Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs. In some instances, they stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain. These actions sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace. The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.
Today, I am announcing designations against Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. I am also placing Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom. Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as Entities of Particular Concern.
Our announcement of these designations is in keeping with our values and interests to protect national security and to advance human rights around the globe. Countries that effectively safeguard this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not.
We will continue to carefully monitor the status of freedom of religion or belief in every country around the world and advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination. We will also regularly engage countries about our concerns regarding limitations on freedom of religion or belief, regardless of whether those countries have been designated. We welcome the opportunity to meet with all governments to address laws and practices that do not meet international standards and commitments, and to outline concrete steps in a pathway to removal from these lists.