End blacklisting and discrimination of Baha’is, Qatar’s Emir told, just weeks before World Cup

New York, Sept. 16, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Baha’i communities of nine countries yesterday delivered a letter addressed to His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, expressing their concerns at the discrimination, restrictions, and human rights violations that Baha’is in Qatar have experienced for decades, and asking him to intervene in the situation.

The letters were delivered by hand by representatives of the Baha’i communities of Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States,to the Embassies of Qatar in their respective countries.

The nine communities decided to act on behalf of fellow Baha’is living in Qatar after observing worsening discrimination and restrictions against the community in that country. Millions of Baha’is live in almost every country of the world and see themselves as part of a global community working together for the well-being of one common human race.

“The Baha’i International Community (BIC) has repeatedly raised the alarm over a pattern of discrimination and human rights violations suffered over decades by the Baha’is in Qatar,” said Diane Ala’i, a BIC Representative to the United Nations. “Now the move by nine national Baha’i communities, to convey their own concerns to the Emir of the State of Qatar, speaks to the gravity of this moment. Humanity is in danger of seeing the elimination of yet another religious minority from a Middle Eastern country.”

The presence of the Baha’is in Qatar predates the independence of the State of Qatar by some decades. Members of the Baha’i Faith in Qatar, citizens and residents alike, have been a natural component of the society of Qatar and an active part of its development. But despite this long presence they have experienced decades of discrimination due to their religious beliefs.

The Qatari authorities have exerted systematic attempts, over many years, to remove Baha’is from Qatar by blacklisting and deporting them, and denying them business licenses or work permits even when they had already received offers of employment from Qatari companies. A number of Baha’is have also been denied “certificates of good conduct”—despite having done nothing wrong—which then disqualifies them from employment or other aspects of life.

A few Baha’is in Qatar have even faced unspecified and false criminal and national security charges.

The blacklisting and expulsions have separated married couples and families and have forced some Qatari citizens to leave their homeland so as not to be separated from their non-Qatari spouses. Baha’is in Qatar have also been barred from serving in “sensitive” sectors, in particular the education sector, despite having worked in and contributed over decades to the medical sector, banking, engineering, sports, media, entrepreneurship, public policy, oil and gas, the crafts and trades, the legal system, health and safety and the arts.

The discrimination bears a striking resemblance to the treatment Baha’is have faced in Iran and Yemen. Most of the Baha’is in Qatar who have faced blacklisting and deportation were born and raised in the country, in families that have been there for generations, and have known no other home.

A 2019 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on minority issues and freedom of religion or belief said that Qatar was “undermining human rights in the areas of religion and culture,” referring to the situation of the Baha’is, in “what appears to be a disturbing pattern of discrimination against individuals based on their religion or belief.”

The Special Rapporteurs added that they were “especially concerned” over “the deportation and blacklisting of individuals based on their adherence to a minority religion.”

And earlier this year, in June, a fact sheet released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said that “Qatar’s Baha’i community faces limitations on freedom of religion or belief that are becoming increasingly systematic.”

“Baha’is in Qatar love their country and only want to contribute to its progress,” said Ms. Ala’i. “And Baha’is the world over hope that His Highness, the Emir, can intervene on behalf of their fellow Baha’is before they are erased from his land.”