Last week across the Middle East and North Africa, the desecration of religious property and the imposition of religious norms led to clashes, and the repression of religious minorities continued. In Israel and Palestine, the Israeli demolition of a historic Muslim cemetery led to violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem. In Israel, Haredi citizens escalated their targeting of cellphone store owners to targeted attacks on owners who do not sell kosher phones. In Yemen, Houthi authorities imposed levies on Yemenis in the education and commerce sectors ahead of the commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on 18 October. In Iran, regime forces continued their campaign against religious minorities, targeting members of the minority Sunni community. In Iraq, Shiite religious authorities loosened coronavirus restrictions to allow congregational prayers.
Last week in Israel and Palestine, tensions rose once again in East Jerusalem following the demolition by the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality of parts of the historic Al Youssoufyia Muslim cemetery just outside the Old City on 10 October. The cemetery has been a key target of Israeli settlement activity in recent years, and this recent demolition is part of a larger plan for a Toratic theme park and biblical gardens (The New Arab, 11 October 2021). After the Israeli bulldozing of some parts of the cemetery and the discovery of human remains, Palestinians flocked to the cemetery and the demolition was stopped. Meanwhile, violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces were reported at the cemetery throughout the day, and in Silwan and Tur towns in East Jerusalem. While clashes did not escalate past the two days, any ongoing excavation work at the cemetery may spark violence during ongoing tensions.
Also in Israel, members of the Haredi Jewish community launched attacks on cell phone store owners for selling non-kosher phones in Bnei Brak city last week. Kosher phones are sold under Rabbinical supervision and are marked with a rabbinical stamp of approval (Haaretz, 23 September 2013). Primarily used to conduct phone calls, kosher phones are unable to send or receive text messages, browse the internet or take photos — all activities that could potentially involve behavior considered ‘immodest’ among Haredi Jews (BBC, 6 October 2008). In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in attacks and protests by Haredi Jews against cell phone store owners who do not have the rabbinical stamp of approval.
In Yemen, pro-Houthi authorities imposed religious taxation on civilians last week, ahead of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on 18 October. The pro-Houthi Ministry of Education demanded students, their parents, and teachers make financial payments under the pretext of commemorating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In Sanaa, Houthi supervisors assaulted two street vendors in the Shumailah area after they refused to pay special taxes for the commemoration of the birthday. Meanwhile, pro-Houthi forces reportedly launched a campaign in Souq Al Melh in Sanaa’s Old City to forcibly collect money from shop owners for the occasion. Houthi authorities have been imposing various financial levies on Yemenis in preparation for the Prophet’s birthday since at least late September.
In Iran, Iranian authorities targeted members of the Sunni minority last week, amid ongoing targeting of dissident and non-Shiite religious minorities. In Orumiyeh, a Revolutionary Court sentenced a Sunni man to 13 years imprisonment on charges of “membership in Salafi groups” (HRANA, 10 October 2021). Meanwhile, Iranian security forces arrested an Iranian member of the transnational Salafi-Sunni missionary Tablighi Jamaat group in the city of Zahedan without charging him. The Tablighi Jamaat has previously been targeted by the Shiite Houthi regime in Yemen.
Meanwhile, in Bahrain, authorities judicially harassed Shiite worshippers for performing communal rituals last week, presumably on the pretext that they violating coronavirus restrictions. Police forces reportedly summoned Shiites who participated in communal mourning rituals commemorating the death of the fourth Shiite, Imam Al Sajjad, in Sanabis.
In Iraq, Shiite religious authorities loosened coronavirus measures restricting group prayers across the country last week. In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, religious authorities administering the Al Husayn and Al Abbas shrines announced the resumption of congregational Friday prayers, while maintaining social distancing. Similarly, a prominent Shiite cleric and leader of the Sadrist Movement, Muqtada Al Sadr, announced the resumption of Friday prayers in affiliated-mosques, while maintaining unidentified safety measures.
© 2021 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved