It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I congratulate Jim Shannon on securing the debate, his wide-ranging speech and indeed his overall commitment to religious freedom. The contributions of all hon. Members have shown how important it is to remain vigilant about attacks on religious freedom, whether in this country or elsewhere.
I am the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the Baha’i faith. On numerous occasions, together with other hon. Members, I have raised the plight and persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. However, today I draw attention to a disturbing development: the persecution of Baha’is in Yemen, driven by Iran. I speak specifically of the case of Mr Hamed bin Haydara, a Yemeni Baha’i sentenced to death by public execution by a Houthi-controlled court in Sana’a on
Mr bin Haydara is a 54-year-old father of three who has been detained since
The Baha’i community has reported that six other members of its community are detained in Houthi-controlled prisons and that arrest warrants were issued for a further 25 Baha’is, so there are fears of a wider crackdown on the Yemeni Baha’i community. It appears that elements of the national security agency and the prosecution service in Sana’a are determined to persecute them.
The memorandum of the Iranian supreme revolutionary cultural council in 1991 dealt with the Baha’i question. It stated:
“A plan must be devised to confront and destroy their cultural roots outside the country.”
It is believed that that policy is now being enacted in Yemen. Indeed, it is deeply disturbing to hear the analysis of the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, who on
“The recent escalation in the persistent pattern of persecution of the Baha’i community in Sana’a mirrors the persecution suffered by the Baha’is living in Iran”.
In view of the gravity of the threat to the life of Hamed bin Haydara and the steadily increasing oppression of the innocent Baha’i community in Yemen, particularly in those areas under the control of the Houthis, will the Minister request that the UK mission speak under agenda item 10 of this 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of Yemeni Baha’is? Will the UK mission also inquire specifically about Mr bin Haydara’s case and that of other Yemeni Baha’is during the interactive dialogue with the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed? Of course, it is he who has already drawn attention to the plight of the Baha’is in Yemen and the concerns he feels about that.
Those are just two steps that could and should be taken to raise the plight of the Baha’is in Yemen. We must not let them down, and I hope the Minister can give me a positive response to both requests.