New CEP Report Details Houthi Targeting Of Religious Minorities In Yemen

(New York, N.Y.) — Today, 25 years since the U.S. enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) released the fourth installment in a series of new reports on the Iran-backed Shiite group, the Houthis, who took control of Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa in 2014 and plunged the Arabian Gulf nation into a devastating civil war. The Act established a long-term commitment by the U.S. to religious freedom abroad and continues to provide the U.S. freedom to impose sanctions against entities that target religious minorities, like the Houthi-controlled Yemeni state.

Read the full report, Houthi Targeting Of Religious Minorities, by clicking here.

CEP’s report details how Yemen’s roughly 20,000 practicing Baha’i as well as the handful of remaining Jewish Yemenis remaining in the country have faced criminalization, sham trials, and propped-up accusations at the hands of the Houthis.

The report highlights the story of Hamid bin Haydara, who was imprisoned under suspicion of cooperating with Israel in 2013. Despite a lack of prosecution evidence in the trial, Haydara spent seven years in prison, receiving a death sentence from Judge Abdo Ismail Rajeh, who simultaneously called for the arrest of his family and the immediate closure of Baha’i institutions in Yemen. Upon appeal, Rajeh’s determination was overruled, and Haydara was released in 2020.

The persecution of Yemeni Jews followed a similar pattern. Libi Salem Musa Marhabi aided six others in smuggling an ancient transcript of the Torah out of Sanaa. In detention, Motlaq Amer al-Marrani, branch director of the Security and Intelligence Service, extended Marhabi’s sentence indefinitely on national security grounds. Since then, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom indicated that he “suffers from kidney and lung issues and has lost all his teeth from being tortured repeatedly.” In 2019, his family was told that his release was contingent on his family leaving the country.

These two examples highlight the Houthi-controlled Yemeni government’s corruption dedicated to the systematic detainment or expulsion of anyone who fails to align religiously with their radical Shi’ite ideology, propped up with Iranian funding and support.

The Houthis have been designed by the U.S. each year since 2018 as an “entity of particular concern,” or EPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act, and has been targeted with U.S. sanctions. However, the U.S. could impose stronger penalties on the Houthis by restoring its position as a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, which would prohibit any U.S. contact with the group and isolate it financially.

Read the full report, Houthi Targeting Of Religious Minorities, by clicking here.

To read the third report in this series, How the Houthis Built Their Arsenal: Defense and Intelligence Procurement, please click here.

To read the second report in this series, The Houthis’ Use of Technology for Repression, please click here.

To read the first report in this series, How The Houthis Funded Terror Groups After Seizing Yemen’s Capitalplease click here

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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