KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 20 February 2001

I. KYRGYZSTAN: NEW LAW TO STEP UP CONTROL OVER
RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY? Unnerved by armed incursions by the terrorist
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and with the Taliban active on the
Afghan-Tajik border a mere 400 miles (640 kms) south-west of the capital
Bishkek, the Kyrgyz authorities are planning to introduce a tough new law
on religion as part of their armoury for dealing with the spread of radical
Islam to the republic. The text of the latest draft could, however, have
negative repercussions for all religious organisations in Kyrgyzstan.

II. KYRGYZSTAN: RESTRICTIVE PROVISIONS IN NEW RELIGION
BILL. The current draft of the proposed religion bill under consideration in
Kyrgyzstan includes a number of highly restrictive provisions that violate
the country's international human rights commitments, including compulsory
registration of religious bodies, prohibition of unregistered religious activity,
lack of an alternative to military service, and tight control over religious
activity deemed destructive and that having links abroad.

I. KYRGYZSTAN: NEW LAW TO STEP UP CONTROL OVER
RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY?

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

Unnerved by armed incursions by the terrorist Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan during the past two autumns, and with the Taliban active on the
Afghan-Tajik border a mere 400 miles (640 kms) south-west of the capital
Bishkek, the Kyrgyz authorities are planning to introduce a tough new law
on religion as part of their armoury for dealing with the spread of radical
Islam to the republic. The text of the latest draft obtained by Keston News
Service, however, could have negative repercussions for all religious
organisations in Kyrgyzstan (see separate KNS article).

Contacted by Keston in recent weeks, Baptist, Adventist, Pentecostal,
Catholic and Orthodox representatives in Bishkek claimed to be unfamiliar
with the text of the bill. On 12 February Genrikh Fot of Ray of Hope
charitable Baptist mission in Bishkek told Keston that the Baptists had not
taken part in its preparation and were happy with the current law of 1991.
Speaking to Keston in Almaty on 8 February, Pentecostal Bishop of
Kyrgyzstan Vladimir Mandych also said he was happy with the current law
and was concerned that the new law was being drawn up `quietly, away from
us'.

In Mandych's view, one of the aims of the authorities was to create two state
religions - Islam and Orthodoxy. Secretary in Kyrgyzstan to Orthodox
Bishop Vladimir (Ikim) of Tashkent and Central Asia, Father Valentin
Prikhodko told Keston on 13 February that the Orthodox did not have any
special rights, and even if they and the Muslims were treated with deference
`the others aren't getting any less - in fact, they're growing faster than us.'
However, head of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan,
Kimsanbai Adzhi Abdrakmanov, appeared to be more in favour of
protectionist measures when Keston spoke to him on 13 February: `The law
needs to be changed so that pseudoreligions don't disturb right-believing
people.'

It is unclear how extensively the proposed law would be implemented. A
1996 presidential decree already requires the registration of foreign religious
workers - and by October 1999, according to state figures, 20 foreign
missions and 603 foreign citizens had been registered. Although they are
required to register, according to the US Department of State's Report on
International Religious Freedom for 2000, a variety of missionaries and
missionary groups `operate freely' in Kyrgyzstan: on 12 February the human
dimension officer of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe centre in Bishkek, Marie-Carin von Gumppenberg, confirmed to
Keston that this was the case.

According to Bishop Mandych, compulsory registration for all would be
used `to filter out Moonies, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, satanists, New
Age: we agree with that strictness but not if it restricts our rights.' Speaking
to Keston on 14 February, assistant chairwoman of the SCRA, Natalya
Shadrova, told Keston that the term `totalitarian destructive sects' was aimed
at groups such as Scientology and the Unification Church of Rev. Moon, and
would be given an official definition once the bill became law. The fact that
it appeared in the bill at all, claimed Shadrova, was due to her insistence: `I
don't want my New Apostolics, Catholics, Adventists and Baptists to suffer
because of it.' In her view, the bill would be ready for consideration by the
Zhogorku Kenesh (the Kyrgyz parliament) in March following a round table
discussion of religious leaders and specialists later in February. (END)


II. KYRGYZSTAN: RESTRICTIVE PROVISIONS IN NEW RELIGION
BILL

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The current draft of the proposed religion bill under consideration in
Kyrgyzstan - of which Keston News Service has received a copy - includes a
number of highly restrictive provisions that violate the country's
international human rights commitments, including those spelled out in the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the human
dimension commitments of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe. While Muslim and Orthodox leaders speak up for more
`protectionist' measures against faster-growing minority faiths, leaders of
these groups told Keston that they are happy with the current law, which
dates back to 1991 (see separate KNS article).

Registration is compulsory under the proposed law: first with the State
Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA), and subsequently, if a religious
organisation desires legal personality status, with the Ministry of Justice.
Unregistered religious activity is explicitly banned, as is `propaganda
encouraging people to join unregistered religious organisations, as well as
the teaching of their beliefs: in public places, flats, the private homes of
citizens or on the streets.'

Two forms of religious activity come in for special control � that which is
deemed destructive and that which has links abroad.

Under Article 3 Part 8, `the propaganda and dissemination of religious trends
of an extremist character and of totalitarian destructive sects which could
harm the basis of constitutional order, the morals, health, rights and legal
interests of the person or citizen, the defence capability of the country or the
national security of the state is prohibited in the Kyrgyz Republic.' Under
Article 5 Part 6, `the teaching of religious doctrines leading to the violation
of national unity, to the development of religious fanaticism and extremism,
either in a private or state capacity, is not permitted.'

The terms `totalitarian destructive sects' and `religious fanaticism and
extremism' are nowhere defined in the draft. Conscientious objection,
however, is clearly deemed a threat to state security - perhaps in view of the
fact that the population is a mere 4.5 million (of whom almost half are
younger than 15). According to Article 3 Part 5, `citizens of the Kyrgyz
Republic are not exempt from military service on account of their
convictions or religious beliefs.' Only clergy are permitted to take up
alternative service.

There are numerous restrictions on foreign religious organisations. Foreign
citizens conducting religious activity in the Kyrgyz republic must register
with the SCRA and have an invitation from a religious organisation within
the country. The activity of organisations propounding religious beliefs
`heretofore unpractised in the Kyrgyz Republic is permitted in accordance
with the law: as long as it bears no relation to totalitarian destructive sects or
other religious sects of an extremist character'. Foreign citizens whose
reason for being in Kyrgyzstan is not religious are prohibited from
conducting religious activity, while those without Kyrgyz citizenship `may
not head or lead religious organisations'.

The permission of the SCRA must be sought before a religious organisation
can import religious literature, audio or video material, organise international
religious forums or forge any kind of international contact, including travel
abroad on pilgrimages. Permission from the Ministry of National Security
must additionally be sought before a religious organisation can invite a
foreign citizen to engage in religious activity. In addition to these two state
bodies, the permission of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture
must be obtained before a religious organisation can either send citizens
abroad or receive foreign citizens for study purposes. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.