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Designating Countries that Abuse Religious Freedom

Demolished house church is seen in the city of Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province. (File)

The United States remains firm in its commitment to freedom of religion or belief.

Designating Countries that Abuse Religious Freedom
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The United States remains firm in its commitment to freedom of religion or belief. “In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violations and abuses of this human right.

Each year the Secretary of State has the responsibility to identify governments and non-state actors, who, because of their religious freedom violations, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. This year, Secretary Blinken announced he has designated Burma, The People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”

For Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, the Secretary issued a waiver of the Presidential Action requirement, determining that “the important national interest of the United States require[d] the exercise of such waiver authority,” as authorized by the International Religious Freedom Act.

Secretary Blinken also placed Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.” Finally, he designated al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Ansarallah (sometimes referred to as the Houthis), ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

“The challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched,” warned Secretary Blinken. “They exist in every country. They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo. They require the international community’s urgent attention.”

The United States will continue to press all governments to hold accountable those responsible for abuses. The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe.