Baha'is say their members face 'ominous wave' of arrests in Yemen

(Photo: REUTERS / Sergio Moraes)People from the Baha'i religious community pose for a picture next to a giant painting created by Brazilian artist Siron Franco, as part of the "Five Years Too Many" protest campaign marking the five-year anniversary of the imprisonment of seven Iranian Baha'i leaders, on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro May 5, 2013. The image represents that "Human beings should be free as birds," according to the artist. The Baha'i community in Brazil is protesting against the 2008 arrest of seven leaders of their religion in Iran for espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic and the establishment of an illegal administration among other things, according to the organizers.

The Bahai community says that orders for the arrest of at least 25 Baha'is have been issued by certain authorities in Sana'a, Yemen, who are harassing the Yemeni Baha'is and pressuring them to recant their faith.

The community said that accusations the Baha'is are baseless and include showing kindness and displaying rectitude of conduct in order to attract people to their faith.

In an April 21 statement from New York the community said the accusations bear are strongly resemble those encountered by the Baha'is in Iran, noting that reports indicate the influence of Iranian authorities behind incidents transpiring in Yemen.

"We call upon the international community to unitedly denounce these alarming and ominous actions undertaken by specific authorities in Yemen, including the National Security and the Prosecutor's Office," said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"We demand that they stop this recent wave of arrests and release the Baha'is in prison, who are in grave danger."

The recent events placed on the Yemeni Baha'i community include the 2013 arrest and ongoing court case of Hamed bin Haydara, as well as the mass arrest of over 60 participants, half of whom were Baha'is, at an educational gathering in 2016.

The community said that Kaiwan Qaderi, who was among those arrested, was detained for over eight months.

Just weeks ago, an employee of the Red Cross who is a Baha'i was arrested on 5 April in Sana'a simply because of his faith.

"Let us not stand by and allow a case of tyranny and injustice against a religious community to unfold," said Dugal.

Bahá'í International said that immediately preceding the call for their arrest, on April 17, dozens of Baha'is received telephone calls between 10:30 p.m. and midnight and were told that they should appear in court the following morning.

Aware of recent efforts to persecute the Baha'is and given that no official court order had been presented to them, the Baha'is agreed to send several lawyers in their stead.

However, one Baha'i, Badi'u'llah Sana'i, a prominent civil engineer in Yemen followed the advice given to him at his workplace and appeared at court on 18 April.

He was immediately arrested, confirming the suspicion that the request for Baha'is to appear at court was a ploy for their arrest.

On April 19, two additional Baha'is, including Walid Ayyash, a member of a prominent Yemeni tribe, were arrested by authorities as they were driving from the city of Ibb on route to Hudaydah.

Their whereabouts are presently unknown and concerns are mounting as to their safety.

During a turbulent period of civil conflict in Yemen in recent years, the members of the Baha'i community have refused to side with any group and have endeavored to serve all people, said the statement.

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