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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

TAJIKISTAN: "We will no longer register any new Churches"

Senior state religious affairs official Sulaymon Davlatzoda told Protestant leaders in late May: "We will no longer register any new Churches. We will keep the figure of registered Churches unchanged from now on." He did not explain why. Davlatzoda also "openly warned that children cannot participate in Church activity, and no religious camps are allowed for them". Without state registration, all exercise of freedom of religion or belief is illegal and punishable. The regime punishes Muslims, Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses for exercising freedom of religion without state permission.

KAZAKHSTAN: Religious freedom survey, June 2022

Freedom of religion and belief, with interlinked freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and other fundamental freedoms remain seriously restricted in Kazakhstan. Forum 18's survey analysis documents violations including: jailing and torturing prisoners of conscience for exercising their freedom of religion and belief; banning meetings for worship and sharing beliefs without state permission; state control of all expressions of Islam, including restrictions on how Muslims are allowed to pray; and religious literature and object censorship.

UZBEKISTAN: "The authorities do not want us to exist"

The regime has nationwide in 2021 and 2022 blocked state registration attempts by Muslim, Protestant, and Jehovah's Witness communities, making it impossible for them to meet legally. Often the excuses used are property-related, with officials taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by the Religion Law for arbitrary and inconsistent demands. Religious community members often want their names and the names of their communities to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals.

AZERBAIJAN: "Torture is nothing new, but insulting Allah is crossing a red line"

After the jailing of a Muslim Unity Movement member for six years, police seized and tortured two of his supporters outside the Baku courtroom. "They put their hands through the sack and pulled out my beard. I was insulted with the crudest of obscene words. They also insulted Allah," one of the two, Suleyman Alakbarov, recounted. In protest, the Movement's leader, prisoner of conscience Taleh Bagirov, began a hunger strike. "Torture is nothing new, but insulting Allah is crossing a red line," said Bagirov's wife Leyla Ismayilzade.

AZERBAIJAN: Treason case against Imam Sardar Babayev "clearly fabricated"

The State Security Ministry secret police arrested Shia Muslim Imam Sardar Babayev in October 2021 on treason charges. On 14 April, a Baku court extended pre-trial detention for a further five months. Human rights defender Elshan Hasanov described the treason case against Imam Babayev as "clearly fabricated". "No one believes Sardar Babayev is an Iranian spy," said exiled human rights defender Arif Yunus. Imam Babayev has already served a three-year jail term for leading mosque prayers after gaining Islamic education outside Azerbaijan.

AZERBAIJAN: Direct regime employing and firing imams is "role of a religious organisation"

In the first known use of new powers for appointing, re-appointing every five years, and firing all Islamic clergy, in early May, the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations fired Imam Mirseymur Aliyev in Neftchala. He had held end of Ramadan prayers on 3 May, not the regime-enforced date of 2 May. Lawyer Asabali Mustafayev noted that the regime taking direct control of Islamic clergy means that "the state is now playing the role of a religious organisation."

BELARUS: "A Christian cannot say that what's going on in Ukraine is good"

Police warned Orthodox priest Fr Andrei Nozdrin and his church transferred him to a remote parish after he publicly opposed Russia's renewed invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus' role in this. He insisted that "a Christian cannot say that what's going on in Ukraine is good, and should understand that killing is a sin". He told Forum 18 that he will continue to teach these Christian principles. The regime has similarly targeted other Orthodox and Catholic priests.

RUSSIA: Renewed criminal trials of Muslim Nursi readers

Three Muslims who met with others to study the works of theologian Said Nursi are on criminal trial on "extremism" charges in Izberbash, Dagestan. Judges closed similar cases with the "active repentance" of the defendants, the court claims. "People have been persuaded or forced to sign confessions by intimidation and deception," says a fellow Muslim. Other criminal cases continue in Dagestan and Tatarstan. Criminal cases against almost 200 Jehovah's Witnesses are in court. On 1 June, a Vladivostok court handed six Jehovah's Witnesses suspended sentences.