6 December 2016
Turkmenistan has ignored some questions by the UN Committee Against Torture about tortured Muslim and Jehovah's Witness prisoners of conscience, but provided details of a Sunni Muslim prisoner's three trials. The country also continues to deny the right to conscientious objection to military service.
30 November 2016
"The Orthodox Church wants a diocese and resident bishop in Turkmenistan," an Orthodox told Forum 18. "But it hasn't yet happened." The Deanery Secretary, a Russian priest, was forced to leave. And the Armenian Apostolic Church is still unable to regain a former church.
3 October 2016
Courts sentenced four Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors in 2016 to two-year suspended prison terms for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. A fifth received a two-year corrective labour sentence, a sixth an 18-month suspended sentence and a seventh a one-year corrective labour sentence. Turkmenistan ignored OSCE calls for the new Constitution to recognise conscientious objection.
26 September 2016
Bahram Saparov led a Hanafi Sunni Muslim community in Turkmenabad. He and about 20 members of his group were given long prison sentences in May 2013. He and at least two others were transferred to the top-security Ovadan-Depe prison, where torture is frequent and prisoners are held incommunicado.
21 September 2016
Police raided Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov's home in Dashoguz in July 2014, seized religious literature (subsequently destroyed), severely beat him, injected him in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre (from which he escaped) with unknown drugs. He was jailed after June 2016 arrest for one year.
5 July 2016
Six conscientious objectors to compulsory military service sentenced to corrective labour since October 2014, including Dayanch Jumayev in February. They live at home under restrictions, the state seizing a fifth of their wages. Appeals from 11 conscientious objectors are with UN Human Rights Committee.
18 April 2016
Secret police officers warned the pastor of the Baptist Church in Mary not to hold a children's summer camp in 2016 otherwise "it would be a different conversation", Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. One of the officers had led the raid on the same church's children's camp in 2013. Also in February, members of Greater Grace Protestant Church were fined for visiting the town of Tejen to talk to others of their faith. On 12 April, Turkmenistan's new Religion Law came into force. Among other restrictions it continues the existing ban on exercising freedom of religion and belief with others without state permission and increases the number of founders who can apply for legal status for a religious community from five to 50. The new government Commission that controls religion needs to approve all religious literature and any new places of worship. The Religion Law also repeats the existing ban on conscientious objection to military service. Two senior members of parliament refused to discuss the new Law with Forum 18. Members of several religious communities complained that "no religion" is allowed during military service. "You can't have a Koran, Bible or other religious literature and you can't conduct prayers visibly," one told Forum 18.
14 April 2016
In early April, Aksa Mosque in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabad became the eighth of the city's mosques to have been summarily destroyed in the city in recent years. The Mosque – built in the early 1990s with donations from local Muslims – could accommodate 100 worshippers. Demolition workers from the Hyakimlik (administration) justified the demolition by telling local people that "this mosque has been built without any kind of permission", Radio Free Europe's Turkmen Service noted. No one over 23 years had mentioned any illegality in the construction, insisted a 70-year-old local resident who had been involved in the Mosque's original construction. "But now, under a pretext, they are destroying the building considered to be God's house," Iolaman-aga told Radio Free Europe. An official of the Architecture Department of Ashgabad's Kopetdag District Hyakimlik put the phone down before Forum 18 News Service could ask about the destroyed Aksa Mosque. The demolition was completed as Turkmenistan's new Religion Law entered into force on 12 April.
5 April 2016
Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not freed in the February amnesty and an appeal on his behalf is now being prepared to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 News Service. Despite rulings from the UN Committee in 2015 that the rights of four imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors had been violated (both by their imprisonment and torture during their imprisonment), the Turkmenistan government has failed to expunge their criminal records, offered recompense or taken measures to prevent similar violations in future. No alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced. Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of Parliament's Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss this with Forum 18. At the labour camp at Seydi where Hemdemov is being held, Muslim prisoners are too afraid to attend the prison mosque for fear of being branded "Wahhabis" and sent for harsher punishment, a former prisoner told Forum 18.
21 May 2015
Jehovah's Witness Bahram Hemdemov has been tortured and given a four-year prison term on 19 May in Turkmenistan's eastern city of Turkmenabad, Forum 18 News Service has been told. Prisoner of conscience Hemdemov was accused of allegedly inciting religious hatred, which his fellow Jehovah's Witnesses deny. His real "crime" seems to have been hosting a meeting for worship. Along with Hemdemov and many of the latest 2015 short-term prisoners of conscience, Hemdemov's son Serdar was jailed for 15 days as a prisoner of conscience and tortured. A total of 14 Jehovah's Witnesses have since February been short-term prisoners of conscience, with one of these still today (21 May) being detained. About 30 others have been fined. Tortures used include beatings with bottles of water and electrocution threats. The children of Protestants and their parents have been subjected to public bullying in schools and pressure to sign statements renouncing their faith. Protestant teachers have been fired from their jobs and summer camps for children cancelled.
12 March 2015
Narmurad Mominov, a Protestant leader from Galkynysh in Lebap Region of eastern Turkmenistan, was fined two weeks' average local wages in late February after police raided a private home, local Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. Many of those present were held until the early hours of the morning, while some were pressured to renounce or change their faith. One who did so was told to "repent" publicly in the mosque. During a search, police had found a copy of the New Testament and blamed Mominov for giving it to the home owner. Local Protestants had feared that he could have been given as much as a 15-day jail term. In March 2014, a court in the same Region handed down 15-day prison terms to ten Jehovah's Witnesses to punish them for exercising their right to freedom of religion. One Baptist home owner in Mary told police intruders who seized four hymnbooks from her guests: "Who can forbid us from praying? Who can forbid us from inviting others as guests?"
18 February 2015
Umid Gojayev, imprisoned on charges of hooliganism which local Protestants insist were brought disproportionately because of his religious beliefs, and Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Ruslan Narkuliyev were freed yesterday (17 February), Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Both were released under amnesty from the same labour camp in Seydi in eastern Turkmenistan. "Narkuliyev's release means that there are no longer any Jehovah's Witnesses convicted and imprisoned in Turkmenistan as conscientious objectors," one Jehovah's Witness told Forum 18. However, Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Soyunmurat Korov is being held "against his will" in military hospital in Ashgabad. Meanwhile, five Muslim men imprisoned on charges of religious extremism, were severely beaten on arrival in Seydi strict regime labour camp in early February. One suffered a broken hand, another a broken rib and damage to his lung. Forum 18 has been unable to establish if they were imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or for committing crimes.