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USCIRF Hearing: State-Sanctioned Religious Freedom Violations and Coercion by Saudi Arabia and Iran

December 8, 2021 at 10:30 am - 12:00 pm EST

Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing that will examine the effects on freedom of religion or belief of the endorsement and imposition of a singular interpretation of religion by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

As part of broader authoritarian policies, both Saudi Arabia and Iran use violence and other coercive tools to target religious minorities and impose state-sanctioned religious interpretations on individuals regardless of their own beliefs. In Saudi Arabia, authorities enforcing the government’s interpretation of Sunni Islam have arrested, detained, and executed Shi’a Muslims for participation in protests against religious discrimination. In Iran, authorities enforcing the government’s interpretation of Shi’a Islam have jailed and executed Sunni Muslims, imprisoned and sentenced to lashings Christian converts from Islam, arrested and imprisoned Baha’is and confiscated their land, and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In both countries, women face state violence for peaceful dissent against laws regulating their dress, travel, and legal personhood on the basis of religion. The official interpretations of Shari’a in each country also justify violence committed against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

How can the U.S. government hold to account those entities responsible for violence and coercion based on religion in Saudi Arabia and Iran? Witnesses will document the use of these tactics by both governments, detail the impacts on religious communities and those who dissent from each governments’ interpretation of religion, and provide policy recommendations to the U.S. government.

Opening Remarks

  • Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
  • Nadine Maenza, Chair, USCIRF
  • Sharon Kleinbaum, Commissioner, USCIRF

Panel I

  • Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Panel II

  • Eric Goldstein, Acting Executive Director of Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch
  • Marjan Greenblatt, Founder and Director, Alliance of Rights for All Minorities
  • Hala Aldosari, Ph.D., Scholar in Women’s Health and Activist from Saudi Arabia




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