Iran-backed Houthis attack peaceful Bahai gathering, arrest at least 17, in fresh crackdown

The Iran-backed Houthis arrested at least 17 people from a gathering of Bahais in the capital Sanaa on Thursday, representatives of the religious minority said.
Followers of the Bahai faith have reported mounting discrimination since the Iran-backed rebels seized Sanaa and other areas of Yemen in late 2014, including arbitrary detention, torture and seizure of their assets.
There has been no word on the whereabouts of those arrested on Thursday, who include five women, the Bahai International Community said.
Nader Al Sakkaf, an official at the office of public affairs of the Bahais of Yemen, said members had gathered to elect the community’s national governing body intended to minister to the spiritual and material needs of the group.
He called for the immediate release of those arrested and said the incident was a clear indication of the persecution the Bahai community had endured from the Houthis.
“The attack is a clear violation of the freedom of religion or belief and the right, under international covenants, to gather and conduct their religious and community affairs,” he said.
“The de facto Houthi authorities in Sanaa are going backward, doubling down on persecuting religious minorities, even as elsewhere in the Arab region we see governments striving toward peace and setting aside outdated social differences.
“The Houthis have violated the human rights of Bahais and many others, time and again, and it must stop.”
The Bahai faith originated in Iran in the 19th century and advocates universal peace and acceptance of all religions as manifestations of one deity.
Since then, the group has faced persecution by the militants, often on unsubstantiated charges of communicating with Israel.