UZBEKISTAN: Medical institute expels Protestant students
After pressure earlier in the year on Protestant students in Nukus in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan [Qoraqalpoghiston], two students were expelled from the town's medical institute in early September for membership of an "illegal" Protestant church, the Church of Christ. Protestant sources told Forum 18 News Service that the two - Aliya Sherimbetova and Shirin Artykbayeva – were told that a further reason for their expulsion was that their cases had been reported on the internet, an apparent reference to Forum 18's coverage. Six other local Protestant students have been harassed in Nukus this year. It is almost impossible for Christian churches of any denomination to gain official registration in Karakalpakstan and therefore to meet legally for worship.
The administration of the Institute also told the two students that they were being expelled because information about their case had been published "on the internet", possibly a reference to Forum 18's coverage of pressure on the two students earlier this year.
Despite repeated attempts, Forum 18 was unable to find out from the Medical Institute why it believed it had been right to expel Sherimbetova and Artykbayeva. Those answering the telephone at the institute on 15 and 16 September said the director, Oral Otaniyazova, was not in her office and the deputy director, Abdurashid Parakhatdinov, was likewise repeatedly not available.
Sherimbetova, Artykbayeva and other Protestant students in Nukus have been subjected to a sustained campaign from the police, the secret police and the prosecutor's office this year. A teacher at the Medical Institute raided the private flat rented by Sherimbetova, Artykbayeva and two other students in April, confiscating Christian literature and forcing them to move to communal lodgings where she said they could be more closely scrutinised. The teacher also told the students that "it would be better for you to work as prostitutes than to read those dreadful books" (see F18News 27 May 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=329 ).
The same month the town prosecutor M. Arzymbetov wrote to Institute director Otaniyazova to inform her that final year student Iklas Aldungarov was taking part in the Church of Christ, which he described as "an illegal religious sect", and urged her to expel him.
In June the secret police, the National Security Service (NSS) wrote to Karakalpak University, also based in Nukus, identifying three of its students as members of a "banned Protestant sect". Teachers warned the students that continued association with other "sect members" would lead to their expulsion. Protestant churches also face threats and pressure in the town (see F18News 9 July 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=359 ).
So far significant pressure on Protestant students in Uzbekistan has been seen only in Karakalpakstan, a region where it is almost impossible for Christian churches of any denomination to gain official registration and therefore to meet legally for worship. Uzbekistan's religion law bans unregistered religious activity.
For more background information see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey at
A printer-friendly map of Uzbekistan is available at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html?Parent=asia&Rootmap=uzbeki
9 September 2004
Ahead of the OSCE Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination on 13-14 September 2004 in Brussels, Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org surveys some of the more serious discriminatory actions against religious believers that persist in some countries of the 55-member OSCE. Despite their binding OSCE commitments to religious freedom, in some OSCE member states believers are still fined, imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their faith, religious services are broken up, places of worship confiscated and even destroyed, religious literature censored and religious communities denied registration. Forum 18 believes most of the serious problems affecting religious believers in the eastern half of the OSCE region come from government discrimination.
30 August 2004
Insisting that all women who wear a Muslim headscarf (the hijab) have links with terrorists, the authorities in Lagman, part of Karshi in southern Uzbekistan, have banned the public wearing of the hijab, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. City authorities have claimed to Forum 18 that "anyone in Uzbekistan can wear whatever they consider appropriate," even though Uzbekistan's religion law bans the public wearing of undefined "religious clothing", which attacks both Muslims and Hare Krishna devotees. Abdurakhman Erkayev, head of the city's secretariat for social and economic issues went on to tell Forum 18 that "We have asked the mahalla authorities to explain to people that the essence of Islam in Uzbekistan has never been distinguished by fanaticism and extremism. We feel that it is very important to promote this form of "enlightened" Islam."
27 August 2004
Laziz Saidov, a Muslim who is under arrest apparently just for being devout, has made a formal written complaint to the Uzbek Prosecutor General, Rashid Kadyrov, stating that the police used torture to obtain a confession of possessing leaflets from the banned Hizb-ut-Tahir party, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Saidov, who is still in jail, states that the police manacled his arms and legs, and beat him on the shins and head until he agreed to sign a confession. The head of the detention cells where Saidov is being held, Panzhi Nazarov, suggested to Forum 18 that "maybe he [Saidov] was beaten up in Guzar rather than here?" and said that he could not either confirm or refute information that some Muslims had been tortured.