KYRGYZSTAN: Is mullah latest Uzbek KGB kidnapping victim?
When he was kidnapped in the town of Uzgen in southern Kyrgyzstan on 7 September, local mullah Sadykjan Rahmanov became at least the sixth devout Muslim seized in the area, apparently by Uzbek secret police agents from across the border. "The investigation's main line of inquiry is that Sadykjan Rahmanov has been kidnapped by the Uzbek special services," the deputy head of Uzgen district Mamatali Turgunbayev told Forum 18 News Service. "The Uzbek special services act in Kyrgyzstan as if they are at home." He speculates that the Uzbek authorities believe the mullah was connected to the violent Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The mullah's brother Salimjon Rahmanov claims he is innocent. "He is simply a believer who has never been involved in politics," he told Forum 18.
In the wake of Sadykjan Rahmanov's abduction from a bus station in Uzgen on 7 September, local police have always said the evidence they have gathered indicates the kidnappers were security officers from the nearby Namangan region of Uzbekistan. According to the Uzgen police, the car in which Rahmanov was abducted was purchased six months ago by a Namangan security officer. Uzbek officials say that officer has since been transferred to a distant region of Uzbekistan.
In 1993 Sadykjan trained at a medresseh (Islamic school) in Namangan, Salimjon Rahmanov told Forum 18. He added that his brother had organised a haj pilgrimage to Mecca for Uzgen residents and was held in great respect by those living in the town.
Turgunbayev speculated that Sadykjan Rahmanov was probably kidnapped because the Uzbek authorities suspect him of links with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a violent movement that has been seeking to overthrow the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and replace it with an Islamic government. "Sadykjan Rahmanov was also under surveillance by the Kyrgyz National Security Committee [the former KGB]," Turgunbayev told Forum 18. "In Namangan he studied at an underground medresseh with one of the current IMU leaders, Tohir Yuldashev. There were rumours that during his annual haj pilgrimages he met IMU leaders and even that Yuldashev appointed him the emir [spiritual and secular leader] of south Kyrgyzstan."
Turgunbayev complained about the way the Uzbek National Security Service (the former KGB) operates freely within his country. "The Uzbek special services act in Kyrgyzstan as if they are at home and do not even bother to agree their actions with us," he told Forum 18. "Usually, Tashkent sends onto our territory Uzbeks who were born in southern Kyrgyzstan and who then obtained Uzbek citizenship and started working for the Uzbek special services."
He pointed out that this was the third case of such a kidnapping in Osh region. All those kidnapped were, he said, devout believers. The head of the human rights organisation Justice in Jalal-abad region Valeri Uleyev agreed that all those seized were devout believers. He told Forum 18 in Jalal-abad on 15 October that his organisation had recorded three further such kidnapping cases, bringing to at least six the number of Kyrgyz citizens kidnapped in southern Kyrgyzstan by the Uzbek secret police.
Salimjon Rahmanov warned of popular local anger about his brother's abduction. "If Sadykjan does not return home, then I will find it very hard to dissuade people from spontaneous demonstrations," he told Forum 18. "Already a number of Uzgen residents have come to me suggesting that they block the road between Osh and Jalal-abad [the main city in south Kyrgyzstan] as a protest against my brother's kidnapping. But so far I have managed to hold people back from these desperate measures."
Turgunbayev feared that Sadykjan Rahmanov's abduction might lead to outbreaks of violence between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the district. "The Uzgen district is the most vulnerable place in the whole of Kyrgyzstan," he told Forum 18. He said it was there, in 1990, that the bloodiest conflicts between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz took place. One of the Rahmanov brothers died during these outbreaks of violence. "The Rahmanovs, like most Uzgen residents, are Uzbeks, while most of those working as police officers are Kyrgyz."
22 August 2003
The appeal to the Ministry of Finance from the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ against what it claimed was an unjust tax demand for 110,000 US dollars was rejected on 15 August. "The taxes are simply a means of crushing the church," senior pastor Vasili Kuzin told Forum 18 News Service. Kyrgyzstan's tax code exempts charitable bodies from tax, while the religion law prescribes taxes only on religious organisations' business activities. "It is true that the activity of religious organisations is not subject to taxation, and if the situation is indeed as you say, then the tax inspectorate is breaking the law," Natalya Shadrova of the Committee for Religious Affairs told Forum 18.
17 July 2003
Pastor Vasili Kuzin of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ says his Church's open letter to President Askar Akayev vowing to seek asylum abroad if pressure on the Church is not ended is "a last resort". "We have no other way of attracting international attention to our unfortunate situation," he told Forum 18 News Service. Banned from registering in several towns and with its churches closed down or threatened, the Church now faces a tax demand of more than 100,000 US dollars, although religious groups are tax-exempt. Sharshek Usenov of the government's religious affairs committee rejects the Church's claims. "No-one is persecuting the Church of Jesus Christ and I do not understand what Kuzin aims to achieve with this letter," he told Forum 18.
17 June 2003
With its congregations in Karakol and Osh closed down after failing to gain registration, a senior pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ has accused the authorities of launching a campaign to close down the Church and its affiliates. "We have not managed to register our affiliates in the provinces and the authorities are taking active advantage of that," Vasili Kuzin told Forum 18 News Service. The religious affairs committee warned Kuzin that if members of the closed Osh church continue to meet in private apartments, his Bishkek congregation will have its registration removed. Murmurzak Mamayusupov, chairman of the religious affairs committee, denied there was any deliberate obstruction. "No-one is putting obstacles in the way of their registration," he told Forum 18.