Houthis refuse to release imprisoned Bahais

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The Iran-backed Houthis have rebuffed demands from local rights groups in Yemen to release 17 members of the Bahai sect.

The group have upped their verbal assault against the religious minority, accusing them of being “infidels and Western stooges.”

On May 25, armed Houthis raided a Bahai gathering in Sanaa and seized 17 people, including five women.

They have denied requests from relatives and sect members to meet them or at least reveal their whereabouts.

The UN Human Rights Office demanded that the Houthis immediately release the detained Bahais and allow religious minorities to follow their rituals freely, blaming the Houthis for inciting the local population against the Bahais.

“We remind the de facto authorities in Sanaa, that they must respect the human rights of people living under their control,” Jeremy Laurence, its spokesperson, said in a briefing in Geneva. “Human rights guarantees minorities, among other things, the right to profess and practice their own religion and the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal.”

The UN office said that on June 2, the Houthi mufti, Shamseddin Sharafeddin, threatened to execute Bahais if they did not repent and accused them of being traitors.

The Abductees’ Mothers Association, a Yemen-based umbrella organization representing thousands of families of civilian war captives, reiterated their demands for the release of the Bahais, condemning the Houthis for forcibly disappearing them and preventing the group’s attorney from meeting them.

“We hold the Houthi group fully responsible for their lives and safety. We call upon the office of the UN envoy and all human rights organizations to urgently work for their release, uncovering their whereabouts, especially the women, and returning them safely to their homes,” the organization said in a statement.

Other local and international human rights organizations had previously expressed concern about the fate of the imprisoned Bahais and the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on minorities and dissidents.

But the Houthis responded to those appeals by stepping up their verbal attacks on the Bahais. Houthi media outlets have published numerous articles accusing Bahais of attempting to undermine Islam and Muslims.

“The Bahai is an artifact of Crusader colonialism with its numerous names and historical phases, as well as one of the poisoned arrows of Zionism and global Freemasonry,” said one article published by the Houthi-run version of the official news agency SABA on Saturday.

“Today, a new activity has emerged in our Yemeni arena that comes as part of the war that targets our principles, concepts, and total affiliation with Islam. It is the activity of the Bahai faith. This satanic newcomer moved to our country, defaming Islam openly and clearly, and waging a misleading intellectual war against Islam,” said another paper published by SABA on Thursday, quoting the Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi.

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