Harsh controls on religion concern Turkmenistan’s believers.

By November 10, 2003

Turkmenistan (Forum 18/MNN)–Eight Members of the United States Helsinki Commission and 26 other Members of Congress have urged Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to designate Turkmenistan as a Country of Particular Concern for its record of human rights abuse toward religious freedom.

According to Forum 19 News, Turkmenistan plans to make its harsh state restrictions on religion even harsher.

Under a new draft religion law, penalties for breaking the law will lead to criminal, not administrative, punishments. The new law also reportedly requires religious groups to “coordinate” contacts with foreigners with the government, and to gain permission before receiving foreign support such as funding and religious literature.

Turkmenistan has the harshest state controls on religion in the former Soviet Union, but the Justice Minister claims harsher controls are necessary to address security concerns.

That is already a point of concern. Minority religious groups are unable to meet the nearly impossible registration requirements and the National Security Committee breaks up peaceful, unregistered religious meetings in private homes. Places of worship have already been demolished and police routinely break up religious meetings.

Believers have been beaten, threatened, fined, sacked from their jobs, imprisoned, had their homes confiscated, been sent to a remote area of the country, and deported from Turkmenistan.

Christians fear if this new draft goes into effect, it will have serious, long-reaching consequences for those involved with evangelistic outreach in the area.

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