Thirteen human rights NGOs have called on the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release religious prisoners under threat of being infected by COVID-19.
These are the three countries that have the highest number of believers of all faiths behind bars, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers’ (HRWF) database of FoRB prisoners which documents thousands of individual cases.
In China, 1-2 million Uyghur Muslims and half a million Tibetan Buddhists are at risk of contracting COVID-19 in so-called ‘re-education camps.’ Furthermore, thousands of peaceful Christians of all faiths, but mainly of The Church of Almighty God, and thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been languishing in detention for years.
In Iran, over 60 Baha’is, a dozen Protestants and a number of Sufis have been sentenced to long prison terms for the mere exercise of their right to religious freedom.
In Russia, about 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in detention since this movement was banned for alleged extremism in 2018. Over 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently facing criminal charges. Muslims from two peaceful groups, Said Nursi and Tabligh Jamaat, have also been systematically imprisoned for many years.