Attack on Holiday Inn, Najran, Saudi Arabia, 23 April 2000

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Engr. Arshad Ali Khan, UmmaaBroadcasting discussing the reasons behind the attack on governor Mishal residing in Holiday Inn, Najran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 23 April 2000 by Ismaili youth.

The Ismailis, a religious and ethnic minority with historic roots in Najrān Province of southwestern Saudi Arabia, face increasing threats to their identity as a result of official discrimination. With the arrival of Mishʻal bin Suʻūd as the governor of Najrān in 1996, tensions between local authorities and the Ismaili population increased, culminating in a confrontation between armed Ismāʻīlī demonstrators and police and army units outside the Holiday Inn hotel in Najrān city in April 2000. Official discrimination in Saudi Arabia against Ismāʻīlīs encompasses government employment, religious practices, and the justice system. Government officials exclude Ismāʻīlīs from decision making and publicly disparage their faith The confrontation at the Holiday Inn in Najrān city on April 23, 2000, marked a watershed in Ismāʻīlī relations with the central government. Three months earlier, police had closed all Ismāʻīlī mosques on a religious holiday.

On April 23, after security forces and religious morality police arrested an Ismāʻīlī cleric, a large demonstration took place outside the Holiday Inn, where governor Mishʻal resided. After the governor refused for hours to meet the petitioners, an exchange of fire between security forces and armed demonstrators left two Ismāʻīlīs dead and, according to some government accounts, killed one policeman as well. Believing their religious identity to be under attack, Ismāʻili men erected defences around Khushaywah, the seat of the Ismāʻīlī religious leader, al-Dāʼiʻ al-Muṭlaq (Absolute Guide), and the spiritual capital of Sulaymānī Ismāʻīlīs, a community with followers in India and Pakistan as well as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Khushaywah, which is an area of Najrān city, includes the Manṣūrah Mosque complex. The army surrounded the Ismāʻīlī positions and placed the city under its control. The standoff ended later the same day without further bloodshed.

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