The Persistent Discrimination Against the Baha’i Community in Qatar

The Baha’i community in Qatar has faced increasing discrimination and restrictions, raising concerns from international human rights organizations. Despite public statements by the Qatari government on religious tolerance, actions on the ground suggest a concerted effort to marginalize this religious minority. Recent reviews by United Nations committees have highlighted these issues, urging Qatar to end its discriminatory practices and uphold the rights of all religious communities.

In October 2023, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) conducted a review of Qatar’s human rights record. The Committee’s concluding observations expressed serious concern about the state’s treatment of the Baha’i community. One of the key issues identified was Qatar’s refusal to recognize and register the Baha’i community, a critical step for religious minorities to operate legally within the country. This denial has far-reaching consequences, including the risk of deportation and blacklisting for Baha’i members, which in many cases leads to family separations and loss of employment.

The Committee emphasized that these actions violate the economic, social, and cultural rights of Baha’is in Qatar. By denying registration, the Qatari government effectively prevents the community from accessing basic rights and services. The CESCR called on Qatar to remove all obstacles hindering the Baha’i community’s rights and to cease the practice of administrative deportation and blacklisting. The Committee noted that many Baha’is are unable to obtain certificates of good conduct, a document necessary for job changes and employment in key sectors. This denial implies wrongdoing without any legal basis, further marginalizing the community.

Saba Haddad, the Representative of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) to the United Nations in Geneva, expressed gratitude for the CESCR’s attention to the plight of Baha’is in Qatar. Haddad highlighted the stark contrast between the international community’s recognition of the issue and the Qatari government’s persistent denials and obfuscations. The Baha’i community has a long history in Qatar, dating back to before the country’s independence. Despite their deep roots and contributions to society, Baha’is face systemic discrimination and are denied basic human rights.

Haddad urged the Qatari government to heed the CESCR’s recommendations, acknowledge the longstanding discrimination, and take concrete steps to grant Baha’is full enjoyment of their rights. This includes allowing deported Baha’is to return home and ending discriminatory policies that affect their ability to live and work in Qatar. The ultimate goal, according to Haddad, is for Baha’is to live peacefully with their families and contribute to the society they consider home.

The UN Human Rights Council’s 52nd session in March 2023 also addressed the issue. The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief underscored the state’s responsibility to protect the rights of religious minorities. The report noted that despite Qatar’s public declarations of religious tolerance, actions against the Baha’i community suggest otherwise. Many Baha’is discover they are blacklisted when attempting to renew residency permits or obtain certificates of good conduct, effectively branding them as criminals without any evidence.

This systemic discrimination has profound impacts on the Baha’i community. The inability to obtain necessary documents restricts their employment opportunities and exacerbates social and economic marginalization. The Baha’i International Community has made numerous attempts to engage with Qatari authorities to address these issues, but these efforts have been met with silence.

The international community must continue to press Qatar to fulfill its obligations under international human rights law. Ensuring that all individuals can freely practice their religion without fear of reprisal is fundamental to upholding human rights and promoting a just society. The persistent discrimination against the Baha’i community in Qatar stands in stark contrast to these principles and requires urgent attention and action.

The discrimination against the Baha’i community in Qatar is a pressing human rights issue that has garnered international condemnation. The findings of the CESCR and the statements from the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief highlight the urgent need for Qatar to reform its policies and practices. By acknowledging and addressing these discriminatory actions, Qatar can take significant steps towards ensuring the rights and freedoms of all its residents, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society.