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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

TURKMENISTAN: Raids, literature seizures, imam detained

Police in Turkmenbashi and other locations nearby raided homes of devout Muslims in mid-August. They seized religious literature, including books on sharia law and the hadith. They also seized Russian translations of the Koran, leaving only Turkmen-language Koran translations. The Ministry of State Security secret police detained an elderly imam for giving Islamic lessons to children. On 29 August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the regime to end its ban on "practicing religion in cases where an organization is unregistered".

TURKMENISTAN: Pensioner's pilgrimage departure blocked for five months

On 23 August, Yakutjan Babajanova finally left Turkmenistan for her umra pilgrimage to Mecca, five months after Ashgabat Airport officials refused to allow the 73-year-old to board her flight, despite having all documentation. Officials gave no reason. "We managed to break through the blank wall that the authorities erected by forbidding my mother this spring to fulfil her lifelong dream," her daughter said. Migration Service officials refused to discuss her case. More pilgrims were allowed to join the 2023 haj, but far more were denied.

TURKMENISTAN: Muslim prisoners of conscience transferred to new labour camps

Five Sunni Muslims jailed in Balkanabat for 12 years each in August 2017 for meeting to study the works of the theologian Said Nursi were in mid-2022 transferred to new labour camps. The strict-regime labour camp at Bayramali in Mary Region, where four of the five are held, also holds another jailed Nursi reader, 47-year-old Begench Dadebayew. At least two among more than 60 men jailed from 2013 for participating in a Sunni Muslim group in Turkmenabat have been freed after completing their jail terms.

TURKMENISTAN: "The right to acquire and use religious literature .. of their choice"?

The MSS secret police raided homes in at least four towns in Lebap Region on 21 July, the first day of the Muslim festival of Id al-Adha. Officers seized religious books, telling Muslims they can have only the Koran at home. "When they find any religious book, even if it conforms with Turkmenistan's religious literature standards, MSS officers begin to question individuals," one resident told Radio Free Europe. A Lebap Region police officer insisted to Forum 18 that the MSS secret police conducted the raids, not the ordinary police. Russian Orthodox attempts to register six new parishes have seen no progress.

TURKMENISTAN: 16 conscientious objectors freed, Muslim prisoners of conscience remain

All 16 known jailed conscientious objectors were freed under amnesty on 8 May. The 16 – all Jehovah's Witnesses – were serving terms of one to four years. However, no Muslims jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief are known to have been amnestied. Nor has the regime given any indication that it will heed repeated UN calls to introduce a civilian alternative to compulsory military service, though Jehovah's Witnesses say no new criminal cases against conscientious objectors have been handed to prosecutors. Forum 18 was unable to reach any officials.

TURKMENISTAN: 8 conscientious objectors jailed in 2021, UN special procedures ignored

On 16 March the regime jailed another conscientious objector to military service for two years, the eighth such 2021 jailing. Like six of the other 2021 jailings, 21-year-old Jehovah's Witness Rasul Rozbayev is being punished for the second time on the same charges. The jailings ignore a December 2020 appeal by four UN special procedures. A March 2020 regime report to the UN insisted that defending the country "is the sacred duty of every citizen".

TURKMENISTAN: Police detain, threaten, swear at Muslims

Police detained about ten Muslim men in Farap in January who they believed were following their faith too closely, such as by praying every day. Officers "used swear words and behaved crudely towards those they detained." Police forcibly shaved one man, made him drink alcohol, and fined him with no explanation. About ten more were held for praying in a home. Officials warned school children not to take part in (unspecified) "illegal" religious groups and residents received a similar warning.

TURKMENISTAN: Now 15 jailed conscientious objectors

A court in Lebap Region jailed 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Nazar Alliyev for one year for refusing compulsory military service. He is the seventh to be jailed in 2021 so far and joins 14 other jailed conscientious objectors (9 of them serving second sentences). "We deeply regret the criminalization of conscientious objection," four UN human rights Special Procedures wrote to the Turkmen government in December 2020, adding that Turkmenistan "must provide meaningful alternative service". The regime has not responded to the UN.

TURKMENISTAN: Five conscientious objectors jailed in two days

Five conscientious objectors to compulsory military service who had already served sentences were jailed again in trials on 18 and 19 January. Courts gave all five two-year terms, four of them in strict-regime labour camp, bringing to six the number jailed so far in 2021. All had offered to perform an alternative civilian service, but Turkmenistan does not offer this. Nine of the 14 known jailed conscientious objectors – all of them Jehovah's Witnesses – are serving second sentences.

TURKMENISTAN: Another second-time jailing, four more imminent?

Conscientious objectors increasingly face second prosecutions for continuing to refuse compulsory military service. On 11 January, a court in Lebap Region sentenced 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness Ruslan Artykmuradov to two years in a strict regime labour camp, his second jailing on the same charges. On 30 December 2020, Danev District Prosecutor's Office informed four other Jehovah's Witnesses they face second prosecutions. All had offered to do an alternative, civilian service.

TURKMENISTAN: Conscientious objector jailed, awaiting second trial

Arrested in December 2020, 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Ruslan Artykmuradov is awaiting trial in Turkmenabat's Pre-Trial Detention Prison for refusing compulsory military service. He offered to do an alternative civilian service, but Turkmenistan does not offer this, despite repeated United Nations calls. Artykmuradov has already served a one-year jail term on the same charges. If convicted, he will become the 25th conscientious objector known to have been jailed since 2018.

TURKMENISTAN: 24th conscientious objector jailed since 2018

A court in Mary Region jailed 18-year-old Myrat Orazgeldiyev for one year on 3 September, the 24th Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector to military service to be imprisoned since January 2018. Eleven – including Orazgeldiyev – are now jailed, eight of them at the harsh Seydi Labour Camp, where a former prisoner of conscience described conditions as "inhuman". All 24 young men offered to do an alternative civilian service, but none exists.