Skip to main content

Word of the week: Anti-Shi’ism

Written By | Aug 19, 2014

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2014 — Anti-Shi’ism (noun) – Prejudice against or hatred of Shia Muslims.

photo retrieved from

Coined by Shia Rights Watch in 2011, this term describes the wave of discrimination and violence that has crashed against Shia Muslims in recent decades. Shia Muslims comprise between 10 and 20 percent of the world’s Muslim population. They have been the target of discrimination and violence from the dawn of Islam but the violence and mistreatment has only intensified in recent years.

From Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, innocent people cower in fear as governments and armed militias use violence and intimidation tactics to dominate them. 2014 has been a bloody year for Shia; over 5,000 innocent civilians have been killed, hundreds have been kidnapped, dozens of shrines have been destroyed, and countless Shia have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishments at the hands of their governments.

Here is an overview of two countries where we can see the effects of Anti-Shi’ism in 2014.

Pakistan: Mirroring global Muslim statistics, 10 to 20 percent of Pakistan’s population is Shia. This year, close to 400 Shia have been killed throughout the country. While a large share of the attacks occurred in the southern port city of Karachi, attacks have happened in cities further north like Quetta and Abbottabad.

READ ALSO: Bahraini Shia show solidarity with jailed Shia sheikh

On June 8, 10 buses carrying Shia pilgrims were attacked by a terrorist group while making a quick stop at a hotel in the Taftan area of Baluchistan. 25 pilgrims were killed in this attack, including 10 women and children.

A series of targeted killings in March claimed the lives of 21 Shia. These attacks were at the hands of Taliban-affiliated terrorist groups such as Ahl-e-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (ASWJ). In a move reminiscent of the policies of Cambodia’s Pol Pot, these terrorist groups have recently turned their sights toward people in intellectual circles such as doctors and lawyers. The murder of doctors and lawyers is clearly a tactic to deprive the Shia community of its leaders in order to bring the community to its knees.

It is not just terrorist groups that are responsible for these human rights violations; the Pakistani security forces have done little to halt these atrocities or arrest those who commit them. The Pakistani government is failing to show that it can serve its population when 10 percent of its people are risking their lives by simply walking out of their homes.

Saudi Arabia: Between 15 and 20 percent of Saudi Arabia‘s population of 16 million are Shia; they have been subjected to degrading treatment as they try to stand up and demand equality under the law and the release of political prisoners.

READ ALSO: Uncle and nephew killed outside of Karachi barbershop

A Shia human rights activist was shot 11 times by Saudi security forces while running away from them when they raided his house. His brother was also killed while filming this incident. Later in the year, on May 27, two peaceful protestors were handed a death sentence for charges of disobedience, undermining security, and sedition for firing upon patrol officers. Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal court violated the rights of these protestors by subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment.

Sadly, there is more. This only scratches the surface of Shia rights violations this year. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are notable because they have a large number of violations that are largely unreported by the media. Shia are also suffering in Iraq and Syria at the hands of ISIS and other affiliated groups. From Morocco to Malaysia, anti-Shi’ism is a growing trend that is terrorizing millions of people.

The murder or intimidation of anyone based on religious belief has no place in the international community. It is up to all of us to voice our disdain and let governments around the world know that this has to stop.

To learn more about human rights violations against Shia Muslims by country, visit

Alan Williams

Alan is a Global Affairs major experienced intern who has enhanced his world view by advocating for minority rights. As a young activist who belongs to African American minority group, he has dedicated his professional and academic life to research and writing about minorities who need to be heard, such as Shia Muslims. He has contributed to Shia Rights Watch news section and has conducted research in Yemen and Egypt.