State Department Confirms: Uzbekistan Habitually Violates Freedom of Religion
By Corey Bailey
08/03/2012 Washington D.C., (International Christian Concern)-In its recently released International Freedom Report, the United States Department of State once again listed Uzbekistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and was declared a republic. However, authority resides almost exclusively with the executive branch of government, which has habitually enforced domestic policies blatantly violating freedom of religion and belief, as well as penalizing individuals for religious activity.
All churches are required to register with the State. Restrictions are placed on religious material and religious gatherings in private homes. The authorities rarely grant permission for new religious organizations, forcing many to practice their faith illegally. Between February and April 2012, twenty-eight Protestants were fined and four others warned for conducting illegal religious activities.
The 2011 International Freedom Report notes, “Most minority religious groups had difficulty meeting the government’s strict registration requirements. In some cases, members faced heavy fines and even jail terms for violations of the state’s religion laws. The government restricted religious activities that it proclaimed to be in conflict with national security…Uzbek law prohibits religious groups from forming political parties and social movements, as well as the private teaching of religious principles.”
This type of blatant violation is standard operating procedure for countries that want to restrict freedom of religion. They claim to protect their citizen’s rights, but their delay tactics, restrictions on religious activities and the like, speak a different message entirely. Examples are evidenced in the numerous documented instances of the last few months. A few of these instances include the following: Fourteen members of an unregistered Protestant church are fined for an "unsanctioned meeting in a private home;" a Baptist Christian risks prosecution and a prison sentence after she tried to get her passport renewed. The border officer who arrested her is known to confiscate Christian religious material from believers; Secret Police raid the home of a Christian claiming to search for a bomb. While there they confiscate her religious books, lap top and personal notebooks, which contained topics such as "living as a Christian."
Government authorities regularly deny such violations of religious freedom, but the reality remains that many Uzbek citizens find it difficult to practice their faith.