Houthi rebels in Yemen stormed a gathering of Baha’i worshipers and arrested 17 people, in the Iranian-backed group’s latest crackdown on the vulnerable religious minority.
The gunmen have since “disappeared” all 17 victims, including five women, according to Baha’i community leaders who demanded their immediate release.
Part of the raid, in the war-torn capital of Sanaa, was filmed as scores of Baha’i members joined in the rally via video conferencing website Zoom.
The purpose of the meeting was to elect the national governing body of the community.
The Baha’i Faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century and advocates universal peace. Its members have frequently faced persecution and scapegoating in Middle Eastern states amid conflict or political unrest, particularly in Iran and Yemen.
“In parts of the Arab world, a new discussion about how to live in peace side by side with followers of all religions has begun to take shape,” said Padideh Sabeti, director of the UK Baha’i Office of Public Affairs. .
“In contrast, the de facto Houthi authorities are determined to persecute religious minorities and attack peaceful, unarmed civilians. »
About 2,000 members of the Baha’i community live in Sanaa, which the Houthis captured from the Yemeni government in 2014.
Yemen has been locked in a brutal civil war since September 2014, triggering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
According to UN estimates, around 150,000 people were killed in the conflict while another 200,000 died of starvation.
Founded in the mid-1800s, the Baha’i Faith is a relatively young religion that has its religious headquarters in the city of Haifa in northern Israel.
There are approximately five to eight million Baha’is in the world, with the largest communities based in India, the United States and Kenya.
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