In Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, the Baha’i community is being persecuted by the Houthis. The Houthis seized control of Sana’a in 2014. “The United States,” declared State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a written statement, “is deeply concerned by the harassment and detention of Baha’is by the Houthis.”
She said the Houthis, in what appears to be a persistent effort to pressure Yemeni Baha’is to recant their faith, have targeted them with inflammatory rhetoric, detentions, “court summons,” and punishment without a fair or transparent legal process.
Spokesperson Nauert cited the televised speech broadcast in March by Houthi Leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi as an example of the vilification and oppression of the Baha’i community by Houthi leaders. In his speech, she wrote, “Al-Houthi denounced the Baha’i faith, calling Baha’is ‘satanic’ and alleging that they are at war against Islam.” She noted that since mid-2017, “Houthi leaders have repeatedly harassed and detained dozens of Baha’is for their faith.” One member of the community, Hamed bin Haydara, was sentenced to public execution in Sana’a on January 2, 2018.
Human rights monitors, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have documented the repression of the Baha’is by the Houthis.
UN Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief Ahmed Shaheed has said that the “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...Many Yemeni families have left their homes and live in constant fear. It is unacceptable,” he added, “for anyone, including persons belonging to religious minorities to be targeted or discriminated based on religion or belief.”
President Donald Trump has made clear that protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration.
Addressing the situation in Yemen, Spokesperson Nauert said, “We call on the Houthis to end their unacceptable treatment of Baha’is and call on them to allow the Baha’i community to practice their religion without fear of intimidation or reprisals.”