Egypt was blacklisted as a country of particular concern (CPC) in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) religious freedom report on Thursday, a designation that can carry economic sanctions unless the Egyptian government addresses the US concerns.
By Shaun Tandon
4/28/2011 Egypt (AFP) – A US commission called Thursday for Egypt to be put on a blacklist for lack of religious freedom, saying attacks on Coptic Christians and other minorities have worsened despite political changes.
In an annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said it found serious violations in nations including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam and highlighted what it called a sharp deterioration in Pakistan.
The commission, an autonomous advisory board, added Egypt to its recommended list of “countries of particular concern” on religious freedom, a designation that can carry economic sanctions unless governments address the US concerns.
But the State Department has ultimate authority to put nations on the list and, to the commission’s chagrin, President Barack Obama has not designated any additional countries of particular concern since taking office in 2009.
Leonard Leo, the chair of the commission, said that Egypt experienced “severe religious freedom violations” both before and after the mass protests that forced out longtime president Hosni Mubarak in February.
“Not everything in Egypt has changed. Violence against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities continues unabated, without the government bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Leo said.
Leo called on the United States, which has longstanding ties to Egypt’s military, to redirect some defense assistance to initiatives that would protect minorities and improve governance.
In Alexandria, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a church as worshippers emerged from a New Year’s Eve mass, killing 23 people.
The State Department lists eight “countries of particular concern”, or CPCs, for religious freedom: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Most have rocky ties with the United States.
The commission again asked the State Department to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to the list. Besides Egypt, the recommendations were the same as the last annual report in 2010.