Mustafa Akhwand_threat of ISIS in middle east

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2016 – Despite continued persecution, Shia are often ignored in discussions about minority difficulties in the Middle East. Georgetown University and the Department of State last Thursday organized an event under the title “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State,” intending to bring representatives of targeted minorities to speak about their suffering and what their communities are going through in Syria and Iraq. This comes after Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark in March 2016, “My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment (ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims.” As part of the agenda, the presenters were to suggest strategies “to ensure the viability of vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria.” Members of minority groups such as Yazidis, Christians, Kakai and Turkmen were invited to represent their communities. Notably absent were any Shia rights activists. Although other speakers mentioned Shia and their suffering, there were no direct discussions or Shia activists on the panel. How is that other minorities affected by ISIS are given an opportunity to talk about their struggles, but Shia and Shaback are not given the same opportunity? Shia are the largest minority affected by ISIS, not only in Iraq and Syria, but also by the ISIS-like mentality in other countries. In Iraq alone, approximately 1,500 Shia were killed during the first six months of 2016. Another attack in July killed more than 300 and wounded 215 Shia Muslims. The attack took place in the city of Balad in a busy area where young people were shopping to celebrate the Eid (End of Holy month of Ramadan). Two attacks in Kadhimiya, north of Baghdad, took the lives of more than 40 Shia Muslims. Kadhimiya is a Shia city where pilgrims were visiting their ninth Imam. In Syria, the situation is so bad that even activists cannot record and keep track of Shia victims. Beside ISIS itself, anti-Shia and ISIS-minded clerics publicly encourage and permit Shia killing. For example, “Alvisal have shown lecturer who told the viewer that Shia are (kafir) infidel and they must be killed along side of westerner.” Advocacy for any minority as one step forward in the broader human rights context. But seeing the State Department and Georgetown University ignoring the representation of Shia reinforces feelings of oppression by Shia. It also raises the very simple question, why would the United States Department of State ignore the minority most oppressed under the Islamic State?

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2016 — Despite the best efforts of human rights activists, journalists, and some members of Congress, the persecution of Shia Muslims in Bahrain continues apace. Only the nature of the persecution has changed. At first, regular individuals were targeted for their beliefs. Now there is systematic targeting of leaders and educators who have a better understanding of their rights and could transmit that understanding to others. One example is the arrest of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, and Sheikh Ali Salman, a religious figure with a message of nonviolence and coexistence. Both have dedicated their lives to promote freedom and educate the public about what can be done to prevent violence toward their community. The goal is no longer just to petition the Bahraini government for equality, freedom or recognition of religious minorities. It is also to assert the character of Bahrain as an independent state, independent in particular of Saudi Arabia, which embodies discrimination policies and inhumane treatment of its people. The many flaws in the Bahraini political system need to be fixed to establish a foundation for change and improvement in citizens’ lives. Mediators and conflict resolution experts have tried to help, but the government does not recognize that in order to resolve the conflict, the emphasis must be on shared interests, not on relative position. Peace-building endeavors must deal with threats to the security, education, equality, dignity and economic improvement of Bahrain, all national vulnerabilities in the ongoing conflict. Personal and structural violence threaten the Bahraini national identity. Structural violence fosters and supports an unjust hierarchy that discriminates on the basis of faith and fosters dependency on government and social agencies. Inequality has led to the resignation of many members of parliament, as their efforts were undermined  by discrimination against their ideology. Inequality made personal violence inevitable in Bahrain. Educators, scholars and activists aren’t just being ignored for upper level jobs and in decision making; their citizenship is being revoked. They are being targeted for physical and mental harm. Bahrain is home to an educated, diverse populace that for years managed to live peacefully together. Among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Bahrain has maintained one of the most educated, creative work forces. It’s Shia population has been an important part of this success. The current targeting of the educated elite will only damage the nation’s prosperity. Bahrain’s disregard for United Nations human rights standards and the GCC declaration of human rights, which Bahrain has signed, shows that the government is not committed to solving the conflict and is even trying to inflame it. Bahraini grievances cannot be answered with violence. No matter how many people are arrested, tortured and killed, the road to regaining their identity and dignity cannot include the use of violence. But failure to resolve the issue now will put a greater burden on future generations, who will struggle to follow their parents’ footsteps in building a better, more prosperous Bahrain. Direct violence must end now. The government must restore revoked citizenships and release political prisoners. Bahrainis must work together to build trust between the government and its citizens, who must have a say in making the laws. Bahrain must allow more participation of majority Shia in the parliament and give them a voice to address the issues that need to be improved in the country. The conflict in Bahrain has no one-sided solution; government and citizen, Shia and Sunni all have responsibilities. Bahrain must rid its political system and society of hierarchy and discrimination. Third-parties must be kept out so that the people of Bahrain can together draft a plan to build a better and brighter future for their youth. Read more at

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2015 — ISIS, arguably the most violent terror group in the world, has again released video of brutal killings of Shia Muslims. In the five-minute video released on Sunday, four Shia Muslims are interviewed one by one. They are told to introduce themselves, state the Iraqi tribe they belong to, and declare that they are members of a militia that defends Iraq from ISIS. ISIS accused the men of spying and of disloyalty to the so-called Islamic state. The video is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. Social media and independent news agencies have released videos of men, women and children of different faiths and backgrounds being held in cages and executed in brutal ways by ISIS.

WASHINGTON,  May 2, 2015 – “Are you Shia?” This is the questions Muslims are forced to answer as they apply for Hajj pilgrimage. Every year, around three million pilgrims visit the city of Mecca. The process of getting a visa is either via  a travel agency or via applications directly from other countries. Due to limited space and lack of Saudi service during that time, Saudi officials have arranged for different countries to limit the number of people they can send to the Hajj pilgrimage. Some countries have created a ministry of Hajj to deal with limitations or discrimination against Shia who are attempting to participate in Hajj.  

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2015 — The United States has worked to defend people around the world and grant them freedom from discrimination. America’s fight in the Middle East and north Africa was based on the fact that the U.S. does not tolerate dictatorships, and that no one is above repercussions if they target innocent people. The atrocities perpetrated by ISIS have brought many countries such as Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar together to prevent this group from moving to another country and continuing their activities.

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2014 — “There’s two kinds of people in this world,” says Will Smith in the movie trailer for Focus. “There’s hammers and nails. You decide which one you want to be.” That is an interesting way to categorize humanity, but we could add another kind of person to the list: people who watch the “hammer and nails”. Hammers are those who oppress others to gain and stay in control; nails are the people who are victimized by them, people who often wish only for equality and freedom. Hammers — terrorist groups like ISIS and governments that of Bahrain — pound on on the innocent inhabitants of their states as though they are nails in a workshop.  

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2014 — In the aftermath of Western exuberance over the Arab Spring, the United States has shown that the thirst for oil dominates is policy agenda. Washington’s need for petroleum from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar is blinding policy makers to human rights and democratic concerns across the Middle East. American dream of freedom and democracy has motivated and attracted millions of immigrants to our country. Our policy toward democracy is bright and clear. As a result of the forefather’s enlightened thinking, we now enjoy the freedoms granted by the first amendment. As history witnesses so many people dedicated their lives, in order to spread the concept of democracy.

January 1st 2014 Broken Promises The situation in Bahrain is a clear example of how human’s blood is viewed less important than oil, power, and political interest. For the last three years, the government of Bahrain has carried out systematic persecution of the Shia community in this country, yet the media outlets and governments are silent. The government views the Shia majority as a threat to the continued power and control held by the Al-Khalifa family.

You might ask why “Shia Sentinel?” For many years, I was an injured and heartbroken child who ran away from his motherland, in hopes of starting a new journey. My goal since I got to the United States was to study, create my own company, and earn top money. However, the more I progressed in my education and interacted with people of different worlds, I came to realize that, in fact, I was not the only person who had spent a healthy portion of their life under terror. There were others like me, except, some had never received the chance to escape the violent conditions I too had experienced. I was blessed with opportunity, and they were left to bear the injustice that continued. With the unleashed chaos of the Arab Spring, all that I had created a new life upon was turned upside down. Seeing and hearing what the media showed and what social media depicted enticed flashbacks to my child. All that fear and turmoil I had turned back to was now flashing across my mind. Yet again, I was the heartbroken child awakened by the sound of gunshots below our apartment window. Except this time, what was being said on the news was not what I knew to be true. The violence depicted as consequence of religion was not what I was raised to believe. Lies were being used as shrouds to cover the crimes of leaders, unworthy of their positions. It was a though media was handed a lens which showed only what was politically beneficial. People of minority status were being used as shields for corruption and abuse. Thousands were killed, raped, tortured, and yet, there was no mention of them in the news.    At the time, I was working as a journalist for Freemuslim Association, inc, and with all that I had witness, I took an oath to do whatever I can to protect the most innocent religion in the world. Since I start working for Shia Rights I realized there is a lot to get done. That’s why I decided to dedicate my life toward being a watchdog for all the inhumane action against Shia Muslims. I may not have initially set out to do the job, but deep inside me there is something told me: You can do it; You have to. And so, years later, I have dedicated my life, my “american dream” for the sake of the world's “democratic dream”.