Tashkent (AsiaNews) - The persecution of religious minorities continues in Uzbekistan. Protestant and Muslim communities are the most affected by the restrictions, but "anyone who professes a religious belief is a possible target for the government." This is confirmed to the Non Governmental Organization Forum 18 different local sources, anonymous for security reasons.
Since last July 9, the day of the start of Ramadan, police officers have prevented Uzbek Muslims from taking part iftar meals that marks the end of the daily fast during the holy month. Abdurakhmon Tashanov, from the humanitarian organization Ezgulik, says that even in the capital Tashkent, where the Muslim community is more entrenched, the few restaurants that prepared the so-called "Islamic breakfast" did so in secret and with the fear of intimidation by the authorities .
For about a month now, government restrictions have also extended to freedom of prayer, with increasing controls by the police in the vicinity of places of worship. On August 2, Yelena Urlayeva, an aid worker for Human Rights Alliance, said she had seen policemen check bags and personal effects at the entrance of the mosque in Tashkent Buva Tura, for noon prayer.
The possession of religious literature, prohibited by law in Uzbekistan only if it contains messages of violence or extremism, is instead punished indiscriminately by government authorities, with heavy fines or corporal punishment. In recent months, a growing number of Uzbeks Protestants have been fined for holding a Bible, while in recent days, in the northwestern region of Khorezm, police officers beat the Protestant Sardorbek Nurmetov after having seized some religious notes. "It is no coincidence that he was detained - another member of the local community told Forum 18 - they knew he was of the Protestant faith."
According to several sources, "the followers of different religions now live in a state of terror, and are afraid to keep objects or religious writings at home. Some have even arrived at destroying the texts with their own hands rather than see them seized and end up in the hands of the police. 'National law prohibits the possession of the sacred books but does not allow raid of this type: they ignore their own laws. "