International human rights organizations have been denouncing human rights and religious freedom violations in Saudi Arabia for years.
Rabat – The United States has re-designated Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998” that has engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement on Friday, December 20, through the US Department of State website. The press release, titled “United States Takes Action Against Violators of Religious Freedom,” listed multiple countries with poor religious freedom records.
The designation is part of the United States’ work “to promote religious freedom and combat abuses,” says the statement.
“[The designation underscores] the United States’ commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief. We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience. We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions,” concludes the press release.
The re-designation of Saudi Arabia as a country that does not respect religious freedom is only an extension of what international human rights organizations have been condemning in regard to other human rights in recent years.
In September, the Guardian reported that 15 European Union members issued a joint statement to condemn unlawful detention, the alleged use of torture, and unfair trials of activists and journalists in Saudi Arabia.
In November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report condemning the continued oppression of activists, clerics, and women in Saudi Arabia.
HRW found that Saudi Arabia arrested approximately 70 people in September 2017 alone, including several clerics and religious thinkers.
More recently, on December 16, Saudi Arabia stripped a Saudi journalist of his citizenship for “normalization and cooperation with Israel.”
The journalist said that the loss of his citizenship came after a “ministerial decision” and that he does not know the reasons behind it.
The State Department list of countries “violating religious freedoms” included Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
As for entities “of particular concern,” the list included al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban.