Date: April 28, 2021
The situation of Yemen has been repeatedly made international news, especially due to the endless and deadly Yemeni Civil War. Most recently, we were informed about the Trump-era designation and subsequent Biden-era removal of the Houthi rebels from the United States' list of foreign terrorist organizations. Amidst the political turmoil, however, Christians - particularly those from a Muslim background - face even greater vulnerabilities and hardships.
On 22 February 2021, Jubilee Campaign received an urgent action petition from local partners for two Yemeni brothers who were in prison. Thankfully, both of the Yemeni brothers have since been released; one of them had served four years in prison. His crime? Being a Christian.
The second believer, Bashir, was released as we were preparing to send out an urgent petition to the international community regarding his case. Yemeni legislation still stipulates the death penalty for apostasy. Apostasy, the renunciation of a religion - sometimes coinciding with conversion to a new religion, is a fundamental freedom that should not be criminalized. Police had arrested Bashir in February for being 'an apostate from Islam' and subsequently 'preaching Christianity'; he was detained at Criminal Investigation Prison in Taiz Governorate. An online Yemeni newspaper posted his story online. [An English translation of the article can be found here]. Bashir's case was also flagged by Mauritanian blogger and human rights activist Cheikh Mkhteir [survivor of the apostasy laws in Mauritania] during Jubilee Campaign's UN Human Rights Council parallel event, "No Penalty for Apostasy".
The examples above are only the cases we know of and can publicly advocate for, but the situation for Christian converts remains difficult in Yemen. Jihadists have murdered Christian converts or perceived apostates. In addition, Christian converts can face threats and violence from their own family members. The risk of being exposed as a Christian is always greater during Ramadan, when the majority of society and family cease from eating and drinking and adhere more strictly to outward religious practices.