Dushanbe (AsiaNews/F18) - The Tajik government systematically violates the religious freedom and related human rights of believers of any faith, not subject to full state control. The news agency Forum 18 is calling for an immediate intervention by the United Nations and international organizations, to curb abuses.
A recent draft law now even bans children under 18 from participating in any religious activity, including prayer meetings and catechism, with the exception of funerals. Government authorization is needed to participate in the catechism or other activities and parents are responsible for ANY "violations."
Since 2007, the authorities have primarily targeted places of worship, through the closure, confiscation and demolition of mosques and churches and even the only synagogue in the country (see AsiaNews, 24.6.2008, Dushanbe’s old synagogue demolished to make way for a presidential palace , and 13.10.2007, Three mosques demolished and others closed, the only synagogue in danger, in March 2009, a private citizen gave the Jewish community in his palace to meet and pray: 30/03/2009 AsiaNews, New synagogue of Dushanbe to open soon). A limit to the number of mosques was also introduced. In January 2011, about 50 other mosques in Dushanbe were closed down as "not registered and built without public authorization."
For all religious groups any activities without official authorisation are prohibited, even prayer meetings. Since 2007 Jehovah's Witnesses and some Protestant Christians and Islamic movements have been banned and their followers arrested and charged for practising their faith. This was the case with 95 followers of the Tabligh Jamaat Islamic movement banned in 2010 who were sentenced to fines or jailed for 3 to 6 years, because they gathered to pray and talk about their faith.
Even in permitted activities, the authorities impose a strict censorship, among other things, religious texts or books must have state authorization. In January 2011 the new offense of "manufacture, importation, sale and distribution of religious literature" without permission was introduced, punishable with heavy fines equivalent to years of an average salary, even for printing such material.
The small country of about 7 million people has a large Muslim majority. After independence from the Soviet Union, a civil war broke out along ethnic and clan lines, lasting from 1992 to 1997, during which the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), the only party with a religious foundation, was outlawed. Since 1992, the country has been led by President Emomali Rahmon, a former Soviet leader, allegedly responsible for systematic violations of rights, including repeated electoral fraud to win elections.F18 reports that the government wants to practice and prevent any religious activity that is not under rigid state control. Experts say that perhaps Dushanbe fears that group will be created for the protection of rights and democracy that will oppose its rule.