The international office of the Baha’i Faith community, a religious minority denomination persecuted across the Middle East, has warned of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel’s “genocidal intent” against their people in Yemen.
On March 23rd, 2018, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, in a televised speech “vehemently vilified and denounced the Baha’i Faith, further intensifying the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is,” in Yemen the organization charged.
Al-Houthi gave the speech on the occasion of the first Friday of the Islamic month of Rajab, which commemorates the introduction of Islam to the desert country. According to Baha’i representatives, al-Houthi “employed a rhetoric reminiscent of statements made by the Supreme Leaders of Iran in former and recent times and strongly denounced the Baha’i Faith.”
Al-Houthi called the Baha’is “satanic”, a movement that is “waging a war of doctrine” against Islam, he claimed. He further denounced Baha’is as infidels and deniers of Islam and Muhammad and spread other falsehoods about the faith and its relationship to western countries and Israel.
In his final appeal, the Houthi leader urged Yemenis to defend their country from the Baha’is and members of other religious minorities under the pretext that, “those who destroy the faith in people are no less evil and dangerous than those who kill people with their bombs.”
“Mr. al-Houthi’s influence over a large number of armed followers as well as the echoing of his sentiments by the highest religious authority in Yemen, by other government officials, and by others on traditional and social media all imply that Mr. al-Houthi’s latest speech is a call for mass atrocity crimes against a religious minority which is genocidal in intent,” warned Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.
Within days of al-Houthis speech, a prominent Houthi writer and strategist had vowed on social media that “we will butcher every Baha’i.” The sentiment was echoed by the Mufti of Yemen, Shams al-Din Muhammad Sharaf al-Din, who received his education in Iran and was appointed by the Houthis last year.
Dugal added that “In order to avoid disastrous consequences for thousands of Yemeni Baha’is, the international community must condemn these latest actions by Mr. al-Houthi in the strongest terms, to demand an end to the spread of vitriolic, false rhetoric, and incitement to hatred against the Baha’is, and to call for the immediate release of all Baha’is imprisoned in Yemen.”
In August 2016, over 60 women, men, and children were arrested by authorities for participating in an educational gathering organized by Baha’is. In April 2017, over two dozen prominent members of the Baha’i community were detained, including members of Baha’i institutions. And finally, in January 2018, a court in Sana’a pronounced the public execution of Hamed bin Haydara, a Baha’i detained since 2013 for his religious beliefs, and the dissolution of all Baha’i assemblies in Yemen.
Several independent sources have repeatedly confirmed that Iranian authorities are directing efforts to persecute the Baha’i community in Yemen.
[Photo: مؤسسة الإمام الهادي الثقافية Alhady Co / YouTube]