Arrests and Detention of Baha’is in Yemen Increase

May 30, 2017

WASHINGTON — In the latest in a series of actions targeting the Baha’i community of Yemen, Wael al-Arieghie was arrested in the crowded streets of Sana’a on May 23, and Badiullah Sana’i was arrested on May 24. Both are currently being detained, meaning there are now seven Baha’is being detained in the Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

Mr. Arieghie was on his way to the Marsad organization, an organization that documents human rights violations. The manner of his arrest strongly resembled a kidnapping: an unmarked vehicle pulled up to Mr. Arieghie and a friend asking if they had a light for cigarettes, then men in plainclothes forced Mr. Arieghie into the car. Meanwhile, Mr. Sana’i, a prominent civil engineer, was arrested by individuals in two cars, who were waiting in front of his workplace, and he was taken to the Political Security Office.

These arrests come in the wake of a statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, which denounced the escalating persecution of the Baha’i community in Yemen. This statement and the situation were also covered in a story from the UN News Centre.

In addition to Mr. Arieghie and Mr. Badiullah Sana’i, five others Baha’is are imprisoned in Sana’a and the surrounding areas, including Walid Ayyash, a well-known member of a prominent Yemeni tribe, who has fallen ill in prison; Mahmood Humaid, who was arrested with Mr. Ayyash on April 19; Keyvan Ghaderi, who has been imprisoned since August 2016, and Hamed Kamal bin Haydara, who has been imprisoned without trial since December 2013.

Several members of Mr. Ayyash’s tribe, along with a number of activists and supporters from civil society, held a peaceful demonstration on May 15. In response to a number of false statements about the demonstration that were made online afterwards, tribal leaders of Bani Matar, the tribe of Mr. Ayyash, have authored a public statement regarding the demonstration; the statement is available in Arabic here; the English translation is here.

All of these individuals have been arrested and detained solely because they are Baha’is, in a campaign of religiously-motivated persecution influenced by Iran.

There are now a total of seven Baha’is imprisoned for their faith, with many more facing the threat of imminent arrest, in the Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Many Baha’i families in Sana’a have fled their homes since April 2017 in order to avoid being unjustly detained.

Past experience suggests that, if these individuals are not quickly released, they will be subject to protracted and baseless court cases, with the ever-present threat of abusive treatment in prison, and may potentially be expelled from the country.

For additional information, please contact the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at (202) 833-8990.