Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Yemen’s Houthi rebels are ‘deceiving’ world by not releasing Bahai prisoners

Rebels are persecuting prisoners despite promise of release says members of the faith

Members of the Bahai faith face persecution from the Houthi rebels, who control the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Reuters
Members of the Bahai faith face persecution from the Houthi rebels, who control the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Reuters

Yemen’s Houthi rebels are “deceiving” the international community by not carrying out their promise to release some prisoners from the Bahai religious minority and to drop charges against others, a representative of the community said.

In late March, senior rebel official Mehdi Al Mashat announced in a televised speech that he had ordered the release of Bahai leader Hamed bin Haydara and another five Bahai detainees.

The decision has not yet been implemented.

Mahmoud Mohammad, spokesman for the Yemeni Initiative for Defending Bahai Rights, said the promise was made “to deceive the international community and local and international human rights organisations with the aim of achieving other goals, and is part of a scheme to continue a systematic persecution that targets thousands of Bahais in Yemen”.

A Houthi court sentenced Mr bin Haydara to death for espionage and apostasy in 2018 and his appeal was turned down earlier this year. The rebels are holding 24 other Bahais on similar charges.

“There is no clear justification for this. In fact, the entire case does not have any reasoning other than prejudice,” Mr Mohammad told The National.

“What we are witnessing today in Sanaa carries the characteristics of ethnic cleansing and eradication of an entire minority based on religious belief.”

For years, human rights groups have denounced what they say is unlawful incarceration of the Bahais in Yemen and have demanded that the minority be allowed to practise its faith freely.

There has been concern about the treatment of Bahai prisoners by the rebels, who have controlled much of the northern Yemen and Sanaa, the capital, since the war began in 2014. The Bahai community says Mr bin Haydara was beaten and given electric shocks in prison and forced to sign documents while blindfolded.

“Bahai prisoners continue to suffer from the appalling and poor conditions in Houthi prisons, while the responsible authorities have not taken any steps that suggest an intention to actually release them,” Mr Mohammad said.

He said there was a clear trace of Iran’s direct involvement in the Bahai cases in Yemen.

“Iran has adopted the agenda of persecuting Bahais ever since the very beginning of the Islamic Revolution. Hundreds of Bahais were killed and thousands jailed,” he said.

The Iranian regime openly and vocally talks about exporting this approach to its affiliates and allies, Mr Mohammad said.

“We have many evidences that confirm this direct link between Iran and the persecution of the Bahais in Yemen,” he said.

The community has urged the Houthis to lift the charges brought in 2018 against its members, who they say are “wrongfully imprisoned” for their religious beliefs.

“In Yemen the Bahai community is known to be very peaceful and enjoys high reputation,” Mr Mohammad said.

A Persian nobleman, considered a prophet by followers, founded the monotheistic Bahai religion in 1844.

Updated: May 23, 2020 03:11 PM

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