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

15 September, 2022

The Baha’i community of Australia today delivered a letter addressed to His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, expressing its concerns at the discrimination, restrictions, and human rights violations that Baha’is in Qatar have experienced for decades, asking him to intervene on behalf of their co-religionists in his country.

The letter was hand delivered by representatives of the Australian Baha’i community to the Embassy of Qatar in Canberra.

This action was taken 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, and Baha’is see themselves as a global community working for the well-being of one common human race.

“For years, we have observed an alarming pattern of discrimination and human rights violations against the Baha’is in Qatar,” said Dr. Chris Heggie, a representative of the Australian Baha’i community. “Conveying these concerns to the Emir of the State of Qatar, in writing, speaks to the gravity of this moment. We are in danger of seeing the elimination of yet another religious minority from a Middle Eastern country. All Baha’is in Australia hope that His Highness, the Emir, can intervene on behalf of their fellow Baha’is before they are erased from his land.”

Baha’is have resided in Qatar for over 70 years, predating the independence of the State of Qatar. Despite this long presence they have experienced decades of discrimination.

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, crafts and trade, 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.

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”.

The Baha’i Faith is an independent world religion which recognises the inherent oneness of humanity. Baha’i teachings advocate principles such as the equality of men and women, safeguarding the rights of all people, and the harmony of science and religion. It emphasizes obedience to government and non-involvement in partisan politics. Throughout the world, Baha’is are committed to efforts to promote the betterment of society.

The Australian Baha’i Community has been a part of Australia for over 100 years.