Baha’i community fears deportations as Yemen sentence looms

Shoppers at a market in the Yemeni capital Sanaa’s old quarter. The Baha’i community believes its position in the country is in a perilous position. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Baha’i community fears deportations as Yemen sentence looms

  • The community said that an appeals court in Sanaa is expected to rule on a death sentence handed down on religious grounds to Hamed bin Haydara, a Baha’i detained since 2013
  • Citing statements by the prosecutor, the Baha’i International Community said it feared the judge would not only uphold the execution but order the deportation of Baha’is from Yemen

WASHINGTON: The Baha’i community voiced fear Monday that a court under Yemen’s Houthi rebels could order the mass expulsion of members of the faith.
The community said that an appeals court in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the insurgents, is expected to rule Tuesday on a death sentence handed down on religious grounds to Hamed bin Haydara, a Baha’i detained since 2013.
Citing statements by the prosecutor, the Baha’i International Community said it feared the judge would not only uphold the execution but order the deportation of Baha’is from Yemen.
“By such a ruling, he would target and threaten an entire religious community in Yemen — which wishes for nothing more than to contribute to its nation’s progress,” Diane Ala’i, a representative of the community to the United Nations, said in a statement.
She warned Baha’is could face “statelessness and expulsion, confiscation of assets and threat of extermination in the country.”
Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, voiced concern about reports that the Houthis were looking to deport the Baha’is or seize their assets.
“We urge them to release arbitrarily detained Baha’is like Hamed bin Haydara and respect religious freedom,” he tweeted earlier this month.
Several thousand Baha’is — members of the 19th century faith founded by the Iranian-born Baha’u’llah that calls for unity among religions and equality between men and women — are estimated to live in Yemen.
The Houthis are allied with Iran’s Shiite clerical regime, which restricts the rights of Baha’is despite allowing freedom of religion for Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.


Massive explosions in Beirut kill and wound many, cause extensive damage

Updated 7 min 49 sec ago

Massive explosions in Beirut kill and wound many, cause extensive damage

  • Hundreds of casualties with many trapped in their homes
  • Cause of blasts, which was felt in Cyprus, unknown

BEIRUT: Two massive explosions in Beirut killed at least 10 people, wounded hundreds and caused extensive damage across the Lebanese capital.

The blasts took place at the city’s port area and were so large the explosions were felt in Cyprus 200 kilometers away. 

Even in a city with a history of conflict, the scale of the explosions was unprecedented.

Videos showed an initial blast and fire, followed by a massive explosion and shockwave spreading through the city’s buildings.

People could be heard screaming and running for cover in restaurants and from balconies. 

Buildings across the city were damaged, with windows blown out and ceilings collapsed.

Lebanon’s health minister Hamad Hasan said the explosion caused a “very high number of injuries.”

Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said there had been hundreds of casualties, including dead, wounded. He said many people remained trapped in their homes.

The cause of the blast remains unknown. An Israeli official told Reuters that the country had nothing to do with the blasts.

Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim said the explosions took place in a section of the port housing highly-explosive materials.

He declined to speculate about the cause of the explosion in Lebanon's capital, saying “we cannot preempt investigations.”

Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a day of mourning for Wednesday.

*With agencies