7 November 2011
The Uzbek authorities have again this year imposed severe restrictions on how many pilgrims could take part in this year's haj pilgrimage, now underway in Saudi Arabia. Only 5,080 out of a potential quota of about 28,000 travelled to Mecca. About as many pilgrims travelled from Kyrgyzstan as from Uzbekistan, more than five times more populous. An official of one Sergeli District mahalla (neighbourhood), with between 3,000 and 7,000 residents, told Forum 18 News Service that "our mahalla will be able to send pilgrims only in 2012. Several people are on the waiting list but maybe only one will go." As before, an "unwritten instruction" banned would-be pilgrims under the age of 45, officials of a local mahalla committee in Tashkent told Forum 18. Pilgrims faced official screening, while secret police officers reportedly accompany the pilgrims. An Imam outside Tashkent, who did not wish to be named for fear of state reprisals, complained that "unofficial payments" more than doubled the cost of the haj. "The number of applicants would be much, much higher if the cost was not so high," he lamented to Forum 18.
2 November 2011
A planned visit by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill – expected to have begun today (2 November) – appears to have been obstructed by the Uzbek authorities, Forum 18 News Service notes. Some believe the Uzbek authorities were unhappy over the Moscow Patriarchate's decision in July to change its structures in Central Asia and appoint a new bishop to Tashkent without consulting with or gaining the approval of the Uzbek authorities. The Orthodox Diocese, now part of the Central Asian Metropolitan Region, has not yet been able to re-register under its new structure. However, an Orthodox priest in Uzbekistan has told Forum 18 that the Patriarch's visit will take place between 23 and 25 November. Meanwhile, fines and prosecutions of Protestants continue.
27 October 2011
Uzbekistan continues to impose strict censorship on religious literature of all faiths sent to the country, Forum 18 News Service has found. The most recent known confiscation is of 23 books sent to a member of a Baptist church in the capital Tashkent, but Customs Inspector Dilshod Sadykov told Forum 18 that 80 to 90 per cent of all imported or posted religious literature confiscated is Muslim. The Post Office routinely opens parcels of religious books and magazines sent from abroad, sending examples to the Religious Affairs Committee who decide whether to destroy the literature or return it to the sender. "I do not understand why normal religious books need to be confiscated or destroyed", a post office employee told Forum 18 on 25 October. But, they continued, "we are small persons, and need to obey orders". Information from abroad on the internet which the authorities dislike, including Forum 18's own website, also continues to be blocked.
7 October 2011
Tajikistan appears to be only implementing against Muslims its new Parental Responsibility Law, which among other restrictions bans people under 18, who are not receiving state-approved religious education, from all religious activity. However, Muslim young people are still attending mosques. Faredun Hodizoda, a Dushanbe-based commentator, told Forum 18 News Service that "religious leaders cannot tell young people not to come to mosques because that would be against Islamic law". So he expected that young people would continue to attend mosques, and so "the authorities will have to punish the believers". Daler Saidmurodov of the Interior Ministry admitted to Forum 18 that there is "tightened control" of mosques on Fridays. But he insisted that the restriction was on schoolchildren attending mosques during school hours, and that police have been ordered to stop this. Meanwhile, the country's mosque closure campaign is continuing and a legally resident Jehovah's Witness has been deported.
5 October 2011
Uzbekistan has been harassing people meeting peacefully for worship, ordinary police and the NSS secret police in the region around the capital Tashkent having stopped and questioned people attending mosques in the month of Ramadan. The authorities in the west of the country have prevented women and children from attending mosques, and in the central city of Samarkand police raided and fined Baptists conducting worship. Bahodyr Mamedkarimov, Legal Advisor to the Minister of the Interior, denied to Forum 18 News Service that mosques had been and were under surveillance. "It's nonsense, we are a free country, and anyone can attend the mosque especially during the holy month of Ramadan," he claimed. In separate incidents, Baptists in Tashkent have been fined 50 times the monthly minimum salary for visiting a friend in hospital; the Baptists were also detained by police for more than 24 hours. Also a Protestant has been fined 50 times the minimum monthly salary for possessing four books and two DVDs. He had been fined in 2007, and in 2010 had been imprisoned for fifteen days for his religious activity.
9 September 2011
Seven months after a fine for "illegally" bringing Christian magazines into Uzbekistan was overturned on appeal, passport officers stopped Tashkent Baptist Lidiya Guseva from leaving Uzbekistan, fellow Baptists complained to Forum 18 News Service. She was taken off a late-night train and had to return to Tashkent by taxi. Bailiff Sanjar Sultanov told Forum 18 that the failure to cancel her exit ban was the fault of the Court for failing to tell them it had cancelled the fine. The Court insisted to Forum 18 it had told the Bailiffs. This was the second case known to Forum 18 since the beginning of September of an individual punished by an administrative court for their religious activity being denied permission to leave the country. Power to place individuals on the exit ban list for unpaid fines was handed from the courts to bailiffs at the end of 2010, one told Forum 18.
26 August 2011
Police who raided a Protestant family's private home in Fergana assaulted the husband and confiscated religious literature, local Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. The religious books are being checked and officials are preparing an administrative case against the husband and wife and a family friend. Asked by Forum 18 what literature found in their home was banned, the Police Inspector who led the raid identified the Bible and the New Testament. Courts in the capital Tashkent and eastern Syrdarya Region have handed down fines of up to one hundred times the minimum monthly wage to ten Protestants to punish them for unregistered activity. In both cases the courts ordered that confiscated Christian literature - including Bibles and New Testaments – be destroyed. Officials of the state Religious Affairs Committee refused to explain why peaceful religious activity continues to be punished and why courts order the destruction of religious literature. "I am no expert in those matters, and you called the wrong department," Zulhaydar Sultanov, Head of its International Relations Department, told Forum 18.
2 August 2011
An indictment has been filed against a Baptist in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Konstantin Malchikovsky is accused of not paying in monies from church offerings and book sales. Baptists strongly dispute the charges, describing them as "absurd", and noting that they "violate the Religion Law". They also note that courts have ignored what they describe as "exhaustive proofs of falsification and forgery of documents by the tax authorities". The charges have, as in previous cases, been accompanied by a hostile campaign in the state-run media accusing Baptists among other things of running an "illegal training centre". After attacking work with children, an article claims that Uzbekistan has "created an environment where all conditions exist for children to grow spiritually rich and for freedom of conscience and religion". In other cases, a computer hard disk belonging to another Protestant has been ordered to be destroyed, and a prisoner of conscience on a ten year jail sentence for exercising freedom of religion or belief, Tohar Haydarov, has had his sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court.
15 June 2011
Police officers assaulted a woman at her home while her parents were being interrogated over their religious activity at the local police station, sources who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 News Service. Officers "kicked the woman and hit her on the head, giving her severe concussion". Police refused to discuss the incident with Forum 18. A Tashkent police officer threatened local Protestant Anvar Rajapov if he continued to challenge a fine of 80 times the minimum monthly wage handed down to punish him for his religious activity. "I have prepared an axe for you, which will be flying after you, observing you, and if need be get you," sources quoted Major Zufar Rashidov as telling him. Police refused to discuss the threats with Forum 18. Tashkent Investigator Aleksandr Ten threatened the son of a Baptist church member that he would "beat him up and put him in prison for three months" if he did not sign statements against the church's pastor and bookkeeper who Ten is seeking to prosecute.
12 May 2011
After a 5 April raid on his home by up to 10 police and secret police officers, Tashkent Protestant Anvar Rajapov was fined 80 times the minimum monthly wage for alleged proselytism, illegal religious meetings and illegal literature, Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. Judge Kholmurod Berdyklichev did not "even investigate the case but just signed the hastily and carelessly prepared decision", Protestants complained to Forum 18. The judge ordered that the religious books confiscated in the raid be destroyed, "except for those that can be allowed for internal use of religious communities". A member of Tashkent's registered Baptist church, Konstantin Malchikovsky, faces up to two years' imprisonment if a criminal case now with prosecutors goes ahead. He is accused of failing to use a cash register to record sales and donations to the church. In late April the congregation itself was given a massive fine for this. Church property was raided twice in April.
19 April 2011
UZBEKISTAN: Raids and confiscations as state wants "religious organisations which will stay quiet" ?
Uzbekistan's NSS secret police with other officials have carried out two raids on an officially registered Baptist church in the capital Tashkent, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Over 50,000 Christian books, a large quantity of printing and office equipment, and a sum of money personally belonging to one person were confiscated. In contrast to the confiscated literature and equipment, no official record was made of the confiscation of the money belonging to a church member was made. Later, three church leaders and the caretaker were given fines ranging between 50 and 100 times the minimum monthly salary. Officials have refused to give reasons for their actions, but there has recently been a harshening of official actions against the possession and supply of religious literature. One Tashkent Baptist, asked by Forum 18 what might be behind the raids and confiscations, commented: "The authorities are interested in having small pocket-size churches and religious organisations, which will stay quiet and not have much religious activity."
15 April 2011
Uzbekistan has levied a large fine on a Baptist in the capital Tashkent – who was physically assaulted by police – for giving a children's Bible to a work colleague, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The policeman who assaulted Galina Shemetova denied to Forum 18 that he had done anything wrong. Possibly fuelled by the authorities concerns about the impact of the Arab Spring uprisings for freedom, three Tashkent Muslim clerics who studied in Arab countries have been dismissed from their posts. No reasons have been given for the dismissals, and officials refused to answer when asked by Forum 18 whether the dismissals had anything to do with where the clergymen studied. And the officially registered Zarafshan Baptist Church has been raided and given an official warning for making a financial gift to a local children's home. The raid followed the Church's required filing of its financial statements with the regional Justice Department, who then ordered the raid. Among a list of – disputed – violations found by officials is that a tap did not have a notice with the personal data of the person responsible for the Church's use of water. No officials would tell Forum 18 what will happen to the funds the Church gave the Happiness Children's Home.