USCIRF Advocate: Tenzin Dorjee and 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.
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.
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.
Dennis Christensen (Russia)
USCIRF Advocate: Commissioner Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
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.
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.
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.
Hamid Kamal Mohammad bin Haydara (Yemen)
USCIRF Advocate: Former Commissioner Andy Khawaja
On December 3, 2013, authorities linked to the Houthi-run National Security Bureau arrested Hamad bin Haydara, a Yemeni Baha’i, while he was at work. On December 17, the authorities raided his home, confiscating documents and laptops. They detained him without charges and Haydara virtually disappeared until September 2, 2014, when his wife, Ilham Zara’i, was finally permitted to visit him. Read more about Hamed bin Haydara here.
Robert Levinson (Iran)
USCIRF Advocate: Commissioner 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.
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.