According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), “skirmishes” took place around the Al-Marzouq religious center in Sitra, Bahrain, on January 11, 2016. The MOI said that gunfire mistakenly damaged some of the center’s facilities. Eyewitnesses reported that around 3:00 a.m., a black vehicle opened fire at the Al-Marzouq center, damaging some of the center’s windows and its ceiling. The MOI declared that “it will bear the cost of maintenance, and will repair the damage caused by gunshots.” The incident comes at a time when Shia religious centers and gatherings have become the targets of increased harassment.

Both the Bahrain Independent Commission on Inquiry (BICI) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) have documented previous government attacks on centers of Shia worship. The BICI has cited the media and government-sanctioned language for inciting hatred against the Shia community. Filed in 2011, the BICI documented the demolition of 30 Shia mosques by the government during the 2011 protests. In 2015, ADHRB followed up on the BICI’s recommendations and found that Bahrain only partially implemented the recommendation on rebuilding the mosques. Moreover, the BICI and ADHRB’s follow-up report both documented that though the Bahrain government ostensibly distances itself from incitement against any sect, “pro-government media continues to produce highly partisan content that promotes sectarian language and incites hatred of the Shia sect on state media.” This attack on a Shia religious center in Sitra comes at a time of unrest in the country, as tensions remain high following the execution of a Shia cleric in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Tyler Pry is an Advocacy Intern at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Photo courtesy of Bahrain Mirror