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Uzbekistan: Authorities are strengthening pressure on religious people

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Photo of Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan. Photo of Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan.

In Uzbekistan, the scale of the persecution of believers of different faiths has significantly increased.

Observers note increased nervousness of the authorities during the holy month of Ramadan. These days, in Kashkadarya, Jizzakh and Tashkent regions, special services have detained 15-20 years old young Muslims for "educational talks". They were released after talks. According to the source of "Jarayon", "now we have more obedient atheists."


The reason for the detention of young Muslims was just discussion of Islam with peers. According to "Jarayon", such acts of intimidation are usually carried out after receiving reports from informants, who receive money for it. Monthly payments for informants may vary from 50 to 150 US dollars or above. Our sources say that there is a plan for "religious people": informants are required to make at least ten reports per month.


Shavkat (surname not given for security reasons – Jarayon), student at one of the universities in Tashkent, was interrogated for two hours by Jizzakh police and was asked questions about the degree of his religiosity. The reason for the arrest was a discussion between the student and a seller at the market, when the former said - "Muslims should not lie and benefit on Muslims." Verbal discussion about morality of the sincere believer was the reason for his detention.


As reported by Forum 18, a criminal case was opened against Mirmuhiddin Mirzbayzaev and Sirojiddin Mirbayzaev who taught children to read Koran. Muslims prisoners are often subjected to advanced torture in detention.


"Jarayon"s journalist in Tashkent reports about a new fact of persecution against Christians. On June 14, 2013, Sardor Normatov, resident of Hanka district of Khorezm region, was arrested in Urgench railway station and then severely beaten by police. One of the passengers at the request of his wife's sister gave him a flash drive with lessons of English language. After he received the flash drive, three men approached Sardor and asked to show his ID. As the young man did not have his documents with him, and he was taken to the police station for “being suspicious.”


Checking the flash drive on the computer only confirmed Sardor’s words. But, despite this, he was taken to Gorotdel, city police station, where police started beating him. Sardor was beaten with  "a thick book" on his head, punched in the chest and kicked on the legs. Masharipov Shukhrat, a person in civilian clothes who tortured him, constantly threatened Sardor saying "all the sect people will be put behind bars."


Torture and harassment lasted six hours. Late in the evening beaten Sardor was taken to Hanka district. Without a search warrant, police checked all the literature he had in his home. They seized two books, a computer and a mobile phone as evidences of "criminal" activities of a Christian.


After police left, Normatov called an ambulance that took him to the hospital. There, doctor called police. Police took Sardor, groaning in severe pain, to the police station, where he wrote a complaint on the torturers. Only after he returned to the hospital, he was able to get medical care.


It took several weeks for treatment of a concussion he had during beatings. Now police and prosecutors want to charge Sardor in the distribution of Christian literature in order to defend “honor of their uniform.” If found guilty, Sardor can be fined to a large amount of money, a favorite punishment Uzbek authorities in a country with an empty treasury.


In Khorezm region, police has extensive experience in prosecuting the faithful with complete disregard for the laws of Uzbekistan. In 2009, ten citizens were sentenced to long prison terms for alleged membership in a religious movement "Nurchilar." All of them had higher education and were not bearded religious fanatics.


“Jarayon” recently published a report on persecution of Protestant Christians in this remote region of Uzbekistan. In this report, we wrote about the persecution against Sharofat Allamova.  Ahmed Sotivoldiev, officer Khorezm National Security Service, during a meeting with mahalla (local community - Jarayon) residents said to Allamova: "All those Christians like you must be put togather in one place and burned." Later lawyers, who worked on Allamova’s case, counted dozens of violations of the law during the investigation.


The Uzbek authorities using various international platforms repeatedly claim that they comply with human rights and religious freedoms, hypnotizing UN, partners from US and the European Union. But under conditions of total corruption, weakening social welfare and increasing autocratic pressure on civil society, the yet latent religious extremism, which is nurture by the Uzbek authorities themselves, is also growing.


When we were about to publish this article, we received new information on Sardor’s case. After the provocation of police, Sardor’s father kicked him out of the house with his wife and a child. Head of the organization, where Sador worked, came to him at night and asked to write a letter of resignation...



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