[JURIST] Human Rights Watch(HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday called on the Saudi Arabian government to end its 'systematic discrimination' against its Ismaili religious minority [official website; Global Security backgrounder]. HRW urged Saudi officials to create a national institution to recommend remedies for discriminatory policies and to consider individual claims. HRW's deputy Middle East director said [HRW press release]:
The Saudi government preaches religious tolerance abroad, but it has consistently penalized its Ismaili citizens for their religious beliefs. The government should stop treating Ismailis as second-class in employment, the justice system, and education...State-sponsored and officially tolerated discrimination against the Ismailis of Najran seriously threatens their identity and denies them basic rightsThe report went on to assert that the official Council of Senior Religious Scholars has termed Ismailis corrupt infidels [and] debauched atheists. HRW's comprehensive report [text] concludes:
Official discrimination in Saudi Arabia against Ismailis encompasses government employment, religious practices, and the justice system. Government officials exclude Ismailis from decision making, and publicly disparage their faith. Following the clashes in April 2000, Saudi authorities imprisoned, tortured, and summarily sentenced hundreds of Ismailis, and transferred hundreds of Ismaili government employees outside the region. Underlying discriminatory practices have continued unabated.BBC has more; Khaleej Times has additional coverage.
This report calls for the end to religious and ethnic discrimination against the Ismailis of Saudi Arabia, and accountability for the abuses Ismailis suffered following the clashes of 2000. Over the past 10 years, Ismailis have repeatedly sent delegations and addressed petitions to the governor of Najran and the central authorities in Riyadh, including the Human Rights Commission (an official body), but found little attention to their concerns.
Growing tension between Ismailis and their Sunni governor led to violent clashes in April 2000, when security forces are said to have arrested and tortured hundreds after a leading Ismaili cleric was arrested for "sorcery." Approximately one million Ismailis live in Saudi Arabia's southwestern Najran province. Earlier this month, HRW urged [JURIST report; HRW report] Saudi Arabia and several of its neighbors to join in a global moratorium on the death penalty for juveniles [JURIST news archive]. All five countries named by HRW are parties to the Convention of the Rights of the Child [text], which prohibits the "imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18."