The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has censured the Bahraini government for discriminating against the country’s Shia majority.
The condemnation came after Manama regime expelled the representative of prominent Shia religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
“Targeting the most senior and influential Shia religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shia Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs,” Heiner Bielefeldt said in a statement Thursday.
Bielefeldt added that the case of Sheikh Hussein al-Najati is a stark illustration of the broader mistreatment of Shia Muslims in Bahrain.
“I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion,” Bielefeldt stated, adding, “He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts.”
He also said the move appears to be a religiously-motivated discrimination and a gross violation of internationally-recognized human rights.
“Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Bielefeldt added.
Iran has also criticized the move after Manama decided to revoke Najati’s citizenship. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called the move provocative and wrong.
Manama has launched a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-regime protesters since the uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa broke out across the kingdom in February 2011.