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«Saudi Arabia HUMAN Denied Dignity RIGHTS Systematic Discrimination and Hostility toward WATCH Saudi Shia Citizens Denied Dignity Systematic ...»

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(i) The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, [and] to just and favourable remuneration.”98 Equally, law enforcement and judicial officials must not discriminate between persons on the basis of their ethnic origin, and the state is bound to guarantee “the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice; [and the] right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution.”99 The prohibition against racist laws, policies, and acts obliges states to take preventive and remedial action against racism. According to the UNGA’s 1993 declaration, states are obliged to protect minorities, such as the Shia, by taking “measures to create favourable conditions to enable persons belonging to minorities to express their characteristics and to develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs.”100 The 1993 declaration also says that states must protect the identity of minorities “within their respective territories” by encouraging “conditions for the promotion of that identity” and measures allowing minority members to “participate fully in the economic progress and development in their country.”101 The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically requires the education of a child to be directed to the “development of... his or her own cultural identity, language and values” and gives a child of a religious minority the right “to enjoy his or her own culture, [and] to profess and practise his or her own religion.”102 The 1981 UNGA declaration states that, in education, a child “shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents.”103 In the 1981 UNGA declaration, the “freedom to have a religion... and freedom... to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching” is protected, and “coercion which would impair [t]his freedom” is prohibited.104 More specifically, assembly 98 ICERD, art. 5.

99 Ibid.

100 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities, art. 4.

101 Ibid., arts. 1 and 5.

102 CRC, arts. 29 and 30.

103 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, art. 5.2.

104 Ibid., art. 1.

25 Human Rights Watch | September 2009 for worship, observance of religious holidays, maintaining and erecting buildings for worship, acquiring items for use in religious rituals, religious teaching and appointment of religious leaders, fundraising for religion, and communication with coreligionists are activities that fall within the protection of freedom of religion.105 The state’s obligations go beyond not preventing religious minorities from exercising their rights. The ICERD is clear that states must not “undertake to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination by any persons or organizations,” and states must “condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or one ethnic origin.”106 The UNGA’s states must especially “not permit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination,” and prosecute any individual who does so. Furthermore, states should “encourage, where appropriate, integrationist multiracial organizations and movements,” and “establish and maintain appropriate charitable or humanitarian institutions.”107 International law not only protects the identity of minorities and prohibits discrimination, but guarantees the rights of minorities to actively participate in the public and cultural life of society, including by “maintain[ing] their own associations.”108 Minorities have “the right to participate effectively in decisions on the national and, where appropriate, regional level concerning the minority.”109 105 Ibid., art. 6.

106 ICERD, arts. 2 and 4.

107 Ibid., art. 2; and Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, art. 6.

108 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities, art. 2.

109 Ibid.

Denied Dignity 26 Acknowledgments Christoph Wilcke of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch is the principal researcher and author of this report. Eric Goldstein, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division, and Ian Gorvin, senior program officer in the Program Office, edited the report. Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor, provided legal review. Amr Khairy, Arabic language website and translation coordinator, provided assistance with translation into Arabic. Brent Giannotta and Nadia Barhoum, associates for the Middle East and North Africa Division, prepared this report for publication. Additional production assistance was provided by Grace Choi, publications director, and Fitzroy Hepkins, mail manager.

We would like to thank those Saudi Shia who spoke to Human Rights Watch in February and March 2009 during the arrests of protestors, as well as the Saudi human rights activists who provided detailed information and updates on names of detainees, on the closure of Shia prayer halls, and on the arrest of religious leaders.

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Denied Dignity Systematic Discrimination and Hostility toward Saudi Shia Citizens A pilgrimage of Saudi Shia to Medina in February 2009 led to clashes over five days with Saudi security forces, including the hardline Sunni religious police, and scores of arrests. Shia living in the Eastern Province then demonstrated in solidarity with their detained coreligionists, leading to further arrests of protestors, some of whom were held for months without charge. The Medina events stoked the sharpest sectarian tensions that the kingdom has experienced in years.

Saudi Shia experience systematic discrimination in public education, in the justice system, and especially in their religious freedom. They face exclusion in government employment, too. Shia rarely receive permission to build mosques and, unlike their Sunni fellow citizens, do not receive government funds to build mosques. Since 2008 the authorities have arrested and threatened the owners of Shia private communal prayer halls in Khobar to extract pledges to close them. Since 2001 the authorities in Ahsa’ have imposed extrajudicial prison sentences on leaders of communal prayers and persons selling articles used in Shia religious ceremonies such as ‘Ashura’ and Qarqi’un, which remain prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Shia are not allowed to teach religion in state schools, and Shia pupils are forced to learn religion from Sunni teachers who teach them that they are unbelievers. Shia cannot become judges in Saudi courts and face discrimination in access to justice. There are no Shia in high positions within the armed services, diplomatic corps, or government.

King Abdullah has championed religious tolerance at home through the 2003 National Dialogues and the 2008 Mekka interfaith meeting, and called for respect between religions in Madrid and New York in 2008. He should go beyond a call for tolerance and initiate institutional reform to address systematic discrimination against the Shia.

King Abdullah and the Muslim World League secretary general welcome an unidentified Shiite cleric at the Mekka interfaith meeting in June 2008.

© 2008 Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images

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