Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the Houthi authorities’ release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Hamid bin Haydara along with five other detained members of the Baha’i community in Yemen. Charges against members of the Baha’i community remain in place despite their release.
“Hamid bin Haydara’s release has been long overdue; it is an important but insufficient step,” said USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore, who advocates for Mr. bin Haydara as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project. “The Houthis must drop all charges immediately and unconditionally against Mr. bin Haydara and all other Baha’is in Yemen.”
On December 3, 2013, Houthi authorities arrested and detained Mr. bin Haydara, holding him without charges in a prison for more than a year. In January 2015, he was charged falsely with spying for Israel, teaching literacy classes deemed incompatible with Islam, and attempting to convert Muslims. A judge sentenced him to death on January 2, 2018, but the Houthi Supreme Political Council announced on March 25, 2020 that he would be pardoned and released along with five other detained Baha’is. Despite this statement, the Houthis had not released any Baha’i detainees until now.
“USCIRF has been a tireless advocate for Mr. bin Haydara and we welcome the news of his release along with five other Baha’i community members,” said USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin. “We call on Houthi authorities to cease immediately their relentless persecution of Baha’is and other religious minorities in Yemen.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended the State Department designate the Houthis an “Entity of Particular Concern,” or EPC, for systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. Last month, USCIRF released a country update on Yemen, focused on religious freedom restrictions in Houthi-controlled areas.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Danielle Ashbahian at firstname.lastname@example.org.