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Arrests and hate speech target Baha’i minority in Yemen

The Old City of Sana’a, Yemen.
© UNESCO/Francesco Bandarin
The Old City of Sana’a, Yemen.

Arrests and hate speech target Baha’i minority in Yemen

Human Rights

The UN rights office (OHCHR) sounded the alarm on Friday over the detention in Yemen’s capital Sana’a of followers of the minority Baha’i faith - and a subsequent sermon by a leading cleric targeting them and other religious groups.

OHCHR said that on 25 May security forces stormed a peaceful meeting of Baha’is in Sana’a. Seventeen people, including five women, were taken to an unknown location and all but one is still being held incommunicado.

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The UN rights office urged the de facto Houthi authorities in Sana’a, to immediately release the detainees.

Call for killings

On 2 June, according to OHCHR, Shamseddin Sharafeddin, the Mufti appointed by leaders of the Houthi rebel movement accused the detained Baha’is of being traitors, and said that if they did not repent, they “should be killed”.

Baha’i is a faith that emphasizes the worth of all religions since its establishment in the 19th century, according to the international community’s website, including “divine educators” such as Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Jesus and the prophet Muhammad.

Around one per cent of Yemen’s non-Muslim population are estimated to subscribe to the faith.

Houthi rebels, who are Shia Muslims, have controlled Sana’a since 2014, as part of the long-running conflict with officially-recognized Government forces and their allies, for full control of the country.

Sermon incited ‘discrimination and violence’

OHCHR Spokesperson briefing in Geneva, Jeremy Laurence, condemned the use of “any language that incites discrimination and violence, particularly against minorities, and often leads to forced exile and displacement”, in addition to contravening international law.

“We remind the de facto authorities in Sana’a, that they must respect the human rights of people living under their control”, added Mr. Laurence.

“Human rights guarantees minorities, among other things, the right to profess and practice their own religion and the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal”, he continued.

He said pre-trial detention “should be the exception and should be used only if reasonable and necessary, based on an individual assessment of each case.”