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TAJIKISTAN: Urgent medical treatment denied again, defying UN Human Rights Committee

Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience 71-year-old Shamil Khakimov has again been denied urgently needed medical treatment in a specialised hospital, after a closed court hearing in his prison. The repeated denial of medical treatment is against multiple statements by the UN Human Rights Committee. Elsewhere, the family and friends of Ismaili Muslim prisoner of conscience Muzaffar Davlatmirov are still being denied information on where he is in jail.

TAJIKISTAN: Restrictions continue for Muslims, intrusive questionnaires for non-Muslims

The regime closed all Islamic bookshops in Dushanbe in August and September, as well as some publishers of Islamic literature. The regime has also continued demands that non-Muslim religious communities complete intrusive questionnaires. Some suggested family information is being collected "so that it will be easy to identify us and our family members if in future they decide to target us". "All mosques are under total state control," human rights defenders observed, "so the regime does not need to insist that mosques complete such questionnaires."

TAJIKISTAN: Ismaili religious leader jailed, prayer houses closed

On 3 August, 8 days after the NSC secret police arrested Muzaffar Davlatmirov, a respected 59-year-old Ismaili religious leader, Badakhshan Regional Court jailed him for 5 years for alleged "public calls for extremist activity". "Davlatmirov is not an extremist, and did not call for 'extremist' activity," a local person who knows him told Forum 18. His relatives and friends do not know where he is serving his sentence. There are now at least 7 prisoners of conscience known to be jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief, one a Jehovah's Witness and the others Muslim. The regime has also closed all Ismaili prayer houses in Mountainous Badakhshan, and the Ismaili Education Centre in Khorugh.

TAJIKISTAN: Banned from wearing mourning clothes, arrested, tortured

The regime targets women who dress as they choose, including wearing hijab. "I don't want to stop wearing the hijab, so I try to avoid the police," one told Forum 18. Many Islamic rites and ceremonies are banned, including mourning customs. On 27 June police stopped Elobat Oghalykova for wearing a black dress to mark one of her sons' death, took her to a police station and tortured her. After she and her son made formal complaints, police threatened both with 15 days' jail.

TAJIKISTAN: Prisoner of conscience still denied proper medical care

71-year-old prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov – whose health continues to decline - is now losing his eyesight. The regime refuses to provide needed medical care and release him. Prison Governor Jamoliddin Khushbakhtzoda insists that Khakimov's health is fine, and denies knowledge of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules): "What Rules are you talking about? I haven't heard of these Rules." At least 5 other prisoners of conscience are jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief.

TAJIKISTAN: "We will no longer register any new churches"

Senior state religious affairs official Sulaymon Davlatzoda told Protestant leaders in late May: "We will no longer register any new churches. We will keep the figure of registered churches unchanged from now on." He did not explain why. Davlatzoda also "openly warned us that under-18-year-olds cannot have freedom of religion or belief and participate in church activity, and no religious camps are allowed for them". Without state registration, all exercise of freedom of religion or belief is illegal and punishable. The regime punishes Muslims, Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses for all exercise of this freedom without state permission.

TAJIKISTAN: Prisoner of conscience barred from attending only son's funeral

Prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov was stopped from attending his only son's funeral in September, and has not been hospitalised for the specialised medical treatment he needs. This is despite multiple reminders – the most recent on 13 September – from the UN Human Rights Committee that the regime's human rights obligations require this. Freedom of religion and belief and other human rights of prisoners of all faiths continues to be violated.

TAJIKISTAN: Imam jailed for preaching his own sermon

The secret police arrested Imam Mahmadsodyk Sayidov for refusing to read the state-provided sermon all imams must read at Friday prayers, instead giving his own sermon. A Kulob court jailed him in June for five years for allegedly participating in a religious "extremist" organisation. Two mosque attendees were also jailed. A Judge could not explain what was "extremist" about the three men's alleged activity. On 18 June the UN Human Rights Committee again called for the 70-year-old seriously-ill Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov to be transferred to a "specialised medical institution". The Prison Governor claimed "We have everything for his treatment."

TAJIKISTAN: Male police continue targeting women wearing hijabs

The long-running regime campaign to prevent women wearing the hijab (Islamic headscarf) intensified from March, human rights defenders including Muslim women say. Officials stop women in the street, question them, and order them to take off their hijab. "When they saw a woman in a hijab the male and female officials immediately encircled the woman," a human rights defender saw in early July, speaking "very rudely and harassing them if they refused to take off their hijab". The police, the State Committee for Women and Family Affairs, and the Interior Ministry all refused to explain to Forum 18 why male police officers nationwide are not stopped from deliberately and publicly bullying and harassing women wearing a hijab.

TAJIKISTAN: "I do not know what the Mandela Rules are"

Prison authorities have repeatedly denied seriously ill Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov the specialised medical treatment he needs. The 70-year-old has a bad leg "which smells like rotten meat" and has had coronavirus symptoms. The UN Mandela Rules for prisoners' treatment say medical decisions must be made by doctors, and the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture have both called for Tajikistan to implement the Rules. Yet the prison governor told Forum 18: "I do not know what the Mandela Rules are." A Supreme Court official similarly denied knowledge of the Mandela Rules.

TAJIKISTAN: Independent imam jailed again

Independent imam Sirojiddin Abdurahmonov, who was also jailed in 2010, was jailed in February for five and a half years along with an unknown number of others. Conscientious objector Rustamjon Norov's appeal against a three and a half year jail sentence is due on 11 March, and a judge has refused to explain why he allowed a Russian Orthodox nun with no connection to the case to testify for the prosecution.

TAJIKISTAN: Three and a half years' jail for "illegal" conscientious objection

Despite his offer to perform alternative civilian service, Khujand Military Court today (7 January) jailed Rustamjon Norov for three and a half years, the longest known sentence. The court claimed the 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector falsified his medical history to evade compulsory military service, charges he denies. While held in a military unit in October 2020, he was threatened with torture if he did not put on a military uniform.

TAJIKISTAN: Religious freedom survey, December 2020

Tajikistan restricts freedom of religion and belief, along with interlinked freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Forum 18's survey analyses violations including: ban on and punishments for all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission; severe limitations on numbers of mosques; jailing of Muslim, Jehovah's Witness and Protestant prisoners of conscience on alleged "extremism" charges; impunity for torture; jailing of conscientious objectors; and state censorship of religious materials.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objector freed, but another jailed

Rustamjon Norov, a 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness from Dushanbe, is in Khujand Investigation Prison facing prosecution for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. He faces two to five years' imprisonment if convicted. He denies accusations of falsifying his medical history to evade military service. On 1 November, conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov was freed under presidential prisoner amnesty after serving nine months of his two-year jail term.

TAJIKISTAN: "No reason to fear" census religion question?

Some fear the religion question in the October nationwide census will be used to facilitate freedom of religion and belief violations. "It is probable that Tajiks who have accepted the Christian faith, or are Ahmadis, or are Salafi Muslims, will feel forced to lie and write that they are Hanafi Muslims," one commentator noted. Some Protestants fear the authorities "are trying to identify our members and where they are located".

TAJIKISTAN: Impunity for torturers continues

Impunity for multiple instances of torture of Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Protestants continues. Conscientious objector and prisoner of conscience Jovidon Bobojonov was tortured by soldiers kneeling on his neck. Officials refuse to tell Forum 18 why suspect torturers have not been arrested and put on criminal trial for torture, as international human rights law requires. Tajikistan's assurances to the UN Human Rights Committee of introducing civilian alternative service remain unfulfilled.

TAJIKISTAN: Journalist's jailing based on "complete fabrication"

A Dushanbe court jailed journalist Daler Sharipov for one year for "extremism" and "inciting religious hatred" for writing a booklet containing "absolutely no malice or incitement there to religious hatred", and articles speaking of Islam as a religion of peace, and Muhammad as a prophet of peace. Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov is serving a seven year and six month sentence on the same charges.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objector tortured, jailed for two years

Nearly six months after being seized, Dushanbe's Military Court jailed 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov today (2 April) for two years in a general regime labour camp for refusing compulsory military service. He has already appealed against his conviction. While held in the military unit, personnel tortured Bobojonov with beatings to pressure him to take the military oath and put on uniform.

TAJIKISTAN: Fines, torture for hijab-wearing, fines for Bible translation

Around 20 Muslim women were detained in a Dushanbe street for wearing a hijab, with some being fined. One, Nilufar Rajabova, stated that she was also tortured at a police station. Elsewhere, Christians were given large fines for arranging a Bible translation into Tajik. Intrusive compulsory annual reports have been imposed on registered religious communities, and Administrative Code changes in January have significantly increased the fines for exercising freedom of religion or belief state permission.

TAJIKISTAN: Five-year jail term for conscientious objector?

The criminal trial of 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience could begin at Dushanbe Military Court in early March. If convicted, he faces between two and five years in prison. He has become "emotionally and physically exhausted" since he was seized in October 2019, Jehovah's Witnesses say.

TAJIKISTAN: Churches, mosque confiscated, no sign of promised kindergarten

Sunmin Sunbogym (Full Gospel) Protestant Church's two buildings in northern Tajikistan have both been confiscated, one of them with a 2018 excuse that a kindergarten would open there - but in 2020 there is no still sign of the kindergarten. Similarly, Khujand's Nuri Islom Mosque has been turned into a cinema.

TAJIKISTAN: Alleged "extremist", alleged Shia, jail, torture

36-year-old Muslim Khayriddin Dostakov is spending his birthday in jail under criminal investigation after having been arrested and tortured. Officials allege he spread "extremist ideas", and questioned him about whether he has become a Shia Muslim or spread Shia beliefs. Dostakov "was tortured with electric shocks" and "lost consciousness several times", Bakhrom Khamroyev of Memorial told Forum 18.

TAJIKISTAN: 12-year jail term after secret trial

On 2 January a Dushanbe court jailed 35-year-old Muslim Sadriddin Mulloyev for 12 years to punish him for his earlier membership of the Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat. "With the help of our lawyer we will appeal against the Court decision," said his father. "My son is innocent." Officials refused to discuss the case or why the trial was secret.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objection "a major crime"?

Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov has been held since October 2019 by the military despite offering to do alternative civilian service, even though the government claimed in March 2019 to the UN Human Rights Committee that an alternative service law is being prepared.

TAJIKISTAN: Muslim faces 18-year charges, Jehovah's Witness prisoner denied Bible, Pastor freed

Prosecutors are seeking 18 years' jail for Sadriddin Mulloyev at his Dushanbe trial for membership of Muslim movement Tabligh Jamaat. Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov, who is 68, failed to overturn his seven and a half-year strict regime jail term. Prison authorities still deny him a Bible. Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov was freed on 17 December months before the end of his three-year jail term. However, an associated church in Konibodom remains closed after the regime forcibly closed it in 2017 after raiding and torturing church members, as well as firing them from their jobs.

TAJIKISTAN: Pensioner jailed until August 2026

In a closed hearing in prison in Khujand, 69-year-old Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov was on 10 September given a strict regime jail sentence of seven years, six months for allegedly "inciting religious hatred". On release in August 2026, aged 74, Khakimov would be banned from exercising his freedom of religion and belief until August 2029. "I am guilty of nothing," he told the court and is expected to appeal.

TAJIKISTAN: Pensioner faces up to 10 years' imprisonment

The criminal trial of 68-year-old Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov in Khujand resumes on 19 August. He faces up to 10 years' imprisonment for "inciting religious hatred", charges he denies. Prosecutors claim materials confiscated from him and others contained "features of extremist activity". The investigation revealed a 2016 state "expert analysis" by three Imams claiming the distribution of a Tajik Bible translation causes "confrontation".

TAJIKISTAN: Detention extended, no Bible reading allowed

A Khujand court has extended Jehovah's Witness pensioner Shamil Khakimov's pre-trial detention for another month. His "crime", for which he was arrested in February, seems to be that he is thought to lead Khujand's Jehovah's Witness community. Against international human rights standards, he is not allowed to read his Bible.

TAJIKISTAN: Jailed, awaiting trial on "incitement" charges

Despite recent surgery, retired widower, Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov, is in pre-trial detention in Khujand under criminal investigation for "inciting religious hatred". If tried and convicted he faces five to ten years' imprisonment. His arrest followed widespread raids, interrogations and torture of local Jehovah's Witnesses.

TAJIKISTAN: Raid, torture, interrogations, fines, calendars destroyed

Religious communities including Jehovah's Witnesses meeting for worship continue to be raided, with interrogations lasting between 20 minutes and 14 hours and in some cases involving torture. Other religious communities also face renewed questioning, especially on finances, and whether children under the age of 10 attend meetings.

TAJIKISTAN: Killed prisoners denied Muslim funerals

Around 50 prisoners killed in suppressing a Khujand Labour Camp riot were denied religious funerals. Officials banned washing of bodies or any Islamic prayers. Sugd Police Deputy Head claimed statements that families were not allowed to bury their dead according to Muslim rites were untrue. "Whoever says that is lying!"

TAJIKISTAN: Arrest not pardon follows "repentance"

Secret police arrested Mukhtadi Abdulkodyrov for being a Salafi Muslim, two days after his return to Tajikistan from Saudi Arabia. He had written a letter of "repentance". Police opened a criminal case against Jehovah's Witness Mujibahon Isanova for complaining about a teacher's bullying of her eight-year-old son.

TAJIKISTAN: Hijab-wearing and beards ban continues

Tajikistan continues beard and hijab-wearing bans, and has forced one couple to divorce. Police set up a roadblock to enforce the bans, which are also been enforced in schools and universities. Officials have refused to give Forum 18 a legal reason for the bans.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objection appeal to UN Human Rights Committee?

Prisoner of conscience Daniil Islamov is preparing to appeal for the last time to Tajikistan's Supreme Court against a six-month jail term for refusing compulsory military service. If this appeal is rejected, he is likely to appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee.

TAJIKISTAN: Almost 2,000 mosques closed in 2017

Tajikistan has claimed to have closed almost 2,000 mosques in 2017. Officials claimed they were closed at the request of local residents, but have not been able to explain why they only allow mosques with a capacity far below the possible numbers of worshippers.

TAJIKISTAN: Amendments impose even tighter state control

Religion Law amendments allow the state to restrict freedom of religion or belief on illegitimate grounds, increase religious communities' reporting obligations, require state approval for all imams, and increase state control on religious education. "The Law represents total control and is unjust", human rights defender Faizinisso Vokhidova stated.

TAJIKISTAN: "Mistakes", but prisoner of conscience remains jailed

Despite "mistakes" in the verdict jailing Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Daniil Islamov for six months, the Supreme Court failed to overturn it. Jailed Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov has chosen not to appeal further. Police and secret police raided a Protestant church's worship and fined a church member.

TAJIKISTAN: Nine long jail terms – for what?

At least nine Muslim men – including an imam and a well-known heart surgeon - are known to have been jailed as prisoners of conscience since August in the northern Sugd Region in three separate cases. All received five years or more jail terms. Officials refused to explain what they had done wrong.

TAJIKISTAN: One more prisoner of conscience

Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector to military service Daniil Islamov has been jailed for six months. And the government has imposed highly intrusive Mourning Regulations ordering among other things: "Crying while grieving for the dead is allowed. But crying and wailing loudly .. is forbidden".

TAJIKISTAN: Id al-Adha restrictions, haj returnee celebrations banned

Teachers were banned from attending mosque on Muslim festival Id al-Adha. They and children were forced to attend school, even though the state declared it a holiday. Officials banned haj pilgrimage returnees from holding celebratory meals. Traditions Law amendments and increased punishments have come into force.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objector's military trial imminent

18-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Daniil Islamov faces up to two years' imprisonment if convicted at Qurghonteppa Military Court. Forcibly conscripted in April, he has been detained in a military unit. Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov lost his appeal against his three-year prison term.

TAJIKISTAN: Fines, questioning, threats for wearing hijab

Officials this spring launched a massive renewed campaign against women wearing the hijab (Islamic headscarf). Victims and human rights defenders complain that women have been questioned, threatened and fined, as have some husbands. Some have lost their jobs or been forced to leave school.

TAJIKISTAN: Protestant Pastor jailed for three years

Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov has been jailed for three years for allegedly "singing extremist songs in church and so inciting 'religious hatred'". Tajikistan has threatened family members, friends, and church members with reprisals if they reveal any details of the case, trial, or jailing.

TAJIKISTAN: Trial imminent for arrested Pastor

The secret police's criminal case against Protestant Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov reached court in Khujand on 22 June. Officials refuse to say what charges he faces. Officials threaten Baptists in Dushanbe with fines after raiding their worship. Officials again enforce the haj ban on under-40s.

TAJIKISTAN: "Extremism" prison term for Christian books?

The NSC secret police in Khujand arrested Protestant pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov on 10 April after raiding his church and seizing Christian literature. Officials claim songbooks and a book "More Than a Carpenter" are "extremist". The pastor is being investigated on "extremism" criminal charges.

TAJIKISTAN: Last madrassahs finally closed

Of the 19 madrassahs for 16 to 18 year old Muslims that functioned with state approval before the harsh 2009 Religion Law, all have now been closed. The five remaining madrassahs in Sugd Region – suspended in 2013 – were finally closed, as was the Islamic University's madrassah in Dushanbe.

TAJIKISTAN: Imprisonments "designed to scare the population"

With imprisonments of Muslims for up to 16 years, Tajikistan's officials refuse to explain what crimes they committed. Punishments are "designed to scare population away from the Salafi movement and Islamic Renaissance Party, or any active movement spreading Islam," rights defenders told Forum 18.

TAJIKISTAN: Continued state "total control" of Islam

Mosque demolitions, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, a ban on state employees at Friday prayers, youth activists to prevent prayers not in Hanafi or Ismaili tradition continue state moves aiming to "establish total control of Muslim activity", human rights defenders told Forum 18 from Tajikistan.

TAJIKISTAN: "Inciting religious hatred" charges for at least 6 imams and man who filmed police harassment

Sulaymon Boltuyev, Imam of the cathedral Mosque in Guliston (former Kayrakkum), "did not call for forceful changes of the constitutional order, did not incite religious hatred, nor did he commit anything illegal", his lawyer Faizinisso Vokhidova told Forum 18 News Service. Boltuyev is among at least six imams in Tajikistan's northern Sugd Region in pre-trial detention since early March. They face up to five years' imprisonment on criminal charges of "inciting religious hatred". Also under arrest on the same charge is Okil Sharipov. On a visit to his family from Russia, he had filmed police harassment of women for wearing the hijab (Islamic headscarf). Prosecutors in the cases refused to discuss them with Forum 18 and nor would an official from the office of the Interior Minister in Dushanbe. Sulaymon Davlatzoda, Chair of the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA), confirmed to Forum 18 that the arrested six Imams in Sugd had been appointed with the SCRA's approval. But he too could not say why they had been arrested.

TAJIKISTAN: Religious freedom survey, January 2016

Before the May 2016 UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Tajikistan, Forum 18 News Service notes continuing violations of freedom of religion or belief and related fundamental human rights such as the freedoms of expression and association. Among violations documented by Forum 18 are: a ban on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission; severe limitations on the numbers of mosques permitted and activities allowed inside those mosques; arbitrary official actions, including the arrests of Jehovah's Witnesses using police agent provocateurs; bans on the Jehovah's Witnesses and some Islamic and Protestant movements; the banning of Central Asia's only legal religious-based political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, and the arrest as prisoners of conscience of its senior party figures; forcing imams in state-controlled mosques (the only sort permitted) to preach state-dictated sermons; forcible closure of all madrassahs (Islamic religious schools); a ban on all public exercise of freedom of religion or belief, apart from funerals, by people under the age of 18; and state censorship of and bans on some religious literature and websites. The government's actions imply that it thinks that the real threat it faces is people exercising their human rights outside state control.

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