UZBEKISTAN: Hare Krishna followers having lunch "not forbidden"?
Uzbek authorities in the east of the country, in Ferghana, are preventing Hare Krishna followers from privately meeting together to exercise their faith, Forum 18 News Service has learnt, amongst other ways by imposing a fines of seven times the minimum monthly wage. One official commented that "even 4-5 people do not have the right to conduct religious meetings without informing the authorities" and that "Having lunch together is not forbidden in Uzbekistan, but we need to clarify whether the Krishna devotees' lunch in Fergana was really just that".
On 16 January four Krishna devotees met together for lunch at Natalya Dozorova's flat. However, literally within five minutes the same group of officials as on 12 January entered the flat. "We really were just meeting for lunch," Dozorova told Forum 18. "So we told our uninvited guests they should be ashamed of themselves and they apparently understood, said they were sorry and left." However, after a few days the local policeman started coming regularly to the Krishna devotees demanding that they come to the court and pay a fine under article 240. "We refused to do so, as we believed and still believe that having lunch together is not a criminal act," said Dozorova. "But the authorities kept up the pressure on us. In April I gave up everything and moved to Tashkent. Although the Krishna devotees who remained in Fergana are no longer being summoned to court they are afraid to meet each other".
"I have heard nothing about Krishna devotees having problems in Fergana," Kamil Kamalov, head of the Department for Non-Muslim Religions at the Uzbek Committee for Religious Affairs of the Uzbek government, told Forum 18 on 7 August. "The Hare Krishna society is registered in Tashkent and their leader has not said anything to me about problems of his fellow believers in Fergana. In any case, even 4-5 people do not have the right to conduct religious meetings without informing the authorities. If a religious community in a particular town has less than 100 members (i.e. the minimum number to achieve registration), the leaders of their central registered organisation should approach us requesting us to help stop the local authorities from preventing believers from meeting. Having lunch together is not forbidden in Uzbekistan, but we need to clarify whether the Krishna devotees' lunch in Fergana was really just that," said Kamalov.
25 July 2003
In Uzbekistan's campaign against religious minorities regarded as trying to convert Muslims, Uzbek-language Hare Krishna leaflets have been confiscated, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. This is even though the leaflets are not illegal under Uzbek law and this action violates Uzbekistan's international commitments. Other victims of this campaign have been Jehovah's Witnesses and Protestant Christians. Uzbek officials privately justify their actions to Forum 18 by claiming that in the difficult economic situation, the conversion of Muslims to Christianity or other faiths could provoke riots
18 July 2003
High Turkmen visa fees make it prohibitively expensive for many Uzbek Muslims living close to the western border with Turkmenistan from crossing over to visit family graveyards and places of pilgrimage, Forum 18 News Service has learnt in the Khorezm region of western Uzbekistan. "We can see our forebears' graves through the barbed wire, but if we want to reach them and perform religious rituals, we have to pay money to the Turkmens," the imam of Manak village, Nodyr Formanov, told Forum 18. "The visa regime between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan clearly encroaches on believers' rights," complained Vladimir Artemyev, director of the Uzbek branch of a UNESCO project for the preservation of ancient monuments.
16 July 2003
In its survey analysis of the religious freedom situation in Uzbekistan, Forum 18 News Service reports on the government's wide-ranging defiance of its international religious freedom commitments. Unregistered religious activity is illegal and believers are routinely punished even for religious meetings in private homes. Missionary work is banned. Religious literature is censored, while foreign Islamic websites are blocked. Virtually all religious communities are subject to harsh government control, especially Islam. The leadership of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims is virtually an agency of state authority. The government tries to prevent the spread of Protestant, Jehovah's Witness, Hare Krishna and other religions regarded as non-traditional.