Almaty (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In Kazakh and university libraries, all the volumes of religious literature, printed or imported into the country must be subject to monitoring by state inspectors. In recent days, the Agency for Religious Affairs (Ara) carried out an audit on the many volumes in the National Library in Almaty. The inspection, described as "normal procedure" by the director Gulisa Balabekova, falls within controls required under the new Penal Code.
A few days ago, President Nursultan Nazerbayev stated that "religious freedom is guaranteed in the country ", but since the beginning of 2013 incidents of persecution against minority groups have intensified. The new Penal Code, proposed earlier this year, has tightened restrictions to the detriment of religious groups, introducing stringent controls on the possession of religious books, and by forbidding public discussion of faith.
Sergei Duvanov, an independent Kazakh journalist, tells Forum 18 that it has become risky to even promote atheism in Kazakhstan. This is highlighted by the recent case of a man arrested in the east of the country for inciting contempt of religions. However, the minorities most exposed to the policies adopted by the government are the Islamic groups, members of the Baptist community and Jehovah's Witnesses, the latter the victim of numerous sanctions since the beginning of 2013.
The same reporter then concluded by saying that "in Kazakhstan, people are not free to preach or promote their faith, freedom of speech does not extend to the religious sphere."