Though their exact numbers are unknown, Shi’a make up a sizeable minority of Bangladesh’s Muslim population alongside the Sunni majority.
Until recently, however, they enjoyed similar rights to other Muslims and attacks on Shi’a Muslims were rare. Sectarian violence against Shi’a Muslims had been almost unheard of in Bangladesh, but on 24 October 2015 three bombs exploded during the Shi’a Ashura procession in Dhaka, killing one and injuring dozens. The procession had reportedly been conducted peacefully for four centuries until the attacks.
ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack, though the government has repeatedly denied its presence in the country and instead attributed the attacks to local militant groups, including JMB.
The attack against the Ashura procession was the first of a number of brutal attacks against Shi’a. Following the incident, the European Parliament passed a resolution on 26 November 2015 urging Bangladesh’s government ‘to offer sufficient protection and guarantees to minorities such as Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadiyya, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians’. It also called for the government and religious leaders to support efforts at reconciliation. However, the very same day another attack against Shi’a civilians took place when militants attacked worshippers at a Shi’a mosque in Bogra, killing the muezzin and wounding three others. ISIS announced it was behind the attacks, a claim again denied by the authorities who blamed the attacks on local militants.
Attacks against the Shi’a community have persisted since 2015, including a deadly attack in March 2016 where a Shi’a preacher who worked as a homeopathic doctor was murdered with machetes in Jehnaidah. ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing.
Updated July 2018
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