An ominous wave of arrests in Yemen

Foreign Minister Gabriel must use diplomatic relations to protect Baha’i from arbitrariness (Press Release)

Photo: Christliches Medienmagazin pro via Flickr

Alarmed by a wave of arrests among the Baha’i in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) addressed Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Friday. The human rights organization urged Gabriel to use diplomatic contacts to protect the few members of this religious community in Yemen from arbitrariness of the Huthi rebels, who are in power in the north of the country. “The German federal government has several contact persons within the Iranian government, which, in turn, has significant influence on the Shiite Huthi rebels,” said Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East Consultant. According to the Baha‘i Office of External Affairs in Germany, at least 25 Baha’i were arrested without official arrests warrants in Sanaa on April 17. Many of them had received phone calls in the evening or the night before and had been asked to come to court the following day. However – since there was no court order against them and since they feared repressive measures – they had sent lawyers instead of going themselves.

“There are many indications that certain Iranian authorities are also trying to harm Baha’i people living abroad. They are accusing the Baha’i of attempts to proselytize Muslims,” Sido reported. Especially considering the recent events, the series of attacks against the Baha’i community in Yemen has become really alarming. Hamed bin Haydara, a Baha’i who was arrested in 2013, has since been waiting for an official court ruling, which is now also overdue according to Yemeni law. In August 2016, more than 60 participants of an educational project were arrested. About 50 percent of them are Baha’i. One of the arrested, Kaiwan Qaderi, had been imprisoned for more than eight months. On April 5, 2017, a Red Cross employee, again a Baha’i, was arrested in Sanaa – solely because of his religious belief.
The Baha’i in Yemen are increasingly under pressure to take sides with one or the other conflict party in the Yemeni civil war. The Baha’i, however, are trying to keep out of the confrontations. They want a peaceful solution to the conflict and are trying to support the needy, regardless of their religious affiliation.

There are around 7.7 million Baha’i in the world. In Germany, there are around 5,000, and about 300,000 Baha’i are living in Iran. Other than the long-established Christians, the Jews, or the Zoroastrians, the religious community is not recognized there.

Headerphoto: Christliches Medienmagazin pro via Flickr