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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

KAZAKHSTAN: "Incomprehensible" bank account blocking

Kazakhstan maintains public lists of individuals and organisations allegedly connected to "terrorism or extremism" list, and secret "high-risk" or "suspicious" organisation lists circulated to banks. Both lists lead to blocking and denial of bank accounts and numerous other problems. "We've written more than 10 letters to various state agencies," Protestant Pastor Pyotr Shelepanov of New Life Church in Talgar told Forum 18. "But we've had no real answer." His Church describes the denial of a bank account as "incomprehensible".

KAZAKHSTAN: 75 Tabligh Jamaat adherents criminally convicted since 2015

Secret police raided the homes of Sarsen Netekov and Nurlan Atalykov, seizing 150 religious books and accusing them of membership of the banned Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat. In March, an Atyrau court handed them one-year restricted freedom terms, bringing to 75 the number of alleged Tabligh Jamaat members known to have been criminally convicted since 2015. It also ordered the books destroyed. Asked why officers raided the men's homes and seized religious literature, the secret police in Atyrau responded: "We don't give out such information."

KAZAKHSTAN: "This is not a state campaign against the Church"?

Protestants say secret police encouraged a former church member to lodge a suit against New Life Church – now in court in Pavlodar - claiming back pay and compensation for moral damages for volunteer work in a rehabilitation centre. "This is not a state campaign against the Church," a local religious affairs official claimed, though the individual met officials and a state-backed anti-"sect" centre. Jehovah's Witnesses are appealing a decision awarding large "compensation" to two former members. An assessment of their literature, claiming it caused psychiatric harm, listed a work by Andrei Snezhnevsky, leader of Soviet-era psychiatric abuse.

KAZAKHSTAN: Seven years' jail for online Muslim posts

Muslim Anatoli Zernichenko was jailed for seven years, for posting on social media Muslim texts which prosecutors without evidence claimed promoted terrorism. Zernichenko has appealed, but no hearing date is set. The case started with the secret police hunting through his social media accounts, and the jailing rests on textual "expert analyses". Yevgeny Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law says this is "exactly what the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism raised concerns about". There are now 10 known prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief.

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.

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.

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.

KAZAKHSTAN: 130 administrative prosecutions in 2021

In 130 known administrative prosecutions in 2021, 114 individuals (one twice), two charities, two schools and one company were punished for worship meetings, offering religious literature and items (including online), sharing or teaching faith, posting religious material online, or praying in mosques. Beimbet Manetov of the regime's Religious Affairs Committee insisted that individuals had to be fined if they break the law. Asked why courts punish individuals for exercising freedom of religion or belief, he responded: "I can't comment on court decisions." He said amendments his Committee has prepared to reduce these administrative punishments are now with the Justice Ministry, but refused to say why these punishments should not be abolished.

KAZAKHSTAN: Legal changes increase obstacles for holding religious events

As the regime declares a state of emergency and bans mass meetings in some areas, legal changes from 9 January increase the obstacles for holding religious meetings away from state-registered places of worship. Human rights defenders such as the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law have documented the regime's already severe restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly and to hold demonstrations. Orthodox Christmas night services (due on 6/7 January) in state of emergency areas have been cancelled.

KAZAKHSTAN: Tighter event restrictions back in Parliament's lower house

On 2 December, the upper house of Parliament approved in revised form amendments to the Religion Law to make holding religious events away from state-registered places of worship more difficult. The amendments now return to the lower house. The Senate narrowed the type of events that would need to undergo the burdensome process of seeking special official permission in advance. A legal specialist questions whether ordinary police officers would know that the new requirements – if adopted – would not apply to religious communities meeting in rented premises. "Much will depend on the instructions of religious affairs authorities and the discretion of local or national officials," the legal specialist told Forum 18.