US Commission for Religious Freedom calls for punishment of Saudi officials: The kingdom is “particularly concerned”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – The US Federal Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its annual report that conditions for religious freedom in Saudi Arabia in 2021 remained weak, but witnessed some gradual improvements.

The Commission stated that Saudi Arabia had lifted some restrictions, such as allowing women to change their names without the consent of the guardian, allowing women to perform Hajj and Umrah without a mahram and deleting sections of textbooks containing intolerant content against religious minorities, but there is still other similar content.

But at the same time, she added that Saudi Arabia “continued to openly violate religious freedom, specifically targeting religious minorities.” She referred to the execution of Shiite youth Mustafa al-Darwish, the detention of clerics with an opposition opposition such as Salman al-Awda and the continued ban on any place of worship for non-Muslims.

The Commission recommended that the US Government re-designate Saudi Arabia as a country of “particular concern” for its involvement in “systematic, persistent and overt violations” of religious freedom and “impose targeted sanctions on Saudi government agencies and officials involved in serious violations of religious freedom” by freezing the assets of these individuals or preventing them from entering the United States.

The Commission also recommended that Congress hold public hearings to highlight Congress’s concerns about prisoners of conscience and work with like-minded parliamentarians in other countries to advocate for the release of prisoners of conscience.

The Commission added that Congress should pass the two-part bill on “Saudi Material Transparency and Reform”, which requires the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report annually on religiously intolerant content in Saudi textbooks and efforts to remove it from them.

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