By Guest Nicole
Religion has always been a feature of schooling in England. The Education Act of 1944 made the study of Religion the only compulsory subject in school and it was to be accompanied by a “daily act of worshipÂ” for all pupils. Back then religion was largely synonymous with Christianity.
But a recent survey from the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education shows there appears to be aÂ growing problemÂ with parents taking their children out of school RE lessons. The findings show that parents are withdrawing children from lessons on Islam, or visits to the Mosque, calling into question their preparation for life in modern Britain.
RecentlyÂ published researchÂ suggests that Â“withdrawalÂ” has been requested in almost three quarters of schools. More than 10% of those withdrawing are open about the fact that they are doing so for racist or Islamophobic reasons.
In 2017, the RE Council set up an independent commission to review RE. ThisÂ Commission on REÂ has heard much anecdotal evidence of Islamophobically-inspired withdrawal. Teachers up and down the country have stories of parents not wishing their children to learn about Â“that terrorist religionÂ”. This conflicts with the duty of schools to promote Â“British ValuesÂ” of tolerance and respect and to challenge extremism.
Recently, the teaching union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturer, passed a motion condemning Â“racistÂ” parents who pull their children out of RE lessons. The union has urged the government to putÂ a stop to it.
The law on withdrawal
Parents are able to pull their children out of RE lessons by drawing on theÂ 1996 Education Act, which states that a parent can request that for their child to be wholly or partly excused from religious education and religious worship in the school.
A voluntary Â“conscience clauseÂ” existed in some church schools since the 1820s and became part of the 1870 and 1944 education acts. Put simply, if the only school in the village was a Roman Catholic school, and Anglican and nonconformist parents did not want their children indoctrinated into Catholicism (and vice-versa) they could be excused from the religious instruction offered there. They could then provide their own denominationally suitable religious instruction either at school or elsewhere.
Some parents didnÂ’t want their children to visit a mosque.Â Shutterstock For decades this clause appeared to cause few problems. IndeedÂ research I carried outÂ suggests that there was little to be worried about. In a handful of schools, occasional families with a particular background Â– often JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Â– would not take part in assemblies or RE lessons and would instead, work quietly on their own materials. But it seems now, times are changing.
Read more:Â http://theconversation.com/parents-are-pulling-children-from-re-lessons-so-they-dont-learn-about-islam-95235
Portuguese parliament petitioned to extinguish the legal entity that represents Jehovah's Witnesses due to their shunning practiceBy Bible Speaks
Based on legal arguments that revolve around violations of several articles of the Portuguese Constitution and the Religious Freedom Act, a petition has been launched to the Portuguese parliament to extinguish the legal entity that represents the Jehovah's Witnesses in Portugal and eliminate this community from the national registry of religions recognized and protected by law.
The petition does NOT seek to prohibit Jehovah's Witnesses as a whole in the country. The petition denounces the institutional policy of shunning former members as a violation of basic human rights and psychological torture, and asks lawmakers and Portuguese judicial authorities to take measures to stop this abuse and suspend legal recognition of the entity. the branch until the shunning policies are changed.
The petition is now gathering votes. 1000 votes assure that the author (s) of the petition will receive a hearing in parliament to present their case; 4000 votes ensure that the parliament will debate the petition during its session.
You can see the petition here: http://peticaopublica.com/mobile/pview.aspx?pi=ExtRegistoATJ
INTRODUCTION: The following was written in response to the accusation that Jehovah's Witnesses only hold their position of non-participation in political wars because they live in free and democratic countries that will respect that choice; the implication being that Jehovah's Witness do not practise their religion nor could they possibly maintain such a position in Islamic countries.
There are currently just over 8 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide and this includes in countries with a predominently (over 50%) Muslim population, for example there are currently 26,741 Jehovah's Witnesses in Indonesia which is 88% Muslim, 2829 in Turkey (99% Muslim), 1,263 Witnesses in Senegal which has a 94% Muslim population.
Are there any Jehovah's Witnesses in extremist Islamic states?
There are approximately dozen or so countries that claim the totality or near total of its citizens are Muslim (95-100%). There are for the most part absolute monarchies or totalitarian regimes that do not ascribe to the principal of freedom of worship. Noteworthy however is the fact that nearly all of them (with the possible exception of the Islands of the Maldives) have had a small Witness presence at some time during their modern day history (see fig 1). The 1974 yearbook of Jehovah's Witesses states the following, regarding the Arab-speaking countries "Here we find very small groups of JehovahÂ’s witnesses [...]. These are all preaching the Kingdom good news, but under very severe difficulties. Trying to present the message of GodÂ’s kingdom to Moslems is most difficult. Furthermore, conditions continue to be very tense in the Middle East" - yb74 page 21 para 2. For example the yearbook of 1975 gives the example of the North African country of Morocco with a 99% Muslim population that "the work in Morocco continues in its second year under ban, but the brothers are very strong spiritually. It was necessary for quite a few Europeans to move out, so there was a decrease of about twenty publishers during the year." - yb 1975 p.8 par 5.
Why are there no current figures for extremist or totalitarian Islamic States?Â
Many of the countries now viewed as estremist Islamic republics were, during some period in their recent history, relatively liberal. The women in Iran for example in the 1970s were free to dress as the liked and the countries accepted Christian missionaries. In such climates the Jehovah's Witnesses religion generally discretely introduced to the areas. With war, politcal upheaval or a change in religious climate in most of the arab world, things changed, missionaries were forced to leave many of the countries and no figures have been published since (for the most part) the early to mid 1970s. This however does NOT mean there are is no longer a Witness presence in the country.Â
Out of sight but still active
History testifies that even if literature and foreign missionaries are banned interested native residents once contacted (either from letters or calls from overseas relatives or another means) generally continue to make progress and in turn preach to family, friends and discreetly to acqaintences and colleagues. The JWs numbers have historically continued to grow even under total ban or blanket oppression. For example the 1992 yearbook, report of the activity in Yemen: "field service and meeting reports are sketchy, but meetings continue to be held. A sister from another country, though separated from the other publishers, conducts several Bible studies. Thus, in fulfillment of Matthew 24:14, even in this country some witness is being given." of Qatar, the 1971 yearbook (p. 194) explains "The one brother in Qatar has carried on by himself during the year preaching the Kingdom good news to those who will listen. In this Moslem land the preaching of Christianity is not looked upon kindly, and the brother is not able to work openly from house to house. But through personal contacts he is able to spread the truth and place some literature, thus opening the way for further calls."Â
The Jehovah's Witness leadership often continue to receive reports from these regions and support these ones as best they can but the Watchtower Society will not publish specific figures or inform their members of what measures are taken to help their brethren under ban. These figures,if available would come under the heading "other countries" in their public reports. According to the 2017 Report there are 31 Other lands where the witnesses are active but their work is restricted (R) or banned. The number of Witnesses in these lands totals 41,775. (see post above)
LEGAL BATTLES IN ISLAMIC STATES
It should be noted that the majority of countries in the above catagory do not guarantee freedom of religion and/or are failed States, in States that are more politically stable or Islamic States that are democratic in nature such as Turkey, Pakistan and Senegal the Witnesses numbers are higher despite the country being almost exclusively Muslim. That said in a number of these countries (such as Egypt, Eritrea, and countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union such as Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and most famously Russia) the Witnesses have still faced imprisonment and restrictions and/or are presently engaged in legal battles to protect the rights of their membership (links provided). The relevance of this is that these legal battles themselves constitute proof that the Jehovah's Witnesses continue to practise their faith in these predominently Muslim countries. The 1980 report on Syria well illustrates the situation in all these countries, stating: "What the political and social future of this troubled land will be is uncertain. But it is certain that Jehovah will continue to accomplish the preaching of the good news in Lebanon and Syria until the Â“great tribulationÂ” ushers in his peaceful new system of things. The brothers in these countries pray that Jehovah will continue to use them in that work until it is finished"
- yb 1980 p. 209 par 1
source: Legal developments (by region)
When a State completely fails or war threatens the lives of the population the Witnesses like others may have to flee for their lives or go into hiding; they carry their faith with them and will even in those extreme circumstances look for opportunities to share their hope even if physically isolated from their brotherhood. Jehovah's Witnesses remain politically neutral even during ethnic conflicts.
POLITICAL NEUTRALITY IN ISLAMIC STATES
Jehovah's Witnesses take a very firm stand against violence and do not engage in military service. This position is not exclusive to democratic countries or countries with a predominently Christian population. For example in the African country of Eritrea (50% Muslim) 55 of it's members are currently in prison (some in perpetuality for 24 years) a number of whom were arrested for their position as consciensous objectors. This is also the case in countries such as Kyrgyzstan (80% Muslim) and Turkmenistan (89% Muslim) all of which have failed to comply with the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The exitence of these prisoners prove that the Jehovah's Witness position is held in Christian and Muslim countries no matter what the personal cost may be.
ERITREA: Full list PDF download (scroll down)
CONCLUSION: The available data indicates that Jehovah's Witnesses practice their religion in both free and democratic countries as well as in countries which have a predominently Muslim population and which do not respect internationally recognized human rights. The facts testify that their position as regard to the refusal to engage in military service (as well as what they see as the divine instruction to meet together for prayer and fellowship and preach the bible) continues even if their literature is banned and they are driven underground. Their experiences under totalitarian regimes such as under Hilter or in Stalin's Russia, testifies that being cut off from the free world does not mean that, as a people compromise their position. The accusation that Jehovah's Witnesses should "Go to [an] Islam[ic]" country before they have the right to speak about neutrality, as if they are cowardly restrict their activities to where they know their rights will be respect, displays an ignorance of the facts.
By Guest Nicole
Lina Lashin, 16, Amal Qayum, 16, and Sara Lashin, 14, were among members of the Peace Mosque Islamic Community and Conference Centre who were on hand to great the public during the mosque's grand opening.
“Don't hear about us, hear from us.Â”
That was the message Kahled Gebril hoped to share on Saturday at the Peace Mosque Islamic Community and Conference Centre opened its doors to celebrate its grand opening.
Â“The message that we want to give is ... we can all live together stronger if we know each other,Â” the religious leader at the mosque said.
The congregation at the Calendonia Street mosque on Saturday hosted a public event as a way to introduce itself to the neighbourhood.
Invitations were sent to residents in the area as well as to various faith groups in Niagara.
Â“This is not just a place of prayer, rather it's a community centre and by community I mean the Niagara community and not just the Muslim community,Â” Gebril said. Â“This space is for everyone.Â”
The day-long open house included a fun fair, bazaar and barbecue.
Â“We wanted to have a carnival that was open to all the kids in the community,Â” said Lina Lashin, 17.
Â“Everyone is welcome here and we wanted to spread the word around, to say welcome to the community.Â”
Gebril said the open house was also an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions non-Muslims may have about Islam.
Â“What you hear in the media is not always a fair representation or a correct picture,Â” Gebril explained.
Â“What we want to tell people is that we're just like you...we're doctors and engineers and businessmen. We are all about peace.Â”
The congregation acquired the building in May after it outgrew its previous home on Stanley Avenue.
The new location, former home of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, will give members an opportunity to expand its services to include youth sports programs and a tutoring program for high school students.
The mosque plans to hold a food drive in the near future as well as offer a soup kitchen for those less fortunate.
Â“Our beliefs say that we're here to give. We're here to help,Â” Gebril added. Â“If we don't do this, then we haven't fulfilled our mission.Â”
'Religious Freedom in Russia is Dead': Jehovah's Witnesses Ban As Extremists Upheld in Russian Supreme Court of AppealsBy The Librarian
It is now possible JW's will appeal again to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, however, Vladimir Putin has already said Russia need not abide by external rulings of non-Russian courts.
Play-by-play details of the courtroom scene earlier today here:
By Guest Nicole
Emmanuel Thomas l Monday, May, 08, 2017 ASTANA, Kazakhstan – A 61 year old Jehovah’s Witness, Teymur Akhmedov has been sentensed to five year jail term in Kazakhstan for sharing his religious beliefs with others. He was sentenced May 2, 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. At the time he was sentenced.
via TheWorldNewsOrgWorld News
GENEVA (4 April 2017) – Moves by the Russian Government to ban the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses using a lawsuit brought under anti-extremism legislation have been condemned as “extremely worrying” by three United Nations human rights experts*.
“This lawsuit is a threat not only to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but to individual freedom in general in the Russian Federation,” the experts said.
“The use of counter-extremism legislation in this way to confine freedom of opinion, including religious belief, expression and association to that which is state-approved is unlawful and dangerous, and signals a dark future for all religious freedom in Russia,” they stressed.
The condemnation follows a lawsuit lodged at the country’s Supreme Court on 15 March to declare the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre ‘extremist’, to liquidate it, and to ban its activity.
A suspension order came into effect on that date, preventing the Administrative Centre and all its local religious centres from using state and municipal news media, and from organizing and conducting assemblies, rallies and other public events.
A full court hearing is scheduled for 5 April and if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the authorities, it will be the first such ruling by a court declaring a registered centralized religious organization to be ‘extremist’.
Concerns about the counter-extremism legislation have previously been raised in a communication by the three experts to the Russian authorities on 28 July 2016.
The Suspension Order imposed on 15 March is the latest in a series of judicial cases and orders, including a warning sent to the organization last year referring to the ‘inadmissibility of extremist activity’. This has already led to the dissolution of several local Jehovah’s Witness organizations, raids against their premises and literature being confiscated.
“We urge the authorities to drop the lawsuit in compliance with their obligations under international human rights law, and to revise the counter-extremism legislation and its implementation to avoid fundamental human rights abuses,” the UN experts concluded.
(*) The experts: Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya), Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page: Russian Federation
- See more at
“We Will Cease To Exist! Our Values! Our Identity! Will Be Taken Away By Islamization Of Our SocietyBy TheWorldNewsOrg
“We Will Cease To Exist! Our Values! Our Identity! Will Be Taken Away By Islamization Of Our Society
By Guest Nicole
La cantante y su esposo han seguido las tradiciones musulmanas
Estos actos supuestamente han desatado una guerra santa entre la familia de Wissam Al Mana y la familia de Janet Jackson, que son Testigos de Jehová.
El nacimiento del hijo de Janet Jackson es el nuevo suceso que parece confirmar que la cantante adoptó la religión musulmana, la que profesa su esposo, Wissam Al Mana.
Fuentes cercanas a su familia le revelaron a Radar Online, que los nuevos padres han realizado los rituales tradicionales que dicta la religión tras el nacimiento de un niño, desde que el pequeño nació el 3 de enero. Incluso asegura que Eissa, como lo llamaron, fue inmediatamente bautizado bajo el Islam.
“Tan pronto el niño nació, Wissam le susurró en el oído derecho la palabra `Adhan’, que le inculca al niño que Alá es el único Dios y Mahoma el único mensajero”, dijo la fuente, quien también aseguró que Wissam le pasó al bebé una fruta dulce por la lengua, una práctica que se realiza para que el recién nacido herede los buenos atributos de sus padres, especialmente del padre.
Como parte de las costumbres también se sacrificó un animal, que al dar su último respiro el padre susurró “Alá” en el oído del bebé.
“Nos dijeron que sacrificaron un cabro o una oveja, que es la tradición en cada nacimiento de un verdadero musulmán, cuando los padres quieren complacer y agradecer a Alá”, afirmó la fuente.
Estos actos supuestamente han desatado una guerra santa entre la familia de Wissam y la familia de Jackson, que son Testigos de Jehová.
Jackson, quien se casó con el multimillonario de Qatar en el 2012, desde hace unos años ha dado muestras de que estaba adoptando costumbres de la religión musulmana, pues en público había sido vista usando ropa femenina musulmana como las burkas, dejando atrás la ropa provocativa que la distinguió en su carrera. También había integrado frases musulmanas en sus canciones y presentaciones en vivo.
El nombre que le dieron al niño parece que fue lo que primero causó problemas entre las familia, pues los Jackson quería que Janet le pusiera el de su fenecido hermano Michael, sin embargo la fuente asegura que Wissam se opuso, ya que en la tradición musulmana es el padre quien elige el nombre y no permitiría que usara un nombre cristiano.
La familia de la artista sostiene que su esposo le ha lavado el cerebro.
By Guest Nicole
By Jon Steingart
Nov. 15 — Murphy Oil USA Inc. violated federal religious discrimination law when it fired a Jehovah’s Witness who refused to comply with a district manager’s command to wish customers a merry Christmas, a new lawsuit in Tennessee alleges ( Appleyard v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc. , W.D. Tenn., No. 1:16-cv-01290, complaint filed 11/10/16 ).
Many employers deal with religious diversity in their workforce and customer base. About 71 percent of the U.S. population identify as belonging to some form of Christianity, with the rest being of another religion or unaffiliated, government data show.
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas, plaintiff Richard Appleyard said in the complaint. Their faith also prohibits them from wishing others a merry Christmas.
“Civil rights laws require employers to provide religious accommodations for the religious practices of their workers and that includes accommodating religious objections to performing job duties,” Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 15.
Manager Belittled Worker’s Religion
A Murphy Oil district manager made disparaging remarks about Appleyard’s faith before the Christmas season, according to the complaint, filed Nov. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Appleyard said the company’s stated reason that it fired him from his position as a gas station cashier because his register was short was a pretext for religious discrimination.
Murphy Oil USA Inc. is a subsidiary of Murphy USA Inc. that operates gasoline stations. In 2013, Murphy USA was spun off from parent company Murphy Oil Corp., which is an oil and gas exploration and production company.
‘A Lot of Different Options.’
Accommodations may come in different forms, the head of another religious freedom organization told Bloomberg BNA. An employee who can’t perform a job duty because of a religious objection may be able to direct customers to a colleague, Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said Nov. 15. Liberty Counsel says it’s a Christian ministry whose purpose is to preserve religious liberty.
Asked whether there could be situations when sending customers to a co-worker might not be an feasible accommodation, Staver said it would only be a problem “if you only have one single source of information communicating to the public, maybe a single receptionist.” He added, “Even then it would seem as though a reasonable accommodation would be to allow the person to say season’s greetings.”
“It seems like there’s a lot of different options,” Staver said.
Michael Weinman of the Weinman Thomas Law Firm in Jackson, Tenn., who represented Appleyard, didn’t immediately respond to a Nov. 15 request for comment.
An attorney hasn’t entered an appearance for Murphy Oil USA. Parent company Murphy USA didn’t immediately respond to a Nov. 15 request for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino email@example.com; Terence Hyland at firstname.lastname@example.org
For More Information
The complaint is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Appleyard_et_al_v_Murphy_Oil_USA_Inc_Docket_No_116cv01290_WD_Tenn.
By Guest Nicole
Just teenagers at the time, all three are Jehovah's Witnesses, and they refuse to compromise their integrity.
On September 24, 1994, three young men, all teenagers, were rounded up and sent to a concentration camp. Their crime? They refused military service on the grounds of their strongly held religious convictions – an entitlement that ironically, one year later, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights reinforced as an acceptable concession that all world nations should adhere to.
Nevertheless, down to this very day, Paulos Eyassu, Negede Teklemariam and Isaac Mogos – all Jehovah’s Witnesses – remain jailed in the Sawa prison camp in the country of #Eritrea, eastern Africa. Without the benefit of any legal framework, the men were detained without cause, without due process and incredulously, have never been formally charged with any crime.
The prisoners have spent their youth behind bars.
The three detainees are all now in the 40s. They have given up the primes of their lives – the chance to wed and start a family – and their opportunity to worship their God shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers. They quietly remain steadfast in their determination to endure for what they know in their hearts is pleasing in God’s eyes.
“It is in Eritrea, more than anywhere else in the world, that Jehovah’s Witnesses experience the most intense persecution,” says a report on the Jehovah’s Witnesses web site, JW.org. The three men are among 55 other Jehovah’s Witnesses jailed in Eritrea for either conscientious objection to conscription military service or for their peaceful religious activity.
By this, all will know you are my disciples...
In a country like Eritrea – where a citizen and a solder and perceived as one and the same – Jehovah’s Witnesses stand out in stark contrast. They will endure prison camps, beatings and torture, but they will not join military ranks. They steadfastly believe in “beating their swords into plowshares” and not “learning war anymore,” says the book of Isaiah. Their international brotherhood practices love for one another. (John 13:34, 35) No Jehovah’s Witness would ever be found in a battlefield, looking across at a fellow Witness, waiting to kill one another or anyone else. Jesus said in the verse cited above that all would know who his disciples are, if they have "love among themselves." If only all major religions practiced what they preached.
US Department of State report.
According to a US Department of State commentary on religious freedoms in Eritrea, citizens there are generally “tolerant of those practicing other religions; exceptions included negative societal attitudes toward Jehovah's Witnesses… and conscientious objectors to military service based on religious beliefs.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are the largest recognized religious organization whose members welcome disciplinary alternatives as opposed to taking up arms in wars.
The State department report also details how government officials actively and intentionally single out Witnesses of Jehovah and subject them to unlawful actions and targeted discrimination. “Although members of several religious groups were imprisoned in past years for failure to participate in required national military service, the government singled out Jehovah's Witnesses to receive harsher treatment than that given to others,” the report cites, adding that many of the religion’s members have been detained for more than a decade and a half – a term “far beyond the maximum legal penalty of two years for refusing to perform national service.”
In addition, Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea have had their business licenses revoked without cause, been evicted out of government-subsidized housing units and been denied common government paperwork needed for travel, such as passports and visas.
Philip Brumley, general counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses: “It is our fervent hope that the government of Eritrea will release all Witness prisoners, including these three men who have been detained for 20 years, and bring an end to the persecution of our fellow believers.”
By Guest Nicole
By Felix Corley, Forum 18
Police raided Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov's home in Dashoguz in July 2014, seized religious literature (subsequently destroyed), beat him, placed him in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre where he was injected with unknown drugs (from which he fled). Arrested in June 2016, he was imprisoned for one year.
Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov has appealed against a one-year prison term handed down on 18 August in the northern city of Dashoguz for allegedly assaulting a police officer back in July 2014. Police subsequently destroyed Bibles and other religious literature seized from him during a raid on his home, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. His fellow-Jehovah's Witnesses insist the 32-year-old Masharipov is innocent of any wrongdoing and was targeted for his faith.
Masharipov had fled in July 2014 from forcible detention in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Dashoguz, where he was injected with harmful unknown drugs, "out of fear for my life and my health". He was arrested in the capital Ashgabad [Ashgabat] on 30 June 2016 and was transferred to Investigation Prison in Dashoguz ahead of his trial.
Other prisoners of conscience
Masharipov is one of two known Jehovah's Witness prisoners of conscience. The 53-year-old Bahram Hemdemov is serving a four-year sentence on charges of inciting religious hatred, charges he denies (see F18News 5 July 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).
An unknown number of Muslims are also believed to be imprisoned to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief. One of those apparently being held incommunicado in Turkmenistan's high-security Ovadan-Depe prison in the desert north of Ashgabad is Bahram Saparov, a fellow Muslim told Forum 18. He had led a Hanafi Sunni Muslim community in the eastern city of Turkmenabad [Turkmenabat] (formerly Charjew) until his imprisonment in late 2013. About 20 others were sentenced to long prison terms with him. Their fate remains unknown (see forthcoming F18News article).
Another Muslim reportedly imprisoned for exercising freedom of religion or belief died in labour camp near Turkmenabad in 2013. Artur Atayev, who used the first name Ali, was imam of an unregistered Sunni Muslim mosque in the Khitrovka district of Ashgabad, someone familiar with his work told Forum 18. His body was never returned to relatives for a funeral. Imam Atayev was arrested in September 2008 soon after an armed clash between a local gang and security forces. The individual familiar with his work insisted he had not been involved in the gang (see forthcoming F18News article).
In addition to those imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, the authorities regularly hand down corrective labour sentences to those unable to perform compulsory military service on grounds of religious conscience. The men must live at home under restrictions and a fifth of their wages are seized by the state. The most recent such known corrective labour sentence was handed down to Jehovah's Witness Dayanch Jumayev in Ashgabad in February 2016. He was sentenced to one year of corrective labour (see F18News 5 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).
Masharipov – who is unmarried – is an ethnic Uzbek who lived in Dashoguz until he moved away from the city in 2014 to avoid arrest. In May 2004 he was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of his religious faith. He was among four Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors freed from prison under amnesty in April 2005 (see F18News 22 April 2005 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=548).
Police officers arrested Jehovah's Witness Masharipov on 30 June 2016 in a park in Ashgabad, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. He was then transferred back to his home city of Dashoguz, where he was held in the city's Interior Ministry's Investigation Prison (DZD/7).
Police had been hunting for Masharipov since summer 2014 to punish him for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. On the morning of 3 July 2014, six police officers and officials had come to his home in Dashoguz as part of "preventive measures" because of his "adherence to the Jehovah's Witness religion", the August 2016 court verdict notes.
One of those raiding Masharipov's home was Hudainazar Artykov, an official of the Religious Affairs Department of the Regional Hyakimlik (administration)
The police officers asked Masharipov to hand over all his literature about religion. He "voluntarily" gave them 22 copies of the New Testament and other books, 15 religious leaflets, 42 religious discs, 7 exercise books with religious notes, 304 pages of religious notes, a religious calendar and a computer notebook containing six or seven Jehovah's Witness films. Masharipov told the officers he had been given these items by an unknown individual on a visit to Uzbekistan. Officers also seized his mobile phone.
The officers then demanded that Masharipov go with them to the police station for – in the words of the verdict - "explanatory work" and "preventive measures in connection with his adherence to the Jehovah's Witness movement", but he refused.
Police officer Gurban Khanov claimed that once outside the block of flats, Masharipov tried to run away. Officers then grabbed him by the arm to try to put him in the police car. Khanov claimed Masharipov tore the lower button and left epaulette from his police uniform before they managed to get him into the car.
Masharipov was charged under Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1 with assaulting a police officer, "although it was the police officers who had subjected him to rough physical mistreatment," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "Mansur Masharipov has previously endured abuse, even torture, for his peaceful religious activities."
Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1 punishes "The threat of murder or use of violence not dangerous to life or health in relation to a law-enforcement or military officer or those close to them in connection with the carrying out of their duties in protecting law and order". Punishment is corrective labour or a prison term of up to two years.
Did police assault and lodge false charges against Masharipov?
Masharipov's fellow Jehovah's Witnesses gave Forum 18 in late July 2014 a different account of what happened on the day he was detained (see F18News 1 August 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1981).
Once the search was complete, one of the plain-clothed police officers grabbed Masharipov from behind by the neck, "choking him so he could not breathe, and then dragged him into a waiting vehicle". Once in the vehicle, the officers "began to beat him repeatedly on his head and on his body above his kidneys".
At 12 noon the police took Masharipov to Dashoguz City Police Station, where he was again beaten. From there he was taken to a supervisor's office where the police began to openly discuss what pretext they would use to justify placing him in detention. They brought in police officer Ruslan Jumaniyazov (who had been present during the raid), who said he would claim that Masharipov had ripped off his shoulder insignia while resisting arrest.
At 1 pm Masharipov was returned to Dashoguz City Police Station, where he was again beaten. "The police threatened they would place him in a 'harem' cell with male prisoners where he would be raped," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 back in July 2014.
The police gave Masharipov a document in Turkmen, which he does not understand, and forced him to sign it. They claimed the document contained a report that they had seized religious books during the search of his flat. The officials included three officers from the Ministry of State Security (MSS) secret police and one representative of the religious affairs department of the Regional Hyakimlik.
Police again threatened that they would charge Masharipov with ripping off the insignia of a police officer. Local policeman Merdan Khanov (also present during the raid) stated that he would testify to this effect.
In the afternoon, the police took Masharipov to Dashoguz City Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutor took a statement from Masharipov and he was then returned to Dashoguz City Police Station and again beaten.
Some of the same police officers in Dashoguz were also involved in accusing another local Jehovah's Witness of tearing off the insignia from an officer's uniform. The same Artykov from the regional religious affairs department testified that Bibi Rahmanova had assaulted the officer in July 2014 within days of Masharipov's detention. She received a four-year prison term the following month, but had her sentence suspended on appeal in September. This meant she was ordered to serve the rest of her sentence at home under travel restrictions (see F18News 28 October 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2009).
The duty officer at Dashoguz City Police refused to discuss with Forum 18 in August 2014 the treatment of Masharipov by its officers.
Tortured with drugs
At 6 pm on 3 July 2014, police took Masharipov to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Dashoguz. "This was done as a pretext to justify his detention," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "The medical staff administered four injections to Mansur Masharipov, one in each buttock and two below his shoulder blades." His arms and legs became paralysed and he vomited throughout that evening and the following day. He also began to suffer a high fever and severe headaches.
Fearing further torture, Masharipov escaped from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre on 5 July 2014 and fled from Dashoguz.
Following the arrest of Masharipov in Ashgabad on 30 June 2016, police and prosecutors revived the criminal case against him. As well as accusing him under Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1, Dashoguz City Prosecutors' Office also considered accusations under Criminal Code Article 177 ("Incitement of social, ethnic or religious hatred"). However, on 1 August Prosecutors abandoned charges under this Article.
On 18 August, Judge V. Amanov of Dashoguz City Court heard the case against Masharipov not in the court, but at a hearing held in the city's Housing Trust. Judge Amanov found Masharipov guilty under Criminal Code Article 211, Part 1. He sentenced him to one year in a general regime labour camp, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. Masharipov denied the allegations against him in court.
Police officer Gurban Khanov, described as the "victim", testified in court and called for Masharipov to be punished. The verdict notes that a 5 July 2014 medical report on Gurban Khanov had not found any injuries.
Also testifying in court was regional religious affairs official Artykov. He told the court that Police had already destroyed the New Testaments and other religious literature confiscated from Masharipov during the raid on his home in July 2014. However, the verdict also quotes an 8 July 2016 letter from the Muftiate representation in Dashoguz Region to say that the confiscated books had been handed over to the government's Commission for Work with Religious Organisations and Expert Analysis of Resources Containing Religious Information, Published and Printed Production before being destroyed.
Forum 18 has been unable to obtain a copy of the Muftiate letter, which is Page 118 of the case file.
The Commission was established in summer 2015 to replace the Gengesh (Council) for Religious Affairs, the government body controlling religious communities (see F18News 18 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2169).
The verdict does not explain why Masharipov's religious literature was destroyed.
The verdict ordered that his confiscated computer and mobile phone should be transferred to the state.
The prison term was deemed to run from 30 June, the date of his arrest, with each day in pre-trial detention counting as the equivalent of two days' labour camp.
Forum 18 was unable to reach Judge Amanov at Dashoguz City Court on 21 September. It was also unable to reach regional religious affairs official Artykov the same day.
On 30 August, Masharipov lodged an appeal against his conviction – seen by Forum 18 - to Dashoguz Regional Court. He denied the police account that he had used force against them, noting that because of his faith "for me an individual, their worth, life, rights and freedom are of great value". He added that "my religion teaches and helps me to relate to other people with deep respect and love".
Masharipov recounted the beatings and rape threats from police officers after his 3 July 2014 detention. He added that later that afternoon, when he was brought out of the Prosecutor's Office, he tried in vain to run away. He was then beaten again "right on the street". Beatings continued once officers had taken him back to the police station.
Masharipov also recounted that at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, staff gave him four injections "after which I felt sick, I had a headache and a high temperature and it was almost impossible for me to move". "On 5 July 2014, out of fear for my life and my health, and with the aim of preserving them, I fled from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre."
Masharipov – who says he does not smoke or drink alcohol – questions why he was sent to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre with no court decision. He notes that on 7 July 2014 he sent complaints about the Police conduct to the Interior Ministry and, the following day, to the General Prosecutor's Office. On 30 March 2015 he sent a complaint to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
In his appeal Masharipov also complained about procedural violations. He said he had not been given the opportunity to acquaint himself with the accusations against him, and that the July 2014 house search had been conducted without a search warrant from the Prosecutor's Office.
Masharipov insists that the case against him violates the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief outlined in Turkmenistan's Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkmenistan is a party.
No-one at Dashoguz Regional Court would confirm to Forum 18 on 21 September whether any appeal hearing has yet been set in Masharipov's case.
If Masharipov's appeal is rejected, he is likely to be sent to serve his sentence at the general regime labour camp in the desert just outside the eastern town of Seydi in Lebap Region.
Jehovah's Witnesses lodged an urgent appeal on 11 July 2014 about Masharipov's case to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Geneva.
The appeal – seen by Forum 18 – gives details of the abuses in Masharipov's case and includes photographs of scars on his arms, legs, stomach, back and one cheek which Jehovah's Witnesses say were inflicted on him in police detention.
The appeal also covered abuses against three other Jehovah's Witnesses (see F18News 1 August 2014http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1981).
No charges against police officers
The verdict in Masharipov's case also reveals that Prosecutors considered criminal cases against two police officers involved in the July 2014 raid. Dashoguz City Prosecutors' Office considered criminal charges against Gurban Khanov and Jumaniyazov under Article 181 ("Misuse of official powers"), Article 182 ("Exceeding official powers") and Article 182-1 ("Torture").
Dashoguz City Prosecutors' Office dropped these charges on 1 August 2016. The verdict gives no reason for the decision.
Under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Turkmenistan is obliged to arrest and try under criminal law any person suspected on good grounds of having committed torture. (END)
By Guest Nicole
Many Muslims would be glad to see Europe conquered by Islam, an Austrian cardinal and leading future candidate for the papacy said. He also warned that the Christian heritage of Europe risked disappearing, with the statements raising much controversy online.
By Guest Nicole
Muslim pilgrims cast pebbles in a symbolic stoning of the devil, during the annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, in Mina outside of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
By Guest Nicole
By The Librarian
Dog owners have been given leaflets telling them to keep their pets off the streets for religious reasons. The handouts were published by a movement called ‘for public purity’, it claims the area has a large Muslim population who would be upset with seeing dogs on the streets.
By Guest Nicole
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation this week that severely restricts freedom of religion by prohibiting any religious speech or evangelization outside of places of worship.
“This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church,” said Dr. Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, reports National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). “Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”
The new law, which goes into effect July 20, is actually an amendment to a package of laws against terrorism and extremism approved by the Russian Parliament’s upper chamber. As a result of the legislation, faith sharing in homes, in the media, online, or any place other than a government recognized church is prohibited.
The measure is expected to especially affect evangelical groups and Jehovah’s Witnesses who often share faith in homes rather than traditional churches.
In a column at the Daily Signal, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) wrote the new law is “an affront to free people everywhere.”
“We need to begin telling the truth about an increasingly aggressive actor in global affairs,” he said. “This Russian law would be an affront to free people everywhere—at home and abroad—who believe that rights of conscience—the rights to free speech and to freedom of religion—are pre-political.”
Religious freedom attorneys and human rights groups are already preparing an appeal to Russia’s Constitutional Court, reports Forum 18. The legislation drew widespread protests and religious leaders are uncertain how they can fulfill the law’s obligations.
“Today is indeed a black day on the calendar,” lawyer Vladimir Ryakhovsky of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice posted on his Facebook page. “Hope was that Vladimir Putin would not in the end sign this law. A law which openly contradicts the gospel command ‘go and make disciples’ and, in addition, violates the constitutional rights of citizens.”
Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, protested the new amendments directly to Putin, asserting that they “create unjustified and excessive restrictions on the freedom of conscience of believers of all religions, and encroach upon the fundamental constitutional principle of non-interference by the state in the internal arrangements of religious associations.”
Financial penalties for violating the law are reportedly up to 50,000 roubles for individuals and up to one million roubles for organizations.
“We are distressed by the law and see it as repressive for believers in our country, because the law contradicts the Bible,” said a spokeswoman for the Council of Churches – Baptists. “We must assume there will be repression and persecution.”
“The United States government and all other nations that profess a commitment to religious freedom should urge Russia to repeal this unjust law, NRB President Dr. Jerry A. Johnson said. “Let’s pray this new iron curtain of Christian persecution in Russia will be lifted quickly and without harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
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