The constitution declares Islam to be the state religion and sharia the source of all legislation. It provides for freedom of thought and expression “within the limits of the law,” but omits mention of freedom of religion. The law prohibits denunciation of Islam, conversion from Islam to another religion, and proselytizing directed at Muslims. Conflict escalated between the government and the Houthi-led Ansar Allah, a Zaydi Shia movement allied with elements loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, which expanded from its base in the northwest to establish control over large portions of the country, including Sana’a. The government went into exile in March, leaving it unable to exercise effective control over religious affairs inside the country. Attacks by terrorist groups such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) included bombings of Zaydi mosques, which resulted in deaths and injuries to worshippers. No information was available on whether a Bahai previously taken into custody by the government for apostasy, proselytizing, and allegedly spying for Israel, remained in prison following the rebel takeover of Sana’a. Prior to the outbreak of military conflict in March, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Ethiopian Orthodox Christian religious services continued to take place without government interference.
Zaydi and Sunni religious leaders continued to use charges of apostasy to target opponents. Jewish leaders reported continued social harassment of their community in Amran, including coercion to convert to Islam.
The U.S. Ambassador met with officials of the government-in-exile to discuss the challenges minority religious communities faced, including scrutiny by Houthis, displacement from homes and businesses, and targeting by violent extremist groups. He also met with representatives of religious minorities to discuss those challenges.