Tajikistan (MNN) — Tajikistan has added new punishments for non-Islamic religious activity. According to Forum 18 News Service, Tajikistan has tightened its religious restrictions and given power to the State Committee for Religious Affairs to oversee punishments. Forum 18 says these new restrictions are "part of a steady tightening of state controls over all religious activity."
Under the newly-added penalties, people can be fined for sending Tajik citizens abroad for religious education, preaching or teaching religious doctrines in their homes, and establishing ties with religious organizations overseas. Religious organizations can be penalized for carrying out any religious activity not specifically spelled-out in their statutes.
"The Religion Law and the administrative penalties totally violate believers' rights," members of one religious community told Forum 18.
Another alteration is the ability for Tajikistan's State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA) to directly administer punishments to religious groups without investigation by police or prosecutors. One independent legal expert said courts should administer punishment for legal violations, not the state.
"[In 2011], after the new provisions to the Religion Law were added, the authorities did not particularly punish religious communities," said the anonymous members. Now they're afraid that with the introduction of these new penalties, authorities will start cracking down on them.
Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda of the officially registered Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) told Forum 18 that new penalties and changes in the Religion Law were "made to limit as much as possible the religious believers from exercising their religious freedoms."
Tajikistan is #34 on the Open Doors World Watch List. These new fines could become a substantial financial burden, especially for believers without work or those living in poorer areas. Pray for Tajik believers facing persecution.