USCIRF is proud to announce its new “Policy Update” series. This periodic publication will include information and analysis related to the status of religious freedom in the countries USCIRF monitors.
In North Korea, the regime’s approach toward religion and belief is among the most repressive in the world. Put simply, freedom of religion or belief does not exist in North Korea. Although the North Korean constitution protects its people’s freedom of religion in principle, in practice the regime exerts absolute influence over a handful of statecontrolled houses of worship permitted to exist. This creates a facade of religious life maintained chiefly for propaganda purposes.
A USCIRF delegation visited Khartoum and North Darfur states in May 2018 to learn about specific violations and barriers to religious freedom perpetrated both by state and non-state actors. The delegation met with a wide range of interlocutors, including Sudanese government officials, members of civil society, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, religious leaders, representatives of religious minority communities, and journalists, among others. This report highlights information provided to USCIRF in four areas, including the supremacy of the government’s interpretation of Islam, state enforcement of this interpretation of Islam resulting in the violation of women’s rights, and oppression of Christians and other minority groups.
In November 2017, USCIRF Commissioners and staff traveled to Burma (also known as Myanmar) to meet with government officials, civil society, and religious representatives in Rangoon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw. In January 2018, USCIRF staff traveled to Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to gather information on the situation of Rohingya Muslim refugees.
This document provides an overview of what USCIRF learned during these visits about the religious freedom challenges Burma faces and violations specific to Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.
The next year will be a pivotal one in Iraq. The U.S.-led fight against ISIS has yielded significant success. The military battle to defeat ISIS, a group which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed was “clearly responsible for genocide,” has come to an end. In September 2017, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) held its independence referendum, which passed with 92 percent voting in favor. The implications of the referendum for Iraq’s religious minority communities, especially those living under KRG-controlled areas or in the Disputed Internal Boundaries, remain unclear.
Throughout 2017, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has promoted its 50th year of existence, marked on August 8. The regional bloc comprising 10 countries has grown and integrated in ways hardly dreamed of five decades ago. But to this day, ASEAN lacks cohesion on human rights issues and, in particular, has a flawed record protecting freedom of religion or belief, both as a collective regional bloc and as individual Member States. The good news is that ASEAN possesses both the raw materials and the incentive to turn its record around.
The Central African Republic has a long history of political strife, coups, severe human rights abuses, and underdevelopment. Despite this, sectarian violence and targeted killing based on religious identity are new to the majority-Christian country. The ongoing conflict started after the 2013 coup by a coalition of Muslim-majority militias and has resulted in thousands of people dead, 2.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 480,000 refugees, and more than 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).