US Adds Nigeria to Religious Freedom Blacklist

•Says Boko Haram, ISIS, others entities of concern

By Adedayo Akinwale

The United States has designated Nigeria, China, Burma, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of ‘particular interest’ for violating religious freedom.

The US Department of States in a statement by the Secretary of State, Mr. Michael Pompeo, said yesterday that it was also placing the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia on a special watchlist for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”

US explained that religious freedom is an inalienable right, and the bedrock upon which free societies are built and flourish.

It stated: “Today, the United States – a nation founded by those fleeing religious persecution, as the recent Commission on Unalienable Rights report noted – once again took action to defend those who simply want to exercise this essential freedom.

“The United States is designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

“Additionally, we are designating al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.”

The US noted that it has not renewed the prior Entity of Particular Concern designations for al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan, due to the total loss of territory formerly controlled by these terrorist organisations.

It added that while these two groups no longer meet the statutory criteria for designation, it would not rest until it has fully eliminated the threat of religious freedom abuses by any violent extremist and terrorist groups.

The US, however, announced that that Sudan and Uzbekistan have been removed from the special watchlist based on significant, concrete progress undertaken by their respective governments over the past year.
It explained that the courageous reforms of their laws and practices stand as models for other nations to follow.

“And yet our work is far from complete. The United States will continue to work tirelessly to end religiously motivated abuses and persecution around the world, and to help ensure that each person, everywhere,” it said.

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