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6 January 2017

TURKMENISTAN: Religious freedom survey, January 2017

Freedom of religion and belief, with interlinked freedoms such as expression, association, and assembly, continues to be seriously restricted in Turkmenistan. Forum 18's survey analysis documents the regime's many freedom of religion and belief violations imposed as part of a policy to control society.

6 December 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Questions ignored on tortured prisoners of conscience

Turkmenistan has ignored some questions by the UN Committee Against Torture about tortured Muslim and Jehovah's Witness prisoners of conscience, but provided details of a Sunni Muslim prisoner's three trials. The country also continues to deny the right to conscientious objection to military service.

30 November 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Who is obstructing Russian Orthodox diocese?

"The Orthodox Church wants a diocese and resident bishop in Turkmenistan," an Orthodox told Forum 18. "But it hasn't yet happened." The Deanery Secretary, a Russian priest, was forced to leave. And the Armenian Apostolic Church is still unable to regain a former church.

3 October 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Seven conscientious objectors sentenced in 2016

Courts sentenced five Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors in 2016 to two-year suspended prison terms for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. A sixth received an 18-month suspended sentence and a seventh a one-year corrective labour sentence. Turkmenistan ignored OSCE calls for the new Constitution to recognise conscientious objection.

26 September 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Imprisoned Muslim leader – alive or dead?

Bahram Saparov led a Hanafi Sunni Muslim community in Turkmenabad. He and about 20 members of his group were given long prison sentences in May 2013. He and at least two others were transferred to the top-security Ovadan-Depe prison, where torture is frequent and prisoners are held incommunicado.

21 September 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Search, arrest, torture, escape, arrest, prison

Police raided Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov's home in Dashoguz in July 2014, seized religious literature (subsequently destroyed), severely beat him, injected him in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre (from which he escaped) with unknown drugs. He was jailed after June 2016 arrest for one year.

5 July 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Conscientious objectors face corrective labour sentences

Six conscientious objectors to compulsory military service sentenced to corrective labour since October 2014, including Dayanch Jumayev in February. They live at home under restrictions, the state seizing a fifth of their wages. Appeals from 11 conscientious objectors are with UN Human Rights Committee.

18 April 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Children's summer camp warning, fines, new Religion Law, "no religion" in army

Secret police officers warned the pastor of the Baptist Church in Mary not to hold a children's summer camp in 2016 otherwise "it would be a different conversation", Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. One of the officers had led the raid on the same church's children's camp in 2013. Also in February, members of Greater Grace Protestant Church were fined for visiting the town of Tejen to talk to others of their faith. On 12 April, Turkmenistan's new Religion Law came into force. Among other restrictions it continues the existing ban on exercising freedom of religion and belief with others without state permission and increases the number of founders who can apply for legal status for a religious community from five to 50. The new government Commission that controls religion needs to approve all religious literature and any new places of worship. The Religion Law also repeats the existing ban on conscientious objection to military service. Two senior members of parliament refused to discuss the new Law with Forum 18. Members of several religious communities complained that "no religion" is allowed during military service. "You can't have a Koran, Bible or other religious literature and you can't conduct prayers visibly," one told Forum 18.

14 April 2016

TURKMENISTAN: More than half Ashgabad's mosques now destroyed

In early April, Aksa Mosque in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabad became the eighth of the city's mosques to have been summarily destroyed in the city in recent years. The Mosque – built in the early 1990s with donations from local Muslims – could accommodate 100 worshippers. Demolition workers from the Hyakimlik (administration) justified the demolition by telling local people that "this mosque has been built without any kind of permission", Radio Free Europe's Turkmen Service noted. No one over 23 years had mentioned any illegality in the construction, insisted a 70-year-old local resident who had been involved in the Mosque's original construction. "But now, under a pretext, they are destroying the building considered to be God's house," Iolaman-aga told Radio Free Europe. An official of the Architecture Department of Ashgabad's Kopetdag District Hyakimlik put the phone down before Forum 18 News Service could ask about the destroyed Aksa Mosque. The demolition was completed as Turkmenistan's new Religion Law entered into force on 12 April.

5 April 2016

TURKMENISTAN: No amnesty for prisoner of conscience, no reparations despite UN instruction

Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not freed in the February amnesty and an appeal on his behalf is now being prepared to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 News Service. Despite rulings from the UN Committee in 2015 that the rights of four imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors had been violated (both by their imprisonment and torture during their imprisonment), the Turkmenistan government has failed to expunge their criminal records, offered recompense or taken measures to prevent similar violations in future. No alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced. Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of Parliament's Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss this with Forum 18. At the labour camp at Seydi where Hemdemov is being held, Muslim prisoners are too afraid to attend the prison mosque for fear of being branded "Wahhabis" and sent for harsher punishment, a former prisoner told Forum 18.

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