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

KAZAKHSTAN: "It is not allowed to pray at any location unless it's approved"

Courts and police have fined at least 15 people (one twice) and 3 organisations so far in 2021 for holding meetings for worship, hosting such meeting, maintaining places for such meetings, or holding other religious rituals without state permission. The fines were of between three weeks' and four months' average wage for those in formal work. After a Muslim was fined for leading Friday prayers, a police officer told Forum 18: "It is not allowed to pray at any location unless it's approved." Challenged about open surveillance of Baptists meeting for worship, an official claimed: "This isn't spying, this is monitoring," adding "we go to mosques, churches."

KAZAKHSTAN: Fines, bans for offering religious materials for sale

So far in 2021, courts have fined 26 people and given 2 verbal reprimands for offering for sale religious literature or other religious objects, such as icons, vinyl records and Koran stands, without state permission. Almost all the fines were of three weeks' average wage. Oskemen Police "Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department" identified two people offering icons for sale online, who were both fined. No official would explain why this police department was concerned about icons. Nurgali Kabylov, Head of the Expertise [Censorship] Department of the Information and Social Development Ministry's Religious Affairs Committee, refused to explain why the state imposes compulsory prior censorship on all religious literature and items in defiance of its international human rights commitments.

KAZAKHSTAN: New controls on religious meetings: delayed, abandoned or imminent?

The Information and Social Development Ministry is proposing various amendments to the Religion Law and the Administrative Code. One Religion Law amendment would impose new bureaucratic procedures on state-registered religious communities wanting to hold religious meetings away from state-registered places of worship. This would affect any religious community which does not own its own building, as well as communities that want to hold a pilgrimage or other event away from their place of worship. The Prime Minister's Office ordered the Religion Law amendments be removed from the proposed Law on Social Control, but the provision remains in draft amendments from July, seen by Forum 18.

KAZAKHSTAN: Targeting ethnic Dungan Koran teachers

Kordai District Court fined two more ethnic Dungan Muslims seven weeks' average wages each for teaching the Koran to children. The court issued eight such fines between 2018 and 2020, all to Dungan Muslims. More than half the administrative fines for teaching religion to children in Kazakhstan are in Kordai District. Police chief Maksat Erezhepov insists these prosecutions were "in line with the law". "Any actions that contradict the law will face severe measures." Both he and the regional religious affairs official deny any "ethnic factor" in the prosecutions.

KAZAKHSTAN: "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever"

Courts fined at least 18 people in 2021 for distributing religious literature, texts, videos, audio and items in places and ways the regime declares illegal under its compulsory religious censorship. Most fines were of three weeks' average wages. "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever, whether text, video or audio," insists Kayrulla Kushkaliyev of Atyrau's Religious Affairs Department – which brought six prosecutions. The UN Human Rights Committee found an import ban on ten Jehovah's Witness publications violated Polat Bekzhan's rights.

KAZAKHSTAN: 134 administrative prosecutions in 2020

In 134 known administrative prosecutions in 2020, 114 individuals (one twice), three charities 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. At least 14 fines were imposed in January 2021. Deputy Chair Anuar Khatiyev of the regime's Religious Affairs Committee refused to discuss why individuals should face prosecution and punishment for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.

KAZAKHSTAN: Court rejects seriously-ill prisoner's release plea

Despite serious heart problems, 42-year-old Muslim prisoner of conscience Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov was not on 26 November freed early. North Kazakhstan Regional Court rejected his appeal against an earlier denial, even though "his illness is on the list of illnesses for which prisoners should be freed" his lawyer told Forum 18. There are 17 known prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief, all Muslim men.

KAZAKHSTAN: Tortured prisoner of conscience jailed again

After being arrested in 2018, jailed, tortured, acquitted, and put on trial again, 30-year-old Sunni Muslim Dadash Mazhenov has been jailed for nearly 8 years on the same "terrorism" charges he faced in 2018. His "crime" was to post online 4 Islamic talks, which he later deleted. In 2019 he was tortured for praying in prison, but no officials have been arrested or tried for this. One official insisted to Forum 18 that prisoner of conscience Mazhenov tortured himself.

KAZAKHSTAN: No surgery yet for prisoner needing heart transplant

Despite Muslim prisoner of conscience Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov being seriously ill and needing a heart transplant, he was sent from Petropavl Labour Camp on an over 1,000 kilometre journey to Pavlodar Labour Camp. "I am very worried about Zhuldyzbek," his mother told Forum 18. The chief doctor of Pavlodar Labour Camp medical unit confirmed that Taurbekov needs a heart transplant, and that Pavlodar has no suitable cardiology centre.

KAZAKHSTAN: Courts fail to halt seizure of Churches' property

Almaty's New Life Church was not represented when the City Court upheld an earlier court decision to seize two buildings the Church bought in 1993 and uses as a spiritual centre. Almaty Justice Department officials responsible for carrying out the seizure refused to answer questions. A Nur-Sultan court rejected Grace Presbyterian Church's suit to have annulled an order seizing their church, and the half-built place of worship of Agape Pentecostal Church.

KAZAKHSTAN: Two churches' buildings ordered confiscated in Nur-Sultan

Nur-Sultan city administration ordered the confiscation of Grace Presbyterian Church, and of Agape Pentecostal Church's half-finished place of worship on the same site. Grace Church – which bought its building in 2001 - is challenging the order in court. "From 2002 we have dreamed of having our own building, and we just started building it," says Agape Church Pastor Igor Tsay. "And then this. It was unexpected – a shock."

KAZAKHSTAN: Warned for violating coronavirus regulations, but fined for leading worship

After a raid on Baptists meeting for worship in Pavlodar despite coronavirus restrictions, Pastor Isak Neiman was warned for violating anti-coronavirus measures. But after the warning, which he accepted, he was fined nearly two months' average wages on a second charge of leading an unregistered religious community meeting for worship without state permission. Officials in Aktobe fined a shopping centre administrator for allowing Muslims to pray in a unit there.