By Hasmik Haroutiunian


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
presented annual report which includes the countries of peculiar
concern and display intolerance towards the religious minorities.

The report has listed 14 states, the first among which is Egypt,
where instances of violence have increased escalating against
Coptic Christians and other religious minorities, mainly with the
connivance of the former government and current authorities. The list
also includes Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and other countries.

The Commission appealed to the US Foreign Ministry to designate the 14
states included in the list as countries of particular concern. This
may serve as basis for applying sanctions against these states
in future.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
has listed Russia and Turkey among the world's "countries requiring
special attention".

There is a large report referred the issue of cases of restriction
of rights and violence against the Armenian Apostolic Church and
Armenian Christians.

According to the report, Turkey, "in order to protect the secular
state" controls the religion and put restrictions on all religious
organizations, including the Armenian Apostolic Church. "This country's
laws do not allow religious minorities to register as legal entities
and act accordingly, and the Armenian Patriarch in Turkey is deprived
of the opportunity to act on behalf of a legal person."

On various pretexts the property of religious minorities - Armenians,
Greeks, Jews and Catholics, was confiscated in Turkey not allowing
preserving their religious buildings in proper state. "The Armenian
Apostolic Church in Turkey, as the largest organization representing
a religious minority, does not have its religious school. And the
application put by the Armenian Apostolic Church Patriarch about
establishing the Faculty of Theology in one of the Turkish state
universities still remains without response."

The report says that the religious hatred is widespread in Turkey and
assumes enormous proportions. "It is displayed in 300 daily e-mails
sent to the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey and
the attacks against Christian clergy and religious minorities."

The report also reflects the intolerance that gradually gathers
momentum in Iran, even towards the known religious minorities,
including Armenians.

Referring to the problem of religious minorities in Iraq, experts
point out that they are mainly concentrated in Ninve Province. Here,
disputes around the establishment of control between the Kurdish and
Arab political parties do not stop.

"The representatives of the Christian minority, in particular, the
Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Catholic Armenians, whose number
is gradually declining in Iraq because of violence, fall victims of
the disputes."

The religious minorities are not allowed to register officially in
Turkmenistan, because of which they are deprived of their right of
performing rite and worship. Besides, the country authorities do not
provide visas to the representatives of the religious organizations,
that is why a representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church last
visited this country in 1999.

From: A. Papazian