TURKMENISTAN: Protestants Beaten, Flats Confiscated.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 19 March 2001

At least six Protestant Christians have been summoned and beaten by Turkmenistan’s political police, the KNB (former KGB), in several towns and villages in the north of the country in the past six months, at least three of them since the beginning of the year, Keston News Service has learned. Sources who preferred to remain anonymous declined to allow publication of the dates and locations of the incidents, or of the denominational affiliation of the Protestants involved, for fear of further repressive measures against them.

The sources also reported that flats belonging to two Protestant families in the same area, believed by the authorities to have been used for religious activity, have been confiscated in the past months. Since the seizure of their homes, the two families are reported to have fled Turkmenistan illegally to escape further harassment. Again, sources declined to allow publication of the names of the families, their denomination or where they lived.

Raids, detentions and beatings by the KNB on minority religious communities are frequent in Turkmenistan and are believed to be increasing as the government steps up its policy of eradicating all religious activity by non-Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox groups. Particularly singled out for maltreatment have been Baptist and Pentecostal Christians, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees. Two churches in the capital Ashgabad – the Pentecostal and Baptist churches – have been confiscated in recent months. Among other religious communities whose activity is deemed to be illegal are the Jews, Armenian Apostolic Christians, Lutherans and Bahais, as well as Muslims outside the framework of the officially-sanctioned Muslim Board. (END)