KYRGYZSTAN: Police Illegally Harass Bahais.

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 16 August 2001

The chairman of the Bahai religious assembly in the town of Tash-Kumyr in Kyrgyzstan is facing demands from the town's Department of Internal Affairs (police) that he provide a list of all the community's members indicating their surnames, home addresses and places of work. Lyutfulo Sobirov told Keston on 14 August that the police were requiring that Bahai services should take place only in the presence of a law-enforcement officer. Sobirov has also been told to inform the police about the arrival of guests in the Bahai congregation. Sobirov claims that such actions by the police intimidate the Bahais, many of whom fear that after they have been registered with the police they will lose their jobs. Sobirov said that only a month ago the members regularly put on performances preaching the Bahai faith on the streets of the town, but that now they were afraid to do this as they feared they would be identified by the police. The Bahai religious assembly in Tash-Kumyr was registered on 21 April 2000. Kyrgyzstan's law on religions does not provide for the registration of members of religious communities by the police nor for the compulsory presence of police officers at services.

The town of Tash-Kumyr is in Jalal-abad region (southern Kyrgyzstan), 120 km north-west of the regional capital Jalal-abad. The town has about 40,000 inhabitants and the Bahai congregation numbers about thirty.

The deputy police chief of Tash-Kumyr, Ulugbek Sultanalayev, told Keston on 15 August that the registration of members was being carried out for their own safety. 'In southern Kyrgyzstan the Wahhabis [in the Central Asian republics this term has become a label for Islamic extremists – Ed.] are very active, and we are afraid that Muslim fanatics may take action against the Bahais' Sultanalayev told Keston. The deputy police chief also told Keston that the presence of police officers was not compulsory at all services, but police officers had to be admitted to at least a few services in order to make sure that the Bahais were 'not trying to act against the constitutional order of Kyrgyzstan under the guise of religious activity'. When Keston pointed out that the police actions were in violation of Kyrgyzstan's law on religion, Sultanalayev replied that 'the Bahais could write a complaint to the prosecutor's office'. Sobirov considers that the members of the Bahai assembly do not in reality require police protection and that the police actions are merely intended to make them nervous. (END)