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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

UZBEKISTAN: Religious freedom survey, November 2021

Freedom of religion and belief, with interlinked freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, remains severely restricted in Uzbekistan. Forum 18's survey analysis documents violations including: jailing and torturing prisoners of conscience whose only crime is to exercise their freedom of religion and belief; banning education and worship meetings without state permission; complete state control of all expressions of Islam; and religious literature censorship and destruction.

UZBEKISTAN: Jailed for learning to pray and discussing Islam

Four Muslim men jailed for up to six years in a labour camp after meeting together to learn how to pray, to discuss Islamic topics such as prayer, fasting, peaceful jihad, good deeds and other matters, and to attend a mosque. This is the latest known case where Muslim men who met to pray and discuss their faith have been jailed with the use of a police agent provocateur.

UZBEKISTAN: Wanted for 5-year jail term, prisoners tortured again

A Tashkent court handed 47-year-old Odilbek Khojabekov a five year labour camp sentence to punish him for returning from haj pilgrimage with Islamic literature. A first trial gave him a suspended sentence which was later removed for good probation behaviour. The SSS secret police then pressured ordinary police, prosecutors, and others into giving what the family insists is false testimony at a second hearing which ordered him jailed. He is in hiding fearing for his safety. Separately, two prisoners of conscience continue to be tortured and one went on hunger strike.

UZBEKISTAN: "The regime wants to shut people up"

A Tashkent court ordered Fazilkhoja Arifkhojayev held in three-month pre-trial detention after an initial 15-day term after he questioned a regime-supporting imam. Officials denied him access to his lawyer and tortured him during his 15-day sentence. Officials tortured prisoner of conscience Tulkun Astanov in jail for praying, and he has lost 25 kg in weight since January. Officials have warned Shia Muslims not to publish religious material, and "some even stopped talking to or associating with people who had been warned".

UZBEKISTAN: President to sign restrictive new Religion Law?

Uzbekistan's new Religion Law [signed by the President 5 July, came into force 6 July] maintains almost all the restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in the current Religion Law. It continues to ban: all exercise of freedom of religion and belief without state permission; teaching about religion without state permission; sharing beliefs; and publishing, distributing or importing printed and electronic religious materials which have not undergone compulsory prior state censorship. The continuing restrictions are in defiance of Uzbekistan's legally binding international human rights obligations.

UZBEKISTAN: Shia mosque reopenings blocked, Religion Law passed with no published text

Officials have so far blocked Shia Muslims' attempts to reopen mosques in Bukhara with property excuses, and in Samarkand attempts have not been made as "they are afraid of the authorities". Officials have rejected other religious communities' recent applications to exist, or failed to respond. "Nothing has changed," a Protestant church which has applied for registration told Forum 18. Also, the draft Religion Law has been sent for presidential signature, but the regime has not revealed the text of the law it intends to apply to people it rules.

UZBEKISTAN: Police raid mosque, teacher jailed for 15 days

On 27 May, Asliddin Khudaiberdiyev was jailed for teaching five boys and six adult men how to read the Koran and pray. The jailing followed a police and secret police raid on a Samarkand Region mosque as Muslims were preparing to worship. The raid came as the regime publicly announced and implemented increased restrictions across the country on under-18s attending mosques. Also, Religion Law changes are still going through parliament but the regime continues to hide the text its parliament is discussing.

UZBEKISTAN: Parents told not to teach Islam to their children

In late April the Deputy Headteacher of a Bukhara school rang Muslim parents to say that the ordinary police and the SSS secret police had visited to ask "how religiously devout families and children are". Parents were warned of unspecified consequences if they teach Islam to their children, or any of their children wear the hijab. Human rights defenders have heard unconfirmed accounts that the ordinary police and SSS secret police are making similar visits to schools in other parts of the country to ask similar questions.

UZBEKISTAN: Shia Muslim fined for having Shia material

A Samarkand court fined Shia Muslim Rashid Ibrahimov about two weeks' average wages for having Shia religious material on his mobile phone. The phone was confiscated. A court official said Shia Muslims were punished because of the Religion Law. A prisoner of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion and belief has been tortured with beatings on the soles of his feet. Another prisoner of conscience, Tulkun Astanov, has been given medical treatment, but his current location is unknown.

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.

UZBEKISTAN: "A disguised old Criminal Code with no real changes"

Members of religious communities and human rights defenders criticise the draft new Criminal Code due to come into force on 1 January 2022. This would continue to punish those who exercise freedom of religion or belief without state permission. A "disguised old Criminal Code with no real changes", Protestants complain. Muslims describe it as "our government's old tricks". Solmaz Akhmedova of the Human Rights Alliance noted that "they just made some decorative changes, and used less religious terminology."

UZBEKISTAN: 7 prisoners of conscience jailed for between 11 and 4 years

Seven Muslim men who met in Tashkent to discuss Islam were in January 2021 transferred to various prisons to begin jail terms of between 11 and four years. Nine men were given restricted freedom sentences. "It is no use for us to make another appeal as nothing will change," a relative told Forum 18. In this and other cases there are credible claims of torture and the use of agent provocateurs to bring false charges.