Top Violators of Religious Freedom
“For its own safety’s sake, America should give much higher priority to promoting global religious freedom. Whenever governments in unstable places persecute believers, that policy is not merely bad in itself but dangerous because it has the perverse effect of weakening moderate people of faith and empowering extremism. Those were some of the broad conclusions drawn by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as it prepared its 2013 annual report, released April 2013. Some of its harshest words were reserved for religious repression in former Soviet places like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia itself, including the north Caucasus. The Boston bombings had lent a grim topicality to the report’s findings, said Katrina Lantos Swett, who chairs the panel.”
This Commission’s list of top violators of religious freedom differs from that of the State Department:
“So much for the big bold ideas, with which most people will agree. The Commission’s verdict on particular countries is more controversial. As usual, the bipartisan body (named by Congress as well as the White House) takes a harsher view of global religious liberty than does the State Department, with which it shares the job of watching freedom of conscience and naming violators. State currently lists eight “countries of particular concern” (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The Commission wants to add seven more: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.”
The Commission itself can’t agree on Turkey.
“But the Commission is divided, and volatile, in its judgement of Turkey. Last year, it named Turkey as a CPC, after 5-4 vote; this year Turkey is not even on the “watch list” of nearly-CPCs, a category which is given the new name of Tier 2. Instead Turkey merely features in a list of “other countries and regions monitored”. In a sign of a hot internal debate, four members of the commission (whose makeup has changed a lot since last year) dissent from the latest report. They acknowledge that last year’s denunciation of Turkey as a top-league violator was too harsh, but they think this year’s verdict is too lenient, given there has only been a “negligible change” in the country’s behaviour.”
Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom April 2013
(Covering January 31, 2012 – January 31, 2013)