23 July 2021
As more human rights defenders are jailed, others protesting against election falsification and regime violence are also targeted. The Belarusian Orthodox Church has fired many priests including Archbishop Artemy of Grodno, who spoke of a "general purge" as "not all church figures support the existing regime". Among others targeted, Catholic priest Fr Vyacheslav Barok fled to Poland. A public prosecutor claimed it is illegal to give Fr Barok a copy of an official warning he was read. The regime tried to stop singing of the hymn Mighty God and organised instead a pro-regime "prayer day".
21 July 2021
A Tashkent court jailed Fazilkhoja Arifkhojayev for three months after an initial 15-day term after he questioned a regime-supporting imam. Officials denied him access to his lawyer and tortured him during his 15-day sentence. Officials tortured prisoner of conscience Tulkun Astanov in jail for praying, and he has lost 25 kg in weight since January. Officials have warned Shia Muslims not to publish religious material, and "some even stopped talking to or associating with people who had been warned".
16 July 2021
The regime's many political prisoners are frequently denied clergy visits and access to religious literature, against both Belarusian law and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules). Arrested in March, Olga Zolotar repeatedly requested a visit from a Catholic priest, but the Investigative Committee refused. Finally, in June officials allowed a visit by the Vatican nuncio. "The denial of access of priests to political prisoners who are religious, and the use of discriminatory and repressive measures against them are unacceptable .. and grossly violate one of the fundamental human rights," Christian Vision notes.
8 July 2021
Azerbaijani military forces have blocked Armenian Church pilgrims' access to Sunday worship at Dadivank Monastery since 2 May, citing first coronavirus, then a blocked road because of a landslip. "They do not want Dadivank to function as a Christian monastery, but they can't say directly that they don't want this," says Nagorno-Karabakh's Bishop, Vrtanes Abrahamian. "So they use technical issues." The Monastery, in Azerbaijani territory close to the ethnic Armenian-controlled unrecognised entity of Nagorno-Karabakh, is home to six monks and is protected by Russian peacekeepers.
5 July 2021
Uzbekistan's new Religion Law [signed by the President 5 July, came into force 6 July] maintains almost all the restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in the current Religion Law. It continues to ban: all exercise of freedom of religion and belief without state permission; teaching about religion without state permission; sharing beliefs; and publishing, distributing or importing printed and electronic religious materials which have not undergone compulsory prior state censorship. The continuing restrictions are in defiance of Uzbekistan's legally binding international human rights obligations.
30 June 2021
Officials have so far blocked Shia Muslims' attempts to reopen mosques in Bukhara with property excuses, and in Samarkand attempts have not been made as "they are afraid of the authorities". Officials have rejected other religious communities' recent applications to exist, or failed to respond. "Nothing has changed," a Protestant church which has applied for registration told Forum 18. Also, the draft Religion Law has been sent for presidential signature, but the regime has not revealed the text of the law it intends to apply to people it rules.
25 June 2021
Courts have handed suspended sentences of between two and seven years on "extremism"-related charges to 70 Jehovah's Witnesses as a result of the 2017 Supreme Court ban on their activity. A Muslim who reads Said Nursi's works has completed a two-year suspended sentence. Courts have fined 11 Jehovah's Witnesses and two Muslims on the same "extremism"-related charges. While 29 Jehovah's Witnesses and 1 Muslim have been given jail terms, suspended sentences are now the most common form of punishment.
23 June 2021
While 28 Jehovah's Witnesses have been jailed since the Supreme Court's 2017 ban, 69 have received suspended sentences. This includes the oldest person convicted of "extremism" for exercising freedom of religion and belief: 80-year-old Boris Burylov, with a suspended sentence of two years and six months. Igor Turik, sentenced with him, received the longest suspended sentence: seven years. "A suspended sentence means that you need to live under stress for many years, and the sentence can be changed to a real one," a Jehovah's Witness lawyer noted.