The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Nazila Ghanea, completed her first official country visit last week, to Tajikistan. This visit comes nearly two years after her predecessor canceled a planned trip to the country after the government failed to extend an official invitation. Ghanea’s visit is a fresh opportunity for Tajikistan to address its many shortcomings on protecting the fundamental right of freedom of religion or belief.
Since 2012, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate Tajikistan as a “Country of Particular Concern” or CPC, for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. The State Department has designated it as a CPC since 2016, most recently in November 2022.
In 2009, religious freedom in Tajikistan declined sharply after the government’s adoption of several highly restrictive laws. Religious groups suddenly had to undergo a more burdensome and intrusive registration process that, if denied, rendered their religious activities illegal and meant great personal risk of fines or even prison. Even more shocking for families was a ban on children participating in any organized religious activities such as prayers or education.
Today, the government continues to control and surveil all religious activity, including publishing or selling religious literature, wearing religious clothing, and other outward expressions of devotion. It also represses religious freedom in the guise of “extremism” charges leveled at individuals for the nonviolent practice of their faith. For example, last July Imam Muzaffar Davlatmirov was detained, hastily charged, and then convicted in a secret trial for “public calls for extremist activity” after he held funeral prayers for protesters killed by the government. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Similarly, authorities have imprisoned Jehovah’s Witness Shamil Khakimov since 2019 on spurious charges of “inciting religious hatred.”
Source : The Diplomat