Baha’is detained in Yemen after mass arrest at youth meeting

Baha’is detained in Yemen after mass arrest at youth meeting

New York—18 August 2016

The Baha'i International Community is calling for the immediate release of 10 Baha’is who remain unjustly detained in Yemen.

The group, composed of seven men and three women, were arrested on 10 August 2016 when masked, armed soldiers raided a gathering of Baha’is and Yemeni citizens of other religions who had come together in Sana’a for a nine-day meeting for young people.

In all, 60 people, 38 men and 22 women, were arrested by soldiers of the National Security Office who acted as though they were tasked with breaking up a meeting of a dangerous terrorist group.  Even the children and youth present were dealt with harshly. Fifty have been freed in the past few days, but 10 remain incarcerated.

The meeting, which was organized by the Yemeni Baha’i community and sponsored by the Nida Foundation for Human Development, a civil society organization in Yemen, was focused on moral and educational programs for youth. Participants had gathered to discuss how to contribute constructively to one’s community.

As of this date, it is unclear exactly who is behind the arrests. Reports suggest they were made on the orders of Mr. Khaled al-Mawari, the Chief Prosecutor.  Mr. al Mawari was involved in the unwarranted arrest and detention of another member of the Yemeni Baha'i community, Mr. Hamed bin Haydara, who was detained on 3 December 2013, also on baseless charges, and remains in prison two years and nine months later.

Following the raid and the arrests, a number of prominent Yemeni individuals and organizations, including ex-Minister and human rights activist Ms. Arwa Othman, journalist Abdu’l-Bari Taher, the Secularists for Peace Movement, and the Quranis, have condemned these actions and appealed to the government to immediately release the individuals still held in prison.

The Baha’i community in Yemen has also written a letter of appeal to the President of the Supreme Political Council, Mr. Saleh Ali al-Sammad, asking for the release of all individuals arrested on the 10th, as well as Mr. bin Haydara. 

The Baha’i International Community lends its voice to the appeal, asking the authorities in Yemen to act in accordance with international standards of freedom of religion and release these 11 individuals.