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TAJIKISTAN: Criminal cases against human rights defenders, relatives threatened

Exiled human rights defenders Anora Sarkorova and her husband Rustamjon Joniyev face criminal charges, and have been placed on Russia's Federal Wanted List. Officials have threatened relatives with arrests. Both have written about the regime's multiple serious violations of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, committed against Ismaili Muslims in Mountainous Badakhshan Region. "This will not break us, and we will continue reporting on human rights violations," Sarkorova told Forum 18. In Khujand police raided a Protestant Church and are questioning its members and leaders.

TAJIKISTAN: Religious freedom survey, December 2023

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 (including among Ismailis in Mountainous Badakhshan); state control of Islam; severe limitations on numbers of mosques; jailing of Muslim prisoners of conscience on alleged "extremism" charges; impunity for torture; denial of a civilian alternative to military service; and state censorship of religious materials.

TAJIKISTAN: Secret Supreme Court hearing bans Jehovah's Witnesses

A 2021 secret Supreme Court ban on Jehovah's Witnesses as allegedly "extremist" was not revealed until over a year later. "The participation of the organisation was not necessary," a Supreme Court official told Forum 18. Despite a 2022 UN Human Rights Committee View that the reasons to ban Jehovah's Witnesses were not lawful, appeals were rejected by a military court and on 31 August 2023 by the Supreme Court. A Court official refused to explain why the Court refused to heed the UN Human Rights Committee finding.

TAJIKISTAN: Jail sentences, fines for studying Islam

Imam Mukhammadi Mukharramov, who is now 50, was jailed for eight years for privately teaching Islam to a group of 12 Muslim men throughout 2022. The 12 men – whose names are unknown and whose ages ranged between about 30 and 40 - were jailed for between 6 and 9 years. Elsewhere, a man was fined 9 months' average wages for privately teaching Islam to his brother's wife, and a Muslim woman was fined 1 month's average wages for teaching the Koran to a neighbour's 8-year-old daughter.

TAJIKISTAN: Decree bans funerals for alleged "terrorists", denies relatives bodies

President Emomali Rahmon has signed a Decree denying the families of those killed in alleged "anti-terrorism operations" the possibility of, among other things, burying their dead with the religious or other rites they would have chosen or even knowing where they are buried. A human rights defender said this is to "publicly threaten that people who protest against the government will die and will not be buried as Muslims". Another human rights defender, journalist Anora Sarkorova, noted that "the authorities are enforcing the Decree violently".

TAJIKISTAN: Ailing prisoner of conscience's hospital transfer refused again

The governor of Strict Regime Prison YaS 3/5 in Khujand refuses to explain why Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov – aged 72 and in urgent need of specialised medical care – cannot be transferred to hospital. On 15 February in his absence, Sugd Regional Court rejected Khakimov's latest appeal. Among the 6 other known prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion and belief, Ismaili leader Muzaffar Davlatmirov from Mountainous Badakhshan was in August 2022 transferred to General Regime Prison YaS 3/6 in Yavan. Jailed Islamic Renaissance Party member, Zubaydullo Rozik, was again sent to punishment cell for having a Koran.

TAJIKISTAN: Regime bans Ismaili home prayers, lessons for children

At least two Ismaili home owners in Mountainous Badakhshan were fined one month's average wage each for hosting prayer meetings in their homes. The regime banned such meetings in late 2022. Officials told elders on 14 January in Khorugh not to allow prayers in homes, that local people must remove portraits of Ismaili spiritual leader the Aga Khan, and that study at the London-based Institute of Ismaili Studies is no longer allowed. The regime also banned voluntary lessons for children based on a course from the Aga Khan Foundation.

TAJIKISTAN: Urgent medical treatment denied again, defying UN Human Rights Committee

Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience 71-year-old Shamil Khakimov has again been denied urgently needed medical treatment in a specialised hospital, after a closed court hearing in his prison. The repeated denial of medical treatment is against multiple statements by the UN Human Rights Committee. Elsewhere, the family and friends of Ismaili Muslim prisoner of conscience Muzaffar Davlatmirov are still being denied information on where he is in jail.

TAJIKISTAN: Restrictions continue for Muslims, intrusive questionnaires for non-Muslims

The regime closed all Islamic bookshops in Dushanbe in August and September, as well as some publishers of Islamic literature. The regime has also continued demands that non-Muslim religious communities complete intrusive questionnaires. Some suggested family information is being collected "so that it will be easy to identify us and our family members if in future they decide to target us". "All mosques are under total state control," human rights defenders observed, "so the regime does not need to insist that mosques complete such questionnaires."

TAJIKISTAN: Ismaili religious leader jailed, prayer houses closed

On 3 August, 8 days after the NSC secret police arrested Muzaffar Davlatmirov, a respected 59-year-old Ismaili religious leader, Badakhshan Regional Court jailed him for 5 years for alleged "public calls for extremist activity". "Davlatmirov is not an extremist, and did not call for 'extremist' activity," a local person who knows him told Forum 18. His relatives and friends do not know where he is serving his sentence. There are now at least 7 prisoners of conscience known to be jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief, one a Jehovah's Witness and the others Muslim. The regime has also closed all Ismaili prayer houses in Mountainous Badakhshan, and the Ismaili Education Centre in Khorugh.

TAJIKISTAN: Banned from wearing mourning clothes, arrested, tortured

The regime targets women who dress as they choose, including wearing hijab. "I don't want to stop wearing the hijab, so I try to avoid the police," one told Forum 18. Many Islamic rites and ceremonies are banned, including mourning customs. On 27 June police stopped Elobat Oghalykova for wearing a black dress to mark one of her sons' death, took her to a police station and tortured her. After she and her son made formal complaints, police threatened both with 15 days' jail.

TAJIKISTAN: Prisoner of conscience still denied proper medical care

71-year-old prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov – whose health continues to decline - is now losing his eyesight. The regime refuses to provide needed medical care and release him. Prison Governor Jamoliddin Khushbakhtzoda insists that Khakimov's health is fine, and denies knowledge of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules): "What Rules are you talking about? I haven't heard of these Rules." At least 5 other prisoners of conscience are jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief.

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