FCO Human Rights Report 2019
Uzbekistan allowed the practice of all major religions, which are protected by law. 2019 did not see the raids and arrests reported in 2018, but there were an increasing number of instances of anti-religious rhetoric, focused particularly on Islamic practise. Some men had their beards forcibly shaved, and some women were removed from higher education classes and told to remove their headscarves. Anecdotal reports also indicated that unofficial pressure was being placed on Imams about the content of their sermons.
APPG Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief 2019
Uzbekistan has over 32 million people, with over 80 per cent being ethnic Uzbeks (seen as having a Sunni Muslim background). Other ethnic groups, except Slavs, are also seen as mainly having a Sunni Muslim background.
Systemic violations of many human rights continue to take place. Despite regime promises, there has not been systemic protection of freedom of religion and belief for all and other human rights.
Some improvements include, in 2018, freeing some but not all Muslims jailed for exercising freedom of religion and belief, and not imposing long jail terms on three Muslims found with Islamic texts on mobile phones.
All exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission remains illegal, and all sharing of any beliefs is banned. In May 2018, the regime added new restrictive requirements for religious seeking state permission and refused to explain why, instead of abolishing restrictions, the regime has increased them.
In 2019 there has been less targeting of smaller vulnerable communities, but Muslims continue to be routinely targeted. A 33-year-old Tashkent Imam, Fazliddin Parpiyev, had to flee Uzbekistan in December 2018, two months after he appealed to President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about violations of freedom of religion or belief for the country’s Muslims. The Religious Affairs Committee, SSS secret police, ordinary police, Prosecutor’s Office and Muftiate officials immediately pressured and threatened him and his father after he issued a 7 September video appeal to President Mirziyoyev “[because] Muslims still suffer injustice and cannot have full freedom of religion and belief”. The same day, eight Religious Affairs Committee and SSS secret police officials visited him. Imam Parpiyev repeated his appeal at Friday prayers in his Tashkent mosque, and that evening he was visited and threatened by Religious Affairs Committee officials. The next day he was questioned, fired from his post and his father was forced to record a video appeal against his son. After more threats and a state-run TV programme attacking him, “I had to leave the country because I was afraid for my safety” he told Forum 18.
“Muslims on black lists … are periodically summoned to police stations and mahalla [district administration] committees for talks and warnings”, one human rights defender told Forum 18. One source used to identify Muslims for surveillance and warnings has been state-run competitions to find Koran Hafizes, people who have memorised the Koran. The SSS secret police then questioned
winners. Imams have also told Forum 18 that some of the competition winners were fined recently but declined to give details for fear of state reprisals. Human rights defenders, who asked not to be named for similar reasons, have told Forum 18 that the regime in August 2018 began rotating Imams, to break their influence over their mosque communities.
Torture continues to be frequent with impunity for torturers including those officials who on 17 April 2019 tortured Muslim prisoner of conscience Khayrullo Tursunov for six hours in the Labour Camp in which he is detained.
In the UK Parliament, 2020
No questions asked.
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