Welcome to USCIRF

Current RPOCs

Patriarch Abune Antonios (Eritrea)
USCIRF Advocate: Johnnie Moore

On May 27, 2007, the Eritrean government replaced Patriarch Antonios with Bishop Dioscoros of Mendefera, forcefully removed the Patriarch from his home, and placed him under house arrest at an undisclosed location. Patriarch Antonios, who is 89 years old, continues to be held incommunicado and reportedly is being denied medical care despite suffering from severe diabetes. Read more about him here.
Raif Badawi (Saudi Arabia)
USCIRF Advocate: Nadine Maenza
Raif Badawi is a blogger, activist, and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, which encourages debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, he was charged with "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience." He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in addition to a large fine.  He has receievd  50 lashes already. Read more about him here.
Mubarak Bala (Nigeria)
USCIRF Advocate: Frederick A. Davie
Mubarak Bala is a self-identified atheist from Kano State in northeast Nigeria. He was arrested on April 28, 2020, reportedly for a Facebook post in which he allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammad. Bala has not yet been formally charged. Read more about him here.

Dennis Christensen (Russia)
USCIRF Advocate: Gayle Manchin

On May 25, 2017, members of the Federal Security Service (FSB) disrupted a Jehovah’s Witness prayer service. Detaining some 70-80 people within the building for several hours, the authorities would ultimately hold about 20 persons overnight before arresting Dennis Christensen and 15 Russian citizens. Read more about him here.

Pastor A Dao (Vietnam)
USCIRF Advocate: James W. Carr
Pastor A Dao is a Protestant Pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ (MECC). In August 2016, he attended the conference on Freedom of Religion in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People's Forum in East Timor. While attending these conferences, he drew attention to the plight of MECC and asked the international community for help. A Dao was arrested shortly after returning to Vietnam on August 18, 2016, and on April 28, 2017, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for "helping individuals to escape abroad illegally" under article 275 of Vietnam's Penal Code. Read more about him here


Gulmira Imin (China)
USCIRF Advocate: Anurima Bhargava
Gulmira Imin is a Uighur Muslim and former web administrator for the Uighur-language website Salkin. On July 14, 2009, Ms. Imin was arrested in Aksu after authorities alleged she had organized the protests, posted an announcement for them on Salkin, and leaked state secrets by phone to her husband in Norway.  On April 1, 2010, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Ms. Imin to life in prison under Articles 103, 111, and 296 of China’s Criminal Law on charges of “splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration.” Read more about her here.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee (Iran)
USCIRF Advocate: Gayle Manchin

Ms. Iraee is an author and life-long campaigner for human rights and specifically women’s rights. On September 6, 2014, authorities believed to be Revolutionary Guards arrested both Ms. Iraee and her husband, Arash Sadehi. She was tried in May 2015 and charged with “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “spreading propaganda.” Read more about her here.

Robert Levinson (Iran)
USCIRF Advocate: Johnnie Moore

Robert Levinson is a Jewish U.S. citizen. On March 9, 2007, Levinson, a retired FBI agent, disappeared on the Iranian island of Kish. It is likely that the government of Iran disappeared him, though Iran’s government denies knowledge of his whereabouts. In 2013, President Hassan Rouhani indicated a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government to return Levinson to the United States. Then Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both urged the government of Iran to release Levinson, as has Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. On November 26, 2013, Levinson became the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (Iran)
USCIRF Advocate: Nadine Maenza
Youcef Nadarkhani was born April 11, 1977, to Muslim parents in Rasht, Iran. A member of the evangelical Church of Iran and pastor of a 400-member house church, he was first detained in 2006 on charges of "apostasy" and "evangelism." In November 2010, Pastor Nadarkhani was given the verdict of execution by hanging for charges of apostasy. Read more here.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima - The Panchen Lama (China)
USCIRF Advocate: Nadine Maenza
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was born on April 25, 1989, in Lhari County, Tibet. After the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, His Holiness the Dalai Lama chose Gedhun on May 15, 1995, to be the 11th Panchen Lama, which is the second highest position in Tibetan Buddhism.  Three days after his selection as Panchen Lama, Chinese government authorities kidnapped then six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family.  Read more about him here.

Leah Sharibu (Nigeria)
USCIRF Advocate: Tony Perkins

On February 19, 2018, the Boko Haram faction known as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISIS-WA) attacked the Government Girls Science and Technical School in Dapchi, Yobe State, Nigeria. A few weeks later in March, they released all the captive students except for Leah Sharibu, then age 15. Read more about her here.


Yahaya Sharif-Aminu (Nigeria)
USCIRF Advocate: Frederick A. Davie

Sharif-Aminu was accused of one count of insulting the religious creed, contrary to Section 382 (6) of the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law of 2000, for a series of audio messages circulated via WhatsApp which became public in March.On August 10, the Hausawa Filin Hockey upper-Sharia court found Sharif-Aminu guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death by hanging. Read more about him here.


Deacon Zhang Wen Shi (North Korea) 
USCIRF Advocate: James W. Carr

Deacon Zhang Wen Shi (also known by his Korean name, Jang Moon Seok) is an ethnically Korean, Chinese citizen who lived in Changbai, China on the border between China and North Korea. He regularly hosted North Koreans who crossed over the border into China, providing them shelter and food before they returned to North Korea. He also shared his faith with those who were willing. Deacon Zhang was kidnapped from China in November 2014 and taken to a North Korean prison where he was sentences to a 15 year sentence for his ministry to the North Korean people. Read more about him here

Hu Shigen (China)
USCIRF Advocate: Gary Bauer

On July 10, 2015, authorities disappeared Hu Shigen as part of a larger crackdown on rights lawyers and activists. His family was not made aware of his location or status until January 8, 2016 when they received an arrest notice stating that authorities suspected Hu of “subversion of state power.” Read more here.


Nguyen Bac Truyen (Vietnam)
USCIRF Advocate: Anurima Bhargava

Nguyen Bac Truyen is a legal expert who leads the Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, which assists prisoners of conscience and their families. On November 17, 2006, Truyen was arrested and sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison on charges of “conducting propaganda” against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.