Jehovah’s Witnesses banned in Tajikistan


For Immediate Release
October 24, 2007
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Jehovah’s Witnesses banned in Tajikistan

TAJIKISTAN — On October 11, 2007, the Assembly of the Council Commission of the Ministry of Culture issued a decision to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Tajikistan. The 600 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country view this action as discriminatory in nature, since no other faiths have faced such a ban. Citing reasons for the ban, an official from the Ministry of Culture stated that the authorities’ main complaint was that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse military service. He added that they also propagate their faith in public places, which, he said, directly violates the law. Saidbek Mahmudolloev, the head of the Information Department at the Culture Ministry’s Religious Affairs Department, stated that “there is no alternative service in Tajikistan yet, so everyone ought to obey Tajik laws.”

This decision comes quite unexpectedly, since Jehovah’s Witnesses have enjoyed legal recognition in the country since 1994. “For the past 14-year period, the Religious Affairs Committee and the authorities in Tajikistan have usually been cooperative in trying to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions,” notes V. Adyrchayev, Chairman of the Religious Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses of the City of Dushanbe. He added that “even under the Soviet Union, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tajikistan were treated with tolerance and understanding.”

The Witnesses consider the ban as a violation of the constitutional rights of religious believers as well as of the State’s obligations to its international agreements. Another representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses stated: “Our people will be watching to see how aggressively the authorities try to impose this ban. We don’t know if the security police will begin to break up meetings. But the Constitution guarantees the freedom to meet with others and to share your views.” Plans for appealing the decision are already being pursued. In a letter to Mr. E. Rahmon, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Jehovah’s Witnesses expressed the hope that he “objectively and justly consider the question of the lawfulness of the decision to ban the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses” and requested that he reverse the decision of the Ministry of Culture.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was legally recognized by many post-Soviet republics. Since that time, however, this is the first Soviet republic to ban the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Contacts: Gregory Olds, telephone: +1-646-269-3464
J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600

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