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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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TAJIKISTAN: Prisoner of conscience barred from attending only son's funeral

Prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov was stopped from attending his only son's funeral in September, and has not been hospitalised for the specialised medical treatment he needs. This is despite multiple reminders – the most recent on 13 September – from the UN Human Rights Committee that the regime's human rights obligations require this. Freedom of religion and belief and other human rights of prisoners of all faiths continues to be violated.

TAJIKISTAN: Imam jailed for preaching his own sermon

The secret police arrested Imam Mahmadsodyk Sayidov for refusing to read the state-provided sermon all imams must read at Friday prayers, instead giving his own sermon. A Kulob court jailed him in June for five years for allegedly participating in a religious "extremist" organisation. Two mosque attendees were also jailed. A Judge could not explain what was "extremist" about the three men's alleged activity. On 18 June the UN Human Rights Committee again called for the 70-year-old seriously-ill Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov to be transferred to a "specialised medical institution". The Prison Governor claimed "We have everything for his treatment."

TAJIKISTAN: Male police continue targeting women wearing hijabs

The long-running regime campaign to prevent women wearing the hijab (Islamic headscarf) intensified from March, human rights defenders including Muslim women say. Officials stop women in the street, question them, and order them to take off their hijab. "When they saw a woman in a hijab the male and female officials immediately encircled the woman," a human rights defender saw in early July, speaking "very rudely and harassing them if they refused to take off their hijab". The police, the State Committee for Women and Family Affairs, and the Interior Ministry all refused to explain to Forum 18 why male police officers nationwide are not stopped from deliberately and publicly bullying and harassing women wearing a hijab.

TAJIKISTAN: "I do not know what the Mandela Rules are"

Prison authorities have repeatedly denied seriously ill Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov the specialised medical treatment he needs. The 70-year-old has a bad leg "which smells like rotten meat" and has had coronavirus symptoms. The UN Mandela Rules for prisoners' treatment say medical decisions must be made by doctors, and the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture have both called for Tajikistan to implement the Rules. Yet the prison governor told Forum 18: "I do not know what the Mandela Rules are." A Supreme Court official similarly denied knowledge of the Mandela Rules.

TAJIKISTAN: Independent imam jailed again

Independent imam Sirojiddin Abdurahmonov, who was also jailed in 2010, was jailed in February for five and a half years along with an unknown number of others. Conscientious objector Rustamjon Norov's appeal against a three and a half year jail sentence is due on 11 March, and a judge has refused to explain why he allowed a Russian Orthodox nun with no connection to the case to testify for the prosecution.

TAJIKISTAN: Three and a half years' jail for "illegal" conscientious objection

Despite his offer to perform alternative civilian service, Khujand Military Court today (7 January) jailed Rustamjon Norov for three and a half years, the longest known sentence. The court claimed the 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector falsified his medical history to evade compulsory military service, charges he denies. While held in a military unit in October 2020, he was threatened with torture if he did not put on a military uniform.

TAJIKISTAN: Religious freedom survey, December 2020

Tajikistan restricts freedom of religion and belief, along with interlinked freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Forum 18's survey analyses violations including: ban on and punishments for all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission; severe limitations on numbers of mosques; jailing of Muslim, Jehovah's Witness and Protestant prisoners of conscience on alleged "extremism" charges; impunity for torture; jailing of conscientious objectors; and state censorship of religious materials.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objector freed, but another jailed

Rustamjon Norov, a 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness from Dushanbe, is in Khujand Investigation Prison facing prosecution for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. He faces two to five years' imprisonment if convicted. He denies accusations of falsifying his medical history to evade military service. On 1 November, conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov was freed under presidential prisoner amnesty after serving nine months of his two-year jail term.

TAJIKISTAN: "No reason to fear" census religion question?

Some fear the religion question in the October nationwide census will be used to facilitate freedom of religion and belief violations. "It is probable that Tajiks who have accepted the Christian faith, or are Ahmadis, or are Salafi Muslims, will feel forced to lie and write that they are Hanafi Muslims," one commentator noted. Some Protestants fear the authorities "are trying to identify our members and where they are located".

TAJIKISTAN: Impunity for torturers continues

Impunity for multiple instances of torture of Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Protestants continues. Conscientious objector and prisoner of conscience Jovidon Bobojonov was tortured by soldiers kneeling on his neck. Officials refuse to tell Forum 18 why suspect torturers have not been arrested and put on criminal trial for torture, as international human rights law requires. Tajikistan's assurances to the UN Human Rights Committee of introducing civilian alternative service remain unfulfilled.

TAJIKISTAN: Journalist's jailing based on "complete fabrication"

A Dushanbe court jailed journalist Daler Sharipov for one year for "extremism" and "inciting religious hatred" for writing a booklet containing "absolutely no malice or incitement there to religious hatred", and articles speaking of Islam as a religion of peace, and Muhammad as a prophet of peace. Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov is serving a seven year and six month sentence on the same charges.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objector tortured, jailed for two years

Nearly six months after being seized, Dushanbe's Military Court jailed 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov today (2 April) for two years in a general regime labour camp for refusing compulsory military service. He has already appealed against his conviction. While held in the military unit, personnel tortured Bobojonov with beatings to pressure him to take the military oath and put on uniform.

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