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In the months following the release of USCIRF’s 2019 Annual Report, the Bahraini government has continued to make some progress toward improved religious freedom conditions. In March 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) participated in the 200th anniversary celebration of Bahrain’s Hindu community at a ceremony in Manama along with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister and several members of the royal family. In April, Bahrain’s government reinstated the citizenship of 551 Bahrainis—mostly Shi’a Muslims—which it had previously revoked. In June 2019, the synagogue in Manama hosted its first morning worship service in more than 70 years, attended predominantly by American participants in the Trump administration’s Middle East peace workshop. Bahrain’s foreign minister also participated, for the second year, in the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, in Washington, DC in July 2019. read more
Saudi Arabia has taken some limited steps toward greater religious freedom in 2019 while continuing to restrict it in other ways. On a positive note, Saudi Arabia eased religious restrictions on women’s mobility in 2019 and allowed Saudi women for the first time to report births, marriages, and divorces. It also began issuing tourist visas and relaxed religious restrictions on dress for women visitors to the Kingdom. Yet at the same time, the government has conducted mass executions of Shi’a Muslims. It continued to detain several religious prisoners of conscience and severely mistreat activists who peacefully protested religious guardianship laws, and in official communications it described feminism as a form of radical extremism. read more
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauds today’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague concerning the Rohingya in Burma’s Rakhine State. The ICJ ordered the Burmese government to “take all measures within its power” to ensure that the military and any irregular armed units “do not commit acts of genocide” against Rohingya in Rakhine State and to submit regular reports to the court demonstrating its compliance with the order. read more
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is closely monitoring increased protest activity in Iran and expresses concern the government may heighten its persecution of religious minorities and dissidents in response. Since December 2017, Iran’s government has reacted to widespread popular protests in the country by cracking down on Iranians who do not align with the government’s official religious views, accusing them of disloyalty, espionage, and/or endangering national security. read more
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today praised the State Department’s announcement that it has named nine “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for particularly severe religious freedom violations and placed seven countries on its “Special Watch List” (SWL) for severe violations, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)  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




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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 Lauds Bipartisan Congressional Support for Religious Freedom in Ukraine

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the introduction of the Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act (H.R. 5408), which calls on the President to take into account Russia’s religious freedom violations in Russia-occupied Crimea and Russia-controlled Donbas when determining “country of particular concern” (CPC) designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. The bill also urges the U.S. government to place visa sanctions on Russian officials responsible for these violations, along with their families.

USCIRF Disappointed UN Security Council Did Not Discuss Religious Freedom in North Korea

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expresses disappointment that the United Nations Security Council did not hold a special meeting specifically to address North Korea’s human rights and religious freedom record on International Human Rights Day (December 10) this year. Between 2014-2017, the Security Council had held special meetings on Human Rights Day focused on North Korea. On December 11, the Security Council did hold a meeting focused on North Korea’s missile tests and nuclear program.

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.


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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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