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«UZBEKISTAN 2013 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT Executive Summary The constitution and some laws provide for religious freedom; however, other ...»

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Executive Summary

The constitution and some laws provide for religious freedom; however, other laws

and policies restrict religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally

enforced those restrictions. The law restricts the religious freedom of unregistered

groups and prohibits many activities, such as proselytizing. Members of registered

and unregistered minority religious groups faced jail terms, heavy fines, confiscation and destruction of religious literature, and in some cases police beatings for violations of these laws. There were reports of deaths in custody, torture, beatings, denial of religious practice, and other harsh treatment of prisoners the government considered religious extremists. The government continued to deal harshly with Muslims who discussed religious issues outside of sanctioned mosques. The government was generally more permissive toward the activities of worshippers at sanctioned mosques and permitted the regular activities of religious groups historically present in the country, including the Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Russian Orthodox communities.

There were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Society generally was tolerant of religious groups, however, and religious groups were generally tolerant of one another.

U.S. government representatives directly engaged with the government on religious freedom, including during a July visit by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor. Embassy and visiting U.S.

officials met with representatives of religious groups, civil society, and government bodies, as well as relatives of prisoners, to discuss freedom of conscience and belief. Since November 2006, the Secretary of State has designated Uzbekistan a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. In August 2011, the Secretary of State redesignated Uzbekistan as a CPC. U.S. officials discussed with the government tangible steps it could take to improve its record on religious freedom.

Section I. Religious Demography The U.S. government estimates the total population at 28.7 million (July 2013 estimate). Local statistics indicate that approximately 93 percent is Muslim. Most are Sunni of the Hanafi School; approximately 1 percent is Shia, concentrated in UZBEKISTAN the provinces of Bukhara and Samarkand. Approximately 4 percent of the population is Russian Orthodox, a number that is declining as ethnic Russians and other Slavs continue to emigrate. The remaining 3 percent includes small communities of Roman Catholics, ethnic Korean Christians, Baptists, Lutherans, Seventh-day Adventists, evangelicals, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Bahais, Hare Krishnas, and atheists. An estimated 6,000 Ashkenazi and 2,000 Bukharan Jews remain concentrated in Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, and the Fergana Valley, but the Jewish population continues to decline due to emigration.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom Legal/Policy Framework The constitution and some laws provide for religious freedom; however, other laws and policies restrict religious freedom. The constitution guarantees freedom of conscience to all and states everyone shall have the right to profess or not to profess any religion; the law provides for freedom of worship, freedom from religious persecution, separation of religion and state, and the right for religious groups to establish schools and train clergy. The law grants these rights, however, only to registered groups. The law also restricts religious rights that it judges to be in conflict with national security, prohibits proselytizing, and requires religious groups to obtain a license to publish or distribute materials.

The government prohibits religious groups from forming political parties and social movements. The Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA), a government agency accountable to the Cabinet of Ministers, must approve all religious literature. The Council for Confessions, under the CRA, includes representatives from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish groups, and discusses ways of ensuring compliance with the law, the rights of religious organizations and believers, and other issues related to religion.

Although the law treats all centrally registered religious groups equally, the government funds an Islamic university and the preservation of Islamic historic sites. The government provides logistical support, including charter flights, for a limited number of selected Muslims to participate in the Umrah and the Hajj pilgrimages, but pilgrims pay their own expenses. The government controls the muftiate, which in turn controls the Muslim hierarchy, the content of imams’ sermons, and the volume and substance of published Islamic materials.

International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor UZBEKISTAN The law requires all religious groups to register and provides stringent criteria for registration. Among its requirements, the law stipulates each group must present a list of at least 100 citizens age 18 or older and a charter with a legal address to the local branch of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The CRA oversees registered religious activity.

There are 2,223 registered religious groups representing 16 denominations. There are 2,051 Muslim groups (including mosques, educational institutions, and Islamic centers). Among the Muslim groups are several Shia congregations. Registered minority religious groups include the ethnic Korean Christian, Russian Orthodox, Baptist, Pentecostal (Full Gospel), Seventh-day Adventist, Jewish, Catholic, Bahai, Lutheran, New Apostolic, Armenian Apostolic, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Krishna Consciousness, Temple of Buddha, and Christian Voice of God Church communities, as well as one interconfessional Bible society.

The criminal and administrative codes contain severe penalties for violating the law and other statutes on religious activities. The criminal code formally distinguishes between “illegal” groups, which are those not registered properly, and “prohibited” groups viewed as “extremist.” The government classifies as “religious extremists” those groups or individuals advocating replacement of the current secular government and laws with a government and laws based on strictly sectarian religious principles. It perceives “religious extremism” as a threat to domestic security and stability. As a result, the government’s policy is to ban Islamic groups it broadly determines to be extremist and to criminalize membership in such groups, which include Akromiya, Tabligh Jamoat, and Hizb ut-Tahrir. The government also bans Nur, founded by Kurdish Mullah Said Nursi and associated with the religious teachings of Turkish scholar Fethullah Gullen, despite the group’s condemnations of violent extremism.

The government asserts that its actions against persons or groups suspected of “religious extremism” are not a matter of religious freedom, but rather of preventing overthrow of the secular authorities and precluding incitement of interreligious and ethnic instability and hatred in a multi-ethnic, multiconfessional society. There are penalties of up to 20 years in prison for “organizing or participating” in the activities of “religious extremist,” fundamentalist, separatist, or other prohibited groups.

It is a criminal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of four million to eight million soum ($1,788-$3,576) to organize or participate in an International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor UZBEKISTAN illegal religious group. In addition, the code punishes proselytism with up to three years in prison. After an offender is punished for a violation under the administrative code, a repeat offense may be tried under the criminal code. In addition to prohibited activities that include organizing an illegal religious group, the law proscribes efforts to draw minors into religious organizations without the permission of their parents and persuading others to join illegal religious groups.

Any religious service conducted by an unregistered religious organization is illegal.

The administrative code punishes “illegal production, storage, import, or distribution of materials of religious content” with a fine of 20 to 100 times the minimum monthly wage of 91,530 soum ($41) for individuals or, for officials, 50 to 150 times the minimum monthly wage, together with confiscation of the materials and the “corresponding means of producing and distributing them.” The criminal code also imposes a fine of 100 to 200 times the minimum monthly wage or corrective labor of up to three years for these offenses.

The law limits the right to publish, import, and distribute religious literature solely to registered central offices of religious groups. These are the Bible Society of Uzbekistan (BSU), the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, Tashkent Islamic University, Tashkent Islamic Institute, and the offices of the Russian Orthodox, Full Gospel, Baptist, and Roman Catholic churches.

The law allows only those religious groups with a registered central administrative body to train religious personnel. Registration of a central administrative body requires registered religious groups to be present in eight of the 14 administrative units (including Karakalpakstan and Tashkent City). There are six entities that legally may train religious personnel. The law limits religious instruction to officially sanctioned religious schools and state-approved instructors. The law permits no private religious instruction and imposes fines for violations. The law also prohibits the teaching of religious subjects in public schools. Article 14 of the religion law prohibits the wearing of “cult robes” (religious clothing) in public places by all except those serving in religious organizations.

Eleven madrassahs, including two for women, provide secondary education on a full range of secular subjects. The Cabinet of Ministers considers diplomas granted by madrassahs equivalent to other diplomas, enabling graduates of those institutions to continue their education at the university level. In addition, the Islamic Institute and Islamic University in Tashkent provide higher education religion programs, although the Islamic University in Tashkent is a secular

–  –  –

A 2003 decree restricts the activities of faith-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the law prohibits “actions aimed at converting believers of one religion into another (proselytizing), as well as any other missionary activity.” The government allows those who object to military service on the basis of their religious beliefs, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, to perform alternate service.

Government Practices The government continued to imprison individuals on charges of “extremism,” to raid religious and social gatherings of unregistered and registered religious communities, to confiscate and destroy religious literature, and to discourage minors from practicing their faith. There were reports of deaths in custody, torture, beatings, denial of religious practice, and other harsh treatment of prisoners the government considered religious extremists, and some reports of police beating members of unregistered religions. By continuing to deny registration to some religious groups and punishing members for their activities, authorities effectively deprived individuals of the legal right to worship, as provided for in the constitution.

Nongovernmental sources, including the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan (IGIHRDU) and human rights NGO Ezgulik, estimated there were between 10,000 and 12,000 individuals imprisoned on charges related to “religious extremism” or membership in an illegal religious group, but there were no government statistics available to confirm or refute this figure.

Prisoners serving sentences on charges related to what the government considered “religious extremism” reportedly died in custody, according to family members, who also typically reported the bodies of the prisoners showed signs of beatings or other abuse. Authorities pressured the families to bury the bodies before medical professionals could examine them. Reported cases that fit this pattern included the deaths of 43-year-old Dilshod Iskhokov in May, 32-year-old Khusniddin Okkuziev in July, 35-year-old Samariddin Salokhiddinov in October, and 36-year-old Tavakkal Hojiev in November.

International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor UZBEKISTAN Nongovernmental sources reported authorities severely mistreated persons arrested on suspicion of “religious extremism” or participating in underground Islamic activity, including by subjecting those individuals to torture, beatings, and harsh prison conditions.

In June Nozimjon Musaev and Mansurbek Goziev, police officers in the Kurgantepa District of Andijon Region, reportedly beat Khimoyat Akhmedova and her daughter Oydin Khusanova, members of an unregistered local Christian community. The police officers detained Akhmedova and Khusanova at a local market purportedly for illegally selling fruit and reportedly kicked and punched Khusanova in the chest and face and elbowed Akhmedova in the back after they refused to admit their guilt. Authorities failed to investigate the allegations of brutality against the officers and instead brought criminal charges against Akhmedova and Khusanova for resisting arrest.

In July Captain Shukhrat Masharipov, of the Urgench Municipal Police Department, reportedly beat Sardorbek Nurmetov, a member of a local unregistered Protestant community, after detaining him at the train station.

Masharipov reportedly hit Nurmetov in the head with a thick book and punched and kicked him in the chest and face, causing Nurmetov to become nauseous.

Masharipov reportedly refused to summon a doctor. According to Nurmetov, the police did not conduct a credible investigation into his complaint against Masharipov.

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