UZBEKISTAN: Students to be expelled for belonging to "banned Protestant sect"?
Following similar threats in April and May to other Protestant students in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan in north-western Uzbekistan, three students of Karakalpak University were threatened with expulsion in June. The dean of their faculty, Dina Mamyrbayeva, said the secret police had written to her identifying them as members of a "banned Protestant sect". She warned the three that if they do not stop meeting their fellow Protestants they will be expelled. University rector Kuanyshbai Niyazov refused to confirm or deny the threats, though he told Forum 18 News Service that no students have yet been expelled. On 5 June police and secret police raided the home of another Nukus Protestant, Miyrasa Uralbayeva, warning that if she did not stop preaching Christianity she would have drugs planted on her and be put in prison for years.
Kuanyshbai Niyazov, the rector of Karakalpak University, refused to confirm or deny that the Protestants had been summoned and threatened with expulsion. "Both I and Mamyrbayeva have the right to call any student in to see us," he told Forum 18 from Nukus on 7 July. "When they are excluded, then you can complain about the persecution of Christians - it's all the same to me. But so far we have not excluded anyone. When will the West finally stop meddling in the affairs of independent Uzbekistan?" Niyazov complained, before hanging up.
Forum 18's attempts to find out why the Karakalpakstan NSS had written to the university about the students were fruitless. Reached by telephone in Nukus, the NSS duty officer, who refused to identify himself, said "no-one intends to make any comment to journalists" and hung up.
Protestant students in Nukus have faced repeated pressure from the authorities this year. However, earlier pressure from university leaders came on the advice not of the NSS but of the police.
In early April city prosecutor M. Arzymbetov wrote to the rector of the local Medical University, Oral Atamniyazova, to inform her that final year student Iklas Aldungarov was taking part in "an illegal religious sect", the Church of Christ, and telling her that the prosecutor's office had already sent documents to the court for it to take action under the code of administrative offences. The prosecutor asked for Aldungarov to be removed from the university (see F18News 21 April 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=303 ).
At the end of April a teacher at the same institution, Alima Urazova, organised a search of a private apartment rented by Protestant students Shirin Artykbayeva, Maksuda Bekniyazova, Zukhra Muriyeva and Aliya Sherimbetova. Urazova seized religious literature belonging to the students and made them leave the apartment and move into communal lodgings. She warned the students that they would be monitored in the communal lodgings to ensure that they did not read Protestant literature. Urazova also told the students that "it would be better for you to work as prostitutes than to read those dreadful books" (see F18News 27 May 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=329 ).
So far significant pressure on Protestant students in Uzbekistan has been seen only in Karakalpakstan, a region where it is almost impossible for Christian churches of any denomination to gain official registration and therefore to meet legally for worship.
The Karakalpak authorities continue to pressure not only Protestant students, but also simple believers. Protestant sources told Forum 18 that at one o'clock in the morning on 5 June, four police officers led by an NSS officer raided the apartment in Nukus of Miyrasa Uralbayeva while she was being visited by 10 fellow Protestants. The officers immediately told the believers that they intended to put a stop to this "Christians' den of corruption". They then began a search in the absence of official witnesses and also crudely insulted the believers. They warned Uralbayeva that if she did not stop preaching Christianity, she would have drugs planted on her and be put in prison for years.
For more background, see Forum 18's latest religious freedom survey at
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8 July 2004
Six Jehovah's Witnesses have been arrested, having been denounced as "Wahhabis". They were interrogated by several policemen, the most senior of whom was apparently drunk. Of the six Jehovah's Witnesses, who included a 16 year old girl who should not have been held, the men were beaten up and the women and young girl had heavy psychological pressure applied against them, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Begzot Kadyrov, of the government's committee for religious affairs, has told Forum 18 that "The Jehovah's Witnesses are not registered in Bukhara region, and they remain active there despite all our warnings. As long as the Jehovah's Witnesses are not registered at the justice administration for Bukhara region, their conflicts with the police will continue." Jehovah's Witnesses have been denied registration in Uzbekistan. The state, in defiance of the human rights commitments it has freely entered into, routinely punishes unregistered religious activity.
7 July 2004
In the latest twist to Uzbek authorities' campaign against Christianity in north-west Uzbekistan, the NSS secret police have interrogated two Baptists, beating one up, and threatening both with imprisonment saying that "we will put you away for years". One secret police officer claimed to Forum 18 News Service that "The Baptists' activity is illegal, and so we simply had a chat with them," and that the Urgench Baptist church is a banned organisation "because its registered status was removed". Another NSS officer, Alisher Khasanov, jeered at Baptist Sharovat Allamova for being a Christian and claimed that "you Protestants rely on Western money, the humanitarian western missions who support you are basically espionage organisations. So you yourselves are agents for foreign intelligence services." Also, the local Khorezm branch of the NSS has questioned Forum 18 about why a Norwegian organisation is interested in a "banned organisation".
29 June 2004
One day before he was due to take up his post as imam of a mosque in the town of Margelan, a satellite town near Fergana, young imam Alokhon Ishankhojayev was arrested after police and secret police officers claim to have discovered a gun and bullets during a house search. At his trial, which began on 17 June, five witnesses retracted earlier testimony that he had tried to turn them against the constitutional order. One admitted he was drunk that day and had signed a statement the secret police had drawn up without reading it. Ishankhojayev denied the charges. "I am a believer and have nothing to do with politics, let alone with terrorist activity," Forum 18 News Service heard him tell the court. Prosecutors are continuing the case.