The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released on Monday its 2022 Annual Report, which highlighted the chilling decline in religious freedom in Afghanistan.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2022 Annual Report, which documented the state of countries in the area of religious freedom, had a collage of photos of what transpired in Afghanistan in 2021 for its cover. The 2022 report particularly assessed religious freedom violations in 27 countries. It highlighted that the "crisis in Afghanistan should serve as a collective call to action to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable religious communities around the globe."
"We are disheartened by the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in some countries- especially Afghanistan under the Taliban's de facto government since August. Religious minorities have faced harassment, detention, and even death due to their faith or beliefs, and years of progress toward more equitable access to education and representation of women and girls have disappeared," Mainza said.
"Meanwhile, USCIRF is encouraged by the Biden administration's continued prioritization of international religious freedom during its first year. To continue this progress, we strongly urge the administration to implement USCIRF's recommendations-in particular, to expand its Priority 2 refugee designation to grant access for at-risk religious groups in Afghanistan, and to designate Nigeria as a country of particular concern," she added.
The 2022 Annual Report contained the Commission's recommendations to the president, the secretary of state, and congress in the hope that religious persecution would be curtailed. The USCIRF said the report also intends, more than anything, to promote freedom of religion and belief outside the country.
This year's report recommended a total of 15 countries as countries of particular concern (CPC) to the United States Department of State. This included five new countries and reinforced 10 countries previously recommended to the CPC in November 2021. In particular, the ten countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
Besides Afghanistan and Nigeria, the five new countries also include India, Vietnam, and Syria. The USCIRF explained that it maintained China in the CPC for its continuous atrocities against the Uyghur minorities. The same recommendation was given to Malaysia for the Burmese military's genocide of the Rohingya Muslims.
In addition, the 2022 Annual Report recommended a total of 12 countries to the Department of State's Special Watch List, which particularly focuses on countries where its government perpetrated or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom. The recommendation includes nine new countries added to the three given in November 2021, which were Algeria, Cuba, and Nicaragua. The nine new countries are Azerbaijan, CAR, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
USCIRF Vice Chair Nury Turkel highlighted during the launch the continued efforts of the American government in condemning abuses of religious freedom, as well as, in holding perpetrators accountable for their actions through sanctions. Turkel raised that the American government should take additional steps in supporting religious freedom globally. The vice chair hoped that the 2022 Annual Report would enable President Joe Biden and Congress to advance religious freedom, which is a "universal, fundamental human right."