Washington, D.C.—September 16—Yesterday, the Baha’i community of the United States 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 on behalf of their co-religionists in his country.
The Baha’is took this action after observing the worsening discrimination and restrictions against the Baha’i community in Qatar. Millions of Baha’is live in almost every country of the world, seeing themselves as a global community working for the well-being of one common human race.
“The situation of the Baha’is in Qatar has been worsening for some years now,” said Rabi Musah, a representative of the American Baha’i community. “We felt the need to address these human rights violations formally, in writing. We’re concerned that we’re witnessing the purposeful elimination of a religious minority in Qatar. As such, we request that the Emir step in on behalf of the Baha’is before the community disappears.”
Baha’is have resided in Qatar for over 70 years, predating the independence of the State of Qatar, but despite this long presence, they have experienced decades of discrimination. The Qatari authorities have been exerting 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.”