Friday, September 14, 2007

State Department: Religious freedom sharply deteriorating; 'Many... targeted because of their religious identity or their secular leanings'

Above: A soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division patrols in front of a mosque in the Rusafa district of Baghdad last week.

Religious freedom has sharply deteriorated in Iraq over the past year because of both the insurgency and violence targeting specific faiths, despite the U.S. military buildup intended to improve security, says a State Department report to be released Friday.

The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom finds that all worshippers are targeted for attacks and the violence is not confined to the well-known rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

“The ongoing insurgency significantly harmed the ability of all religious believers to practice their faith,” says the 22-page executive summary of the report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its official release by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“While the presence of varying levels of lawlessness in certain areas permitted criminal gangs, terrorists, and insurgents to victimize citizens, and while this affected persons of all ethnicities and religious groups in such areas, many individuals from various religious groups were targeted because of their religious identity or their secular leanings,” the report says.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

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