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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

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KYRGYZSTAN: Greater financial controls on religious organisations?

Despite Parliament's rejection on 6 June of a Religion Law amendment that would have imposed tighter financial reporting by registered religious organisations, work on a similar amendment continues. Deputy Ulan Primov – who is promoting such tighter controls – has not answered Forum 18's question on why he believes they are needed. "Financial control measures for non-commercial organisations in general were incorporated into the Law in 2022," says Gulshayir Abdirasulova of human rights organisation Kylym Shamy. "Now the authorities want to adopt such measures for religious organisations."

KYRGYZSTAN: Two Muslim men jailed for mosque closure protest

On 26 February, Kara-Suu District Court jailed prisoners of conscience Asadullo Madraimov and Mamirzhan Tashmatov for three years and two years respectively for protesting against the regime's closure of their mosque, Al-Sarakhsi Mosque. Some mosques and madrassahs, though not the Al-Sarakhsi Mosque, are known to be still closed. An appeal against the two men's jailing, filed on 27 March, should be heard by the end of May. The two prisoners of conscience remain in Osh's Investigation Prison, where they have been held since 18 October 2023.

KYRGYZSTAN: Raids, closures of mosques, madrassahs, Muslim critics arrested

After raids and closures of mosques and madrassahs in Osh Region, three members of the Al-Sarakhsi Mosque community who protested have been arrested and face criminal trial. The men have been held in Osh's Investigation Prison since 18 October. A Justice Ministry "expert analysis" claims the men "discredited the authorities' actions by saying that the 'law-enforcement agencies interfered in mosque matters and acted against Muslims'". One of the men's fathers commented: "If we live in a democratic state, a person should not be criminally prosecuted for expressing their opinion."

KYRGYZSTAN: Repressive draft new Religion Law out for public discussion

The Chair of the State Commission for Religious Affairs, Toygonbay Abdykarov, insisted to Forum 18 that the proposed new Religion Law it prepared "may be restrictive, but we have all the reasons for it to be so". It would continue to require all religious communities to gain state registration before being allowed to exercise freedom of religion or belief, but would require re-registration every 5 years. An Amending Law would impose Violations Code fines for a greater range of "offences". The public have until 9 December to submit comments.

KYRGYZSTAN: Six-month jail term for questioning official religious policy

On 13 September, Protestant Aytbek Tynaliyev completed his six-month jail term. Arrested in May, a Chuy Region court convicted him in July for "inciting religious enmity" for social media posts sharing his faith and questioning the authorities' religious policy. Prosecutor Kaliya Rysbek kyzy refused to say how exactly Tynaliyev insulted Islam and why she called for a two-year jail term. The two Justice Ministry religious "experts", who supported the prosecution case in court, would not explain why they considered Tynaliyev's comments represented "disinformation about the religion of Islam".

KYRGYZSTAN: Fear of state reprisals for registration applications grows

Many smaller churches have not sought state registration, Protestants say, as they are "afraid of state reprisals for themselves as communities as well as their members." These fears are echoed by Hare Krishna devotees whose Bishkek community has been trying for years to register. Jehovah’s Witness communities have also repeatedly been denied state registration, against two UN Human Rights Committee decisions. State officials have claimed – wrongly – that Human Rights Committee views "are for consideration but not for implementation." Such denials have "a chilling effect," Jehovah’s Witnesses note.

KYRGYZSTAN: Raids and fines on Catholics, Protestants, Hare Krishna devotees

A Catholic church has been raided and two nuns fined for reading the Bible at Mass, following which the Catholic Church was threatened with being banned. Two foreigners at a registered Protestant church were also fined. A Hare Krishna wedding rehearsal was also raided, the host fined, and Indian students present had their visas revoked. The Interior Ministry, police "Departments for the Struggle against Extremism and Illegal Migration," the SCRA, and the NSC secret police refuse to explain why they violate legally-binding international human rights obligations.

KYRGYZSTAN: Violent attacks continue in 2022 and into 2023

Violent attacks against non-Muslims in regions outside the capital Bishkek have continued in 2022 and into 2023, local Protestants told Forum 18. Officials refused to explain why perpetrators are not prosecuted and punished, and what is being done to stop such attacks. When such attacks happen, Protestants stated, "local believers are afraid to complain to the authorities" as "they are afraid of reprisals from the authorities and local mobs for complaining". "These are only isolated cases," Kanatbek Midin uuly of the State Commission for Religious Affairs claimed.

KYRGYZSTAN: Religious freedom survey, January 2022

Freedom of religion and belief and interlinked human rights are under increasing threat in Kyrgyzstan. Forum 18's survey analysis documents: increasing "legal" restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief; Ahmadi Muslims being prevented from meeting since 2011, and refusal to allow the Falun Gong spiritual movement to exist; state attempts aiming to eventually ban all Jehovah's Witness communities; state officials and imams repeatedly stopping people peacefully burying their dead under their own rites, the most recent case being against a Protestant pastor's family.

KYRGYZSTAN: Literature ban rejected: "repression is postponed for now"

On 2 December, a Bishkek court rejected a General Prosecutor's Office suit to ban Jehovah's Witness books and videos as "extremist", saying it had been filed under the wrong procedure. The General Prosecutor's Office official who took the case to court said it will not appeal. "The repression is postponed for now," said Syinat Sultanalieva of Human Rights Watch. The NSC secret police – which backed the ban attempt – is also pushing to have Jehovah's Witnesses banned. The General Prosecutor's Office official said he is not aware of any suit being prepared. The NSC officer investigating a 2-year-old criminal case against unspecified Jehovah's Witnesses refused to give information, citing the "secrecy of the investigation".

KYRGYZSTAN: New restrictions in draft new Religion Law

The draft Religion Law prepared by the State Commission for Religious Affairs would – if adopted in current form – continue to ban worship meetings and religious education without state permission; make registering small religious communities more difficult or impossible; and might make it impossible to register communities that do not own their own buildings. It would continue to require 200 adults to found a community and apply for compulsory registration, but would require them to live in one Region. For the first time places of worship would need registration. An Amending Law would introduce new punishments. Manas Muratbekov of the SCRA's Legal Department who prepared both draft laws refused to discuss them.

KYRGYZSTAN: Second UN finding over registration denials

The UN Human Rights Committee has again found that the authorities violated the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses by arbitrarily refusing their communities in Naryn, Osh and Jalal-Abad state registration. The State Commission for Religious Affairs must review the denials, provide "adequate compensation", "take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring", and inform the UN of what it has done within 180 days. The SCRA ignored a similar 2019 UN decision. Deputy Director Gulnaz Isayeva refused to say why it continues to deny these Jehovah's Witness registration applications, and whether Ahmadi Muslims, who were earlier told they could not register, would succeed in any new application.

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