Bahá’í International Community News (24.10.2022)- https://bit.ly/3zlNAdr – His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, said during his address to the United Nations General Assembly a month ago that the State of Qatar wanted to overcome obstacles, extend a hand of friendship, build bridges of understanding and celebrate our common humanity, no matter how diverse our religions and nationalities may be.
The Baha’i International Community welcomes these noble sentiments. And we thank His Highness for sharing them with the world. We have, since his address, looked forward to a time when these words become reality with respect to the Baha’i community living in Qatar.
Baha’is have lived in Qatar for almost 80 years and, though a small community, they have contributed to society, business, industry, medicine, education, and the arts. The Baha’is in Qatar consider it their home and have always been loyal citizens known for their honesty and sincere love for their country.
But in recent decades a growing number of Baha’is have been blacklisted, denied the renewal of their residency permits or the “certificates of good conduct” essential for employment, and barred from working in certain sectors. In many cases, individual Baha’is have been forced to separate from their families and to leave the country, despite their families having lived in Qatar for many generations.
The persistent pattern of discrimination against Baha’is in Qatar is of growing international concern. The previous United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, expressed his worry at the “precarious situation” of the Baha’is in Qatar. And the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted the situation “may constitute systematic and ongoing restrictions on freedom of religion or belief”.
Qatar made a commitment to protect the rights of all to believe, and to manifest their beliefs, when it acceded in 2018 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Baha’is in the country have therefore sought resolution and redress from the Government – on many occasions – but no response has been given to their appeals for the respect of their dignity and rights.
Last month, representatives of the Baha’i communities of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, delivered a letter to His Highness, the Emir, calling on him to restore the rights of the Baha’is in his diverse and beautiful country. The fact that the Baha’is in these countries took this step speaks to the urgency of the moment: if the Emir does not intervene then yet another religious minority will soon be eliminated from a Middle Eastern country.
His Highness’s words at the United Nations suggests that he too believes people of all backgrounds, which must include the Baha’is, have the right to live in their homes, and to practice their beliefs in freedom and security. We now appeal to him to let his deeds give weight to his words by protecting the Baha’is from discrimination, welcoming home those who have been expelled, and by freeing these innocent people to live their lives and to serve the country they love.
Photo: A statement by the Baha’i International Community has asked Qatar’s Emir to protect the Baha’is in his country from discrimination