Kyrgyz leaders allow religious persecution

By June 11, 2008

(MNN) — The Kyrgyz government has allowed a Muslim mob to prevent a Baptist
family from burying their son near home, threatening religious freedom in Kyrgyzstan,
reports the Slavic Gospel Association

The 14-year-old son of Alymek Isakov died of heart failure
in the village of Kulanak in Kyrgyzstan's central Naryn Region. 

In 2006, the district authorities had officially allocated a
plot of land in the village as a graveyard for the Baptist church. However, when 20 other Baptists joined the
Isakov family to bury their son on this land, a mob of 30 drunken Muslim
villagers–led by the local imam and armed with spades and farm implements–prevented them. 

The mob would not allow the Baptists to conduct a funeral in
the village unless it was led by the local imam and followed traditional Muslim
burial rites, reports Forum 18, an organization committed to defending freedom
of conscience. 

That very day, the Baptists asked for assistance from
Ishenbek Medetov, the head of Naryn region's Akimat (Administration). 

"Medetov reprimanded the believers, saying that they
should have thought about the consequences before accepting another
faith," reported one Baptist, who wished to remain anonymous for security

Medetov then ordered three law enforcement officials to meet
with the group of Muslims and find a solution. The Muslims refused to allow a Christian burial in the village, and the
officials did not attempt to enforce law and order.

The Baptists then appealed to Omurbek Subanaliev, the Head
of Executive Authority of Naryn Region. He did not want to speak to the Baptists, and they had to wait several
hours to catch him as he left the building. Subanaliev insisted that "he could not in such a way restrict the
rights of the villagers," Forum 18 was told. "If any violence takes
place in the village over the issue, the Baptists are to blame."

Medetov and other officials then pressured the Isakovs to
renounce their faith or give up the body of their son, which they refused. A mob gathered around their home, where
friends and relatives had gathered to comfort the family. One member of the mob, Kylych Tostokov, was
hitting the believers and the father.  

Police then arrived at the house, but instead of defending
the family from the mob, they forcibly removed the boy's body and buried him 40
kilometers away in Akkiya, on abandoned land set aside to bury

The Isakovs learned this and traveled to Akkiya with their
supporters, where they found the boy buried "in a disrespectful manner." They dug up his body and gave him a proper

Since then, the village has cut off the Isakovs' supply of
water to irrigate their crops, and other children have beaten their children at
school. The Isakovs believe they are
being pressured to leave the village. 

Kyrgyz believers fear that the situation may provoke more
legal restrictions on their freedom.  They
hope "to start a legal investigation of the case to punish the
perpetrators" and set a precedent, an anonymous believer reported. Religious persecution has been growing more
severe in Kyrgyzstan
over the last couple of years, but this is probably the first time the issue
has been so publicly discussed.

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