Tribal leaders stand in solidarity with Yemeni Baha'is
SANA'A, Yemen — Hundreds of Yemenis—led by tribal leaders and human rights activists—gathered on Monday morning, 15 May 2017, to denounce the recent call for the arrests of several Yemeni Baha'is and to demand their immediate release.
Currently, five Baha'is, including tribal leader Walid Ayyash, remain in prison or detention under the direction of authorities in Sana'a. The detainees have not been allowed to receive visitors. Many more Baha'is are under the threat of being arrested.
"There are clear indications from reports within the country that certain authorities there have been instructed from Iran to carry out these unjust actions and have no other motive but to persecute the Baha'i community," said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.
"Not surprisingly, such interference from another country is arousing solidarity among the Yemeni people on an unprecedented scale in defense of the Baha'is, who are their friends, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and fellow tribespeople. It has also led to far greater awareness of the Baha'i Faith among the people of Yemen. And of course history shows that if you persecute the innocent, their cause will only spread."
Leading the campaign against Baha'is in Yemen has been a member of the Prosecution Office in Sana'a, Rajeh Zayed. Reports indicate that, during the peaceful demonstrations on Monday morning, Mr. Zayed threatened the crowd with a weapon and attempted to incite violence against those present.
Despite shots being fired by security forces, the crowd remained peaceful, and fortunately no one was hurt.
"These Yemeni tribespeople and activists have courageously shown their support for the Baha'is, despite themselves becoming targets of attack," said Ms. Dugal. "Their expression of solidarity, especially during such a difficult time for their country, is sincerely appreciated by the Baha'i International Community."
"Indeed," Ms. Dugal added, "their actions testify to the principle of the oneness of humankind and show that we are closely tied together so that the pain and joy of one becomes the pain and joy of another. We ardently hope and pray that the senseless persecution of the Baha'is in Yemen comes to an end and energies can be directed instead towards loftier aims such as an end to the violence ravaging the country and the eradication of disease and malnutrition now afflicting major segments of the population across that land."
(Editor's Note: A change was made to paragraphs 5 and 6 on 18 May 2017 to reflect new reports that indicate shots had been fired by security forces.)