A man that has been living in Yemen has been tortured and interrogated for being accused of attempting to convert locals to his Baha’i faith.
According to representatives of the predominantly Islamic nation of Yemen, the man was trying to convert individuals to the faith through charitable works, various literacy lessons, and through online media. While the potential outcome for the man as far as punishment is unknown, it is surmised that he will be tried by a special penal council that is made specifically to deal with cases of a heretical nature. Still, his family claims that the charges are false and represent another case of the nation cracking down on the Baha’i faith.
The Baha’i In The Middle East
The Baha’i are a religious group that has an estimated several hundred adherents in Yemen. They consider their prophet as the last in a line that has extended through Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. For this reason, followers of contradicting faiths often consider it to be a heretical religion. In nations such as Yemen, which embraces Islam, the Baha’i individuals are often targets of attacks and repression. While the Baha’i are allowed to openly practice their religion, Hamed Merza Kamali Serostani is being charged for allegedly seeking to convert Muslims to the faith, which is frowned upon. However, in his case, there are additional charges being applied that have labeled him as an agent of Israel who is working to destabilize the region.
A picture of the detained Yemeni Baha'i and his family. Does he look like a threat to Yemen National Security?? http://t.co/VXoeW0ZgqQ
— NesreenAkhtarkhavari (@nesreenbadi) January 19, 2015
Uncertainties In Yemen
There are some discrepancies in the case for Hamed Serostani. For example, he is being named as an individual who has spent the time between 1991 and 2014 working in Yemen as an immigrant. During that time he has played a significant role in building homes and contacts, which the government says he used as an attempt to lure individuals away from Islam and towards the Baha’i faith.
The Serostani family disputes these charges and says that the family settled in Socotra, a small Yemeni Island, since 1945. They have also spoken out against the idea that he has committed espionage against Yemen, claiming that the government is only using this as a means to strike against the Baha’i. Moreover, they state the idea that he had contacts with Israel is only being used to distract the public from the fact that he was tortured and interrogated under duress to get the results that they wanted from him. With his case pending and the severe charges against him, the international community is looking for substantiation in the case of Hamed Serostani to determine whether he is the anti-Islam espionage agent or a helpful pillar of the community in his town that his family claims. It is unknown when the special penal court will be convened against him.