TURKMENISTAN: Conscripted Baptist Refuses to Take Military Oath.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 4 July 2001

A young Baptist from the Turkmen capital Ashgabad forcibly drafted into the armed forces in May against his will has refused to take the military oath, Keston News Service has learnt. At a ceremony at his military unit in the town of Serdar (formerly Kyzyl-Arvat) on 1 July, Dmitri Melnichenko was called last of all the conscripts and, while senior officers and the deputy political officer of the unit looked on, repeated his earlier refusal to swear the compulsory oath. It is not clear what will happen to him now.

`They ordered him to pick up the folder with the oath,' reported a 3 July statement from local Baptists passed on to Keston by the German-based Friedensstimme Mission. `He opened it and cited a verse from the Holy Scriptures, Matthew 5.34: "And I say to you, do not swear at all..." After this the officers demanded that he at least sign as having taken the oath. Dmitri refused. Then they asked him to sign that he was refusing to take the oath. He also refused. The officers drew up an official document about his refusal and signed it.'

The Baptists report that Melnichenko has several times appealed to the unit commander, Colonel Murat Khusainov, to allow him to be given medical treatment for the after-effects of severe beatings he received after being forcibly conscripted (see KNS 7 June 2001). The beatings have affected his hearing and left him with head aches. He has had no response to his appeals.

Although Keston has not been able to verify the latest report on Melnichenko independently, information from sources within the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists - to which Melnichenko's home congregation in Ashgabad belongs - has a long track record of reliability. (END)