UZBEKISTAN: Authorities drag feet over Pentecostal registration
Pentecostal pastor Bakhtier Tuichiev's registration application for his church in Andijan – lodged four months ago - has stalled. "Officially, no-one has refused me," he told Forum 18. "It is simply that every day I am told to come back tomorrow. I am sure the authorities are quite deliberately dragging their feet." However, an official of the city administration denied there was any deliberate obstruction. "We have been holding a sports competition, and have not had the time to devote to this issue," Izatullo Khojayev told Forum 18. "I have already told Tuichiev that we will deal with his application very soon." Police have warned the pastor that if the church continues to operate without registration, he will be brought to court.
However, an official of the Andijan city hakimiat (administration) denied that there was any deliberate obstruction. "We are certainly not trying to drag out the registration of the church that Tuichiev leads," Izatullo Khojayev, a specialist for work with public organisations, told Forum 18 from Andijan on 29 May. "We have been holding a sports competition, and have not had the time to devote to this issue. I have already told Tuichiev that we will deal with his application very soon."
Tuichiev told Forum 18 he had been summoned by the regional police in January and April this year and warned that if the church continued to operate without registration, he would be brought to court under the code of administrative offences. He maintains that police officers keep watch on the church entrance at each service.
Pastor Tuichiev, whose congregation belongs to the Full Gospel Church, has been trying to gain registration for the past few years (see F18News 14 March 2003). In February 2002 he received the authorisation required for the church to operate from the mahalla committee (the mahalla is a district of a city), and submitted registration documents to the city hakimiat. However, the hakimiat did not want to register the church. In March 2002 a meeting of mahalla residents established that it was "inexpedient for a Christian church to operate".
Last September, a group of people who claimed to be BBC and CNN journalists visited Tuichiev, but the pastor believes they were in fact officers of the National Security Service (the former KGB).
29 May 2003
Ten days after his home in the village of Yubileiny was raided by police, who confiscated religious literature, Jehovah's Witness Shukhrat Ashurov and his colleague Alisher Argeliyev appeared on 28 May at Gazalkent town court. "According to my sources, at the next hearing Ashurov and Argeliyev will be charged with preaching to children," their lawyer Rustam Satdanov told Forum 18 News Service. "The leaflets were brought to Uzbekistan legally," Ashurov insisted to Forum 18. "As far as I know, there is no ban on the Bible, New Testament and Koran in Uzbekistan." Villagers have demanded that the two abandon the Jehovah's Witness faith and return to Islam, otherwise they will be expelled.
20 May 2003
After a major investigation, Forum 18 News Service established that the Muslim clergy is almost completely under the control of the Uzbek authorities, while the leadership of the muftiate's spiritual administration is virtually an agency of state authority. Imams do not have the right to compose the Friday addresses themselves, but are obliged to read out texts approved by the muftiate. During the US-led war in Iraq, imams felt obliged to speak in support of the campaign, despite their own and popular opposition to it. In defiance of the law, the state appoints and removes imams. Students in Islamic colleges are closely monitored for their political reliability. Many mosques have been denied registration and Forum 18 has seen some being used, as in the Soviet period, as clubs, libraries or museums. Ironically, Islam is the faith in Uzbekistan that is most thoroughly controlled by the authorities.
9 May 2003
Muslims from the suburb of Rafik Mumin in the Fergana valley city of Namangan have complained to Forum 18 News Service that the authorities have repeatedly refused registration for the Donobad mosque which was closed down in 1998. Rejecting their latest application, the deputy leader of the city administration wrote to the Muslims at the end of March that it is "pointless" to register the mosque, because several mosques nearby are already functioning. "The authorities routinely give unofficial instructions to mahalla committee leaders to refuse registration to mosques," Gulyam Halmatov, chairman of the Namangan branch of the Independent Human Rights Organisation of Uzbekistan, told Forum 18.