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Religious Freedom Internationally
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Yemen, one of the oldest civilizations in the Middle East, is located between Oman and Saudi Arabia, and borders the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. The majority of the population is Arab; though, Afro-Arabs, South Asians, and Europeans also reside in Yemen.

The southern regions of Yemen became autonomous from the British in 1967, and adopted Marxist ideology. After decades of hostility, North and South Yemen were formally unified in 1990 as the Republic of Yemen. A southern secessionist movement in 1994 was quickly subdued. In 2000, Saudi Arabia and Yemen agreed to define the limits of their border.

Religious Freedom

The Yemeni Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion; however, it is limited. Islam is the state religion, and legislation is based on Shari’a law. Islam is the only religion taught in public schools. Muslims have the option of attending private schools that do not offer Islamic studies, and all non-Muslims, many of whom are not Yemeni, are enrolled at private schools.

Although minority faith groups are permitted to practise their religion and wear religious symbols and clothing, it is illegal for non-Muslims to proselytize or convert followers of Islam. The punishment for converting from Islam ranges from a beating and fine to the death penalty. Registration of religious groups is not required in Yemen; however, permission must be obtained in order for religious groups to build a place of worship. Distributing religious literature is forbidden.

Members of minority religious groups are allowed to vote in elections, but are not permitted to become an elected official.

International Treaties Signed by Yemen

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Canada-Yemen Diplomatic Relations

Information about Canada’s relationship with Yemen
Canadian representatives in Yemen
(Canada’s ambassador for Saudi Arabia is responsible for Yemen)
Yemen’s representatives in Canada


For prayer requests, see the alerts, or the general page of prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Related Links

General information about Yemen
Information about the persecuted Church in Yemen  (from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

Related EFC Religious Liberty Commission Alerts

Note: Alerts are in reverse chronological order, beginning with most recent.

Yemen Refugee threatened with the death penalty released


We are pleased to report that Mr. Haji, the Somalian refugee threatened with the death penalty in Yemen due to his conversion to Christianity, has been released. He was reunited with his family on August 24 and they flew to New Zealand via Eritria. New Zealand has accepted Mr. Haji and his family as refugees. We first reported on Mr. Haji's plight on July 7 when he faced a trial where he would be required to recant his conversion from Islam to Christianity or face the death penalty. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees was not taking action. Response from Canada and around the world galvanized the UNHCR into action as well as dissuaded Yemeni authorities from proceeding with the trial. The UNHCR rquested to be allowed to resettle Mr. Haji and his family to a third country and this permission was granted. Yemeni authorities were not pleased with the choice of New Zealand as they were concerned that other refugees in Yemen might falsely claim conversion as a means to resettlement to a western country. The compromise was reached that Mr. Haji could leave the country if he went to Eritrea rather than New Zealand.

Yemen: Refugee to be executed under apostasy laws

(Source: Compass Direct, Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

Aden’s Tawahi Court ruled on Wednesday that a Somali refugee, Mohammed Omer Haji, 27, must return to Islam within seven days or face execution under Yemen’s apostasy laws. According to Haji’s lawyer his situation is “serious and very dangerous”. He faces a final hearing on July 12 during which he must either declare three times before the judge that he is returning to Islam or face execution. The Yemeni legal system allows for two final appeals before the verdict can be carried out.

According to Compass a handwritten note from Haji, drafted after his first arrest, states that five Yemeni security police arrested him at his home on January 16. He was held in the Tawahi police station and transferred to security police custody after 23 days. The officials gave Haji no reason for his arrest except his Christian faith. They slapped him and hit him, saying, “We arrested you because you are a Christian. You are George, the Christian Somali”. An article published in the Islam Party’s Al Sahwah newspaper during his arrest claimed that Haji had changed his name from Mohammed to George.

Over the following weeks Haji said he was threatened and beaten every night and interrogated about any other Somali Christians he knew. The officers threatened to kill him if he didn’t return to Islam. Haji said that one night a group of security officers and policemen masked him and took him up a high mountain in the middle of the night. After severely beating him, they threatened to throw him off the mountain if he refused to recant. Haji admits, “To save my life that night, I said I believe in Islam. Otherwise I would have died.” The following day Haji refused to become a Muslim saying “God will help me and save me. I am not alone.” He was released on March 13 and re-arrested about two months ago. As a member of the United Nations, Yemen subscribes to the UN Charter. Article 18 states that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

Haji, who is married and has an infant son, came to Yemen as a refugee from Somalia in 1994 and is formally registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under Case No. 11911. He apparently became a Christian about two years ago and he says that his wife has also been threatened with arrest if she has any contact with churches or Christians. According to Compass, the UNHCR office in Aden has denied any knowledge of the case.

• Write to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressing your concerns and asking the High Commissioner to move swiftly to find a safe place for Mohammed Haji and his family.
• Write to the Yemeni ambassador expressing your concerns.
• Copy your letters to Lloyd Axworthy and the Human Rights Division at Foreign Affairs.

Her Excellency Sadako Ogata
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
C.P. 2500
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Fax: (011-41-22) 739-7377

Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
H.E. Mustapha Ahmed Mohamed Noman, Ambassador
788 Island Park Dr.
Ottawa, ON K1Y 0C2
Fax: (613) 729-8915
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Yemen to the United Nations
413 East 51st Street
New York, N.Y. 10022
Fax: (212) 750-9613

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Yemen to the United Nations (Geneva)
Chemin du Jonc 19
1216 Cointrin
Geneva, Switzerland
Fax: (011-41-22) 798 04 65

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Fax: (613) 943-0606

Ms. Suzanne Gobeil
Human Rights Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
125 Sussex Dr.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Fax: (613) 943-0606

• Pray that Haji would have the courage to stand firm in his faith and his faith would grow.
• Pray for his family, that they would have strength and courage and be provided for through this time.
• Pray that God would be glorified through this situation and the publicity it has received.
• Pray for the swift resolution of this matter and that a safe country could be found for this family.


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