Welcome to USCIRF

Saudi Arabia Chapter - 2017 Annual Report

Saudi Arabia Chapter - 2017 Annual Report

Arabic Translation

Learn more about Raif Badawi, a Religious Prisoner of Conscience in Saudi Arabia.

Key Findings

During the past year, in line with the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 efforts to economically and culturally transform the country, religious freedom conditions in Saudi Arabia improved in certain areas, including a significant decrease in power of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), a continued government commitment to textbook and curricula reform, and increased efforts to counter extremist ideology at home and abroad. Nevertheless, the government continues to privilege its own interpretation of Sunni Islam over all other interpretations and prohibits any non-Muslim public places of worship in the country. Saudi courts continue to prosecute and imprison individuals for dissent, apostasy, and blasphemy, and a law classifying blasphemy and the promotion of atheism as terrorism has been used to target human rights defenders, among others. While there were improved conditions for public worship among Shi’a Muslims in the Eastern Province, the community continued to face discrimination based on its religious affiliation, and authorities sporadically interrogate, arrest, and imprison dissident Shi’a clerics and activists. Despite progress in some areas, the government continues to restrict a broad range of human rights, especially women’s participation in society, including through the legal guardianship system. Based on continuing severe violations of religious freedom, USCIRF again finds in 2017 that Saudi Arabia merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Although the State Department has designated Saudi Arabia as a CPC repeatedly since 2004, most recently in October 2016, an indefinite waiver has been in place since 2006 on taking an otherwise legislatively mandated action as a result of the CPC designation.