Despite the June 2013 election of a new and purportedly moderate president, the already-poor religious freedom conditions in Iran have continued to deteriorate, particularly for religious minorities, especially Baha’is and Christian converts. Sufi and Sunni Muslims and dissenting Shi’a Muslims also faced harassment, arrests, and imprisonment. For more information, view the following:
In June 2014, USCIRF’s then Chair Dr. Robert P. George testified before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing entitled “One Year Under Rouhani: Iran’s Abysmal Human Rights Record.” From the testimony:
“President Rouhani... Read More
Pakistan represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as “countries of particular concern.” In the past year, conditions hit an all-time low due to chronic sectarian violence targeting mostly Shi’a Muslims but also Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus. For more information, view the following:
"Pakistan's blasphemy... Read More
USCIRF Vice Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett testified on Friday, April 4 before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission during a hearing entitled, "The Plight of Religious Minorities in India."
From the testimony: “India and the United States have a long and proud partnership. We share uncommon commonalities given our robust commitment to democracy and multiethnic, multi-religious societies. India also is an important ally that holds key strategic economic, political and regional value to the United States, since it is the second most populous country in the world, situated between the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, and a neighbor to a troubled Pakistan... Despite positive attributes as a democracy with a deeply diverse religious demographic and a robust civil society, India has serious religious freedom issues.”
USCIRF Commissioner Eric P. Schwartz testified on Wednesday, March 26 before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission during a hearing entitled, The Persecution of Religious and Indigenous Communities in Vietnam.
From the testimony: “The Vietnamese government exerts control over religious activities through law and administrative oversight, severely restricts independent religious practice, and represses individuals and religious groups it views as challenging its authority. The government also continues to imprison individuals for religious activity or advocacy on behalf of religious freedom.”
Click here to find out more information about the hearing.
The Russian government’s actions reflect a policy of “state favored religions” that favors the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (MPROC) over other religious communities, including the other traditional faiths. For example, the MPROC has made agreements with some government ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, to only offer the Orthodox culture module in their schools. Outside of MPROC schools, Russian school students may select one of six modules on Secular Ethics, Foundations of World Religious Cultures, and Foundations of Orthodox, Islamic, Jewish or Buddhist Culture. Secular Ethics is the most popular selection throughout Russia.
The MPROC receives the bulk of the state’s support for religious communities including subsidies for construction of churches, although other so-called “traditional” religious communities also sometimes benefit. Yet, government officials have obstructed the construction or rental of buildings for worship of other... Read More
In 1996, Congress created and passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act , or IIRIRA.
Part of this bill included the Expedited Removal Process which recognizes that the United States has a “moral, humanitarian and international legal obligation to provide protection for individuals fleeing religious and other forms of persecution.”
Just last week, USCIRF submitted this statement to the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the U.S. asylum process.
For more information, view USCIRF’s Special Report: Assessing the U.S. Government’s Detention of Asylum seekers here .
On December 10, 1948, 48 nations in the UN General Assembly adopted a remarkable document that is as relevant today as it was then: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). View USCIRF's Human Rights Day op-ed here .
Find out more about the current status human rights, particularly religious freedom, around the... Read More
The Central African Republic (CAR) has a long history of political strife that frequently has led to coups and human rights abuses. Yet the current chaos and fighting following the March 2013 coup against former President Fran-coise Bozizé is uniquely dangerous, as it increasingly is centered around re-ligious identity and risks pulling the country into an intractable Muslim-Christian conflict. If these forces are not contained, severe human rights abuses are expected to be increasingly perpetrated along religious and ethnic lines.
To learn more about the current situation in the Central African Republic, see USCIRF's CAR Policy Brief here .
The Sudanese government’s imposition of Shari’ah countrywide in 1983, including on the predominantly animist and Christian South, significantly contributed to the onset of Sudan’s 20 year North-South civil war. Today, concerns about Shari’ah being central to a future constitution and the law remain.
To learn more about the role of shari'ah in Sudan's constitution and law, see USCIRF's Sudan Policy Brief here .
Against the backdrop of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq since 2008, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Washington for meetings this week. According to United Nations figures, more than 5,000 people have been violently killed in Iraq since April, including almost 1,000 in September alone.
To read about the religious freedom situation in Iraq, see USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report Iraq chapter here .