TAJIKISTAN: Will Jews get compensation when synagogue is demolished?
When Tajikistan's only synagogue is demolished next year in the capital Dushanbe as part of city reconstruction plans, the Jewish community – which built it a century ago - does not know if it will get compensation. "A general reconstruction of the city centre is being planned, and unfortunately our building turned out to be in that sector," Rabbi Mikhail Abdurakhmanov told Forum 18 News Service. "However, the authorities could have held a meeting with the Jews and avoided demolishing the only synagogue in the whole of Tajikistan." Rabi Aliyev of the government's committee for religious affairs told Forum 18 he did not know either if compensation is planned.
Rabi Aliyev, chief specialist at the government's committee for religious affairs in Dushanbe, was unable to tell Forum 18 what compensation would be offered if the synagogue is demolished.
The synagogue, built by the local Jewish community at the beginning of the twentieth century, was confiscated by the Soviet authorities in the 1920s. In 1958 the Jewish community was officially allowed to use the building again, but ownership was not transferred back to it and it remains state-owned property. The small synagogue was reported by the Rujen news agency on 18 August to be in a "lamentable condition", owing to the poverty of local Jews in the wake of economic collapse and the civil war in Tajikistan in the 1990s, during which most Jews abandoned the country.
Rabbi Abdurakhmanov told Forum 18 that the demolition of the synagogue is set to take place in 2004 under the terms of document no. 18, dated 23 January 2003, which was approved by a commission of the hakimiat (administration) of the city's Ismail Somoni district. The area where the synagogue is located is the future site for a Palace of Nations.
Rabbi Abdurakhmanov told Forum 18 that only about 150 Jews remain in Dushanbe, with about 30 regular worshippers at the synagogue. He said the community does not have the money to build a new synagogue and that if the current synagogue was destroyed the Jews would have to look for a sponsor.
In the absence of the chairman of the committee for religious affairs, Said Akhmedov, who Forum 18 was told is on holiday, Aliyev seemed uninformed about the plans to demolish the synagogue. "Rabbi Abdurakhmanov visited the committee for religious affairs recently, and said nothing about problems with the synagogue," he told Forum 18 on 26 August. Aliyev said the synagogue is situated "quite a long way" from the proposed Palace of Nations and "in my opinion it does not need to be demolished". But he believed that if the synagogue is demolished, then the authorities will have to offer the Jews a plot of land for the construction of a new one.
31 July 2003
Following a speech by President Emomali Rakhmonov stating that three suspected Tajik terrorists have been held by the USA in Guantanamo Bay, the operation of a medressah (Islamic educational institute) in northern Tajikistan is being prevented, 152 mosques were closed down, loudspeakers removed from many and 20 per cent of Imams removed from office, Forum 18 News Service has learned. State officials claimed that there were too many mosques. There have also been claims that the authorities compel written confirmation from young couples that they will marry in the "European manner", with music and dancing. This claim has been denied by the local official dealing with religious affairs.
29 July 2003
A Baptist has been fined five times the minimum wage (57 Norwegian Kroner, 8 Euros or 8 US Dollars) for "talking to passers-by about God", and threatened with property confiscation if he does not pay the fine, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The fine has been imposed even though Tajikistan's 1994 law "On Religion and Religious Organisations" does not prohibit either religious gatherings in private homes or street evangelisation.
23 May 2003
Media interest in the case of two Jehovah's Witnesses fined for leading a religious meeting in Tursun-Zade raided by the police has provoked serious concern among the local authorities, Forum 18 News Service has learned. They had hoped the case against them – first reported by Forum 18 on 28 April and picked up by a local television station - would go unremarked by the outside world. "We hope the authorities will not take it out on us because our case has unexpectedly received such wide publicity," one of the two, Sukhrob Maksudov, told Forum 18. The Jehovah's Witnesses expect the Supreme Court to hear their appeal against the sentences in about a month's time.