FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 29, 2018
USCIRF Calls on Yemen to Release Persecuted Baha’is
The accused include eight women and a teenage girl and the penalty for many is death
WASHINGTON, DC — Tenzin Dorjee, Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today expressed increasing concern over the mounting persecution of Baha’is in Yemen by the Houthi-controlled government.
“I am gravely concerned for the safety of members of Yemen’s Baha’i community,” said Chair Dorjee. “This persecution on the basis of religious identity is unconscionable and must stop immediately. USCIRF calls for the unconditional release and dropping of all charges against members of Yemen’s peaceful Baha’i community.”
On September 15, 2018, the Houthi-controlled Specialized Criminal Court in Sana’a, Yemen issued an indictment against 22 Baha’is alleging apostasy and espionage. The accused include eight women and a teenage girl. The penalty for many of these charges is death. Five Baha’is remain in detention. On October 11, Abdullah al-Olfi, spokesman for the Baha’i in Yemen, was also detained and released three days later.
In January 2018, USCIRF noted with deep concern that since 2017, the larger Baha’i community in Yemen had faced a proliferation of mass arrests, raids on homes and offices, forced closure of community organizations, and hostility from officials. USCIRF also reiterates its strong condemnation of a death sentence against prominent Yemeni Baha’i leader Hamid bin Haydara. Mr. bin Haydara was arrested in December 2013 by Yemen’s National Security Bureau, which beat him and tortured him using electric shock. On January 2, 2018, the judge sentenced Mr. bin Haydara to public execution. The verdict also ordered the confiscation of Mr. bin Haydara’s assets and the dissolution of local Baha’i institutions. Mr. bin Haydara remains on death row.
“USCIRF calls on Houthi authorities to annul the death sentence against Hamid bin Haydara, drop all charges against and cease targeting members of Yemen’s Baha’i community,” added Chair Dorjee.
In addition, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback last month called on the Houthis to drop all charges against Yemeni Baha’is and allow Yemenis of all beliefs to live in peace. And earlier this month, five United Nations experts called for the release of all those arrested and cessation of the persecution of Yemen’s Baha’i community.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-703-898-6554.