The Foreign Service Journal, February 2011

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 11 Is State Concerned Enough about Religious Freedom? Among other provisions of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, the State Department is required to produce an annual report on freedom of worship in every country around the world. And onNov. 17, 2010, State duly released an executive summary of the latest edition, detailing conditions in 198 countries ( ). Among the report’s conclusions: Genuine religious freedom does not exist in North Korea; freedom of reli- gion is neither recognized nor pro- tected in Saudi Arabia; the South Sudanese government does a far better job of ensuring free worship than its counterpart in Khartoum; and the Burmese regime has tried to force stu- dents to convert to Buddhism. A key fact-finding partner for State in this endeavor is the independent U.S. Commission on International Re- ligious Freedom ( ). The USCIRF limits its focus to the most egregious violators of religious freedom, producing recommendations on which ones State should designate as Countries of Particular Concern. In addition to recommending that all of 2009’s violators remain on the 2010 CPC list, the commission wants State to add five more: Iraq, Nigeria, Pak- istan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. The USCIRF is particularly con- cerned about the situation in Iraq. While many Middle Eastern countries have experienced periods of intense Christian emigration in the past, the outflow from Iraq has accelerated alarmingly. More than half of the coun- try’s Christian community has fled since 2003, reducing its count to 500,000 in a population of almost 30 million. And while general violence in Iraq has de- creased markedly, religious and ethnic minorities are actually becoming more attractive targets, because they lack the militias and tribal structures needed to defend themselves. To counter this trend, the commission recommends the appointment of a U.S. envoy for human rights in Iraq. As we went to press in early January, however, State had taken no action on that recommendation. Nor had it an- nounced this year’s list of Countries of Particular Concern, though Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Pos- ner told reporters that the list would be issued sometime in January. While USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo thanked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for her strong en- dorsement of the commission’s work, he expressed disappointment at the delay, which also occurred in 2008 and 2009, a Nov. 20 article in the Christian Examiner ( www.christianexaminer. com ) rep orts. The same article quotes Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., a leading congressional proponent of religious liberty, as urging the Obama adminis- tration to follow up CPC designations with sanctions where needed. In fact, the CPC list generally does not change very much from year to year: Burma, China, Iran and Sudan have all been designated as worst of- fenders each year since the first report in 1999. Other countries on the cur- rent list include Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. Most of the countries on the current list did not react officially to the com- mission’s report, but Tehran struck back hard. In a statement posted on the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry Web site ( ) on Nov. 19, spokesman Ramin Mihman-Doust labeled the document a product of “Washington’s anti-Islamism and dou- C Y B E R N O T E S WWW.FSJOURNAL.ORG When contacting an advertiser, kindly mention the Foreign Service Journal. Click on the Marketplace tab on the marquee AFSA Legacy AKA Hotel residences Clements International Diplomatic Automobile Sales Hirshorn Company, The Inside A U.S. Embassy ProMax SDFCU TetraTech WJD