ICC Note: At a side event to the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC, Uzbekistan claimed it was making advances in religious freedom through a unique and original model. While this claim makes a positive note for Uzbekistan, other religious freedom monitors in the country do not agree. According to Forum 18, an Oslo-based news service, religious restrictions continue to be instituted and many faith communities in Uzbekistan continue to fear harassment from their government.
07/27/2018 Uzbekistan (World Watch Monitor) – Uzbekistan is progressing towards rapid transformation, including political, economic, and importantly, religious freedom,” said the deputy chairman of the Uzbek Senate yesterday (25 July) at a side event to the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom currently being held in Washington DC.
Sodiq Safoyev was one of the speakers at the “conversation about this new direction”, hosted by the Embassy of Uzbekistan and the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE).
Participants heard how Uzbekistan is advancing religious freedom through a “unique and original model”, and how “religious communities should enjoy the same rights and freedoms”, as the country begins to implement recommendations made by the UN.
Yet earlier this month the Oslo-based news service Forum 18 reported how the country had “added two new restrictions for religious communities seeking legal status”.
The leader of a religious community now needs to show, through a notarized copy of a diploma or certificate from a foreign or Uzbek religious training course, that he or she is officially qualified. The same applies to the director of an educational institution the community might run.
“There is no indication of what type of religious education, whether formal or informal, is covered by this second new registration requirement,” Forum 18 reported. “The Religion Law also is imprecise about what the term religious education covers. At present, there is no formal official center to recognize foreign religious education, so fulfilling this new restriction is at present impossible. It is unknown when the government will establish such a center, and it is also unknown how long such recognition will take.”
Under Uzbekistan’s Religion Law, all religious activities need prior state permission, which requires the completion of a complicated registration procedure.
According to Forum 18, many religious communities in Uzbekistan are not unwilling to register but are afraid that the information they provide will be used against them, leading to fines or even torture.
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