PRESS RELEASE: USCIRF Calls on State Department to Lift Saudi CPC Waiver After Mass Shi’a Execution

Apr 26, 2019

April 26, 2019

USCIRF Calls on State Department to Lift Saudi CPC Waiver After Mass Shi’a Execution

USCIRF 2019 Annual Report Cites Numerous Violations and Recommends Additional Policy Actions by the State Department

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is deeply troubled by the Saudi government’s mass execution on Tuesday of 37 Saudi nationals, a majority of whom were Shi’a Muslim. Those beheaded included prominent Shi’a cleric Sheikh Mohammed al-Atiya, who was charged with attempting to “spread the Shi’a confession,” and Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, a Shi’a Muslim who was arrested after participating in a protest at the age of sixteen.

The Saudi government’s execution of minority Shi’a Muslims on the basis of their religious identity and peaceful activism is not only shocking, but also directly contradicts the government’s official narrative of working toward greater modernization and improving religious freedom conditions,” said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee.

A USCIRF delegation visited Saudi Arabia in September 2018 to assess conditions and will reveal its latest recommendations for U.S. policy on Saudi Arabia on Monday, April 29, during the release of its 2019 annual report.

In November 2018, the State Department again designated Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations; however, it continued to keep in place an indefinite waiver of any punitive action as it has since 2006.

The State Department must stop giving a free pass to the Saudi government, which, for many years, has punished numerous Saudi citizens and expatriate workers for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief,” said Dorjee, noting that USCIRF has consistently called for the removal of the waiver.



The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at or Kellie Boyle at or +1-703-898-6554.