Religious persecution in Uzbekistan going from bad to worse
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Government seeks total control of Muslim majority and wants to rid the country of other religions. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the army massacre of defenceless civilians in Andijan.
Tashkent (AsiaNews/Forum18) Religious freedom continues to be violated in Uzbekistan as the government seeks total control over religion. According to art. 8 of Uzbekistan ‘s Religion Law, only registered religious groups can engage in any religious activities, but more often than not, registration is never granted.
Many groups that have applied to be registered are still waiting for approval. For them, even a simple prayer in a private home is dangerous. Participants in such illegal activity can be fined under art. 240 of the Uzbek Administrative Code (this year fines increased tenfold) or incarcerated up to 15 days. Under art. 216-2 of the Criminal Code, proselytising is also punished with prison sentences varying from six months to three years.
With Muslims constituting over 90 per cent of Uzbekistan ‘s population, the authorities see Islamic radicalism as a reason to keep a lid on Islam and the population.
But Muslims are not the only one suffering. However numerically insignificant other religions may be, the government does not simply want to control them; it seems bent on restricting them if not altogether eliminating them.
In the north-western region of Karakalpakstan Christian, mostly Protestant, groups are not allowed to worship or engage in any activity, except for the Russian Orthodox parish in the regional capital Nukus. The anti-Christian campaign has gone so far as threatening children to get them to renounce their religion
When Christians meet in private apartments for discussion, the authorities see them as potential terrorists. Since the events in Andijan the number of raids by police on private apartments owned by Christians has risen, as has the number of arrests of believers, Iskander Najafov, a lawyer for the Tashkent Protestant Church . (PB)