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    » 04/13/2011, 00.00

    AZERBAIJAN

    Baku: "unregistered" Christians forbidden to pray together



    The new religious freedom law prohibits any activity of unregistered religious groups. Many groups have sought registration, but is slow in coming. Meanwhile, the police arrest the "offenders". But President Ilham Aliev congratulates himself on his promotion of religious freedom.

    Baku (AsiaNews/F18) - The authorities have prohibited three religious from coming together to pray in Gyanja, the second largest city of Azerbaijan. Forum 18 news agency says that Christians, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, confirmed the repeated threat of police to arrest those who continued to meet for Sunday service.

    Recently at least two van loads of police arrived near the places where the faithful of the Eastern Star Pentecostal Church meet, ready to intervene. The source reports that the authorities want to target groups without state authorization.

    Firdovsi Kerimov, the representative for the Department of State Gyanja registration committee, which oversees the authorization of religious communities, on March 29 told media they have warned the Pentecostal Church Star of the East, the New Apostolic Church and a Baptist group that they can not meet without permission, even to pray. He explained that two of these groups have sought permission, but can not meet in the meantime, while the process is underway.

    "Now the faithful are really scared - says the anonymous source - the police check that you meet, even to pray together.

    F18 found that the request for authorization of more than 300 religious communities are waiting to be examined. The reform of December 2010 on religious freedom states that all activities of unregistered groups is illegal, even to meet to pray. The legislation was presented as a useful tool against Islamic terrorism, but in fact various Protestant groups, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and others, pending approval, are subject to police raids and arrests for short periods for their "illegal" religious activity (see AsiaNews 10/01/2011, Higher fines for people who meet to pray or read religious texts). The Star of the East was already authorized in Baku, but under the new law, was told that it had to submit a new application: it did and is waiting for the decision.

    The New Apostolic Church had permission for the Baku group and explained to authorities that this permission has a value for the faithful of Gyanja and other cities. But it also had to request a new registration, under the new law, and is still waiting for a response. F18 denounces that in Gyanja many religious groups have been subjected to threats and prohibitions by the authorities. The only Sunni Muslim mosque in the city was closed. Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden to meet and are hit with fines and arrests.

    But many mosques across the country were closed by force, as in Qobustan (Maraz) March 4. In Yevlakh since January, the young people of school age are forbidden to participate in Friday prayers in the Juma mosque, the only one of the city.

    Meanwhile, President Ilham Aliev on April 7, opening the work of a global forum for intercultural dialogue in Baku, was congratulated himself on "Azerbaijan having a high level of ethnic and religious tolerance, that is the source of our strength" . "Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience exist in Azerbaijan."

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    See also

    21/11/2013 RUSSIA
    Russia, attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals increase under anti-extremism law
    Experts from the Sova center denounce the escalation of attacks against religious minorities. On November 25 Tagarong trial opens against 16 Jehovah's Witnesses accused of extremism for continuing to pray and read the Bible together, after the ban on the community decided by the Russian Supreme Court in 2009.

    09/04/2013 RUSSIA
    Taganrog, new charges against Jehovah's Witnesses
    The prosecutor formally indicts 16 JW for having re-started the organization's activities, prohibited since 2009 after a conviction for "extremism." Human Rights Defenders: now we have come to a stage of outright persecution.

    09/06/2007 KAZAKHSTAN
    “Soviet methods” used on religious minorities
    At an Osce conference, the countries religious authorities vaunt Astana’s religious freedom and tolerance. At the same time Jehovah Witnesses are sentenced for having gathered in prayer and the temple of the Hare Krishna is demolished. The systematic persecution of religious minorities.

    21/03/2011 RUSSIA
    Arkhangelsk, Orthodox Church against sects, including yoga
    Local authorities write to eparchy to invite them to keep "destructive cults" such as Jehovah's Witnesses away from schools. But yoga also presents problem for religious leaders, a practice that relies on "recruitment" in public spaces.

    22/01/2010 AZERBAIJAN
    In December, the Azerbaijani authorities banned Shiite faithful from celebrating Ashura
    It is a festival for Shiite Muslims. The day of the festival in the region of Nakhichevan, the police invited everyone to go home. In a village they go ahead with celebrations: in the days after the police raided homes making dozens of arrests. Experts say it is an attempt to undermine the strong autonomy of the area.



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