Shia Muslim Killings,
Rise of Intolerance
Established in 2011, Shia Rights Watch (SRW) is the world’s first independent organization dedicated to define and protect the
rights of Shia Muslims around the world. SRW is a non- governmental, not-for-profit research entity and advocacy group headquartered in Washington D.C., U.S.A. Shia Rights Watch aims to draw the international attention where Shia rights are violated;
the aim is to give a voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. S.R.W. achieves its objectives
through strategic investigations supported by targeted advocacy in order to bring about informed action.
Freedom of religion for all
Shia Rights Watch envisions the world with peace for all humans, regardless of their religion, gender, race and origin. There
should be regulations in every country to support every religion. We believe Shia Muslim as religion should be recognized in
every country and any discrimination should be brought to light. God has given us all the freedom of religion and the rights to
live in peace.
No Shia above the law and no Shia Below the law
Shia Rights Watch is dedicated to protect the rights of Shia Muslims worldwide. We investigate violations against Shia communities in order to raise awareness against injustice. We promote the change through research and publications. Our reports
and articles are submitted to the governments and international organizations, and we continually monitor media outlets to
ensure coverage of Shia rights violations. Shia Rights Watch stands for victims of prejudice, and supports activism in order to
prevent discrimination, support political freedom, and protect people from inhumane conduct. We enlist the local public and
international communities to support the cause of human rights for all.
The Purpose of SRW
Shia Muslims face constant oppression throughout the world solely based on their faith. In some countries, Shia Muslims have
been the target of repeated persecution for centuries as evidenced in the well-documented expansion of extremism of the
Wahhabi movement. We believe the underrepresented Shia Muslim population need a human rights organization that highlights the violations against them, while giving their call for help a louder voice.
The organization began with the collaborative efforts of volunteers with a common interest in advocating international human
rights. The momentum created by the increasing number of volunteer and activism allowed for a formal development of the
foundation of Shia Rights Watch. Currently the organization has more than 100 active members working in various locations
worldwide. The responsibilities of members range from gathering news and information to publishing reports and articles in
order to advocate change. We are proud of the religiously and ethnically diverse group of activists who are working together
towards a common goal.
Methodology of SRW
We believe that information is the most valuable resource in the investigative process. From the organization’s inception, we
have focused on gathering information through various media: interviewing witnesses, family members of the victims and
victims themselves; on-site collection of resources; analyzing reports from various national and international organizations;
meeting with non-governmental and religious organizations, leaders, and journalists; and creating information networks in a
wide range of social sectors.
Based on the information collected from the above sources, different types of human rights violation have been identified.
These violations include but are certainly not limited to:
• Violation of right of living;
• Arbitrary arrest, unfair trial, and illegal detention;
• Psychical & psychological abuse: torture, rape, and sexual assault;
• Illegal confiscation of private property;
• Demolition of Religions centres;
• Employment discrimination;
• Education discrimination;
Reports, Publications, and Distribution
Whether it is terrorist bombings of sacred shrines, torture and unjust detention of people, discriminative legislation or intimation of school children for their sectarian beliefs, Shia have been victimized in most the world. In countries where the press is
tightly controlled, most of these cases go unnoticed. Shia Rights Watch tells the stories of injustices and atrocities in order to
give a voice to the marginalized Shia victims.
Journalists investigating topics regarding the Middle East will benefit from SRW’s focus on the Shia communities since they are
crucially important sectors in Middle Eastern society. For instance, In order to fully examine the ongoing atrocities committed
against protesters of the Arab spring, it is necessary to know about the embedded Shia struggle. In areas where Shia have
been formerly discriminated against more subtly, the Arab Spring opened a door for more blunt persecution. Cases reported in
other parts of the world, such as in South Asia, describe violence and intimidation which reflect fluctuating trends in sectarian
hostilities, fueled by various political issues, including terrorism. SRW’s aim is to be able to report the crimes affecting Shia in
every part of the globe.
SRW has investigators on the forefront who communicate directly with the victims and monitor multilingual news media
outlets. SRW networks with national committees, international human rights organizations, as well as religious scholars of
Shia communities. SRW’s members comprise of people with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds united to defend the of
human rights. This international network provides invaluable information to commentators and journalists of the media who
are seeking to explore the impact of events on the Shia communities worldwide.
Shia Muslim Killings,
Rise of Intolerance
Media and technology are improving every day, but human rights are
not. New pro-democracy movements in the world, especially in the Middle
East, aim to defend suppressed nations and bring justice to the table,
but the results have been the opposite. Minorities, whose rights were
always violated, continue to face discriminations even after recent
historical Arab Spring events. Egyptian Shia have never been fully
accepted into society. They have faced discrimination, violation
and exclusion in the Salafi-based society before and after the Arab
Spring. Shia are forgotten minorities in Egypt, where there is no
respect for them as Muslims living in a Muslim society. This report
intends to highlight the violations toward Shia in Egypt and urge the
new government to take action to stop suppressing Shia and promote
their human rights, as every government is responsible for spreading peace and
democracy in the world.
Egypt is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge into Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle
East and the Muslim world. Covering an area of about 1,010,000 square kilometers (390,000 sq. mi), Egypt is
bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the
east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.
Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the
Middle East, with a population of over 80 million. The vast majority of
Egyptians live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000
square kilometers (15,000 sq mi)1, where the only arable land is located.
The large areas of the Sahara Desert are sparsely inhabited. About half
of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, mostly spread across the densely
populated centers of greater Cairo, Alexandria, and other major cities in
the Nile Delta. Islam is the official state religion, Arabic is the official
language and Shari’a (Islamic Law) is the primary source of legislation.
Egypt has been undergoing many political changes since the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring gave hope
to many, especially minorities, that the new changes would bring freedom and democracy to their communities.
However, in most cases, the transition phase provided opportunities for some to take advantage of the unrest
and target minorities violently. Shia are among the growing numbers of minorities that became victims of the
unrest. Shia, under pressure under the Mubarak government, are still facing discrimination in the new Egyptian
government and political system.
1 "Population Clock". Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. 16 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
Shia Muslim Killings, Rise of Intolerance In Egypt .7
Shia in Egypt; Past and Present
Egypt is a country with strong Shia ties. Egypt was a Shia country when it fell under the Shia Fatimid
caliphate, in opposition to the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad at that time, who were Sunni Muslims, according
to Osama Hammad, professor of Islamic history at Alexandria University.2 In fact, Egypt was a Shia nation
when ruled by Fatimids from AD 969 until 1
171, but became Sunni ruled after the fall of the Fatimids dynasties. The Fatimid Islamic Caliphate was a Isma’ili Shia Muslim caliphate that spanned a vast area of the Arab
World, from the Red Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Originally based in Tunisia, the Fatimid
dynasty extended their rule across the Mediterranean coast of Africa, and ultimately made Egypt the center of
Despite this history, Shia are now a forgotten minority in Egypt to the point that there are no accurate official statistics about the number of Shia in Egypt. Government and Salafi authorities claim that there
are only a few thousand Shia in the country, less than 1% of the entire population3. However, Ahmad Rasim
Al-Nafis, a Shia author and activist, believes there are more than 100,000 Shia in Egypt today, but they hide
their faith for security reasons.4 Many believe that the number of Shia living in Egypt is increasing.
Shia Muslims are being targeted as a group with political intentions that are tied to Iran. However, in
reality, the vast majority of Shia, including Egyptian Shia, has no personal or political ties to the Islamic Republic; they are practicing their faith and honoring their belief with no political intentions. As Vali Nasr states
in his book, The Shia Revival, “most Arab Shias are ethnically Arab…Nevertheless, Sunni extremist propaganda would make them out to be sinister interlopers.”5
It is time for the world to disconnect Shia from Iran and honor their dignity and rights.
Human Rights Condition
Human rights activists and organizations are concerned about extremist groups who support policies
aimed at destroying the rights of others. These groups are continuing to advance in the Egyptian government.
Sources reveal some religious groups in Egypt, such as the Salafis, became heavily involved in the Egyptian
political arena after the 201 uprising. These groups are extremely against Shia establishing a political party or
even engaging in any political activity, a basic human right for all citizens.6
The state of human rights and freedom of religion in Egypt remains poor due to government intolerance toward minority religious groups. Religious freedom, in particular, has worsened dramatically in recent
months. Authorities continued to prosecute and sentence citizens with different religion or faith. They allowed
official media and Sunni clerks to encourage violence and hatred against religious minority members, especially Shia, while failing to protect them or to convict responsible parties.
The Egyptian Constitution, under Article 46, provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites; however, the Government restricts these rights in practice. United States Commission on Interna2 Daily News Egypt. http://simerg.com/literary-readings/egypts-present-day-shias-live-on-fatimid-legacy-2/
5 VAli Nasr. The Shia Revival. Page 110
tional Religious Freedom states:
“Egypt has a poor overall human rights record that includes repressive practices which seriously violate freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, and serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and
other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, remain widespread.7
Even though the restrictions and violations are widespread, minorities always face the most difficult
situations compared with the majorities within societies.
Shia face political and employment discriminations: arbitrary arrest, jail, and closure of Islamic centers
are some major violations that Shia face in Egypt.
Shia Rights Condition
Shia in Egypt have faced discrimination and human rights violations, especially in recent years. News
reports have documented that some Shia have had to leave their homes, often moving to other cities, because
of threats from Salafis. Farah Sesames, a reporter for Emma Magazine reveals the life story of Abu Hasan,
an Egyptian Shia, who fled with his family from their apartment after a neighbor posted a note on their door
threatening to kill them if they did not leave the area.8 “This is third time we have had to move in four years”
said Abu Hasan9. He and his family represent one of many cases of Shia who have no security and freedom to
practice and show their faith in Egypt.
Activists complain about the Shia situation in Egypt. Ahmed Rasim An-Nafis, an Egyptian Shia and
professor of medicine at Mansura University, said: “There have been smear campaigns about us in the state
press and in mosques, and our loyalty has been questioned.”10
Shia faced discrimination during Mubarak’s regime, and even after his resignation the situation did
not improve. Many were arrested during the Mubarak regime and asked to identify Shia members of their
communities. The recent revolution has not changed the situation, but the human rights violations could worsen. Wahabbis and Salafies are spreading hatred and intolerance among Egyptians in public and social media
even more than before; this will cause increased intolerance and lack of safety for Shia in the future
Egyptian Scholars Spreading Hatred Against Shia
Sheikh Mohammad Zoghby is one of many Salafi scholars who threaten Shia in public and during
TV interviews. In a YouTube clip, he says that he would cut off Shia’s fingers and tongues: “I must chop off the
breath of Shia in Egypt.” Sheikh Zoghby calls on Egyptian authorities to act against Shia in this country.11
7 http://www.metransparent.com/old/texts/magdi_khalil/magdi_khalil_rights_in_the_egyptian_constitution.htm, Also see The Egyptian Constitution and principal laws (Cairo, El Amiria print house, 1996).
9 Newstatesman.com http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/world-affairs/2012/07/plight-egypt%E2%80%99s-forgotten-shia-minority
Shia Muslim Killings, Rise of Intolerance In Egypt .9
In a similar YouTube video, another Salafi cleric, Sheikh Muhammad bin Hussein Ya’ghob, states that he only
supported Morsi as the new president of Egypt because Morsi considers Shia more dangerous than Jews for Islam. Ya’ghob
predicts that under the new government Shia’s power will decline. 12
The head of Alexandria’s Al-Fattah mosque, a Salafi scholar, said “We cannot have Shias in our mosque,” in an
interview. When asked if he would support the construction of a Shia mosque to allow Shia to pray in their own center, he
Salafi and Wahabbi’s fatwas and teachings have mirrored the government’s actions. In 201 security forces put
on end to an Ashura celebration and detained seven attendees. EgyptIndependent.com reported that nearly 3000 Shia
were attending the Ashura celebration that day at Cairo’s Hussein Mosque. Ashura, which marks the death of the Prophet
Mohamed’s grandson Imam Hussein, is one of the most important Shia celebrations. 13
There are increasing numbers of incidents in which Shia were arrested, detained, questioned and threatened for
practicing their faith.
Discrimination by Al- Azhar University
A Shia Muslim student is under investigation in al- Azhar University. A female student of the most important university of Egypt could face legal action and be expelled from school if proven to be Shia Muslim. Students of the university
filed a complaint against a female student, accusing her of being Shia Muslim.
Recently Egypt has been showing more and more discrimination toward Shia Muslims. SRW found it unfortunate
to see anti-Shi’ism growing so rapidity in Egypt that citizens believe it is a crime to practice Shia faith. Salafi and Wahhabi
extremist have been encouraging anti- Shi’ism in Egypt through social media and media outlets, as the result discrimination and hatred toward Shia Muslims are increasing among public.
Most Recent Human Rights Violation by General Public
On Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 a mob of 3000 people attacked houses of Shia Muslims in the small village of Zawya
Abu Muslim in Giza, killing four people including Hasan Shahate, a very well-known and peaceful Shia leader.
The attack was motivated by lectures of anti-Shia clerics who called Shia infidels in the village. Wahhabi and Salafi
clerics have been spreading and encouraging sectarian conflict in mosques as this report highlighted earlier. This incident
was motivated by one of those speeches according to Shia natives of the area.
Albawaba news quoted an eyewitness Barakat, who reported the incident live on Twitter. He took photos and
videos showing one of the Shias began dragged in the street after being beaten. “I saw several Shias stabbed several times
while they were being dragged in some sort of public lynching,” said Barakat.
Other eyewitnesses stated that police forces arrived late at the scene and only watched the crowd with not effort
to stop them.
Shia rights violation in Egypt has passes the political and systematic phase and now general population, neighbors
and community members are acting against Shia Muslims in such an inhumane way.
There is substantial evidence that Egyptian Shia abstain from practicing their faith or participating in rituals in
fear of detention or arbitrary arrest. The status of Shia in Egypt may lead to dissatisfaction and unrest among this forgotten
minority. Since Mohammed Morsi was declared President of Egypt, there has been growing speculation about the future
of Egypt’s minority under the new government, but little has been said about the Shia community 14
SRW had previously warned the Egyptian authorities about violations towards Shia Muslims in Egypt. Shia rights
violation escalated especially after president Mursi took office in 2012. President Mursi has supported hatred languages
and activities against Shia minority and his support lead to harassment, human rights violations, oppression and now
assassination of Sheikh Hassan Shehata and three more.
Because of the increasing violation towards Shia Muslims, SRW calls on Egyptian Judicial Council to trial the
Egyptian president in charge of inciting sectarian conflict in country. Mursi must be held responsible for the crimes against
Shia Muslims since there are many evidences available that his leadership is leading to crimes against human rights.
SRW believes the right to freedom of religion or belief should extend to every individual in every community and
country. Since its inception, Shia Rights Watch has been committed to this fundamental principle and universal standard
and will continue to report on countries where this freedom is lacking and make recommendations for reform.
Shia Rights Watch believes that the new Egyptian government must:
* Recognize Shia as Muslims,
* Protect their human rights,
* Give them freedom to practice their faith in public
* Promote tolerance among different religious groups.
To these ends, SRW urges the U.S government to encourage Egyptian authorities to protect human rights for all,
unite the minorities and work with them to build a stronger nation.
Shia Muslim Killings, Rise of Intolerance In Egypt .11