After an extended hiatus, I am excited to relaunch the Middle East File as a regular email from RFI's Middle East Action Team. 

You'll recognize much that has stayed the same for those who have followed along in the past. We have some new things we will be introducing in the weeks to come. 

In the Middle East File, you can expect to find updates from our work and links to what we are reading, watching, and listening to regarding the ideas, policies, and conditions impacting religious freedom across the Middle East. The resources featured will often include content on governance and security, humanitarian assistance and development, geopolitics and foreign policy, human rights, religious debates, technological trends, and much more. 

While much of what you find here will be recent publications on current developments, we will also share older content that remains relevant to current and emerging challenges. 

Also, stay tuned for the launch of an interview series that will be a venue for conversations with many of the voices from the Middle East File.

More on that soon. 

In the meantime, here is what you can find in this edition of the Middle East File:

RFI Middle East's Miles Windsor wrote for Newsweek on the continuing decline of religious freedom in Algeria, particularly targeting the Algerian protestant community. 

Shivan Fazil presents a compelling look at the political marginalization of Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities in his contribution to a special issue of Manara Magazine focused on minorities in the Middle East and North Africa. 

The heightened risks for religious minority communities in times of conflict is a significant issue we seek to address. The IBAHRI held two side events focused on this theme on the margins of the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The events also included a discussion of the recently released thematic report on the topic from Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. 

Finally, Open Doors released its fifth annual report looking at the gender dynamics of religious persecution around the world. This report unpacks critical insights into how persecution impacts women and girls, men and boys, and how that ought to inform tailored responses and interventions to address those issues. 

As always, you will find each of those articles, a brief comment on why it matters, and additional links to more resources. As with any email of this sort, the inclusion of an article is not necessarily an endorsement of the content or publication.

If you find these emails useful, hit reply and tell us what you liked and what you would like to see in future editions.

Also, be sure to visit the Middle East Action Team page to find more resources and follow us on Twitter.

Jeremy P. Barker
Director, Middle East Action Team
Religious Freedom Institute 
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Senior Christian Leaders in Algeria Face Prison as Rights Decline Continues by Miles P.J. Windsor (Newsweek)

The Protestant Christian community in Algeria is under siege from its own government. The persecution of Christians by the Algerian state has been a sustained campaign for many years with the latest wave of repression beginning in November 2017. These efforts have failed to slow the growth of the joyful, peaceful and law-abiding Christian community, especially in the Amazigh regions, and so the regime has implemented an escalation. Some of the most senior Christian clergymen in Algeria are now being sentenced to significant jail time on dubious, unjust and undemocratic charges. The regime is pulling out the stops in its attempt to cripple and eradicate a sizable religious community.

Why it Matters: Religious freedom – as well as most other fundamental rights – in Algeria remain heavily restricted. The country’s protestant Christian community continues to be regularly targeted, with more than a dozen churches closed down and a number of court cases brought against senior religious leaders. 

The Political Marginalisation of Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iraq by Shivan Fazil (Manara Magazine)

For Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities to enjoy equal political rights and participate in decision-making, an important place to start is to address their sense of political marginalisation. Inclusion through effective and meaningful – not mere symbolic – political participation underpins their sense of belonging, and essential to preserve the country’s rich mosaic of diversity and sustain peace in the long run.

Why it Matters: In this article Shivan Fazil looks at the political system in Iraq and shows how a system nominally arranged to ensure representation of minority communities has frequently been coopted and led to even deeper feelings of isolation and marginalization. This article is part of the special issue Suffering, Perseverance, and Hope: Minority Voices from the Middle East and North Africa of Manara Magazine, published by the ​​Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENAF).



The Expendable & Targeted Communities: Religious or Belief Minorities at Risk by IBAHRI

In March 2022, the IBAHRI, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations hosted two side events at the UNHRC 49th Session on religious or belief minorities at risk. The first event looked at minorities at risk in Xinjiang, Afghanistan and Nigeria, whilst the second was concerned with UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed’s report on conflict & instability, with a focus on the situation of religious minorities in Iraq and Myanmar.

Why it Matters: On the margins of the 49th UN Human Rights Council the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute co-hosted two side events focused on the particular risks facing minorities from religious communities. Contributors to the discussion included strong advocates for communities that have recently suffered genocidal violence – Rohingya activist Wai Wai Nu and Yazidi activist Pari Ibrahim. 



Invisible: The Gender Report 2022 by Elizabeth Lane Miller, Eva Brown, Helene Fisher, and Rachel Morley (Open Doors International)

Gender-specific religious persecution (Gender SRP) is endemic, strategic and intensified through conflict, crime and crisis. The 5th year of researching the Pressure Points of how men and women suffer for their faith confirms a stability in global trends. Persecutors exploit socio-cultural norms and values, often embedded within or facilitated by the legal system, to pressurize Christian men and women and, ultimately, weaken the Christian community.

Why it Matters: For five years, Open Doors has looked at the particular ways in which religious persecution impacts women and girls differently than men and boys. These dynamics are compounded in various contexts by conflict and crisis or other particular factors. A range of research has sought to generate better understanding of these issues and positive practices that can help to address these challenges.

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