By Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA’A, August 3—The Baha'i community in Yemen is concerned that they are being singled out by Yemeni security forces or extremist Islamic groups after four practicing Baha'i were arrested in June 2008.
A source close to the community, who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitive subject matter, said that he we was concerned about the possibility of the government accusing three of the Baha'is of proselytizing their religion in the country, which is against Yemeni law.
Human right activist and lawyer Khaled Al-Anesi, who represents the arrested Baha'i practitioners, said that the Yemeni security has not yet accused any of them of anything and that this renders their jailing illegal. It is forbidden in Yemeni law to hold prisoners without charges, though it is regularly practiced in the country regardless of this law. “The lawyers are not even allowed to meet with the four prisoners or study their files to know the accusations [against them],” said Al-Anesi.
Al-Anesi did not exclude of possibility of the detainees' deportation without trial. “It is not the first time that the Yemeni government would deport or hand over people to other governments under the guise of military cooperation or the war on terrorism, and then these people can be subjected to maltreatment. Such procedure is against international law and human rights,” said Al-Anisi.
He also warned of the possibility of breaching international law by deporting detainees without going through the proper legal measures to guarantee their safety. “Yemen may face international disapproval, and there may be international punishments imposed if it [Yemen] keeps breaching international law,” he added.
The three Baha'is of Iranian origin, Zia'u'llah Pourahmari, Keyvan Qadari, and Behrooz Rohani, were arrested in Sana’a, on the night of June 20, 2008. A fourth Baha'i, Sayfi Ibrahim Sayfi, was also arrested around the same time and faces the possibility of deportation to Iraq.
According to the source close to the group, the men were arrested and taken to the national security headquarters' prison where they spent 40 days - most of the time in isolated cells - before being sent to Sana’a General Investigation Department.
Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the international Baha'i community to the United Nations, released a statement on Wednesday that the three Iranians had lived in Yemen for more than 25 years, all have successful businesses in Yemen, and their families are well established there. She pointed out that the Yemeni security is holding their Iranian passports “We have come to believe that the Yemeni government may be planning to deport them to Iran, where the government is waging a systematic campaign against Baha'is;” she said.
Dugal called for their immediate release. “Our primary concern today is to ask that the Yemeni government resist any impulse to deport these three Baha'is to Iran – or any other country. Deportation to any country for three individuals with well-established businesses and families for their religious beliefs would be grossly unjust, but deportation to Iran, where they face the possibility of torture, would be a clear violation of international human rights law,” she added. Though Baha’is believe in one God, and their faith cannot accepted without believing in prophet Mohammed along with other prophets, many of their concepts and practices differ from basic Islamic principles like praying and fasting. Baha'is also believe in the prophetic status of Baha'u'llah, who founded the religion in the in the mid-nineteenth century in Iran. There are approximately 250 registered Baha'is in Yemen and more than five million Baha'i practitioners throughout the world.
Source: Yemen Times