The continued enforced disappearance of 11 Baha’is by Ansar Allah forces (Houthis) is condemned by the undersigned organizations. The Baha’is were kidnapped on 25 May when armed men raided a peaceful gathering in Sana’a. We demand the immediate release of the abductees and an end to the inflammatory rhetoric of hate directed at religious minorities and Baha’is in Yemen.
Four armed Houthis raided a peaceful gathering in the Yemeni capital on 25 May, detaining 17 people, among them five women, according to a statement issued by the Baha’i International Community, an advocacy organization for Baha’i affairs around the world. The group of Baha’is were holding their annual meeting to elect the community’s national governing body. The undersigned organizations have reviewed the statement, together with a video of the raid.
According to Saba Haddad, the representative of the international Baha’i community at the UN in Geneva, one of the 17 people arrested—an elderly man—was released on 9 June, followed by three of the five women on 21 June. Ahmed al-Malahi was released on 12 July after his health deteriorated, and another member of the detained group was released later that month. Houthi forces now continue to hold the remaining 11 people, all of them in conditions tantamount to enforced disappearance. Neither their families nor lawyers have been able to contact them, and the released detainees were forced to sign a document, the contents of which are still not clear.
The incident is part of the Houthis’ systematic persecution of the Baha’i community, who have been repeatedly subjected to arbitrary arrest, abduction, and detention. On 10 August 2016, the National Security Agency in Sana’a arrested 60 Yemenis, most of them Baha’is, including women and children, for taking part in an educational program organized by the Nidaa Foundation to foster cooperation with the Baha’i community. All the non-Baha’i detainees were released in late August; the rest of the detainees were released at a later date. That incident was followed by a campaign of raids on the homes of Baha’i families, the Baha’i headquarters in Sana’a, and the Nidaa Foundation. In April 2017, Houthi forces carried out another series of raids on Baha’i facilities, and the Specialized Summary Court in the Sana’a district, which is under Houthi jurisdiction, began hearing a trial—still ongoing—involving 24 defendants in absentia, among them eight women and a child, on charges of atheism and espionage on behalf of Israel and the US, which could carry the death penalty. On 22 May 2017, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, warned, “Many Yemeni Baha’i families in Sana’a have left their homes and live in constant fear.”
These violations of the rights of Baha’is are linked to the hateful rhetoric adopted by the Houthis and especially by their leader, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, whose speeches have frequently included grave incitement against religious minorities, including Baha’is. In a televised speech to mark World Jerusalem Day, on 13 April 2023, he accused the Baha’is of waging war on Islam. Similarly, the mufti of Houthis in Yemen, Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din, in a speech on 2 June 2023— a week after the abduction of the 17 individuals—called Baha’is apostates and traitors, inciting others to kill them if they do not repent, citing Article 12 of the Yemeni Penal Code, which prescribes the death penalty for apostates of Islam. It should be noted that Yemen acceded to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of belief and expression, in 1987.
The same day, 2 June 2023, the head of the Houthis Tactical Front, Ahmed Mutahhar al-Shami, uploaded a lecture to his YouTube page titled “The Truth about Baha’ism.” Saying that there was no such minority known as Baha’is in Yemen, he described the community as “just a group of individuals that could be counted on your fingers that the major powers want to turn into a minority through media hype.” Saying that Baha’is are “a creature of Zionism and the Jews,” he called them “non-Muslim infidels,” adding that Baha’ism was “a bad, infidel religion.”
This rhetoric of hate and violence is a flagrant violation of freedom of belief and religion and of the human rights guaranteed to Yemenis by international conventions and the Yemeni constitution, which uphold minorities’ rights to assemble and manage their own religious and community affairs. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.” Article 41 of the Yemeni constitution states, “All citizens enjoy equal public rights and duties,” while Article 42 states, “Every citizen has the right to contribute to political, economic, social, and cultural life. The state shall guarantee freedom of thought and the freedom of expression of opinion in speech, writing, and graphic form within the limits of the law.”
The undersigned organizations are gravely concerned about the Houthis’ ongoing, systematic violations of the rights of Baha’is in the areas under their control, particularly Sana’a. We urge the immediate, unconditional release of the Baha’i’s detainees and call for guarantees of their safety given fears that they may be subject to physical and psychological abuse in Houthi detention facilities. Hamed Kamal Haydara, a Baha’i, was tortured and illtreated throughout his detention by the Houthis; he was sentenced to death in 2018, but the sentence was commuted in 2020 and he was deported along with five other Baha’is. We further call on the international community and the UN, and its special envoys in Yemen, to pressure the Houthis to cease their ongoing violations of Baha’is’ rights and end the hate speech and incitement against them, which has exacerbated the violence of the abuses against them.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Dhameer for Human Rights Organization
- Musaala organisation for human rights
- Wojood for human security
- Yemen Future Foundation for Culture & Media Development
 The speech was posted on the Twitter page of the National Council for Minorities in Yemen; the video was removed from YouTube for violating the platform’s policy on hate speech.
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