Monday, January 10, 2011

Will Turkmenistan government respond to call for Religion Law changes?

Turkmenistan has one of the harshest
laws on religion of all 15 former
Soviet Republics.
Three years ago, Turkmenistan declared its Religion Law to be a priority in a series of reforms.

Today, according to Slavic Gospel Association, the Turkmenistan government has designed one of the harshest laws on religion of all 15 former Soviet Republics, reports Mission Network News.

The changes the government was making alarmed the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which did a legal review on the law. Its report included several criticisms of the Turkmenistan law.

Among many changes the OSCE review calls for are an end to the ban on unregistered religious activity and the private teaching of religion.

SGA’s Joel Griffith explains that the law came about because Turkmenistan saw the issues faced in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and took some pre-emptive measures. "They are afraid of radicalism of any kind. Because there is such an increase in radical Islam right now (the whole Jihadist network), it's almost like there's a feeling like ‘if we crack down on one, we've got to crack down on all of them.'"

Turkmenistan's current restrictive Religion Law was adopted in October 2003, with significant amendments in March 2004 and further minor amendments in April 2009 and July 2009. The Review was requested by the OSCE Centre in Ashgabad in July 2009, completed in June 2010, and made public in December 2010.

Many actions by officials break Turkmenistan's own laws, as well as international human rights standards, reports Forum 18 News. These actions indicate that the rule of law does not apply in the country. They include but are not limited to the following: 
  • raids on religious meetings,
  • threats against and imprisonment of religious believers,
  • confiscation of literature,
  • bans on known active religious believers travelling abroad,
  • public vilification of religious believers,
  • sacking of religious minority members from public employment and
  • bans on opening places of worship freely.
In our January 2011 newsletter, we told you about Turkmenistan pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, who was sentenced in October 2010 to four years imprisonment on charges of swindling (see Persecution & Prayer Alert update here). Since 2007, Pastor Nurliev’s church has repeatedly been denied registration.

Read the full Mission Network News report here.

Read the full Forum 18 News report here.

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