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TURKMENISTAN: Lebap Region raids, confiscations, fines and public vilification
ICC Note:
Persecution in Turkmenistan continues with restriction on Religious literature. In this case, a woman reading Christian literature at work. After her boss complained to officials they showed up at her house, confiscated all religious material, and then proceeded to the house of the man who gave her the literature and confiscated his religious material as well.

“Religious literature is under tight state control. No religious literature may be published in Turkmenistan or imported into the country without permission from the Gengesh. Each title and the number of copies must be specifically approved. State postal authorities hold all religious literature received from abroad, releasing it only when the Gengesh has given written approval. The few books that are approved are stamped as approved by the Gengesh.”
By Felix Corley
5/17/2013 Turkmenistan (Forum18)- Members of two separate Protestant Christian communities in villages in Turkmenistan’s eastern Lebap Region have faced pressure from local officials, including Muslim leaders who have a dual role as state religious affairs officials, Forum 18 News Service has learned. In one village, community members suffered raids, threats and confiscations of religious literature, including personal copies of the Bible. Two were fined more than two months’ average local wages for those in work. In the other, community members were publicly vilified at meetings of local residents, with officials seeking help from President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to halt their activity locally and punish their leader.
Forum 18 reached the phone of Gurbanberdy Nursakhatov, Deputy Chair of the government’s Gengesh (Council) for Religious Affairs in the capital Ashgabad, several times on 16 May. As soon as Forum 18 introduced itself, the man who answered it immediately hung up.
Similarly, Forum 18 was unable to reach Yusup Durdyev, Imam of Lebap Region and simultaneously head of the regional Gengesh, or any other Gengesh official. Each time Forum 18 called the Gengesh on 16 May, the official who answered the phone hung up as soon as it introduced itself.
Government-appointed leaders of the Muftiate – which has a state-backed monopoly over Islamic life in Turkmenistan – also have a dual role as leaders of the Gengesh at national, regional and local level. Thus these leaders appointed to restrict the freedom of religion and belief of the Islamic community also have a state-appointed role to restrict the freedom of religion and belief of non-Muslim religious communities (see F18News 13 October 2009http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1361).
The fines, raids, threats and public vilification of religious believers in Lebap Region come as religious communities continue to face difficulties inviting foreigners for religious visits. In early 2013, a foreigner was deported after visiting local fellow-believers. Despite all these violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief, Turkmen officials insisted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in April that the country upholds the right (see forthcoming F18News article).
Raids, threats, confiscations
Life has long been difficult for a Baptist community in the village of Galkynysh (formerly Deinau) in the eastern Lebap Region, close to the Amu Darya river half way between the regional capital Turkmenabad and Seydi. The most recent trouble started after a church member was caught reading a Christian book at work. Her boss was brought in and reported the woman to the authorities.
A Gengesh official for Lebap Region and the local police officer then visited the church member at her home in the village of Galkynysh on 2 March, local Protestants told Forum 18. They demanded she hand over all her religious books, threatening that they would otherwise search her home and seize them anyway. “They also intimidated her,” Protestants added.
During intense questioning, the church member named another church member. The home of the second church member was then visited by the Galkynysh district imam, Yusup Setdarkuliev, and the district archyn, Batyr Novruzov. They too demanded that she hand over her religious books. The imam and the archyn confiscated four books from her. They forced her to write a statement that she had received the books from local Baptist leader Narmurad Mominov.
Mominov was then summoned to the archynlyk (village administration) by an official of the Gengesh, the district imam, and three police officers, including the local police officer. They showed Mominov the statement identifying him as the alleged source of the books. They then showed him the 2003 Religion Law and said he had violated it. They demanded that he bring them all the religious literature he had.
Mominov told them he had a personal Bible and a personal Injil (New Testament). “They took these books and examined them, and immediately said they could not give them back as they don’t have the required approval stamp from the Gengesh,” Protestants complained to Forum 18. His computer was also seized.
Officials then took the personal Bible from another church leader, Rasul Jumayev. “They said the Bible was printed in Kiev in Ukraine, and therefore reading it was banned,” Protestants added. “They refused to return it.”
Religious literature is under tight state control. No religious literature may be published in Turkmenistan or imported into the country without permission from the Gengesh. Each title and the number of copies must be specifically approved. State postal authorities hold all religious literature received from abroad, releasing it only when the Gengesh has given written approval. The few books that are approved are stamped as approved by the Gengesh

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