Welcome to USCIRF

USCIRF Hearing on Citizenship Laws and Religious Freedom


U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing

Citizenship Laws and Religious Freedom

Wednesday, March 4, 2020
2:30 – 4:00 PM
325 Russell Senate Office Building

Hearing Summary
Hearing Transcript

Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a hearing about how citizenship laws are leveraged to deny religious minorities the legal protections of citizenship, making them vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, and mass atrocities.

The recognition of an individual’s citizenship is the bedrock for all accompanying political and civil rights, “the right to have rights.” In recognition of the importance of citizenship, the 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness argues that an individual may not be deprived of one’s nationality on “racial, ethnic, religious, or political grounds” or if this “would render him stateless.”

With widespread protests in recent months in India in response to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and a proposed National Register of Citizens, however, citizenship laws as a tool to target religious minorities is receiving much needed international attention. This phenomenon has a long-standing precedent with such measures as the 1982 Citizenship Law in Burma stripping the Rohingya of their rights as citizens. Without citizenship rights, minority communities are left to face further persecution and violence by both governments and non-state actors. In particular, government efforts to strip religious minorities of their citizenship can be a key predictor of mass atrocities.

Witnesses will discuss how citizenship laws are used to target religious minorities, particularly in Burma and India, and will highlight the importance of the atrocity prevention framework for understanding the potential consequences of these laws.

Opening Remarks

Panel I

  • Naomi Kikoler, Director, Simon Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Written Testimony
  • Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, Director, Displacement and Migration, Center for Global Policy
    Written Testimony
  • Aman Wadud, Human Rights Lawyer, Assam, India
    Written Testimony
  • Dr. Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences and Director of the Center for Contemporary Asia, Brown University
    Written Testimony


Submitted for the Record


Additional Photos

This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media should RSVP at media@uscirf.gov. The hearing will be livestreamed via the Commission website. For any questions please contact Jamie Staley at Jstaley@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0606.

Tony Perkins, Chair · Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair · Nadine Maenza, Vice Chair
Gary Bauer · James Carr · Anurima Bhargava
Tenzin Dorjee · Sharon Kleinbaum · Johnnie Moore

Erin D. Singshinsuk, Executive Director


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.