WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is increasingly concerned with the escalation of arrests of members of the Baha’i community in Yemen. USCIRF calls for the immediate release of all Baha’i prisoners of conscience and decries the targeting of individuals based solely on their religion or belief.
“The peaceful Baha’i citizens who have been arrested are engineers, educators, community volunteers, mothers, and children—singled out because of their faith. In prison, they have been pressured to recant their faith, and some have been released only after signing pledges to cease public religious activities,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “Such repression is a clear violation of the fundamental right of religious freedom and of international human rights norms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a party.”
The Houthi forces controlling northern Yemen most notably conducted raids and arrests coinciding with a Baha’i-organized youth conference in August 2016 and the Baha’i holy festival of Ridvan in April 2017. The following month, security forces fired at a peaceful assembly of tribal leaders who gathered in support of imprisoned Baha’i community members.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, noted in a May 2017 statement that both the Houthis in Yemen and their allies in the Iranian government have intensified oppression of Baha’is in recent months. This escalation has occurred within the broader context of disintegrating rule of law in Yemen and widespread reports of deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief.
“The Baha’is of Yemen are facing a sustained, systematic campaign to diminish their presence in the country. The longest-serving Baha’i prisoner in Yemen, Hamed bin Haydara, who has been imprisoned since 2013, suffered physical abuse and mistreatment before being indicted under Yemen’s penal code on charges of apostasy and insulting Islam. The charges are unsubstantiated, and any laws that criminalize such activity are illegitimate in any case, as they violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and expression,” said USCIRF Chairman Mark.
Haydara’s trial date has been postponed repeatedly, most recently until August 1, 2017. USCIRF calls upon the courts to drop all charges against Mr. Haydara and release all Baha’is detained unjustifiably in Yemen.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or John D. Lawrence, Director of Communications (JLawrence@USCIRF.gov/+1-202-786-0611).
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.
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Daniel Mark, Chairman • Sandra Jolley, Vice Chair • Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, Vice Chair
Tenzin Dorjee • Clifford D. May • Thomas J. Reese • John Ruskay • Jackie Wolcott