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Policy Updates

USCIRF is proud to announce its new “Policy Update” series. This periodic publication will include information and analysis related to the status of religious freedom in the countries USCIRF monitors.

The next year will be a pivotal one in Iraq. The U.S.-led fight against ISIS has yielded significant success. The military battle to defeat ISIS, a group which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed was “clearly responsible for genocide,” has come to an end. In September 2017, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) held its independence referendum, which passed with 92 percent voting in favor. The implications of the referendum for Iraq’s religious minority communities, especially those living under KRG-controlled areas or in the Disputed Internal Boundaries, remain unclear. 

Throughout 2017, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has promoted its 50th year of existence, marked on August 8. The regional bloc comprising 10 countries has grown and integrated in ways hardly dreamed of five decades ago. But to this day, ASEAN lacks cohesion on human rights issues and, in particular, has a flawed record protecting freedom of religion or belief, both as a collective regional bloc and as individual Member States. The good news is that ASEAN possesses both the raw materials and the incentive to turn its record around.

 

Since South Sudan’s secession in 2011, USCIRF has documented an escalation in the Sudanese government’s persecution of Christians. Over a six-year period, the Sudanese government has arrested almost 200 Christians, including 14 religious authorities; threatened dozens of churches and related church buildings, including through demolition, closure, and expropriation; and continued to discriminate against Christians and promote Islam.

The Central African Republic has a long history of political strife, coups, severe human rights abuses, and underdevelopment. Despite this, sectarian violence and targeted killing based on religious identity are new to the majority-Christian country. The ongoing conflict started after the 2013 coup by a coalition of Muslim-majority militias and has resulted in thousands of people dead, 2.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 480,000 refugees, and more than 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).