f18 Logo

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

KAZAKHSTAN: Targeting ethnic Dungan Koran teachers

Kordai District Court fined two more ethnic Dungan Muslims seven weeks' average wages each for teaching the Koran to children. The court issued eight such fines between 2018 and 2020, all to Dungan Muslims. More than half the administrative fines for teaching religion to children in Kazakhstan are in Kordai District. Police chief Maksat Erezhepov insists these prosecutions were "in line with the law". "Any actions that contradict the law will face severe measures." Both he and the regional religious affairs official deny any "ethnic factor" in the prosecutions.

RUSSIA: Flagship Protestant colleges stripped of right to offer higher education

The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Ingria's Theological Institute lost its higher education licence on 6 April, the third flagship Protestant educational institution to lose the right to conduct formal religious education. Another Lutheran seminary is fighting against the stripping of its licence through the courts. "The issue has been serious and has caused a lot of extra work and expense," a staff member of one of the institutions told Forum 18. State education inspectorate Rosobrnadzor has not replied to Forum 18's questions. Religion Law changes will from October make re-training of foreign-educated clergy compulsory, but if a religious community has no educational institutions in Russia it is unclear where or how such re-training is possible.

KAZAKHSTAN: "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever"

Courts fined at least 18 people in 2021 for distributing religious literature, texts, videos, audio and items in places and ways the regime declares illegal under its compulsory religious censorship. Most fines were of three weeks' average wages. "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever, whether text, video or audio," insists Kayrulla Kushkaliyev of Atyrau's Religious Affairs Department – which brought six prosecutions. The UN Human Rights Committee found an import ban on ten Jehovah's Witness publications violated Polat Bekzhan's rights.

UZBEKISTAN: Fines, magazine destruction, short-term jailing, beard shaving, threats

A Tashkent court fined a Baptist for offering Christian magazines to neighbours in her home and ordered the magazines destroyed. A Muslim was jailed for 10 days after police found a lecture from a state Islamic institution on his phone. And a police officer threatened another Muslim with jail or a psychiatric ward for a video criticising the "no serious changes" on human rights, and the public's silence "because of fear of the authorities" about human rights violations.

CRIMEA: Longest jail term so far

Of the four jail terms handed down in Crimea to punish the exercise of freedom of religion or belief, 54-year-old Jehovah's Witness Viktor Stashevsky received the longest so far. A Sevastopol court jailed him on 29 March for six and a half years, with a further seven years under restrictions, which are due to end in 2034. Seven more Crimean Jehovah's Witnesses are facing "extremism"-related prosecutions. Two were transferred in March from Investigation Prison to house arrest after nearly six months.

AZERBAIJAN: Will regime implement UN, European Court of Human Rights decisions?

The UN Human Rights Committee adopted two decisions in favour of four Jehovah's Witnesses, requiring not only that Azerbaijan repay their fines and court fees but review "its domestic legislation, regulations and/or practices" to ensure similar violations cannot recur. Dozens of European Court of Human Rights judgments in freedom of religion or belief cases similarly require changes to law and practice to implement the decisions. The regime has given no public indication of any changes to law and practice to prevent further violations.

TURKMENISTAN: 8 conscientious objectors jailed in 2021, UN special procedures ignored

On 16 March the regime jailed another conscientious objector to military service for two years, the eighth such 2021 jailing. Like six of the other 2021 jailings, 21-year-old Jehovah's Witness Rasul Rozbayev is being punished for the second time on the same charges. The jailings ignore a December 2020 appeal by four UN special procedures. A March 2020 regime report to the UN insisted that defending the country "is the sacred duty of every citizen".

TURKMENISTAN: Police detain, threaten, swear at Muslims

Police detained about ten Muslim men in Farap in January who they believed were following their faith too closely, such as by praying every day. Officers "used swear words and behaved crudely towards those they detained." Police forcibly shaved one man, made him drink alcohol, and fined him with no explanation. About ten more were held for praying in a home. Officials warned school children not to take part in (unspecified) "illegal" religious groups and residents received a similar warning.