State action against Jehovah’s Witnesses threatens religious freedom for all in Tajikistan
KHUJAND, Tajikistan—On the morning of June 8, 2009, Zafar Rakhimov, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, received a summons to appear at the office of the Sughd District Committee for National Security (CNS) at 1 p.m. that same day. At the CNS office, Zafar was immediately insulted by the officer in charge, who began accusing him and his family of religious extremism and of inciting interdenominational conflict. The interrogation quickly deteriorated when Zafar refused to write a statement. Enraged at the refusal, a second officer began punching him in the head and stomach, threatening that he would not be allowed to live in Khujand or that he would be imprisoned.
Four days earlier, on June 4, a small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses met together in the home belonging to one of them and were discussing Bible subjects. A knock on the door startled the peaceful group. Eleven local officials forced their way into the apartment and began filming those inside. Several in the group of Witnesses were taken to CNS headquarters, where they were questioned for the next six hours. One woman in the group who was registered as a disabled person because of a recent head injury was threatened that if she did not answer their questions, she would be beaten and confined for ten days. She was released nine hours later only because the threats and abuse began to have a noticeable effect on her health.
Incidents like these threaten the fundamental human right of religious freedom for all Tajik people, making it increasingly difficult for citizens to practice their faith without the fear of government surveillance or intrusion. Jehovah’s Witnesses are known in over 235 lands as Christians whose activity contributes to family peace and the well-being of the communities where they live. Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoyed legal recognition within Tajikistan for 14 years, before October 2007. Since that date, their literature has been confiscated and public meetings for worship have been outlawed.
Plans are being made to contact Tajikistan’s ambassadors to the United States and Belgium to express Witnesses’ great concern over these alarming state actions and to help these officials understand the positive contribution that Jehovah’s Witnesses make to Tajik society through their high morals and peaceful, law-abiding way of life.
U. S. Contact: Gregory Olds, telephone: (845)-306-0711
Belgium contact: Luca Toffoli, telephone: +32-2 782-00-15