UN Human Rights Council – 38th Session, June 2018
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Today, we would like to speak about two countries whose citizens face human rights violations on a daily basis: Iran and Yemen. Amidst this ongoing suffering, in both countries, the Baha’i, a religious minority, also face relentless persecution solely for their beliefs.
In Iran, despite the authorities’ continuous public denial of the persecution of the Baha’is— most recently expressed by the Foreign Minister himself—the human rights violations continue unabated. The directives for these acts of discrimination come from the highest levels of government. The most flagrant example is a fatwa, or religious decree, issued on 26 March 2018 by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, where he stated: “You should avoid any association and dealings with this perverse and misguided sect.”
One of the results of the government-orchestrated persecution is economic strangulation. Hundreds of Baha’i families in Iran are deprived of the possibility to earn a living, either through denial of employment in the public sector or the cruel and intentional sealing of their shops.
In Yemen, three days before the latest fatwa by Mr. Khamenei, Mr. ‘Abdu’l-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, delivered a televised speech where he vehemently vilified and strongly denounced the Baha’i Faith, further intensifying the ongoing persecution—including several arrests and deteriorating prison conditions—of the Baha’is in that country.
He warned Yemenis of the “satanic” Baha’i “movement” that is “waging a war of doctrine” against Islam, described Baha’is as “infidels” and deniers of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and spread other falsehoods about the Baha’i Faith. He finally urged Yemenis to defend their country against the Baha’is under the pretext that “those who destroy the faith of people are no less evil and dangerous than those who kill people with their bombs.”
The rhetoric employed by Mr. Al-Houthi is concerning and can incite acts of violence and further increase the persecution against the Baha’is.
Such attempts to divide societies must stop once and for all. The international community must urge the Iranian and Houthi authorities to respect the human rights of their citizens.