Bahá'ís in Yemen
The Early Days of the Baha'í Faith in Yemen
Historical sources indicate that the connection between the Baha’i Faith and the land of Yemen dates back to the very early days of the Baha’i Faith. In the year 1260 AH (1844 AD), the port of Mokha was honored by the arrival of a young man who declared the emergence of a new religion, Ali Muhammad Al-Shirazi known as the “Bab”. In His famous pilgrimage to Makkah, the waters and shores of the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea where honored by this journey.
The city port of Mokha which was a global port and an important commercial city more than five centuries ago, returned once again to the forefront of history when The Bab – the descendant of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – arrived at its shoreline. It was during this travel that The Bab declared the Dawn of a New Day of God, fulfilling the hopes and longing of millions across the globe.
The Bab’s historical visit is not the only connection between the Baha’i Faith and the land of Yemen. When the Ottoman Empire had exiled the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, to the prison of Akka in Palestine, the shores and ports of Yemen once again witnessed the passage of an increasing number of early believers who journeyed to Akka to visit their Beloved. The waterway across the Arabian Sea, Bab Al-Mandab and the Red Sea was the path taken by scores upon scores of travelers sojourning East to visit Baha’u’llah in Akka. Many well-known names stopped in these cities and ports including a number of prominent scholars and respected religious figures of the time. Perhaps time will reveal more information about this extraordinary period of history in the Baha’i Faith, and hopefully we will get to know more about the dialogue and exchanges that took place between the people of Yemen and the followers of this new religion.
As the travels of Baha’is through the land of Yemen continued, so did the interactions with its people. And because the people of Yemen are known for their wisdom and spirituality, the love of Baha’u’llah gradually took root in this land. The hearts of many Yemenis were illumined with the light of this new religion, and Baha’is grew to be an integral part of the fabric of Yemeni society.
Where Baha’is live in Yemen
Records show that Baha’is were a genuine component of society in various villages and cities throughout Yemen such as Aden, Mukalla, Sana’a, Ta’izz, Hudaydah, Ibb, Socotra, Lahij, and others. Many of these Baha’is have made positive contributions in the development and progress of their societies. The Baha’is of Yemen were among the first to practice modern health professions in a number of major cities and introduced modern healthcare services such as pharmacology, dentistry, ophthalmology in cities including Sana’a, Lahij, Socotra, Ta’izz, and Ibb. Several Baha’is also had positive contributions in the urban planning of modern Yemen, and in the laying the foundations and infrastructure in vital fields such as education, health, construction, and commerce.
The history of the Baha’is in Yemen celebrates numerous names, once such name is Mr. Kamal bin Haydara (the father of Hamed bin Haydara who is currently in jail and sentenced to death). The Sultan of The Mahra State of Qishn and Socotra – Sultan Issa bin Ali bin Afrar had awarded him the special title “Haydara” in recognition for his love and dedication for his country and for providing medical services to the people of one of the most remote Yemeni islands for over 60 years. There are many other examples of such devoted individuals who lovingly served Yemen and its people including Sheikh Muhammad Mihidi Mowlavi in Aden, and Hajj Abdullah Anwar in Sana’a.
There is no official accurate statistics for the number of Baha’is in Yemen today. However, several human rights organizations and media sources refer to a thousand to several thousands. The Baha’is in Yemen come from well-known tribes as well as metropolis regions. There are also those who come from non-Yemeni origins who were born and raised in Yemen and became part of its social fabric.
Baha’is are known for their keenness to participate in social programs, volunteer work, and their positive contributions in development and community building programs. Despite their small number, they have positively and substantially contributed to social and relief efforts. Baha’is have also made significant efforts in promoting and enhancing the culture of tolerance and coexistence, and worked to bridge differences and renounce violence and prejudices. Baha’is have also played a very crucial and positive role in resolving many tribal disputes and conflicts by reforming relationships, mending bonds of friendship, and fostering cooperation.
Nida Foundation for Coexistence is an excellent example of the contribution of Baha’is in the field of social action. Nida Foundation implemented hundreds of service projects and coordinated efforts with several Yemeni civil society organizations. Unfortunately, the Houthi authorities closed down Nida Foundation and all other similar organizations in all cities in summer of 2016; the same time the first wave of mass imprisonment of Baha’is including women and children took place.
Baha’is are known for their openness to all segments and components of society. They are very outward oriented and do not limit their services to members of their own faith. In fact, it is well known that the primary benefactors from their social service projects and social organizations are non-Baha’is.
The wave of persecution that had intensified during the past two years, stirred increasing interest in society and attracted much media attention. As a result, the Baha’i minority was in the spotlight and the Baha’i Faith became the topic of interest in all spaces of discourse in Yemeni society. It seems the great injustice and persecution the Baha’is suffered, has garnered the sympathy and empathy of large numbers in Yemeni society, especially among activists and youth.