BIC NEW YORK — Houthi gunmen have staged a violent raid on a peaceful gathering of Bahá’ís in Sanaa, Yemen, on 25 May, detaining and forcibly disappearing at least 17 people, including five women. The raid leaves the Yemeni Bahá’ís reeling from the latest blow to a severely persecuted religious community in that country. The Bahá’í International Community (BIC) calls for the immediate release of those detained.
A video of the latest attack was captured by Bahá’ís joining the gathering via Zoom.
“Across the Arab region we see governments striving to work toward peace, to set aside outdated social differences, promote peaceful coexistence, and to look to the future,” said Bani Dugal, the BIC’s Principal Representative to the United Nations.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 Bahá’ís and many others, time and again, and it must stop.”
Two of those arrested were a young married couple with an 18-month-old child. At the time of the arrests the child was being cared for by his grandparents and is now separated from his parents.
The attack came as a group of Bahá’ís 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.
Bahá’í’s do not have clergy and annually form councils to minister to the spiritual and material needs of their communities.
The Bahá’ís 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 Bahá’í-owned properties. Several Yemeni Bahá’ís have been exiled from the country. The government has yet to dismiss a previous case against 24 Bahá’ís.
“Even while talks are under way 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 do all it can and demand the Houthis to respect the human rights of all Yemeni citizens, starting with the release of these 17 or more innocent Bahá’ís arrested in this violent, unjustifiable raid. Yemeni Bahá’ís 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.”