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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Houthis ramp up war against Yemen's Baha'i minority

A discrimination campaign led by the Houthis has prompted members of the minority group to flee their homes in Sanaa 

Baha’i in Yemen, pictured here campaigning, face a crackdown by Houthi rebels in Sanaa who accuse the minority of being atheists and spies for Israel. Handouts
Baha’i in Yemen, pictured here campaigning, face a crackdown by Houthi rebels in Sanaa who accuse the minority of being atheists and spies for Israel. Handouts

The leader of the Houthi rebels, Abdulmalik Al Houthi, urged his loyalists to attack Yemen’s Baha'i population calling the minority group “a devilish plant sowed by Israel”.

The rebels have launched an social media campaign spurring their members to attack the group. Since the statement, there have been reports of Houthis storming residences in Sanaa believed to belong to members of the marginalised sect.

The Baha'i minority in Yemen have been exposed to persecution since the Iran-backed rebels took control of the capital in 2014.

“Iran discriminates against the group, which was born in Shiraz in Iran in 1844. So, the Houthis do as the Iranians do," the spokesperson for the Baha'i group in Sanaa, Abdullah Al Oulofy, told The National.

Last week, the rebel leader said in a statement carried by Saba, the Houthi news agency, “that the Baha'i group in Yemen is a devilish plant sowed by Israel . Its arms are represented by Saudi Arabia and the US to drive the Yemenis out of Islam".

The rebel leader claimed that because Acre, a city occupied by Israel, is considered Baha'i’s holiest city, then “Baha’ism is bred by Israel and supported by Israel and the western states.”

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The group, which originated in Iran in the 19th century and spread across the world, believes in core principles such as universal peace and acceptance of all religions as manifestations of one God.

"This new invader to our homeland-the Bahaism- clearly stabs in Islam and leads an intellectual war against Islam as a religion, furthermore it strives to encourage some to quit Islam," the Houthi leader said in his statement

Members of the sect have been fleeing their homes in Sanaa looking for refuge in rural areas outside the direct control of the rebel group.

A member of the group was sentenced to death by a Houthi-controlled court in January. Dozens of their activists are still detained by the rebels and haven’t been seen for years.

"We did not do anything or say anything against the Houthis. Peace is the core of our beliefs, we call for peace, for love and harmony and we respect the law so what is our fault to be treated in such brutal manners," Mr Al Oulofy said.

The group has called to newly appointed UN envoy, Martin Griffiths, to address their grievances and provide amnesty to the group.

Members of the sect have lived in Yemen for centuries alongside various creeds, including Shia’s, Jews and Christians who have since fled the country.

Meanwhile on Tuesday violence spread to other corners of the country when ISIL claimed responsibility for an attack on two members of the Aden police force. The gunmen shot two policemen, killing one and injuring the other.