Leader of Baha’is in Yemen complains of ‘systematic’ Houthi repression

Hamed Bin Haydara Baha’i leader
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Updated 21 November 2020

Leader of Baha’is in Yemen complains of ‘systematic’ Houthi repression

  • Bin Haydara was snatched from his workplace, subjected to psychological, physical torture that intensified when the rebel group stormed Sanaa

AL-MUKALLA: The leader of the Baha’i religious minority in Yemen has accused the Iran-backed Houthis of systematic repression against his group since seizing power in late 2014.
Hamed bin Haydara told Al-Sharea daily newspaper that Yemen’s Baha’is had undergone unprecedented, increasing levels of persecution over the last six years, when the Houthis arbitrarily detained dozens of the group’s followers, sentenced many to death and confiscated their assets.
“The Houthis are applying a policy of silent extermination of our cultural and social heritage. This is a type of systematic religious cleansing crime,” Bin Haydara said in a rare interview with the press.
The Houthis are applying the same radical ideologies that they learnt in Iran, which deems members of religious minorities heretics, the Baha’i leader claimed.  
“There is no country in the world that has persecuted the Baha’is like Iran and the Houthis. There is a great similarity between persecution against us in Iran and Sanaa, as both use the same methods of persecution, rhetoric, rumors and lies against the Baha’is,” he said.

The Houthis are applying a policy of silent extermination of our cultural and social heritage. This is a type of systematic religious cleansing crime.

Hamed Bin Haydara Baha’i leader

Bin Haydara said that he was snatched by security forces from his workplace, at Balhaf gas terminal in the southern province of Shabwa, in 2013, and had been subjected to psychological and physical torture that intensified when the Houthis stormed Sanaa.
“The real systematic persecution began in 2014, in Sanaa, and it has been on the increase since then,” he said, adding that the Houthi operatives involved in abusing Baha’i abductees were trained in Iran.
In 2018, a court controlled by the Houthis sentenced Bin Haydara to death, ordered the confiscation of his assets and shut down the group’s religious institutions. He was accused of apostasy, espionage and seeking to establish the religion in Yemen.  
On July 30, the Houthis unexpectedly released Bin Haydara and other five detainees, and expelled them from the country on a humanitarian flight.
The group’s leader said they were forcibly displaced from the country, a move that caused panic among its thousands of followers who live in the war-torn country.
The roots of the Baha’i in Yemen go back to 1844 when a senior cleric arrived in the country through the then internationally renowned Al-Mokha port, Bin Haydara said, adding that several thousand Baha’is live across Yemen.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In 2018, a Houthi-controlled court sentenced Bin Haydara to death, ordered the confiscation of his assets and shut down the group’s religious institutions.

• He was accused of apostasy, espionage and seeking to establish the religion in Yemen.

• Bin Haydara and other members of the group are living in ‘safe’ locations in Europe, receiving medication.

“They hail from different components, classes and tribes of Yemeni society. They live in most cities and provinces,” he said.
In Jan. 2015, Yemeni security authorities accused a member of the group of having links with Israel. Bin Haydara strongly denies that, adding that Baha’is frequently visit sacred sites in Haifa and Acre.
“There is no relationship between us and any government abroad. We are loyal and patriotic Yemeni citizens,” he said.
Bin Haydara and the other displaced members of the faith group were currently living in “safe” locations in Europe, receiving medication for wounds and diseases that they contracted during their detention inside Houthi prisons.
The Baha’i leader called for the rescue of at least 20 members of the group being prosecuted by the Houthi-controlled Specialized Criminal Court, who might face death.
“Yemeni society is naturally coexistent and accustomed to intellectual, cultural and religious diversity. What is being practiced against the Baha’is nowadays completely contradicts the nature of Yemeni society and Yemeni tribes,” he said.


Oman resumes issuance of work visas, tourist visas still on hold

Updated 30 November 2020

Oman resumes issuance of work visas, tourist visas still on hold

  • Visa permits are valid for 15 months from the date of issuance
  • Revenues of three to five-star hotels in the Sultanate fell 60.2 percent as of end-October

DUBAI: Individuals who have been cleared by Oman’s Ministry of Labor can now apply for work visas online, daily Times of Oman reported.
“Non-Omani workers and housemaid visas can be applied for electronically. Applications can be submitted either through the Royal Oman Police website, or through Sanad offices. At the moment, however, applications for tourism visas are still suspended,” the daily quoted an unnamed senior Royal Oman Police official.
Visa permits are valid for 15 months from the date of issuance, hence, those who received them but were unable to process their visa applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic can now do so, Times of Oman added.
As for those without a permit yet, “the ministry is working on providing permission to apply for work visas,” the daily quoted an official from the Ministry of Labor.
Meanwhile, revenues of three to five-star hotels in the Sultanate fell 60.2 percent as of end-October to $18.38 million from $46.2 million of the same period last year.
Hotel occupancy rate dropped by 53.9 percent in the first 10 months of 2020 to 646,841 guests, down from 1.4 million during the same time last year, Oman Times reported.