U.S. Report on Human Rights for Shiites

Washington, USA - The State Department's assessment of the situation of Shiites in five Gulf nations in 2005, as it appeared in "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," released Tuesday.

* Bahrain: The government rarely interferes with what it considers legitimate religious observances. The government permitted public religious events, but police closely monitored these gatherings.

However, discrimination against the Shiite population -- 70 percent of the 450,000 Bahraini citizens -- remains a problem. Sunnis receive preference for employment in sensitive government positions and in the managerial ranks of the civil service.

* Kuwait: The Shiite minority -- 287,000 or 30 percent of the 1 million local population -- remain disadvantaged in the provision of mosques, access to Shiite religious education and representation in higher levels of the government. The government allows Shiites to follow their own jurisprudence in matters of personal status and family law at the first instance and appellate levels.

Shiites are free to worship without government interference, and the overall situation for Shiites improved somewhat during the year.

* Qatar: The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the conservative Wahhabi order of Sunni Islam. Both Sunni and Shiite Muslims practice freely.

Shiites are estimated to make up five to 10 percent of Qatar's 225,000 citizens and an unknown percentage of the 640,000 foreign residents in the country. They organize traditional Shiite ceremonies and perform rites such as self-flagellation in their own mosques. They are permitted to build and decorate Shiite mosques without restrictions.

Shiites are also well represented in the bureaucracy and business community, according to the report.

* Saudi Arabia: The government continues to discriminate and commit abuses against members of the Shiite minority, about 10-15 percent of the country's 19.7 million citizens. Government security forces, mostly religious police, reportedly arrested Shiites based on scant suspicion, held them in custody for lengthy periods and then released them without explanation. Shiites are subjected to officially sanctioned discrimination of various forms.

* United Arab Emirates: The Shiite community, a small minority among the fewer than 1 million Emiratis, was free to worship and maintain its own mosques. A committee of the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs, and Endowments drafts and distributes all Friday sermons to Sunni and Shiite imams. The government monitors all sermons for political content.