Christmas and Easter celebrations banned in Saudi expat schools

Christmas and Easter celebrations banned in Saudi expat schools
Riyadh is regularly criticised by rights groups for restrictions on civil and religious freedoms, particularly towards its Shia population but previously international schools could commemorate events like Christmas and Easter
2 min read
19 November, 2016
Saudi Arabia has been accused of "systematic discrimination" of religious minorities in the country [AFP]

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education has banned schools in the country from marking non-Islamic events and organising non-Islamic holidays around dates such as Christmas, Easter, and New Year, according to a number of media outlets.

The ban is said to include prohibitions against changing exam dates to suit non-Islamic holidays, with the Ministry of Education warning that schools must stick to set academic calendars further warning that schools who violate the decree could have their licenses revoked.

While state-owned schools only mark Islamic holidays, previously international schools were permitted to allow students holidays over Christmas and Easter. 

However, the Saudi government has previously banned schools from permitting Shia Muslim students exemptions from school to commemorate the Shia religious festival of Ashura, sparking protests from the country’s Shia community thought to make up between 10 and 15 percent of the Saudi population.

Saudi Arabia is regularly criticised by international actors and rights groups for restrictions on religious freedom and expression in the country and handing out sentences including lengthy prison stints and lashings levelled at citizens accused of blasphemy.

According to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report, the Saudi state “systematically discriminates” against Muslim religious minorities, such as Twelver Shia and Ismailis.