Religion issues in Central Asia


Rebecca Merritt Bichel

Despite the liberties declared by each Central Asian state following their independence declarations in 1991, religious freedom has been restricted as a result of multiple legislative amendments. Despite substantial disparities between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on the one hand, and Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on the other, all authorities are becoming more and more rigorous on religion issues. These reforms began in 1990’s in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan’s perestroika-era liberal legislation has been strengthened after 1995; it looks very similar to Uzbekistan issue, happened in 1998. Christian communities in both states have had a difficult time being registered with the judiciary. Religious education is subjected to severe restrictions; with his rigorously regulated practice, it is more disseminated at home, as it was during the Soviet era. Moreover, there is no religious literature. In Turkmenistan, some Orthodox churches have stores that sell mostly icons and ceremonial artefacts, while Bibles and other religious materials are difficult to come by. Foreign religious literature is usually seized by the police upon the arrival into the nation. Members of Christian communities have difficulties in leaving the nation to attend the meetings of their own movement. All contacts with other countries are further hampered by the systematic surveillance of all forms of speech and communication, such as the Internet. People of Turkmen or Uzbek origin who convert to Protestantism face, having immediate pressure from their surroundings and political officials in these two republics, in particular in the Uzbek regions of Karakalpakstan and Khorezm

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