APPG highlights recent attacks on Shi’as and calls for action

The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief has issued a statement  highlighting that it is deeply concerned by the global escalation of attacks targeting Shi’a pilgrims and shrines in Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan, particularly during their religious observance of Arbaeen this month, which is a defining event for Shi’as.

The statement underlines that this represents a flagrant violation of Shi’as right to practice their beliefs in safety and freedom.

The APPG urges governments to provide the necessary protection and security measures to prevent attacks on Shi’as from those who seek to exploit this event as an opportunity to attack hundreds of innocent pilgrims.

The deadly attacks within the past two weeks have claimed over 100 lives in total across the countries with many more injured, in what has become a dangerous period for Shi’as who are increasingly targeted by Sunni militants during this time.

  • In Nigeria on 14 November 2016, security forces killed at least eight Nigerian Shia Muslims during a religious procession in Kano city.
  • An estimated 11 Shia Muslims died last month in northern Nigeria while marking Ashura. While during last year’s processions to commemorate the event more than 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber from Boko Haram.
  • A suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan on 21 November 2016 left over 27 dead.
  • On 24 November 2016 in Iraq, 77 people, mostly Shia pilgrims, were killed in a truck bomb attack near Hilla as they travelled home from commemorating Arbaeen in the holy city of Karbala.
  • Islamic State (IS)/Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attacks in both Afghanistan and Iraq as Shi’a pilgrims are becoming increasingly targeted at this time of the year.

Millions of pilgrims travel to Karbala in Iraq at Arbaeen, an important time for Shi’as as it represents the end of a 40-day mourning period after the killing of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. His martyrdom at the battle of Karbala, itself commemorated by Ashura, is considered a defining event in the Sunni-Shia schism, with IS/Daesh regarding Shi’as as apostates due to their veneration of the Prophet’s family.

The APPG urges that as millions of Shia pilgrims travel to mark Arbaeen annually and are deliberately targeted year on year, governments should implement an adequate security plan in advance to protect minority Shi’as during this time and other high-profile public events.