Treatment of Christians by Moslems or by Islamic groups such as ORION or Hizb-Ut-Tahrir [KGT38708.E]

The CIA World Factbook lists Kyrgyzstan's population as 75 per cent Muslim, 20 per cent Russian Orthodox and five per cent "other" (2001). According to the Head of the Commission for Religious Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, Omurzak Mamayusupov, "religion is an extremely delicate issue, and legal issues that have not been thought through could lead to bloodshed" (Keston News Agency 9 Nov. 2001). Legally,

a 1996 presidential decree [required] "missions of foreign religious organisations" to register [with the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA)]. Missionary or other activity of a religious nature on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic without proper registration," states the decree, "is prohibited" (ibid. 23 Feb. 2001).

A new decree, issued on 14 January 2002, had as its goal to stop "the subversive, ideological and propaganda work of various extremist religious centres and the activisation of their informational influence" (ibid. 8 Feb. 2002). Although "primarily aimed against religious extremists... preaching would be allowed only in religious establishments, and visiting foreign missionaries would have to go through a religious registration process" (ibid.). Valeri Uleyev, "head of the Jalal-abad human rights organisation Justice," believes that "no doubt that in time we will feel the impact of this decree, and that the controls over believers will tighten" (ibid.).

The 2001 Department of State Country Reports state that there "was anecdotal evidence of periodic tension between followers of conservative Islam and foreign missionaries in rural areas. Converts from Islam at times faced discrimination" (2002). Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted that "open hostility is displayed only towards Muslims who convert to Christianity while Christians of Slav extraction enjoy relative tolerance" (21 Nov. 2001). Keston News Service noted that there were a number of cases where "converts from a Muslim background have faced heavy social pressure to renounce their new faith" (9 Nov. 2001). Reportedly, the Islamic clergy is supporting such pressure on converts to Christianity (ibid.; Nezavisimaya Gazeta 21 Nov. 2001). Interfax reported on 29 October 2001 that "many [Protestant converts] do not want to disclose their religion to others" because of discrimination.

One exemplary case was that of the Protestant Church of Jesus congregation in Chon-Tash near Bishkek (Keston News Service 9 Nov. 2001). This group

complained that its new community in the village... [had] almost been destroyed under pressure from local people. ...[V]illagers had isolated church members and pressured then to return to Islam and that the village's council of elders had "banned" Christianity. ...When a group of Church of Jesus members arrived in Chon-Tash on 6 May 2000 to preach, the villagers severely beat them.... [Later, they were warned] that if they did not stop preaching they "would not escape the people's wrath" [and] the local people pelted them with stones and apples (ibid.).

The response of the local "chief specialist" was that "the Protestants must understand that Chon-Tash is a purely Kyrgyz village, where practically all the villagers are Muslims. It is far from simple to preach Christianity in a place like that. We cannot give police protection to every local Protestant" (ibid.; Nezavisimaya Gazeta 21 Nov. 2001). Even so, as CountryReports 2001 state, "[t]he incident was resolved peacefully by the Ministry of the Interior and the Security Service" (2002).

Other examples include similar pressures applied to Jehovah's Witnesses converts, and the case of Kuruk-Kul in the southern Jalalabad region where "ethnic Uzbeks tried to condemn [converts] under Shariah law" (Keston News Service 9 Nov. 2001). Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that "Kyrgyz members of a Christian community were, at the call of a mullah, beaten up in the village of Myrzak of Osh Province, people spat in their face, and it was demanded that they deny their faith, after which they were expelled from the village" (21 Nov. 2001). The Baptist World Alliance mentioned, without corroboration or examples, that "there is also widespread harassment of Christians in Kyrgyzstan and other areas" (BWA News June 2001). Keston reported one case of a Baptist male threatened with forcible incarceration in a psychiatric hospital for refusing to swear his military oath (13 Feb. 2002). In Naryn Oblast a Baptist church was "denied registration and harassed by police because it is ethnically Kyrgyz" (International Christian Concern 31 July 1999). In Kyzyl-Kiya of the Osh province several unregistered Baptist preachers were first "cautioned... officially about violating the laws of Kyrgyzstan" then deported from the country after they "ignored four cautionary notes" (Vecherniy Bishkek 10 June 1999).

According to an International Crisis Group (ICG) analytical report, Islamic "[r]eligious movements such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir... are attracting increasing numbers of members, particularly in southern Kyrgyzstan" (28 Aug. 2001, 3). Hizb-ut-Tahrir "advocates establishing an Islamic system by peaceful means, has never participated in guerrilla activity or kidnappings, or set up armed training camps" (World Policy Journal Spring 2001, 55). ICG research found that a

number of individuals interviewed by the ICG concurred that one of the principle attractions of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir is that it ostensibly rejects violence. This is especially true in Osh and other parts of the Ferghana Valley, which have suffered from interethnic violence in the past. ...[M]embers appear willing to stick to more intensively distributing pamphlets, propagating their ideas and recruiting new members (30 Jan. 2002).

In Kyrgyzstan,

Despite its utopian character and closed structure, the group enjoys considerable support among Uzbeks in Jalal-Abad and Osh provinces. The party is also recruiting members in the Chüy Valley and in Bishkek in northern Kyrgyzstan. ...Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested for distributing leaflets, and nearly all... have been Uzbeks (ibid. 28 August 2001, 18).

The Research Directorate was unable to determine from available sources if Hizb-ut-Tahrir was involved in the harassment of Christian Kyrgyz. For a recent background paper focused on Hizb-ut-Tahrir, please see the excerpted sections of the Central Asia Briefing report by the ICG entitled "The IMU and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir: Implications of the Afghanistan Campaign" attached to this Response.

Of other fundamentalist Islamic groups in Kyrgyzstan, the Head of the Department of Islamic Studies for the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan notes "Akramiyyah... [whose] members call themselves lymonchilar, while it is known among other believers as Akramiyya of Khalifatchilar" (Babadzhanov 2000). However, the Research Directorate was unable to find reports of a Muslim group called ORION active in Kyrgyzstan among sources consulted.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


International Crisis Group (ICG). 30 January 2002. "The IMU and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir: Implications of the Afghanistan Campaign," 6-14. In Central Asia Briefing. [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]


Babadzhanov, Bakhtiyar. 2000. "The Ferghana Valley: Source or Victim of Islamic Fundamentalism." In Lena Jonson and Murad Esenov. Political Islam and Conflicts in Russia and Central Asia. Central Asia and the Caucasus Information and Analytical Center (Sweden). [Accessed 5 Mar. 2002]

BWA News. June 2001. "Turkmenistan Update." [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

CIA World Factbook. 2001. "Kyrgyzstan." http://www.cioa/gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/kg.html [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2001. 2002. United States Department of State, Washington DC." [Accessed 5 Mar. 2002]

Interfax News Agency. 29 October 2001. "Protestants in Kyrgyzstan Form Alliance to Protect Interests." (NEXIS)

International Christian Concern. 31 July 1999. "Asia: Kyrgyzstan." [Accessed 5 Mar. 2002]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 30 January 2002. "The IMU and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir: Implications of the Afghanistan Campaign," 6-14. In Central Asia Briefing. [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

_____. 28 August 2001. No. 22. "Kyrgyzstan at Ten: Trouble in the 'Island of Democracy.'" In ICG Asia Report No. 22. [Accessed 4 Mar.2002]

Keston News Service. 13 February 2002. Igor Rotar. "Kyrgyzstan: Baptist Conscientious Objector Threatened with Psychiatric Treatment?" [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

_____. 8 February 2002. Igor Rotar. "Kyrgyzstan: New Decree Set to Tighten Religious Controls." [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

_____. 9 November 2001. Igor Rotar. "Kyrgyzstan: Protestant Converts Pressured to Renounce New Faith." [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

_____. 23 February 2001. Geraldine Fagan. "Kyrgyzstan: Deadlock Over Registration of Catholic Parish." [Accessed 4 Mar. 2002]

Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow, in Russian]. 21 November 2001. "Christians Persecuted in Central Asia, Religious War Probable -Russian Paper." (BBC Monitoring 24 Nov. 2001/NEXIS)

Vecherniy Bishkek [Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in Russian]. 10 June 1999. "Baptist Preachers Deported from Southern Kyrgyzstan." (BBC Monitoring 13 June 1999/NEXIS)

World Policy Journal. Spring 2001. Vol. 18, No. 1. Ahmed Rashid. "The Fires of Faith in Central Asia," 45-55.

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites consulted

Central Asia Survey

Central Asian Monitor

Far Eastern Economic Review

Jamestown Foundation Monitor

Jamestown Monitor Prism

Johnson's Russia List

Kyrgyzstan Daily Digest

Omri Archive

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

Transitions Online

Turkistan Newsletter

Uzbekistan Daily Digest

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