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LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The 15 countries listed are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. All of these nations severely restrict independent religious activity and harass individuals and groups for religious activity or beliefs.

These nations are classified as Tier 1. “Countries of particular concern” in the report.

In spite of its recent opening and political reforms, change in Burma has “yet to significantly improve the situation for freedom of religion and belief.” Most violations in Burma occurred against minority Christian and Muslim adherents.

Egypt’s transitional and elected governments have made progress toward religious freedom, but the commission duly noted the attacks that Coptic Christians that have been ongoing in the period after the Arab Spring that brought down the Mubarak regime. “In many cases, the government failed or was slow to protect religious minorities from violence.”

The former Soviet states of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were included for pursuing state control over religion, targeting Muslims and minorities alike.

Iraq was cited for, among other things, tolerating “violent religiously motivated attacks” and Iran for “prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely on the religion of the accused.”

Western ally Saudi Arabia also continues to suppress religious practices outside of the officially-sanctioned Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Saudi Arabia also continues to interfere with the faith of guest workers and prosecutes individuals for “apostasy, blasphemy and sorcery.” Pakistan has a strict blasphemy law and failure to prosecute acts of religious violence, the report said.

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