U.S. report: Several Mideast countries top list of violators of religious freedom

The logo of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) Several Middle East countries have been identified as among the worst violators of religious freedom, according to an annual report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

According to the 209-page report, Iran and Saudi Arabia are listed as “Tier 1” and “Countries of Particular Concern (CPC).” Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are listed as “Tier 1” countries that are not yet on the U.S. State Department’s CPC list but should be added.

Turkey is listed as a “Tier 2,” for countries that do not fully meet the criteria of being a CPC but still have serious violations of religious freedom.

Regarding Egypt, the report said that the government under former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and the new military-backed regime “failed or were slow to protect religious minorities, particularly Coptic Orthodox Christians, from violence.”

The report also criticized Egypt for the increased number of religious groups who were “detained, prosecuted, and imprisoned” under Egypt’s controversial blasphemy law as well as the rampant anti-Semitism that continues to appear in Egypt’s state-controlled media and other outlets.

Similarly, Iran was blasted for its continued poor treatment of Christians and Baha’is, including increased imprisonment.

“The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” the report said.

According to the report, about 400 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010, with 40 Christians currently detained, including Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini.

Meanwhile, civil war-ravaged Syria has seen violations of every religious group, including Muslims, Christians, Alawites, and even small communities such as Yezidis and Druze. All of those groups face a “dire future” in Syria, said the report, which also mentioned the continuing attacks by al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups on Christians and Alawites in the country.

One of the worst violators of religious freedom in the past year has been Pakistan, where religious minorities—including Shi’a, Christians, and Hindus—are routinely targeted by the government and extremists, said the report.

Posted on May 1, 2014 .