UZBEKISTAN: Pentecostal Pastor to seek asylum due to "intolerable conditions"
A Pentecostal pastor intends to seek political asylum outside Uzbekistan, he has told Forum News Service, due to "intolerable conditions". Officials have told him they will not register his church because they were "not interested in the spread of Christianity". Pastor Bakhtier Tuichiev has been repeatedly warned that he would be subject to administrative and even criminal punishment if he continues his work.
In February 2002 Tuichiev first received authorisation for his church to operate, then had the authorisation taken back. In March that year a meeting of residents, possibly under pressure from the authorities, decided that "inexpedient for a Christian church to operate". In September Tuichiev's Church was visited by a group of people claiming to be BBC and CNN journalists, but who appear to have been National Security Service (ex-KGB) officers, as both the BBC and CNN had no knowledge of these "journalists" (See F18News 14 March 2003).
"I am familiar with Tuichiev's problem," Kamal Kamilov, head of the Department for Non-Muslim Religions at the Committee for Religious Affairs of the Uzbek government, told Forum 18 on 8 August. Kamilov claims that Tuichiev's main problem is that he calls his church the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church, but the registered office of this denomination in Tashkent refuses to recognise Tuichiev's church. His church co-operates instead with the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church of South Korea. Also, according to Kamilov, Tuichiev had not submitted all the documents necessary for registration.
8 August 2003
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".
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.