KYRGYZSTAN: Official begins destruction of six rural mosques
After unilaterally closing six of the nine mosques in his district close to Jalal-abad in southern Kyrgyzstan, Asan Erinbayev, head of Karadarya rural district, has now begun to destroy them, regional Muslim leader Dilmurat haji Orozov complained. He said the six mosques closed down last May were registered with the government's committee for religious affairs. "Yet Erinbayev is still flagrantly flouting the laws," Orozov told Forum 18 News Service. "I simply don't know what to do. All I can do is go to Karadarya and fight it out with him." Erinbayev justified the destruction of the mosques, telling Forum 18 they had been built illegally on state-owned land, claims the Muslims deny.
However, Orozov continues to challenge Erinbayev's claim. He insisted that at the start of the 1990s, when land from collective farms was redistributed, the sites were handed over so that mosques could be built. "Before Erinbayev, all the heads of the district believed the mosques were functioning legally," Orozov told Forum 18. He said all the mosques were registered at the government's committee for religious affairs. "Yet Erinbayev is still flagrantly flouting the laws. I simply don't know what to do. All I can do is go to Karadarya and fight it out with him."
Erinbayev closed the mosques in May, making no attempt to hide his decision. He claimed that in addition to their being built on state-owned land, the imams in different mosques were preaching contradictory views and some were performing marriage ceremonies before the bride and groom had registered at the registry office. "Now that the mosques have been closed, I can monitor the activities of the imams on my territory," he admitted openly to Forum 18 back in May (see F18News 22 May 2003).
The Karadarya district stretches for around 25 kilometres (15 miles) and local Muslims, who asked not to be identified, told Forum 18 that it is now very difficult for elderly believers to reach the remaining functioning mosques. They maintained that Erinbayev believed he could operate with complete impunity because his brother, Baimat Erinbayev, is a deputy of the regional assembly. They also alleged that Baimat Erinbayev is "one of the most influential mafia members in the region".
22 August 2003
The appeal to the Ministry of Finance from the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ against what it claimed was an unjust tax demand for 110,000 US dollars was rejected on 15 August. "The taxes are simply a means of crushing the church," senior pastor Vasili Kuzin told Forum 18 News Service. Kyrgyzstan's tax code exempts charitable bodies from tax, while the religion law prescribes taxes only on religious organisations' business activities. "It is true that the activity of religious organisations is not subject to taxation, and if the situation is indeed as you say, then the tax inspectorate is breaking the law," Natalya Shadrova of the Committee for Religious Affairs told Forum 18.
17 July 2003
Pastor Vasili Kuzin of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ says his Church's open letter to President Askar Akayev vowing to seek asylum abroad if pressure on the Church is not ended is "a last resort". "We have no other way of attracting international attention to our unfortunate situation," he told Forum 18 News Service. Banned from registering in several towns and with its churches closed down or threatened, the Church now faces a tax demand of more than 100,000 US dollars, although religious groups are tax-exempt. Sharshek Usenov of the government's religious affairs committee rejects the Church's claims. "No-one is persecuting the Church of Jesus Christ and I do not understand what Kuzin aims to achieve with this letter," he told Forum 18.
17 June 2003
With its congregations in Karakol and Osh closed down after failing to gain registration, a senior pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ has accused the authorities of launching a campaign to close down the Church and its affiliates. "We have not managed to register our affiliates in the provinces and the authorities are taking active advantage of that," Vasili Kuzin told Forum 18 News Service. The religious affairs committee warned Kuzin that if members of the closed Osh church continue to meet in private apartments, his Bishkek congregation will have its registration removed. Murmurzak Mamayusupov, chairman of the religious affairs committee, denied there was any deliberate obstruction. "No-one is putting obstacles in the way of their registration," he told Forum 18.