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ICC NOTE: In what can only be a scene dreamed up in a strange melancholic film, a family in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan was forced to bury and exhume their recently deceased mother three times. The reason for the unbelievable act? The late mother was Christian in a majority Muslim village, but it did not end there. When she was offered a plot in a local Christian village, both the Muslim and Christian leaders told the Christian daughter and Muslim father to exhume her again because she was Baptist, not Russian Orthodox. The Baptist denomination in Kyrgyzstan is not registered with the state and the ROC does not recognize it as a legitimate Christian denomination. Throughout this ordeal, the daughter was pressured to convert to Islam in order to have her mother laid to rest. Evangelical groups in the region not only face pressure from Muslim communities, but also from the Russian Orthodox Church as they view other denominations as competition. 

10/20/2016 Kyrgyzstan (Radio Free Europe) – When a grieving Jyldyz Azaeva sought to bury her 76-year-old mother in their remote village in southern Kyrgyzstan, she had no idea of the woes still to come.

Over the course of a few days last week, Kanygul Satybaldieva’s remains would be twice buried and dug up before finally being interred in a secret location.

The experience highlights the extent to which religious choice can be narrowed in secluded communities of this mountainous Central Asian republic, despite official commitments to freedom of faith.

Azaeva’s ordeal began when Satybaldieva died in her home village of Sary-Talaa, in southern Kyrgyzstan’s Ala-Buka district, on October 13. Her bereaved family did what generations of villagers before them have traditionally done: They planned to bury her in the local cemetery, next to the graves of other members of her generation who had gone before her.

But the Azaevs quickly found themselves in the middle of a rapidly escalating dispute in which almost the entire village was arrayed against them. The problem? Satybaldieva had been a practicing Christian in a village that was overwhelmingly Muslim, and local religious leaders restricted the cemetery to Muslims.

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