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Are national security operations serving or hurting minorities?

Written By | Mar 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2016 – Shia Muslims are often targeted as terrorists, not because of any factual reason, but because they they peacefully stand up for their rights. Sunni-dominated governments often consider these efforts “national security threats” and actively quash any effort for the Shia minority to stand up against discrimination.

Terrorism is defined by the use of violence with aims of intimidating or endangering the public for individual agendas. A UN panel on March 17, 2005, described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.”

Based on this definition, peaceful demonstrations by human rights advocates is not terrorism. However, some countries have modified this definition to excuse and cover up their illegal punishment of peaceful pro-freedom protesters. That labels these protesters as dangerous criminals, and allows governments to punish them with almost no backlash.

Both the Al-Khalifa government of Bahrain and the Al-Saud government of Saudi Arabia arrest, punish and pressure their oppositions under their definitions of “terrorism” and “national security.” According to Saudi Arabia Terrorism Law, a terrorist is defined in part, as a person who “insults the reputation of the state or its position.”

Therefore, any pro-democracy protester or anyone who criticizes the government, accuses it of corruption, or questions the capability of the king and his officers is a threat to national security and will be punished as a terrorist.

Authorities use the terrorism brand out of fear that their own personal power will be threatened if they allow any sort of opposition to exist. It enables them to punish all opposition and take away the opposition’s human rights legally. This also sends a message to other citizens that the protesters are the problem, not the government, as they destroy the national peace.

However, this is simply government propaganda.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, openly calls Shia non-Muslims who deserve to be killed, burned alive and kept as slaves, solely on basis of religious deviation from Wahhabi ideals. This terrorist group has been targeting the Shia populations in many areas, especially in Iraq and Syria. They bomb, kill, raid, rape and demolish Shia populations and their history with support of states such as Saudi Arabia, as they share the official religion of Wahhabism.

Since the birth of ISIS, Shia communities have faced increased human rights violations such as targeted bombings and killings. Many of the perpetrators of these actions go unprosecuted because ISIS claimed responsibility. As soon as governments hear ISIS claim responsibility, they cease litigation against parties involved.

ISIS recruitment feeds on already present ideologies in society. The discrimination against Shia Muslims which already exists in these societies provides fertile ground for additional attacks against Shia under the guise of ISIS.

As the brand of ISIS continues to grow internationally, individual authorities have given less attention to grassroots investigations of risk groups that allow groups such as ISIS to spread.

The Shia Rights Watch strongly believes that instead of branding ISIS as an internationally functioning unit, every single violation must be studied and prosecuted in their original location to prevent future ISIS recruitments and spread of hateful ideologies and actions.

Americans need to revisit the terminology of “national security,” “terror” and “terrorist” and their usage. As long as each county has its own definition for these terms, the world cannot successfully form coalitions to combat ISIS and its mission.

Usage of “terror and terrorism” and “national security” has led to the unlawful arrest and punishment of many minorities and advocates, which must be stopped.

By adopting universal definition of such terms, such victims will receive more protection in the United Nations and under international laws.

It is vital to define these terms objectively, so that they suit all humanity and so they do not fulfill political desires of specific groups or governments.

Hawraa Zakery

As a human rights activist, Hawraa Zakery is a freelance writer on contemporary and international issues. In addition to researching human rights issues at Shia Rights Watch, Hawraa is a mental health therapist at The Key Center, and work place well-being coach at Mind Your Work. She is a contributor to,, ireport.cnn and