Annual watchdog report expands to Latin America, continues to cite China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia among 28 nations restricting minority faiths.
While longstanding offenders in Asia and the Middle East remain epicenters of persecution, Latin America and Europe occupy more space in an annual chronicle by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
For the first time, Cuba and Nicaragua are labeled Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), according to the independent watchdog. Its 2023 report also makes special mention of the religious rights of indigenous communities in Mexico, Chile, and Colombia. And France, Germany, and Ukraine are highlighted as examples where minority believers have suffered for their faith.
The report’s greatest emphasis, however, is monotonously familiar.
The commission recommends the US State Department relist Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as CPCs, in addition to Cuba and Nicaragua. Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam were recommended for additional designation.
Violations in these nations are “systematic, egregious, and ongoing.”
USCIRF chair Nury Turkel highlighted Iran in his opening remarks. The nation brutally represses its minority communities, he said, and this past year cracked down on protestors peacefully demonstrating against mandatory hijab laws.
Mahsa Amini, who died in custody, was the feature image of the 2023 report’s cover.
“USCIRF is disheartened by the deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief in some countries,” said Turkel. “We strongly urge the Biden administration to implement USCIRF’s recommendations.”
These include listening to the independent commission.
The report expressed “great disappointment” that India and Nigeria were not included …