...that the United States government continues to detain many asylum seekers in jails or jail-like facilities?
Between July and December 2012, USCIRF staff toured 10 detention facilities nationwide and met with asylum seekers and officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). The goal of the tour was to assess ICE’s progress implementing reforms announced in 2009 that would create a new immigration detention system with facilities based on civil, not penal, models in locations with access to legal, medical, and transportation services. The announced reforms reflect USCIRF recommendations that, when detention is necessary, asylum seekers in Expedited Removal should be held in such civil models. Detaining asylum seekers under penal conditions with criminals may retraumatize this vulnerable population and cause them prematurely to withdraw their asylum claims.
As described in a recently-issued... Read More
...that Europe’s largest internal armed conflict is in Russia’s North Caucasus, particularly Dagestan and Chechnya?
The conflict in Russia’s North Caucasus region is the largest internal armed conflict in Europe, pitting Russian government forces against armed insurgents -- many of whom seek a regional Shari’ah-based political unit. The fighting has had a devastating impact on not only the lives of civilians but also religious freedomthroughout the region.
Since thelate 1990’s, observers report that the Salafist form of Islam has been spreading in the North Caucasus, particularly in Dagestan. Its growth is influenced by the negative official treatment of conservative Muslims, local traditions of religion and ethnicity, ties to the Chechen conflict, and the roles of local religious leaders. Most local Salafis are peaceful, but face a difficult integration into local societies and economies. In Dagestan, the North Caucasus’ most violent region, Salafi... Read More
...that the Bangladeshi government is facing widespread pressure to adopt a blasphemy law that carries the death penalty?
Since February 2013, the Bangladeshi government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has faced widespread pressure to adopt a blasphemy law that includes capital punishment for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. The country recently has been experiencing widespread protests and violence associated with this call.
This pressure began in April, after four internet bloggers were arrested for “harming religious sentiments” in their postings on Bangladesh’s International War Crimes Tribunal. (Bangladesh, not the international community, established the tribunal to adjudicate alleged war crimes perpetrated in 1971 during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan.) They also blogged about the conviction and death sentence for a leading Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi. Jamaat-e-Islami is the largest religious... Read More
...that USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report recommends that 15 countries be designated as the worst violators of religious freedom?
USCIRF issued its 2013 Annual Report on April 30. The report highlights the state of religious freedom abroad during 2012 and identifies governments that are the most egregious violators of this fundamental freedom. USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report includes more countries than ever before -- 29 specifically are addressed and at least 22 additional countries are discussed in thematic sections.
The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) mandates that USCIRF issue the Annual Report to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress by May 1 of each year, In the report, which also is issued publicly, USCIRF recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight nations as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, for their... Read More
...that police detained over 900 people from Beijing’s Shouwang Church last year for trying to hold outdoor worship services?
For the past two years, Shouwang members have tried to hold weekly services in Beijing parks only to face repeated detentions, the loss of jobs and residency permits and, in the case of one young woman, sexual abuse during police detention. All ten of Shouwang church’s leaders remain in home detention to this day.
Shouwang was the largest of Beijing’s Protestant “house churches,” so-called because they often begin in people’s homes before seeking more permanent gathering space. Protestant ‘house churches’ in China are illegal because they refuse, for both theological and political reasons, to join the state-approved Three-Self Protestant Movement (TSPM) or the China Christian Council (CCC).
Shouwang Church at its height had over 1,000 members and was meeting in a Beijing restaurant before the landlord terminated its... Read More
...that two years later there still have been no prosecutions stemming from Nigeria’s presidential post-election violence that killed more than 800?
In April 2011, immediately following the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan, more than 800 people were killed and 65,000 displaced in three days of rioting in Nigeria’s northern states. Protests by supporters of the main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari -- a northern Muslim who lost the presidential election, quickly turned to violence against Christians who were thought to be sympathetic to President Jonathan, a Christian. While political issues sparked the violence, its consequences were severe violations of religious freedom, including individuals killed because of their religious identity and churches and mosques attacked. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) reported that at least 187 people were killed, 243 people injured, and more than 430 churches burned or destroyed. Some of the... Read More
. . . that Uzbekistan pressures neighboring Central Asian countries to return asylum seekers who have fled Uzbek government repression of their religious freedoms?
Since Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, its government has systematically and egregiously violated freedom of religion or belief, as well as other human rights. The Uzbek government harshly penalizes individuals for independent religious activity regardless of their religious affiliation. Thousands remain imprisoned as alleged extremists, including many who reportedly are denied due process and tortured. Since 2006, the State Department has designated Uzbekistan a “Country of Particular Concern” for these egregious violations, but since 2009 has placed a waiver on taking any action as a consequence of the CPC designation.
In June 2011, Uzbekistan successfully pressured Kazakhstan to forcibly return 28 Uzbek asylum seekers, who had sought refuge in Kazakhstan claiming persecution for... Read More
…that April 8 is Yom Ha Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, but acts of anti-Semitism still occur in Europe?
In Russia, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, fuel hate crimes by skinhead groups. In Belarus, the anti-Jewish utterances of President Lukashenko and the state media are coupled by a failure to identify or punish the vandals of Jewish cemeteries and other property. Echoing Hungary’s Nazi era, the leader of its third largest party recently urged the government to create a list of Jews posing “a national security threat.” Fortunately, Hungary’s government, including its Parliament, condemned this statement.
Elsewhere in Europe, since 2000, anti-Jewish graffiti increasingly has appeared in Paris and Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam, London and Rome, and synagogues have been vandalized or set ablaze in France, Greece, and Sweden. In France, “unprecedented violence” took place last year, according to a recent report issued by the... Read More
...that in Japan over the past two decades families and “professional deprogrammers” have abducted thousands of individuals to force them to renounce their chosen beliefs?
Most of those abducted have been from the Unification Church, Jehovah’s Witness, and other new religious movements. Abductees describe being confined against their will, suffering psychological harassment and physical and, in some cases, sexual abuse. In some extreme cases, individuals were held for years, including the 12 year confinement of Unification Church member Toru Goto.
The Japanese Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and protects citizens against false imprisonment, and Japan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Nevertheless, Japanese authorities continue to see these cases as “family matters” and are reluctant to intervene. In most abduction cases, police and judicial authorities neither investigate nor indict those... Read More
…that Nowruz, the Persian or Iranian New Year, will be celebrated on March 21?
Nowruz marks the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar during which families and friends in Iran and other countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, and other parts of the world celebrate both the New Year and the start of spring. Nowruz is also the New Year for the nearly six million Baha’is throughout the world, including in Iran where they constitute the largest non-Muslim religious minority population. Unfortunately, for Baha’is and so many others in Iran, the home of the majority of people celebrating Nowruz, there is little to celebrate.
Iran, a constitutional, theocratic republic, discriminates against its citizens on the basis of religion or belief. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, many members of minority religious communities have fled Iran for fear of persecution, and those who remain face discrimination, arrest, imprisonment and even death. The late... Read More