an invasion of their privacy.51 One report indicated pilgrims threw shoes and empty cans at security forces 50 “Saudi Denies Shiites Targeted in Sunni Kingdom,” Agence France-Presse, March 14, 2009, reproduced at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gbrlMzkIkn8mBw6WD3pBftAUhDlg (accessed August 19, 2009).
Parentheses as in the original.
51 Footage taken apparently with a cellphone shows a hand holding what appears to be a videocamera from behind a wall on a first floor roof of the outer wall of al-Baqi’ mosque. On this footage, screams from women pilgrims and commotion among the crowd of women and children pilgrims can be heard, and they are seen pointing at the videocamera. The footage was previously available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4qlLEs-LiA, and was viewed in the course of researching this report, but at this writing is no longer available.
15 Human Rights Watch | September 2009 in reaction to the filming.52 An eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that the security forces arrested five pilgrims.53 Reports that police had been filming women pilgrims led thousands of Shia to protest at the cemetery on February 21.54 The authorities announced an investigation into the clashes and said that Sunnis had also been arrested.55 Further clashes between security forces and pilgrims broke out that day. A video of the area shows scores of pilgrims fleeing down a road, apparently from security officials in uniform and plainclothes CPVPV officials, whom the video shows following them closely; the security officials have sticks in their hand, but are not seen to use them.56 In an incident on February 23, security forces reportedly shot with live ammunition and wounded 15-year-old Shia pilgrim Zaki Abdullah al-Hasani in the chest during clashes.57 Another disturbance took place when police barred women from visiting the area reserved for them.58 According to one eyewitness, police used batons against the Shia crowd, and civilian onlookers joined in beating the crowd of pilgrims. The eyewitness alleged that security forces and the civilians who joined them injured ten Shia pilgrims, of whom seven were minors.59 52 ﺣﺸﺪ ﻣﻦ اﻟﺸﺒﺎب Khalid Ziyadi, “Crowd of Women and Young Men Blocks Flow of Those Who Pray at the Prophet’s Mosque [ ”,]واﻟﻨﺴﺎء ﻳﻌﻴﻘﻮن ﺗﺪﻓﻖ اﻟﻤﺼﻠﻴﻦ ﻟﻠﻤﺴﺠﺪ اﻟﻨﺒﻮيAl-Riyadh, February 21, 2009, http://www.alriyadh.com/2009/02/21/article411281.html (accessed June 25, 2009).
53 Human Rights Watch email communication with Husain, an Eastern Province Shia, February 26, 2009. This was also reported in the media—see Ziyadi, “Crowd of Women and Young Men Blocks Flow of Those Who Pray at the Prophet’s Mosque [ ”,]ﺣﺸﺪ ﻣﻦ اﻟﺸﺒﺎب واﻟﻨﺴﺎء ﻳﻌﻴﻘﻮن ﺗﺪﻓﻖ اﻟﻤﺼﻠﻴﻦ ﻟﻠﻤﺴﺠﺪ اﻟﻨﺒﻮيAl-Riyadh, http://www.alriyadh.com/2009/02/21/article411281.html.
54 See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-AYF9mkuno (accessed August 19, 2009). This undated video appears to show a crowd of men, women, and children outside a mosque after dark, with a phalanx of security officials wearing helmets and holding plastic shields gathered at an entrance door. The crowd chants slogans extolling the Prophet Muhammad and Shia Imam Husain, but is peaceful and the security forces are calm.
55 Donna Abu-Nasr, “Saudi Government Cracks Down on Shiite Dissidents,” Associated Press, April 1, 2009, reproduced at http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=7225240 (accessed August 19, 2009).
56 See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAaEM8Q8pRU (accessed August 19, 2009). This undated video appears to show dozens of men, women, and some children running along a street in apparent flight, followed by security officials and some persons among the officials wearing clothing typical of religiously observant Saudis, including the religious police. In a second undated video, filmed from a different vantage point but apparently showing the same incident, a security official chasing down the street with a drawn stick can be seen pushing a woman aside. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6lDZnl7Rjs (accessed August 19, 2009).
57 Human Rights Watch email communication with Ali, an Eastern Province Shia, February 23, 2009.
58 See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGIxmxSUqWw (accessed August 19, 2009). This short, undated video shows four security officials dragging one person away from the mosque.
59 Human Rights Watch email communication with Hasan, an Eastern Province Shia, February 28, 2009.
Denied Dignity 16 On February 24, clashes again erupted between Shia pilgrims and CPVPV officials when security forces blocked access to Baqi’ cemetery.60 One eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that the religious police attacked pilgrims.61 That day, an unidentified man attacked a Shia religious scholar, Shaikh Jawad al-Hadhari from Ahsa’, at the entrance to the Prophet’s mosque, stabbing him with a knife. Shaikh al-Hadhari, whose clothes indicate that he is a Shia cleric, told Human Rights Watch that his attacker, whom al-Hadhari took to be a civilian, shouted “kill the rejectionist [Shia]” as he stabbed him. He said he continues to have pain from the wound in his shoulder.62 On February 23 Prince Abd al-‘Aziz bin Majid, the governor of Medina, received a delegation of Shia elders. On February 27 he freed all detainees of the Baqi’ cemetery events under age 18 on orders of Prince Nayif.63 A large Shia delegation went to Riyadh and met with King Abdullah on March 3, and on the following day the king issued an amnesty for all those detained during the February Baqi’ cemetery clashes.64 On March 14 the Interior Ministry claimed that it had arrested only nine people in relation to violent clashes around al-Baqi’ cemetery,65 but Shia sources said that at least 28 persons had been detained until the king’s amnesty.66 A later report citing officials clarified that of 71 persons arrested, 49 had been Shia and 22 Sunni.67 60 See http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Oct7fouNGsY (accessed August 19, 2009). This undated video shows children at first cautiously, then more daringly, then en masse, approach from a crowd about 20 meters away in what appears to be the Baqi’ cemetery area toward an opening in the pavement with a mud brick wall around it, dive into the hole, pick up some earth, and dash back to the crowd.
61 Human Rights Watch email communications with Ja’far, an Eastern Province Shia, March 18, 2009, and with Hasan, an Eastern Province Shia, February 28, 2009.
62 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Shaikh Jawad al-Hadhari, August 5, 2009.
63 Khalid al-Ziyadi,”Release of Minors Who Caused Riots in Open Places of Prophet’s Mosque [ إﻃﻼق ﺳﺮاح اﻷﺣﺪاث اﻟﻤﺜﻴﺮﻳﻦ ”,]ﻟﻠﺸﻐﺐ ﻓﻲ ﺳﺎﺣﺎت اﻟﻤﺴﺠﺪ اﻟﻨﺒﻮيAl-Riyadh, February 27, 2009, http://www.alriyadh.com/2009/02/27/article412697.html (accessed June 25, 2009).
64 “Shi’a Youth Released in Medina Munawwira and Qatif Come Home [ اﻟﺸﺒﺎن اﻟﺸﻴﻌﺔ اﻟﻤﻔﺮج ﻋﻨﻬﻢ ﻓﻲ اﻟﻤﺪﻳﻨﺔ اﻟﻤﻨﻮرة واﻟﻘﻄﻴﻒ ”,]ﻳﺼﻠﻮن ﻣﻨﺎزﻟﻬﻢRasid News Network, March 5, 2009 http://www.rasid.com/print.php?id=27325 (accessed June 25, 2009).
65 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Haitham, an Eastern Province Shia, June 24, 2009; and “Saudi Denies Shiites Targeted in Sunni Kingdom,” Agence France-Presse, March 14, 2009, reproduced at http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gbrlMzkIkn8mBw6WD3pBftAUhDlg (accessed August 19, 2009).
66 See Allam, “Riyadh Confronts Growing Shia Anger,” Financial Times, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/62a879b6-1962-11ded34-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1, reporting 18 detainees from the Baqi’ events. See also “The Shi’a Youth Released in Medina Munawwira and Qatif Come Home [ ”,]اﻟﺸﺒﺎن اﻟﺸﻴﻌﺔ اﻟﻤﻔﺮج ﻋﻨﻬﻢ ﻓﻲ اﻟﻤﺪﻳﻨﺔ اﻟﻤﻨﻮرة واﻟﻘﻄﻴﻒ ﻳﺼﻠﻮن ﻣﻨﺎزﻟﻬﻢRasid News Network, http://www.rasid.com/print.php?id=27325, which lists by name 28 Shia detainees from the Baqi’ events, of whom 18 are from Ahsa’, eight from Qatif, and two from Medina.
67 Caryle Murphy, “With Shiites Rising Across the Region, Saudi Arabia’s Grow Impatient,” Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2009, http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0427/p06s04-wome.html (accessed August 3, 2009).
17 Human Rights Watch | September 2009 Despite news of Shaikh Jawad al-Hadari’s stabbing and the shooting of al-Hasani, the Interior Ministry claimed that there had been no injuries.68 According to al-Hadhari and another Eastern Province Shia source, there has not been any investigation of security officers who allegedly shot Zaki Abdullah al-Hasani (al-Hadhari is from the same area in Ahsa’ as al-Hasani).69 Regarding his own stabbing, al-Hadhari said that the police took a statement which the Investigation and Public Prosecutions Bureau received, but that he is unaware of any government investigation into bringing his attacker to justice.70 68 Yousuf Muhammad, “Governor Orders Youths Held Over Madinah Fight Released,” Arab News, February 27, 2009, http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=119699&d=27&m=2&y=2009 (accessed August 19, 2009).
69 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Shaikh Jawad al-Hadhari, August 5; and with Haitham, an Eastern Province Shia, June 24, 2009.
70 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Shaikh Jawad al-Hadhari, August 5, 2009.
Denied Dignity 18 V. Arrests of Solidarity Protestors The events in Medina were followed by demonstrations in the Eastern Province cities of Qatif, Safwa, and ‘Awwamiyya in solidarity with the pilgrims at Baqi’ cemetery. These demonstrations, which as reported to Human Rights Watch mostly passed off peacefully, were nevertheless the occasion for further arrests: information collected by Human Rights Watch shows that the authorities arrested at least 25 persons in connection with a February 27, 2009 demonstration in Safwa and in anticipation of a demonstration planned for March
4. The authorities released most of them after a short while, but held four persons for about two months without charge.
On March 8, security forces in the Eastern Province summoned Shia religious leaders and congregants to try to extract pledges to refrain from communal prayer, which some complied with, two Shia from that province told Human Rights Watch.71 This informal ban was defied by Shaikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in ‘Awwamiyya, who delivered a Friday sermon on March 13 that reignited tensions and sparked a new round of arrests there. In his sermon Shaikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr said he would urge the Shia to strive for secession from Saudi Arabia if their dignity was not respected. “Our dignity is more precious than the unity of the land,” he told his audience of around 200 persons, a participant told Human Rights Watch.72 Over the following 10 days the authorities twice cut off electricity to ‘Awwamiyya, the first time on the night of the sermon, and began to erect mobile checkpoints. At one point, 11 buses filled with riot police entered the town.73 On March 19, security forces came to arrest Shaikh alNimr, but he had gone into hiding. Residents of ‘Awwamiyya held a peaceful local protest without security forces present, although a participant said that after the protest he heard that isolated clashes between security forces and residents took place.74 Residents also took to the roofs, chanting “God is great.” Following the protest and the clashes, the police began arresting residents. Human Rights Watch has documented 22 arrests from ‘Awwamiyya,75 of 71 Human Rights Watch email communication from Muhammad, an Eastern Province Shia, March 18; and from Zaid, an Eastern Province Shia, June 5, 2009, containing a statement by Sayid Muhammad Baqir Nasir, one of those summoned in Khobar, dated May 28, 2009.
72 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Muhammad, an Eastern Province Shia, June 24, 2009. The sermon is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdPC8KJN00U (accessed July 1, 2009).