U.S. Government Watchdog Group Adds Azerbaijan to List of World’s Worst Religious Freedom Abusers

ANCA Demands Azerbaijan Sanctions at Press Conference outside the State Department

WASHINGTON – The Armenian National Committee of America joined In Defense of Christians and Save Armenia in calling on the State Department to follow U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommendations to place Azerbaijan on its Countries of Particular Concern list, along with North Korea and Pakistan.

In its annual report issued earlier today, USCIRF downgraded Azerbaijan from its Special Watch List to the CPC designation and urged the State Department to do the same for “for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act.”

The report also called on the U.S. Government to “allocate funding to the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Embassy in Baku to restore, preserve, and protect places of worship and other religious or cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories.”

During a press conference organized by IDC and Save Armenia, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian pressed the State Department to heed USCIRF’s recommendation.

“President Biden’s Department of State – like President Trump’s before him – is guilty of complicity in Azerbaijan’s genocide of Artsakh by arming Azerbaijan, emboldening their aggression, and abandoning the Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian Christian population,” stated Hamparian.  “We thank each of the USCIRF members who voted to red-list Azerbaijan and call upon our State Department to act on the facts, on the law, and based upon our American values by designating Azerbaijan as a Country of Particular Concern.”

Citing Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Nagorno Karabakh’s 120,000 Christian Armenian population, IDC Executive Director Richard Ghazal was adamant: “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 USCIRF Chair and current President of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat Nadine Maenza noted, “It is important that Secretary Blinken follow through with his commitment to support a strong and independent Armenia, to hold Azerbaijan accountable for any future violations of this ceasefire, and the continuing violations of religious freedom against Armenians and their religious sites in Azerbaijan.”

Former U.S. Representative Frank Wolf slammed public relations firms who whitewash the world’s worst human rights abusers, calling on Congress to limit their lobbying reach.  “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. […] This policy should apply to Azerbaijan and all other countries designated as a CPC for three or more years,” stated Rep. Wolf.

Later, the Hamparian spoke with EWTN News Nightly’s Tracy Sabol regarding the significance of USCIRF’s CPC designation for Azerbaijan.  “USCIRF has a great reputation, a well-earned reputation, as a watchdog on religious freedom. They need to keep an eye on our State Department, which sadly sometimes acts as a lapdog, insufficiently challenging the terrible abuses against Christians and others around the world,” stated Hamparian, who went on to call for U.S. sanctions on Azerbaijan and to end military and security aid to the Aliyev regime.

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian is interviewed by EWTN News

“We can build on this [USCIRF recommendation] with a formal [State Department] designation, and then by sanctioning Azerbaijan and withholding military aid. Even to this day, after all that Azerbaijan’s done against Armenians – the massacres, the blockades, the ethnic cleansing – they’re still eligible for US military assistance, and that has to end,” Hamparian added.

From 2013 to 2019, USCIRF put Azerbaijan on its Special Watch List (SWL).  The U.S. State Department finally took their recommendation and designated Azerbaijan on their SWL List in December 2023.

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