f18 Logo

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.

UZBEKISTAN: Two more prisoners of conscience jailed, one for 7 years

Today (27 May), trauma surgeon Alimardon Sultonov jailed for 7 years in labour camp "for criticising President Mirziyoyev, state-appointed imams .. " Both torture and 2 regime "parliamentarians" were used to try to get him to admit "guilt". On 17 May Muslim former prisoner of conscience Oybek Khamidov sentenced to 5 years' jail. Against published law neither Prosecutor nor "witnesses" were in court. The Judge did not want to talk to Forum 18 about the apparent illegality of the court proceedings, or the jailing.

KAZAKHSTAN: Multiple long-term punishments for exercising freedom of religion or belief

List of: 9 individuals (all Sunni Muslim men) jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief; 4 freed early from prison and serving the rest of their terms at home under restrictions; 8 former prisoners of conscience under years-long, often vague post-prison bans on specific activity; 35 individuals who have completed their jail terms have access to bank accounts blocked for up to a further 8 years. This account blocking can also block individuals from finding work or driving.

KAZAKHSTAN: Post-prison "there's a block everywhere!"

When individuals complete prison or restricted freedom sentences for exercising freedom of religion or belief and other rights, punishment does not stop. Many still face often vague bans on specific activity, including exercising freedom of religion or belief. "The Financial Monitoring Agency List says it relates to finance, but it's in fact about everything," one said. "When you want to get a job or open a bank account .. there's a block everywhere!" Restrictions include bank account blocks, driving bans and being unable to work in many jobs.

KAZAKHSTAN: Nine known Muslim prisoners of conscience - torture, solitary confinement

Five of the nine known prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief were punished for participating in an online Islamic discussion group. The other four are also Sunni Muslims. Dadash Mazhenov and Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov are facing torture by being held in prolonged solitary confinement. Mazhenov has been physically tortured, most recently in a January 2022 beating with truncheons which broke his jaw. Abduzhabbarov was not allowed to attend his father's funeral, while Galymzhan Abilkairov was not allowed to attend his wife's funeral.

UZBEKISTAN: Muslim jailed for four extra years, Nursi reader arrested

Muslim prisoner of conscience Khasan Abdirakhimov was on 28 April jailed for four extra years in an ordinary regime labour camp. The Judge told Forum 18 he was jailed "because he put likes under [religious] materials, and shared them with others on the internet". On 11 April Muslim Bobirjon Tukhtamurodov who met others to read theologian Said Nursi's works returned from exile in Russia to Uzbekistan. Despite previous assurances he was arrested, and is being held for six months in pre-trial detention.

UZBEKISTAN: "Police watch us like we are in the palm of their hands"

From 2018 mosques have had to pay for surveillance cameras controlled by the regime to be installed inside and outside mosques. In early 2022, the Interior Ministry also ordered non-Muslim communities to install the cameras. Muslim and non-Muslim religious communities and followers have told Forum 18 that some people have stopped attending meetings for worship, for fear of being identified and then facing state reprisals. A Muslim commented that "we want to concentrate on our meetings for worship, and not be afraid".

KAZAKHSTAN: Six months after UN decision, no releases from sentences, no compensation

In September 2021 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Kazakhstan to free eight Muslims from their punishments "immediately" and compensate them for their imprisonment. They were among nine jailed for participating in a WhatsApp Muslim discussion group, and the Working Group stressed its Opinion applied to all nine. More than six months later, none has had their sentence overturned or been compensated. Five are still jailed and four transferred to sentences based at home. "Unfortunately Kazakhstan hasn't implemented the Working Group Opinion and state bodies do not even refer to it," says human rights defender Yevgeny Zhovtis.

UZBEKISTAN: Latest prosecution for teahouse Islam discussion

Former prisoner of conscience Oybek Khamidov is on trial after his younger brother fled Andijan, following police questioning over five days after a teahouse discussion of Islam with friends. Khamidov was threatened that if he did not help police find his brother, he would be put on criminal trial. The family have no knowledge of his brother's current whereabouts. The indictment claims Khamidov "did not learn his lesson" and began again "storing and distributing religious materials".

UZBEKISTAN: "The law prohibits holding prayers in a public place"

On 2 March, Nosir Numanov and his friends went to their local mosque for evening prayer. As there were too many other worshippers and many police outside the mosque, they went to a local teahouse to say their prayers, and afterwards planned to have a meal together. On 11 March a Judge handed Numanov a 15-day jail sentence and fined the teahouse owner about 10 months' average wages. Separately, a Judge fined former prisoners of conscience Gaybullo Jalilov and Laziz Vokhidov for having allegedly "illegal" religious materials on their phones.