A Baha’i in Yemen:
In December 2013, Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara disappeared into the maze that is Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB). Over the course of four years, he was tortured and denied a fair trial. His wife and daughters were not allowed to visit, nor did he get to meet legal counsel. Finally, on January 2, 2018, Haydara, was sentenced to public execution by the specialised criminal court in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. He wasn’t even present in court.
One of around 2,000 Baha’is in Yemen, he was picked up for something one would take for granted in a secular country: practicing his faith.
The Baha’i faith, founded in Iran in the 1800s, essentially believes in the oneness of humanity and the unity of all religions. Incidentally, the Lotus Temple, a landmark in New Delhi, is a Baha’i house of worship.
Though no date has been given so far for when the execution will take place, the verdict also asks that all Baha’i spiritual assemblies, the governing bodies for Baha’is, be disbanded.
In Yemen, an Islamic society, the constitution does not recognise any other religion barring Judaism. This is why the trumped up charges against Haydara are, in most part, for “insulting Islam”, “apostasy” and urging Muslims to “embrace the Baha’i religion”.
Which is not, of course, to suggest that Judaism is warmly welcomed.
Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. After several waves of persecution throughout Yemen, most Yemenite Jews now live in Israel, while small communities are found in the United States and elsewhere. Only a handful remain in Yemen. The few remaining Jews experience intense, and at times violent, anti-Semitism on a daily basis.
But isn't Yemen now a war-torn country, with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi backed government? Yes indeed - but that just makes matters worse:
In recent years, the war in Yemen between the Houthis and the Saudi Arabia-backed government has torn the country apart. With a collapsed economy, a whole people have been caught in a cycle of sectarian violence. Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the president, has moved his capital to Aden, the southern port that is now controlled by Saudi soldiers.
The war has reached levels of violence not seen in the peninsula for years with civilians caught in the middle. Every week, news of civilians losing their lives in raids and airstrikes makes it to the news. War lords have set up shop, collecting taxes and meting out justice as they see fit. Hunger has made itself home in the bellies of millions as supplies thin out.
In the middle of this sectarian conflict, the Yemeni Baha’i community is being increasingly persecuted. But despite this, as Middle East Eye reported, a few citizens, “disgruntled and frustrated with imams who incite Muslims to kill each other”, have started to turn to the Baha’i faith.
“Numerous reports clearly point to the insidious involvement of the Iranian authorities in Yemen’s persecution of the Baha’i community,” said Bani Dugal, Representative of the Baha’i International Community United Nations Office in New York.
According to the national spiritual assembly of the Baha’is of India in India:
“The various forms of persecution experienced by Yemeni Baha’is bear a striking resemblance to what the Baha’is of Iran have experienced in their country, such as the baseless accusation, used when Baha’is are arrested, that they are somehow a threat to national security and are spies of Israel. Furthermore, the authorities in both Iran and in Sana’a, Yemen are explicitly targeting the leadership of the Bahá’í community.”