Saudi Arabia once again showed utter disregard to human life as unidentified gunmen shot at peaceful Ashura mourners and killed seven people. The deadly assault was carried out in al-Ahsa, the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia’s restive Eastern Province, also leaving more than 30 mourners wounded. The incident followed a wave of attacks against Shia Muslims in the neighboring Iraq where, a day earlier, multiple bomb explosions killed at least 34 Shia pilgrims in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
Across the border from Al-Ahsa, the Saudi forces buttressing the tyrannical rulers of Bahrain also brutally attacked Ashura mourners in Bahrain. The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful mourners in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by Saudi forces and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators such as the gunmen who fired in Al-Ahsa suggest that it is carried out as a matter of policy. In Bahrain the Saudi forces, along with Bahraini police, displayed a callous disrespect for human and religious rights by attacking and injuring scores of Bahraini citizens, including women and children, who wanted to commemorate Ashura, the most significant occasion in the year for Shia faith. Over the past few years, Bahrain – that has been reduced to a territory occupied by Saudi Arabia- has suffered mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses as a result of the Saudi forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against the country’s native citizens.
There is an increasing body of evidence that shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of the local citizens by Saudi forces in Bahrain. Peaceful protesters, women, children, civilian bystanders, human rights activists and journalists are among those who have been killed or injured. Thousands have been injured and the confounding numbers of wounded provide a sobering reminder of the unyielding daily danger faced by the citizens of Bahrain. Too much civilian blood has been spilled. This long-standing pattern of abuse must be broken. Such brutal use of force by Saudi forces, viewed as an occupying Power by most locals, is aggravating tensions, worsening the fragile situation on the ground and imposing severe hardship on the people of Bahrain. The Amnesty International, other Human Rights watch organizations, and the Western Governments must take notice of and investigate into all suspected instances of arbitrary and abusive use of force in Bahrain, especially when resulting in loss of life or serious injury. Without pressure from the international community the situation is unlikely to change any time soon. To remain silent in the face of such gross violence is unacceptable and will only bolster Saudi impunity and further delay the realization of any peace in the Middle East and an end to the human suffering caused by this long-drawn-out cruelty in Bahrain.