Yemen: Rights Radar Calls on Houthi Militia to Release Baha’i Abductees and Stop the incendiary speech Against Them
Rights Radar Organization for Human Rights based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, has called on Houthi militia in Yemen to release some members of Baha’i sect who were abducted in a raid while they were holding a routine meeting to elect representatives to run their affairs. The meeting was held in one of their homes on May 25th in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital.
According to a statement from the Baha'i International University, masked gunmen from the Houthi militia raided the annual meeting of members of Baha'i sect that was being held via the Zoom application. They abducted 17 people, including five women. They interrogated the attendees and confiscated their books, laptops and other belongings. Then, they raided a number of Baha'i homes.
Thus far, there has been no confirmation that Houthi militia has released all the abducted Baha’is. Most likely, most of them remain abducted under mysterious circumstances.
Unfortunately, this offensive campaign is likely due to the incendiary speeches through Houthi militia leadership headed by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi who accused the Baha'is of receiving money and support from the United States and Israel. In his speech on March 29, 2021, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi claimed the Baha'i faith was one of the new religions through which the Americans were trying to suppress what he described as the Islamic rise. In another speech, he accused them of waging a war against Islam.
Referring to the history of oppressive practices committed against members of the Baha'i sect since the Houthi militia took control of the capital Sana'a, all of these oppressive practices can be characterized as a systematic and deliberate policy for erasing the religious diversity and the social coexistence in Yemen.
According to information monitored by human rights organizations, Houthi militia launched offensive campaigns against members of the Baha’i sect in August 2016 when Houthi gunmen raided a peaceful gathering organized by two Baha'i organizations called Tamayoz and Nedaa for Coexistence. They abducted 67 people, including women and children. Later, they were released after intense pressure at all levels. Seven months later, precisely in April 2017, Houthis launched a campaign of persecution and raids on the annual religious gathering of members of the Baha’i sect. It resulted in the abduction of six people who were also released after exerting the international pressure.
During the two aforementioned abduction campaigns, the Houthi militia detained 6 Baha'i activists. These activists, along with 20 others, were subjected to political trials lacking fair trial standards. They were also deprived of their right to defend themselves.
After exerting pressure, at all levels, and holding rounds of negotiations that included international pledges to provide the relief medical supplies and the political and security guarantees, the Houthis, finally, agreed to release the remaining abductees on the condition that six Baha'i activists, including the sect leader against whom a death sentence was issued, would be deported outside Yemen. These activists were Hamed bin Haydara, Walid Iyash, Akram Iyash, Kifan Qadiri, Badiullah Sanai, and Wael al-Ariqi. They were forcibly deported on July 30, 2020 under the auspices and coordination of the United Nations. This was a precedent that was met with widespread international and local disapproval.
Despite these guarantees, Houthi militia has continued to use its security policy against formerly abducted Baha'is as a means of extortion, especially since it classified some of those who were released on bail as “fugitives from justice.”
In light of the above information and due to the recurrence of violations against the Baha'i sect, Rights Radar has called on Houthi militia to stop the policy of repression and harassment against Baha'is and refrain from interfering with their social and religious freedoms.
Rights Radar also calls on the militia to respect all the covenants and commitments signed by the Republic of Yemen, which ensure religious, intellectual and opinion freedoms, as well as freedom of expression.
Rights Radar hopes that the militia will stop using incendiary speech against all formations and groups, including Baha'is. It considers those who do so will be legally responsible for any violations against victims of such incitement.
Rights Radar also calls on the international community to exert various forms of pressure through all possible frameworks and levels, whether legally or politically, to curb the Houthi militia’s practices against the religious, ideological and ethnic minorities under their control.