Welcome to USCIRF

  • Vice Chair Nadine Maenza and Commissioner Anurima Bhargava traveled to Iraq in late July to participate in a conference commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Yazidi genocide. Learn more here. (Here they are pictured with Khanim Latif, Iraq's Presidential Advisor on Women's Affairs.)

  • On Thursday, June 28, USCIRF held a hearing on religious freedom in Turkey. Learn more here.

  • On Friday, May 10, USCIRF Commissioners met with Vice President Pence and Ambassador Bolton to discuss findings and recommendations from the 2019 Annual Report.

  • On Monday, April 29, USCIRF released its 2019 Annual Report: Key Findings and Recommendations. Read more here.

  • USCIRF’s Survey of 2017-2018 Saudi Middle and High School Textbooks reviews 22 middle and high school textbooks published by the Saudi government for the 2017-2018 academic year. Click here for more.

What's New at USCIRF

WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns Saudi Arabia’s intensified mistreatment of religious prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi. The Saudi government has moved Badawi to solitary confinement and he has declared a hunger strike in protest. This is Badawi’s second hunger strike since September 2019. Saudi Arabia arrested Badawi in 2012 on charges of “apostasy” and insulting Islam. USCIRF has advocated for Saudi Arabia to release him since 2013 and has recommended that Congress and the administration continue do the same in its 2019 annual report. read more
WASHINGTON, DC (December 13, 2019) – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns Egypt’s recent arrest of Coptic activist Ramy Kamel. Mr. Kamel is an activist and prominent member of the Maspero Youth Union, advocating for full civil rights for Egypt’s Coptic Christian community and documenting abuses against its members. On November 23, National Security Agency officers stormed his home; confiscated his mobile phone, laptop, and other belongings related to his advocacy work; and took him into custody. One day later, the Supreme State Security Prosecution announced a series of spurious charges against Mr. Kamel, including membership in a terrorist organization, spreading false information, and disturbing the public order. read more
WASHINGTON, DC—The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the Department of Treasury’s designation of senior Burmese military officials for sanctions under Executive Order 13818 and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, due to their individual roles in mass atrocities in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states. Designated individuals include Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese military; Soe Win, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese military; Than Oo, a leader of the 99th Light Infantry Division in Rakhine State; and Aung Aung, a leader of the 33rd Light Infantry Division in Rakhine State. read more
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a study conducted by Bauman Global on Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria. The report examines the laws and institutions in three northern states in Nigeria: Kano, Sokoto, and Zamfara, which are among 12 states where Islamic penal laws and criminal procedure codes are used. read more
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is deeply troubled by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), originally introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) given the religion criterion in the bill. The CAB will now move to the Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament’s Upper House). If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership. read more

Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project

USCIRF's Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project highlights individuals imprisoned for exercising their freedom of religion or belief, as well as the dedicated advocacy of USCIRF Commissioners working for their release. Please click the photos below for more information on the prisoners, and the Commissioners' efforts on their behalfs.
 

USCIRF Religious Prisoners of Conscience

 

 

 

Tweets from @USCIRF

Recent Publications

A Survey of 2017-2018 Saudi Middle and High School Textbooks catalogs the offending laws found in a wide range of countries. This follow-on contracted study reviews 22 middle and high school textbooks published by the Saudi government for the 2017-2018 academic year, including the 12 high school books previously reviewed by USCIRF in its May 2018 Special Report.

Central Nigeria: Overcoming Dangerous Speech and Endemic Religious Divides examines how dangerous speech and polarizing narratives in Nigeria have fueled violence, discrimination and segregation between Muslims and Christians for decades, particularly in central Nigeria, and how these dynamics have contributed to violence and religious freedom violations.

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USCIRF Summit on International Religious Freedom

On April 18, 2018, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) hosted a summit commemorating the 20th anniversary of the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 in Washington D.C. 
The summit included a plenary to discuss the “State of the Union” of international religious freedom followed by two panels featuring distinguished guests discussing strategies for achieving positive change for religious freedom and prisoners of conscience around the world.

A link to the live Twitter recording of the event can be found here.

USCIRF Calls for Immediate Release of Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi

WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns Saudi Arabia’s intensified mistreatment of religious prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi. The Saudi government has moved Badawi to solitary confinement and he has declared a hunger strike in protest. This is Badawi’s second hunger strike since September 2019. Saudi Arabia arrested Badawi in 2012 on charges of “apostasy” and insulting Islam. USCIRF has advocated for Saudi Arabia to release him since 2013 and has recommended that Congress and the administration continue do the same in its 2019 annual report.

USCIRF Condemns Egypt’s Arrest of Coptic Activist Ramy Kamel

WASHINGTON, DC (December 13, 2019) – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns Egypt’s recent arrest of Coptic activist Ramy Kamel. Mr. Kamel is an activist and prominent member of the Maspero Youth Union, advocating for full civil rights for Egypt’s Coptic Christian community and documenting abuses against its members. On November 23, National Security Agency officers stormed his home; confiscated his mobile phone, laptop, and other belongings related to his advocacy work; and took him into custody. One day later, the Supreme State Security Prosecution announced a series of spurious charges against Mr. Kamel, including membership in a terrorist organization, spreading false information, and disturbing the public order.

USCIRF Applauds Sanctions against Senior Burmese Military Officials

WASHINGTON, DC—The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the Department of Treasury’s designation of senior Burmese military officials for sanctions under Executive Order 13818 and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, due to their individual roles in mass atrocities in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states. Designated individuals include Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese military; Soe Win, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese military; Than Oo, a leader of the 99th Light Infantry Division in Rakhine State; and Aung Aung, a leader of the 33rd Light Infantry Division in Rakhine State.

USCIRF Releases New Report on Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a study conducted by Bauman Global on Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria. The report examines the laws and institutions in three northern states in Nigeria: Kano, Sokoto, and Zamfara, which are among 12 states where Islamic penal laws and criminal procedure codes are used.

USCIRF Raises Serious Concerns and Eyes Sanctions Recommendations for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in India, Which Passed Lower House Today

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is deeply troubled by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), originally introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) given the religion criterion in the bill. The CAB will now move to the Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament’s Upper House). If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.

USCIRF Raises Alarm about Speech Laws that Restrict Religious Freedom in More than Half of African Countries

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a report entitled “Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Hate Speech Laws in Africa: Implications for Freedom of Religion or Belief.” This report examines these speech restrictions and their impact on religious freedom across the African continent.

Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Hate Speech Laws in Africa

The freedoms of opinion and expression and of religion or belief are intricately intertwined—where violations occur against one, there are often violations against the other. Although these human rights are protected under articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), states around the world continue to pass and enforce laws that restrict both freedoms. This paper provides a survey and analysis of speech restrictions in Africa that have, or may, limit FoRB. Laws that restrict apostasy (the public renunciation of one’s religion), blasphemy (the insult of a religion or religious objects or places), and hate speech (generally encompassing communication that prejudices a particular group based on race, religion, ethnicity, or other factor) all limit freedom of expression. Such laws also have unique implications for citizens’ abilities to express and practice their faith. These laws are prevalent throughout Africa, where at least 9 countries have apostasy laws, at least 25 criminalize blasphemy, and at least 29 have laws against hate speech.

Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria

For 20 years, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has monitored and evaluated religious freedom conditions in Nigeria. This year also marks 20 years since Nigeria’s return to democracy and the adoption of the 1999 Constitution, which outlines the federal system of government and the hybrid application of religious, customary, and civil laws. The Constitution provides that states shall have High Courts, and may also have Shari’ah and Customary courts of appeal where required. During the same time period, 12 northern Nigerian states have also re-integrated Islamic criminal law in various ways. While the Shari’ah laws are based on long-standing practices, receive widespread support from Muslims, and apply only to Muslims, state enforcement of religious laws presents serious challenges to fully respecting freedom of religion or belief.
 
 

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About the Commission

Who We Are

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief.

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