Canada joins nations in support of Baha’is in Yemen

Canada joins nations in support of Baha’is in Yemen

OTTAWA, 13 NOVEMBER 2018, (CBNS)

The Government of Canada has been a leading nation in support of the Baha’is who are facing escalating persecution in Houthi-controlled Yemen.

On November 8, 2018, Canada was joined by the governments of Australia, Germany and the United States in making the following joint statement on the situation of the Baha’is in Yemen:

We are deeply concerned about the worsening treatment of Bahá’ís in Yemen, particularly by the Houthis in Sana’a.

On September 15, a Houthi-controlled court in Sana’a “charged” more than 20 Bahá’ís – most in absentia – with apostasy and espionage. In a subsequent hearing on September 29, the judge asked the prosecutor to publish the names of the accused in a newspaper and ordered their properties frozen. The same judge sentenced Bahá’í community member Hamed bin Haydara to death in January because of his religion. Haydara remains in prison awaiting execution.

These alarming developments reflect the deteriorating situation for Yemeni Bahá’ís over the past two years. In August 2016, the Houthis detained more than 60 people who participated in an event organized by Sana’a’s Bahá’í community. In April 2017, they issued “arrest warrants” for at least 25 Bahá’ís, accusing them of attempting to attract people to the Bahá’í Faith. Today six Bahá’ís are in prison in Yemen and many fear for their safety given the increasing oppression of their community.

These actions are not consistent with the universal human right to freedom of religion or belief. All people in Yemen, including members of the Bahá’í Faith, should be free to live out their beliefs in peace and security.

We join others in calling on the Houthis to immediately release all Bahá’ís in their custody. Respect for religious freedom is an essential building block for peace and prosperity in Yemen.

The statement was shared with the Office of Public Affairs by Giuliana Natale, Director of Inclusion and Religious Freedom at Global Affairs Canada, with the following note:

On behalf of the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, I would like to extend our warmest wishes to the entire Baha’i community as you celebrate the Birth of Baha’u’llah.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i faith, taught us to promote inclusion, respect and equality for all. Canada also espouses these values, and we continue to work to advance them, both at home and abroad. As you celebrate this important occasion, please allow us to underscore the significant contributions of the Baha’i community to enriching our Canadian society.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and members of the Baha’i community to challenge all forms of discrimination and xenophobia, and to collectively promote a more inclusive and peaceful world for all.

The statement was also promoted on social media by a number of members of Parliament, including Frank Baylis, Member of Parliament for Pierrefonds-Dollard, QC. Michael Levitt, Member of Parliament for York Centre, ON, and Chair of the House Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee, made the following comment on Twitter: “Proud of joint leadership by Canada, US, AUS, GER denouncing the persecution of Baha’i in Yemen by Houthi authorities. Arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and execution for religious beliefs is grossly unacceptable.”

The joint statement followed another recent declaration by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Chrystia Freeland, on International Religious Freedom Day, in which she drew particular attention to discrimination and persecution of Bahá’ís in Yemen and Iran.