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U.N. Rapporteur: Persecution Of Baha'is In Yemen Mirrors Iran's Actions

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on religious freedom

UN Special Rapporteur on religious freedom warned on Monday, May 29 that persecution of Baha’is in Yemen resembles the actions of Iranian authorities against the same minority in Iran.

“The recent escalation in the persistent pattern of persecution of the Baha’i community in Sana’a mirrors the persecution suffered by the Baha’is living in Iran,” said Ahmad Shahid.

Sana’a, the capital of Yemen is controlled by Houthi rebels who have close ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The U.S. and Gulf Arab countries have accused Iran of supporting the Houthis with money and arms. Iran does not hide the fact that politically it supports the rebels.

“The harassment against the Bahá’ís, as religious minorities, seems to persist, if not worsen amounting to religious persecution in Yemen,” the U.N. rapporteur said.

The Baha’i community’s U.N. office in Geneva, in a press release says, “In April, the [Houthi] authorities called for the arrest of over 25 Baha’is, many of whom are prominent members of the Baha’i community and assist with the organization of the community’s affairs, under extraordinary accusations which include helping poor families, showing kindness, and displaying rectitude of conduct in order to attract people to the Baha’i Faith.”

Since then, Mr. Walid Ayyash, a Yemeni tribal leader and three others have also been arrested.

“The new wave of court summons and arrest orders appears to be an act of intimidation pressuring the Yemeni Bahá’ís to recant their faith,” Dr. Shaheed stated. “It is unacceptable for anyone, including persons belonging to religious minorities, to be targeted or discriminated based on religion or belief,” he added.

The Baha’i U.N. office accuses Iran of being behind the drive to persecute members of the faith, by instructing Houthi officials to turn the screws on Yemeni citizens belonging to the Baha’i community.

The Baha’I representation at the U.N. says, “Iranian involvement in the persecution of the Baha’is in Yemen is consistent with a general policy aimed at dealing with ‘The Baha’i Question’ as outlined in a once secret 1991 government memorandum”.

Reportedly, Yemenis have held protests against the persecution of Baha’is and threatened by authorities with violence.

“The Houthi de facto authorities in Sana’a must stop summoning or arresting the Bahá’ís and immediately release all Bahá’ís arbitrarily detained,” the U.N. human rights expert demanded in his statement.