30 september 2020

Central Asia news

The Committee for Religious Affairs of the government of Tajikistan drafted a law on religion

08.04.2006 21:16 msk

Igor Rotar (Bishkek)

Religious life

No information on the draft law is available at this point. It is only known that its endorsement by the national parliament will outlaw meetings of the religious communities lacking official registration. The draft law bans missionary work and "conversion of believers" or Proselytism.

"The document was drafted by the government Committee for Religious Affairs. It means that official Dushanbe intends to make life even harder for religious minorities," Felix Corley, the editor of Forum 18 News Service (an agency covering religious freedom), said. According to Corley, the draft law is a carbon copy of the draconian laws against believers already adopted in other Central Asian countries. Non-registered religious organizations are banned and missionary work is restricted in all of them save for Kyrgyzstan, and Proselytism is outlawed in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. As a matter of fact, the Tajik draft law is even more restrictive. All of that leads Corley to the conclusion that religious intolerance is worsening throughout Central Asia.

Stiff legislation is augmented by harassment of the believers. Not only are they forbidden to convene meetings. They are even jailed for religious motives. On the other hand, the authorities are convinced that too many Moslems become Christians. Islamic tenets treat it as a crime that may lead to religious uprising.

Kyrgyz Protestant Saktinbai Usmanov was murdered in the village of Zhety-Oguz (Issyk-Kul region) in the last days of December 2005. As soon as the news spread, Usmanov's fellow villagers blocked the road to prevent interment of the body at the local cemetery. District authorities allotted a plot for interment beyond the territory of the cemetery only in early January.

"Investigation is under way. I certainly hope that the murderers will be found. Very many Moslems were enraged by the fact that my father, a Moslem like them, embraced Christianity. Several men wearing masks broke into our house four years ago. They put a knife to the father's throat and threatened to kill him unless he returned to the faith of his ancestors," Usmanov's son Ruslan said.

Usmanov's neighbors Erkin Bekcherayeva and Gulbush Isayeva confirm that fellow villagers shunned the converted Christian considering him a "traitor". "He never abandoned the attempts to preach or to pass Christian literature around. It irritated them mightily," Isayeva said.

Protestant missionary Sergei Bessarab was murdered in Isfara (a city in the northern part of Tajikistan) in January 2004. The authorities pinned the blame on activists of radical Islamic organization Bajat [Oath]. The regional court sentenced 12 murderers to 25 years imprisonment last may. Once the law on Proselytism is adopted, however, judges will probably abandon their impartiality in so delicate a sphere.

For the time being, "apostates" are but assaulted and battered in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. "When we outlawed missionary work, countries of the West accused us and called it a gross violation of human rights. It may be a violation by Western standards. Over here, however, unrestricted propaganda of Christianity among Moslems may result in a bloodshed," an Uzbek official who insisted on anonymity said.

Gazeta, April 6, 2006, p. 12

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru