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(RNS) — After almost three years, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen continues to worsen, with more than 10,000 needless deaths, and new dimensions of horror, including famine and a cholera epidemic. Other outrages, though less tangible, also attack the foundation of society. For instance, the numerous acts of violence against journalists and media institutions augurs poorly for freedom of speech.
The Houthi authorities, the rebel group that rules much of Yemen, recently added freedom of religion to the list of the war’s casualties.
Jan - Hamed - Bin - Haydara - Member
On Jan. 2, Hamed bin Haydara, a member of the Baha’i faith, was sentenced to public execution on trumped-up charges of espionage that belie the real reason for his harsh sentencing: his religious beliefs. Arrested in 2013 under the Hadi government just as the civil unrest in Yemen was ramping up, Haydara was held for years without trial and subjected to torture and interrogations.
After prolonged, bungled court proceedings marked mostly by a lack of due process, the Houthis convicted Haydara of spying for Israel. The proof? Benign correspondence between him and the Baha’i World Centre, the administrative center of Haydara’s faith. The center has been in what is now Israel since the late 19th century.
Sentence - Attention - Scrutiny - Statements - US
The bizarre sentence has already received some attention and scrutiny, with statements from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Amnesty International and several U.N. human rights experts all decrying it and demanding Haydara’s release, as well as the release of six other Baha’is who are detained in Yemen without charges. The Associated Press and Al-Arabiya have also reported on the story. But despite this wave of concern, several questions remain unanswered. Foremost among these are why the Baha’is, and why now?
One likely answer lies in the somewhat clandestine relationship between the Houthi authorities and the government of Iran. While Iran has been funneling funds...
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