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June 21, 2024 1:05 pm

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International officials, parliamentarians and activists call for Houthis to #FreeYemeniBahais

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GENEVA—25 May 2024—A powerful coalition of United Nations Special Rapporteurs,
European parliamentarians, ambassadors, international human rights organizations, and a
Nobel Peace Prize laureate have joined forces this month to call on the de facto Houthi
authorities in Sanaa, Yemen, to release five Baha’is detained a year ago today in a violent
armed raid.
Footage of the raid—which occurred during a peaceful gathering of the Baha’i
community—was captured by a live Zoom call and published last year. Seventeen people
were detained including five women. Twelve have since been released but they remain under
surveillance and their movements are constrained.
The five who remain behind bars—Abdul Elah Al-Boni, Muhammad Al-Dubai, Ibrahim
Juail, Abdullah Al-Olofi, and Hassan Thabet Al-Zakari—have faced a year of unjust
incarceration and other human rights violations. Each of them has been pressured to renounce
their Baha’i beliefs, without success, and has faced “re-education” programs designed to
indoctrinate them with Houthi ideology, in what clearly amounts to degrading treatment and
coercion under international law.
“What justification can the de facto Houthi authorities in Sanaa offer for a violent raid by
masked gunmen on a peaceful gathering of Yemeni citizens?” said Saba Haddad,
Representative of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) to the United Nations in
Geneva. “Seventeen people were detained without due process, despite having committed no
crime, and the 12 who have been released continue to suffer outrageous human rights
violations and deprivation. One day was too long to put the Yemeni Baha’is in jail. A whole
year is outrageous and appalling.”
“The sad irony is that the Houthis relentlessly persecute their own people at a time when they
seek to portray themselves as defenders of the oppressed,” Dr. Haddad added. “The Baha’i
International Community is grateful for so many statements of support from governments,
human rights officials, and prominent actors around the world.”
The statements, published under the social media hashtag #FreeYemeniBahais, have
included:
● Five UN Special Rapporteurs and a group of experts: “We urge the de facto
authorities to release these five individuals immediately and refrain from any further
action that may jeopardise their physical and psychological integrity. … Hate speech
and incitement to hatred, hostility and discrimination against religious minorities are
intended to drive a wedge in society, which is particularly worrying at a time when
peace negotiations are underway. Such expressions threaten the life and integrity of
the entire Baháʼí community, and those of other religious or belief minorities in the
country.”
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called
for the immediate release of the Baha’i detainees.

● Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi said: “I feel an obligation to stand in
solidarity with all those who value human freedom and refuse to accept silence in the
face of inhumane structures. I call for the unconditional release of these individuals as
I believe that imprisonment solely based on religious belief is a fundamental
injustice.”
● Yemeni Minister of Information and Culture Moammar Al-Eryani said: “The
international community, the United Nations, human rights organizations, jurists, and
activists, must stand in solidarity with the abductees, and pressure the Houthi militia
to ensure their immediate and unconditional release.”
Human Rights Watch’s Niku Jafarnia said: “It is absolutely imperative that the
Houthis immediately release the five Baha’i individuals who remain in detention and
that they respect freedom of religion, assembly, and speech of all of those living in
their territories. It is also imperative for the international community, and in particular,
those involved in negotiations with the warring parties, to ensure and emphasize that
the rights of religious minorities and of others are protected and prioritized throughout
the peace process and moving forward in Yemen’s future.”
Amnesty International’s Diana Haidar said: “It’s completely unacceptable that people
are being targeted and put behind bars simply for exercising their rights and practicing
their religion and belief. The relentless persecution of members of the Baha’i
community has gone on for too long with total impunity. It’s high time this travesty of
justice ends. Huthi authorities must immediately end all forms of discrimination and
persecution of the Baha’i minority and all others who are targeted solely for the
peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of religion and belief. The Baha’is and
members of any other minority faiths must be allowed to freely practice their religion
without discrimination or reprisals.”
● The Cairo Institute for Human Rights also issued a statement noting that it had been a
year since the Yemeni Baha’is had been detained and called for their freedom.
● Members of parliaments in the Netherlands and Austria, including a cross-party
Austrian group, also issued statements of support.
And at this month’s UN Security Council meeting on Yemen, the United Kingdom’s
Ambassador Barbara Woodward said: “It has been almost a year since the Houthis unlawfully
detained members of the Baha’i community. We continue to call on the Houthis to uphold
freedom of religion or belief and immediately and unconditionally release the remaining
Baha’i in detention.” Malta’s Ambassador Vanessa Frazier echoed the call “for the immediate
and unconditional release … of the five remaining Baha’i who have been forcibly detained
for over one year.” Last year the UN Security Council “deplored” the detention of the Yemeni
Baha’is and called for their release.
“The Houthis must understand that the international community is watching,” Dr. Haddad
said. “If the de facto Houthi authorities wish to be seen as more than just a band of armed
thugs—if they wish to be taken seriously and not just as pawns of Iranian foreign
policy—they need to be seen as fair-handed to all Yemenis and release the Baha’is without
delay.”
Background
● In July 2023 Yemeni tribal leaders also condemned the May 2023 attack on the
Baha’is and called for their release. The group added that persecuting Baha’is in

Yemen violated tribal customs and a longstanding Yemeni cultural embrace of
religious coexistence.
● Concerns have also been raised that Houthis attack Yemeni Baha’is on behalf of the
Islamic Republic of Iran. The Baha’i community in Iran has been persecuted since the
1979 Islamic Revolution. One of the Iranian government’s stated policies is to
“confront and destroy their cultural roots outside the country.”
● Yemen’s Baha’i community has faced arbitrary arrests, unjust trials, interrogations,
and torture since the Houthis came to power. A bloodcurdling sermon given by the
Houthi’s Grand Mufti, Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din, targeting Baha’is is one of many
public incitements to violence against the religious minority. Several Yemeni Baha’is
have also been exiled from the country and the de facto Houthi authorities have yet to
dismiss a previous baseless case against 24 other Baha’is.
● For more information visit the BIC’s page on the situation of the Baha’is in Yemen.

Sanjeevni Today
Author: Sanjeevni Today

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