April 13, 2024

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U.S. Designates Countries and Entities for Religious Freedom Violations

In a press statement released on January 4, 2023, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced the designation of several countries and entities for their severe violations of religious freedom. This move comes as part of the United States’ ongoing commitment to advancing freedom of religion or belief globally.

The countries designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” include Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, the DPRK, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. These nations have been identified for engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Additionally, Algeria, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam have been designated as “Special Watch List” countries for their involvement in or tolerance of severe violations of religious freedom.

Furthermore, Secretary Blinken highlighted several entities designated as “Entities of Particular Concern.” These include al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Sahel, ISIS-West Africa, al-Qa’ida affiliate Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban. These organizations have been singled out for their role in religious freedom violations.

While these designations are significant, Secretary Blinken emphasized that religious freedom violations also occur in other countries not listed. He called on governments worldwide to put an end to attacks on religious minority communities and places of worship, communal violence, imprisonment for peaceful expression, transnational repression, and calls to violence against religious communities.

Secretary Blinken acknowledged that the challenges to religious freedom are deeply entrenched and systemic. However, he expressed optimism that with sustained commitment from those who refuse to accept hatred and persecution as the norm, a world where all people can live with dignity and equality is within reach.

The United States’ designation of these countries and entities aims to bring attention to the pressing issue of religious freedom violations and encourage international action to address these violations. As the U.S. continues to prioritize religious freedom in its foreign policy, it hopes to inspire change and promote a world where individuals can practice their beliefs without fear of persecution.

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