NEW YORK—27 May 2023— Houthi gunmen have staged a violent raid on a peaceful gathering of Baha’is in Sanaa, Yemen, on 25 May, detaining and forcibly disappearing at least 17 people, including five women. The raid leaves the Yemeni Baha’is reeling from the latest blow to a severely persecuted religious community in that country. The Baha’i International Community (BIC) calls for the immediate release of those detained.
A video of the latest attack was captured by Baha’is joining the gathering via Zoom.
The BIC has also been alerted to other incidents suggesting that the raid may be the first of more attempts by security to target Baha’is across Houthi-controlled Yemen. Details of these incidents are being withheld for security reasons.
“Across the Arab region we see governments striving to work toward peace, to set aside outdated social differences, promote peaceful coexistence, and to look to the future,” said Bani Dugal, the BIC’s Principal Representative to the United Nations. “But in Sanaa the de facto Houthi authorities are headed in the opposite direction, doubling down on the persecution of religious minorities, and staging brazen armed raids against peaceful and unarmed civilians. The Houthis have violated the human rights of Baha’is and many others, time and again, and it must stop.”
The attack came as a group of Baha’is had gathered in a private home to elect the community’s national governing body. The move is a clear violation of the freedom of religion or belief and the right, under international covenants, to gather and conduct religious and community affairs.
Baha’i’s do not have clergy and annually form councils to minister to the spiritual and material needs of their communities.
The Baha’is in Yemen have suffered years of arrests, imprisonments, interrogations and torture, and public incitements to violence at the hands of the Houthis who have also seized Baha’i-owned properties. Several Yemeni Baha’is have been exiled from the country. The government has yet to dismiss a previous case against 24 Baha’is.
“Even while talks are underway to end the war in Yemen, we see the Houthi authorities continuing to engage in violent acts of persecution against their own people,” said Ms Dugal. “The international community must now use its leverage to compel the Houthis to respect the human rights of all Yemeni citizens, starting with the release of these 17 or more innocent Baha’is arrested in this violent, unjustifiable raid. Yemeni Baha’is want to serve their country, to help it overcome its current challenges, and work towards advancing its peace and prosperity. How tragic that, at this propitious moment, the Houthi authorities choose to act in this shameful way.”