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Bahrain: Treatment of Shia (Shi'i; Shiite), particularly in the town of al-Duraz (1995-2000)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 13 September 2000
Citation / Document Symbol BHR35193.E
Reference 4
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bahrain: Treatment of Shia (Shi'i; Shiite), particularly in the town of al-Duraz (1995-2000), 13 September 2000, BHR35193.E, available at: [accessed 27 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Extensive information regarding the treatment of Shia (Shi'i; Shiite) in Bahrain, can be found in the 1997 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report Routine Abuse, Routine Denial: Civil Rights and the Political Crisis in Bahrain, available at Regional Documentation Centres.

According to the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2000 tensions between the Sunni government and the Shia population persist:

During the period covered by this report, the Government held in detention hundreds of Shi'a for security-related crimes such as treason. In June 1999, the Government gradually began freeing incarcerated individuals as part of an Amiri decree calling for the release or pardon of more than 350 Shi'a political prisoners, detainees, and exiles. Since then, the Amir has pardoned at least another 350 prisoners in December 1999 and the year 2000. In early July 1999, the Amir pardoned prominent Shi'a cleric Abdul Amir Al-Jamri, who had been in prison since 1996.

Since his release, the Government has monitored Al-Jamri's movements closely. It also has denied him the right to issue marital status certificates, a lucrative source of income for many clerics. Several other clerics associated with Al-Jamri remain in jail. On March 22, 2000, Shi'a cleric leader Abdul Wahab Hussain was rearrested only hours after a judge released him following more than 4 years in detention without charge. The authorities neither brought charges against Hussain nor provided an explanation for his rearrest. Hussain remained incarcerated in a Manama jail at the end of the period covered by this report. By the end of the period covered by this report, it is believed that less than 500 persons still remain in detention for political reasons. There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners during the period covered by this report whose imprisonment could be attributed to the practice of their religion (5 Sept. 2000).

According to the Middle East, the political situation in Bahrain improved considerably with the coming to power of the new Emir in March 1999 (Jan. 2000).

At the same time, diplomats noted, there have been hardly any acts of violence or unrest. The say the real picture is much more complicated than the perceived image in the West that there is a Sunni minority ruling over a Shia majority, who are in the forefront of demanding political reforms and the reinstatement of parliament.

Although there are no accurate figures, there is a consensus among experts that the Shia make up a little more than half of the 403,000 indigenous population, making them the largest single faith.

But the Shia are also the vast majority among 230,000 non-nationals, many of whom are from the Indian subcontinent. But their interest in politics appears minimal.

Just a few days before departing for the Vatican and London, the Emir pardoned 200 people who had taken part in the acts of violence in Bahrain since 1994.

On 3 November the Emir also pardoned 20 opposition activists living in self-exile who had petitioned the Emiri court for return and pledged 'straight behaviour'.

Early in the summer, the Emir also pardoned leading Shia opposition clergy who have been convicted and sentenced for 'conspiracy and crimes against the state'. They included the outspoken critic Sheikh Abdul Ameer Al Jamri who had been sentenced a month earlier for his role in inciting anti government riots. Earlier he had pardoned 321 people who were accused of taking part in the acts of violence.

However, in July 1999 AP reported that a Shia cleric had been sentenced to 10 years in jail plus a fine of US$15.4 million for "spying and inciting unrest" (7 July 1999) and in May 2000 it was reported that four Shia had been sentenced to two to seven years for "illegal activity" (Independent 7 May 2000).

No references to the treatment of Shia in Al-Duraz could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to Amnesty International an opposition figure was arrested in al-Duraz in March 1998, however, the report does not indicate whether or not he was Shia (AI 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 1999. Annual Report 1998. [Accessed 12 Sept. 2000]

Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2000. 5 September 2000. United States Department of State. [Accessed 12 Sept. 2000]

Associated Press (AP). 7 July 1999. Susan Sevareid. "Bahrain Cleric Accused of Spying." (NEXIS)

The Independent [London]. 7 May 2000. "Bahrain Imprisons Shias." (NEXIS)

Middle East [London]. January 2000. Adel Darwish. "Ringing the Changes."

Additional Sources Consulted

Country Reports

IRB Databases

Middle East International

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Search engines, including:




Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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