Bishkek (AsiaNews) - Muslims who adhere to the Ahmadi doctrine in Kyrgyzstan do not have the right to register with the State, and cannot organise themselves as a religious community.
The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan on 10 July rejected the appeal made by the community against the decision (made in 2011) denying them the right to obtain state registration. Now, if they were to meet in private to pray, they risk arrest and a fine from police.
This "means that Ahmadi Muslims cannot act like Ahmadi Muslims and organise meetings for worship or any other activity together," Asel Bayastanova, the Ahmadis' defence lawyer, told Forum 18 News Service.
Ahmadis "may in theory, under the Constitution, unofficially gather in private places for worship," she noted. "But the authorities may well punish them if they find Ahmadis meeting together for religious activity."
For an Ahmadi living in the capital Bishkek, who wants to remain anonymous, the ruling "is equal to banning us in Kyrgyzstan."
"If we are found by the NSS secret police, the ordinary police, or any other state agency to be carrying out 'illegal' religious activity, we will be given harsh punishments - maybe even imprisonment."
As such, "this is a severe violation of our basic human rights, and also a potential danger in future for our lives in Kyrgyzstan," he added.
Kyrgyzstan has about 5.4 million people. The official religion is Sunni Islam (about 70 per cent of the population). According to local sources, the Ahmadi community has about 600 members and many supporters.
Founded in the late 19th century in India, the Ahmadi faith is considered heretical by much of the Muslim world, Sunni and Shiite.
It honours its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and shares beliefs with other religions. For this reason, professing it in Central Asian countries is banned and linked to Islamic terrorism.
For their part, Ahmadis vehemently deny these allegations and speak of religious persecution.