| 1 December 2023, Friday |

Houthi brutality targets 17 Yemeni Baha’is

The Houthi militias have once again attacked the members of the Baha’i community in the latest wave of violations against religious minorities.

On Thursday, Houthis arrested 17 people in Sanaa, including five women, after they raided their homes and confiscated property and documents.

The new aggression against members of the Baha’i community came after the militia had deported several top officials and sentenced some of them to death, including the sect’s leader.

According to a statement issued by the sect, the militants stormed the annual meeting in Sanaa and arrested 17 of its participants, including the official spokesman, activist Abdullah al-Olfi.

The group also continued the trial of more than 24 of the Bahai sect, which entered Yemen in the early 1940s.

Multiple sources in the Baha’i community told Asharq Al-Awsat that after the Houthi group closed the association, they confiscated all their property and imposed severe restrictions on their practices.

They explained that the community chose a house for their annual meeting, but the Houthi intelligence raided the residence and arrested some attendees.

Dark history

The repressive history of the Houthi group against the Baha’i community began after it controlled Sanaa.

In 2020, the group exiled six Baha’is because of their religious belief, according to the Yemeni Initiative to Defend Baha’is (YIDB).

The organization confirmed that Yemen is witnessing the worst humanitarian situation since Houthis took control of Sanaa.

The Houthi-run State Security Court issued death sentences and confiscated Baha’i property, funds, and endowments. It also closed the administrative and development institutions.

A pardon never implemented

On March 25, 2020, the Houthis issued a general amnesty for the Baha’i detainees under international and local pressure.

However, the pardon was never implemented and the group continued to prosecute the forcibly displaced in absentia.

Members of the sect say that the Houthi group has continued to incite hostilities against them in university curricula and through their courses.

The sect’s sources in Sanaa confirmed the continued Houthi harassment against the community, noting that they target their sources of livelihood through arbitrary and illegal measures.

Dozens of Bahai’s and those participating in community service face Houthi aggression, including depriving them of job opportunities, seizing their bank accounts, and blacklisting them at exchange offices.

Following the steps of Iran

According to the sources, the 5,000-member Bahai community is unaware of the reasons for Houthis persecution, believing the group’s subordination to the Iranian regime is the main reason.

The sect calls on the Houthi authority to end the baseless arbitrary trial of its 24 members and compensate those harmed in the process.

They also want to ensure their right to live in dignity, freedom, safety, and peace and recognize the right of the forcibly displaced to return to their homeland without any objection.

The community also demanded that the group returned all confiscated money, property, and documents and released their bank accounts.

It also wanted to cease the restrictions against them in their sources of livelihood and respected their right to participate in the development of Yemeni society under the constitution.

Ongoing persecution

Member of the Public Affairs Office of the Baha’is, Nader al-Saqqaf, described the Houthis new wave of oppression as the Houthis persecution approach.

Saqqaf told Asharq Al-Awsat that heavily armed Houthi forces took 17 Baha’is to an undisclosed location after they raided a meeting in one of the members’ homes.

He indicated that the attack is a part of the Houthi systematic persecution against the community since late 2014 and their continuous attempts to erase the cultural and social identity of the Baha’is as a component of Yemeni society.

Saqqaf described the Houthi move as a clear violation of “freedom of belief under international conventions, the right to assembly, and the management of religious and community affairs.”

He stressed that the practices are evidence that the Houthis continue to hide the voice and social presence of the Baha’is.

The official indicated that members of the sect are subjected to various types of physical and psychological torture in addition to their exile from their homeland.

Government condemnation

The Yemeni government condemned the incident, describing it as a “shameful and cowardly act,” Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Eryani said that raiding the Bahai meeting and kidnapping 17 community members “is a shameful and cowardly act that falls within the persecution practiced by the militia against religious minorities.”

He asserted that the attack clearly violated freedom of religion and belief and the right to organize, assemble, and practice religious rites, as guaranteed by international charters and treaties.

The crime confirms the Houthi militia’s approach in escalating and targeting religious minorities, said the minister, adding that the group’s followers are often subjected to a series of crimes and violations.

Eryani condemned the continued silence of the international community, the UN, and human rights organizations and bodies, urging them to pressure the Houthi militia to stop its racist practices against religious minorities.

The minister also called for the cessation of all forms of prosecution, harassment, and discrimination based on belief, as it is a flagrant violation of international laws and covenants.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat