The constitution provides for freedom of thought “within the limits of the law,” identifies Islam as the state religion, and declares sharia to be the source of all legislation. In September the Houthi movement (consisting of Zaydi Shia) expanded from its base in the northwest and established control over large portions of the country, including Sana’a. Prior to this military campaign, members of the Zaydi Shia community reported government harassment and discrimination, including detention, based on allegations of sympathizing with the Houthis. Because religion and political affiliations are often closely linked, it is difficult to categorize many of the incidents as being solely based on religious identity. The government continued to detain a Bahai, originally arrested by security forces in December 2013, on suspicion of proselytizing, apostasy, and spying for a foreign government. The individual, who had not been formally charged at year’s end, reported being beaten and electrocuted for the initial 45 days of his imprisonment.
There were reports of Houthi attacks on Quranic schools in Amran, although Houthis claimed the schools were being used to house Sunni fighters and weapons. Public commemoration of Shia holy days occasionally resulted in clashes with Sunni groups. Salafi and Zaydi political and religious leaders continued to use charges of apostasy to target opponents and incite anger among their followers. Jewish leaders reported that the harassment of the Jewish community in Amran increased, following the resumption of fighting between Houthis and militant Sunni groups. There were instances of anti-Semitic print material. For example, the broadly disseminated Houthi banner included the phrase, “A curse on the Jews.”
Terrorist groups, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regularly carried out attacks against government representatives and installations, members of the Southern Mobility Movement (Hirak) group, and other individuals accused of “immoral” behavior.
Embassy officers stressed the importance of religious tolerance in bilateral engagement with government officials responsible for religious affairs. The Ambassador and other embassy officers engaged with religious leaders and other members of civil society concerned with religious freedom through programs designed to promote religious tolerance and productive dialogue among religious groups. In November the embassy organized a workshop for religious leaders of different faith traditions, both male and female, to discuss “The Violence and Extremism among Yemeni Youth: Reasons and Solutions.” The embassy continued to support interfaith dialogue through outreach programs focused on local religious leaders, including English language training and exchange programs for imams.