USCIRF Report Calls Out Azerbaijan Violations

William Roberts on May 2, 2024

In Defense of Christians (IDC), an advocacy institute at the Institute on Religion & Democracy, held a joint press conference with Save Armenia: A Judeo-Christian Alliance on Wednesday to coincide with the release of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2024 Annual Report.

The press conference featured statements by IDC’s Executive Director, Richard Ghazal, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian, President of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat and former USCIRF Chair, Nadine Maenza, Legal Counsel for International Religious Freedom at Alliance Defending Freedom International, Sean Nelson, and former Congressman Frank Wolf.

In its 2024 Report, USCIRF recommended Azerbaijan for designation as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for severe violations of international religious freedom for the first time, joining infamous human rights abusers such as China, North Korea, and Iran. This recommendation follows the ethnic cleansing of 120,000 Armenian Christians from Nagorno Karabakh by Azerbaijan in September 2023 after years of continuous U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. USCIRF also maintained the recommendation that Nigeria be designated as a CPC, following the Biden administration’s inexplicable withdrawal of this designation in 2021. Former Congressman Frank Wolf called for a ban on U.S.-based lobbying firms representing countries designated as CPCs for three consecutive years.

Richard Ghazal, Executive Director of In Defense of Christians, provided historical context: “In September of 2023, after about 10 months of starving the Christian Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan committed ethnic cleansing against 120,000 civilians of the world’s oldest Christian nation, expelling them from the land they have called home for thousands of years and creating a massive humanitarian crisis.” He continued, “as a retired member of the United States Armed Forces and as a grandchild of the Armenian Genocide, I am outraged to know that Azerbaijan is a beneficiary of U.S. military assistance. No active perpetrator of genocide should EVER, EVER be enabled by American money and arms. The U.S. must discontinue military aid to Azerbaijan. The U.S. State Department must heed USCRIF’s recommendation.” 

Former Congressman Frank Wolf opined: “There are two things that I believe personally … First, there should now be a total and complete ban on lobbying for China in this Congress. It must be done. Anyone who claims to be interested in religion, freedom, and human rights should support this initiative.” He added, “ Secondly, my own belief stands that if a country has been designated as a CPC for three consecutive years, they should be prohibited from engaging in lobbying activities. The reason for the three-year timeframe is to allow them the opportunity to change. If they hire a lobbyist, it gives them a chance to enact change, but if three years pass without meaningful change, a complete ban should be instituted. This policy should apply to Azerbaijan and all other countries designated as a CPC for three or more years.” 

The press conference is viewable below from the In Defense of Christians YouTube channel.

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