Forum 18 – UZBEKISTAN: Anti-Terrorism Police seize religious literature, tear down religious posters

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(Article written by By Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service)

In two separate raids in early March, Anti-Terrorism Police and other officials seized religious literature from private homes, Forum 18 News Service has learned. In one raid in Uzbekistan’s central city of Samarkand, Anti-Terrorism officer Makhmud Nodyrov “tore posters with Scripture texts from the walls, and kept threatening [home owner Veniamin] Nemirov that his home could be taken away from him, and that his children could be expelled from school,” Baptists complained to Forum 18. Personal details of the 25 adults and the family’s 12 children present after the Baptist congregation’s Sunday service were taken. Four church members face administrative punishments. Asked why he tore down posters in Nemirov’s home, and why he threatened that Nemirov’s children would be expelled from school, officer Nodyrov referred Forum 18 to the Foreign Ministry, and put the phone down.

Anti-Terrorism Police raided two separate private homes in early March, Forum 18 News Service has learned. In the central city of Samarkand on 9 March, they raided a meeting for worship in a private home, seizing religious literature, ripping down posters with Scripture verses from the walls and preparing administrative cases against four individuals. The following day in the capital Tashkent, Anti-Terrorism Police raided a private home, also seizing religious literature.

Following a February raid on a private home, a court in Kokand in the eastern Fergana Region fined a local Protestant for having Christian materials in a computer seized during the raid.

During the raids, National Security Service (NSS) secret police officers may have accompanied Anti-Terrorism Police, ordinary police and other state officials, as not all the raiders would identify themselves.

A new Decree which came into force on 27 January formalises the pre-existing state censorship over religious literature and other materials and allows officials to conduct “joint actions to detect and prevent illegal distribution of materials” (see F18News 12 February 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1928).

Olimjan Turakulov, Head of the Press Service of Uzbekistan’s NSS secret police in Tashkent, declined to comment to Forum 18 on 18 March and asked to send written questions to the Foreign Ministry.

Begzot Kadyrov, the state Religious Affairs Committee’s Chief Advisor, also on 18 March declined to comment on any of the cases, and asked Forum 18 to send questions in writing. Forum 18 asked the same day why individuals are punished for having religious materials in their computers and why police and other officials seize religious literature – including religious holy books – from individuals’ homes.

Read HERE the rest of this article.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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