There were reports of imprisonment and detention. The country experienced ongoing unrest, including protests calling for political reform, and violence between anti-government groups and security forces. During the year police arrested individuals, overwhelmingly Shia, many of whom were engaged in violent and deadly attacks against police, and some of whom were protesting peacefully. There were reports of arbitrary arrest, excessive use of force, and mistreatment.
Ayatollah Hussein Najati, one of three clerics among 31 Shia whose citizenship was revoked in November 2012, reportedly was pressured since June to leave the country. Local press reported that Ayatollah Najati was given a timetable to leave, but at year’s end he continued to reside in the country.
Several prominent Shia clerics arrested in 2011 and associated with the political opposition protest movement remained in prison at year’s end.
Religious chanter Mahdi Salwan, arrested during a July 5 opposition march, was sentenced in September to 15 months in prison for insulting the king and calling for an illegal gathering.
In September Khalil Al Marzooq, a senior leader of Shia opposition political society Al Wifaq, was arrested, detained, and later released on charges of inciting terrorism. The charges stemmed from comments he made in support of the violent opposition group 14 February Youth Coalition.
Local activists and political opposition groups accused security forces of engaging in “collective punishment” against Al-Daih, a predominantly Shia neighborhood, after protests marking the second anniversary of the intervention of Gulf Cooperation Council Peninsula Shield Forces in Bahrain on March 14. Opposition sources said security forces fired tear gas into Shaikh Ebrahim Mosque, preventing worshipers from holding prayers. Reports also indicated that security forces employed teargas in the vicinity of hundreds of houses near the mosque in Al-Daih. Fifty houses in Sitra, another predominantly Shia neighborhood, were reportedly raided by security forces in July. Local activists stated residents were insulted and many of their doors and windows broken. During the same raid, activists stated security forces prevented residents from leaving and entering the neighboring village of Al Ma’ameer for approximately five hours.
Although the government generally respected freedom of conscience and the right of citizens and foreign residents to participate in religious rites and other religious activities, it continued to exert a limited level of control over religious practices when it perceived religious authorities as political opponents or as encouraging political violence. At times of unrest, the government occasionally monitored both Sunni and Shia Muslims, censoring sermons, and in one instance preventing congregants from attending religious services. On June 23, local press reported security forces prohibited citizens from praying at the location of the Shia Abu Thar Mosque, which had been demolished during the 2011 unrest. According to the press report, police cordoned off the location to ensure worshipers could not reach it. On two occasions in December, according to local press, security forces blocked roads leading to the site of the Shia Al Barbaghi Mosque, preventing citizens from performing prayers. Al Barbaghi was also demolished during the 2011 unrest.
In January the MOJIA delivered written warnings to 19 Shia and Sunni clergy who allegedly used sermons to incite violence, hatred, and sectarianism. The MOJIA threatened clerics with suspension if they did not renounce violence.
During the Islamic holy month of Muharram and leading up to the Shia commemoration of Ashura, the government summoned matam managers for questioning about their administrative activities in planning for Ashura. Some religious chanters and clerics were reportedly summoned to their local police stations for questioning about their sermons, religious beliefs, and personal views. The Bahrain Human Rights Observatory detailed many instances of Ministry of Interior personnel removing Ashura flags, banners, and decorations from streets and houses. The government condemned “terrorist political organizations” for using Ashura to spread political messages.
In September the MOJIA brought a lawsuit against members of the Islamic Ulema Council, claiming it was an illegal organization. The lawsuit sought to halt the organization’s activities, close its headquarters, and liquidate its assets.
The government did not usually interfere with what it considered “legitimate” religious observances and permitted non-Muslim communities to maintain places of worship and display religious symbols. During periods of unrest, including those of a sectarian nature, security forces occasionally intervened in religious processions and funerals. The government permitted public religious events, most notably the large annual commemorative march by Shia Muslims during Muharram, and others throughout the year. In July the National Assembly met in an extraordinary session and decreed a temporary ban on “sit-ins, rallies, and gatherings in the capital city of Manama.” The decree did not affect the observances of Ashura.
The 2011 BICI report documented the government’s demolition of 28 mosques, one matam, and one shrine, of a total of 53 damaged Shia religious structures identified by opposition society Al Wifaq. By the end of 2013, the government had completed the reconstruction of three of the five mosques that had deeds and building permits: the Imam Ali Mosque in Zayed Town, the Um Al-Baneen Mosque in Hamad Town, and the Imam Ali Mosque in Sadad. The Fatima Al-Zahraa Mosque in Zayed Town and the Al-Rasool Al-Adam Mosque in Hamad Town were close to completion. The BICI follow-up report outlined the government’s plans to rebuild 18 additional mosques of those destroyed. The government coordinated with stakeholders and transferred management of the construction to the Jaafari Endowments Administration, secured and registered titles to previously untitled land, allocated a budget of BD 3.3 million ($87.5 million) for new construction, and ordered the issuance of building permits. Construction reportedly began on 10 of the remaining 18 sites. The government announced a new timeline for construction, with a projected completion date of December 2014.
Members of the Shia community built simple structures for worship or rebuilt mosques on the sites of some religious structures the government had demolished in 2011. This was done without government financial support and without acquiring property deeds or building permits. During the year citizens of Nuwaidrat village completed reconstruction of six of the nine mosques destroyed in 2011, without government funds or assistance. The communities used permanent materials but kept the mosques off the power and water grids, instead using generators and water tanks.
The government-run television station did not broadcast Friday sermons from Shia mosques, while broadcasts from Sunni mosques appeared regularly on this channel.
Public officials frequently alleged Shia opposition members were supporters of terrorism. Parliamentarian Jassim Al-Saeedi gave a speech in July referring to the Shia opposition as “Iranians” and “traitors.” During an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in July, Parliamentarian Adel Al Maawdah described the Shia opposition as “dogs,” and others described them as “terrorists.”
Following the 2011 dismissals of 2,200 public and private sector Shia workers during the period of unrest, the government said its efforts to reinstate these workers in accordance with the BICI recommendations were successful, and that, as of November 2013, more than 99 percent of dismissal cases had been resolved. The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), however, stated that several hundred cases remained unresolved; but it was unable to provide thorough documentation of those claims. The government continued working with a tripartite committee, formed in December 2011 and consisting of a representative from the Ministry of Labor, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), and the GFBTU, to address dismissals and reinstatements. At year’s end the GFBTU and BCCI were ready to settle the case with the International Labor Organization (ILO), but the government asked for time to conduct an additional legal review of the agreement.
Sunni citizens often received preference for employment in sensitive government positions, in the managerial ranks of the civil service, and in the military. Shia continued to assert they were unable to obtain government positions, especially in the security services, because of their religious affiliation. Only a few Shia citizens held significant posts in the defense and internal security forces. Shia politicians and activists asserted the government and certain business elites discriminated against Shia citizens in employment and promotions. Senior civil service recruitment and promotion processes often favored Sunni candidates. Educational, social, and municipal services in most Shia neighborhoods were widely viewed as inferior to those in Sunni communities.
Shia politicians and activists stated that the government’s naturalization and citizenship processes favored Sunni applicants over Shia applicants. According to the law, Arab applicants with 15 years residence and non-Arab applicants with 25 years residence are eligible to apply for citizenship, and the king also has the authority to grant and revoke citizenship. There was a lack of transparency in the naturalization process, and there were numerous reports the citizenship law was not applied uniformly. Political societies and human rights groups alleged the government allowed foreign Sunni employees of the security services who had lived in the country for fewer than 15 years to apply for citizenship.
Shia were employed in some branches of the police, such as the traffic police, but did not occupy more senior supervisory positions. According to the government’s November 2012 BICI follow-up report, the Ministry of Interior promised to recruit at least 500 citizens from all governorates and groups. According to the ministry, in June 577 new police officers graduated under this recruitment initiative. They were to perform police work in all ministry departments. The fair implementation of this initiative could not be verified, however, because the ministry did not make available a statistical breakdown of new recruits by group.
The government funded, monitored, and exercised control over official Muslim religious institutions, including Shia and Sunni mosques; religious community centers; Shia and Sunni religious endowments; and the religious courts, which represent both the Shia- and Sunni-affiliated schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs reviewed and approved clerical appointments within both the Sunni and Shia communities.