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I will add the following soon to Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia. If anyone wants to comment, I will be grateful. This will include (and welcome) corrections in spelling/grammar. Not that it will not be proofread first, but there is still a lot that can get though. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> At 6:15 AM on February 15, 2019, Timofei Zhukov and his wife were awakened by furious pounding on the door, as though someone would break it down. They didn’t answer and the pounding ceased. Half an hour later their balcony door was broken down. Several riot police stormed into the room. Zhukov was kicked, cuffed, and his head slammed against the wall—'the blood is still on the wallpaper,’ he later told Kommersant, the business magazine. His wife cried in alarm and was cursed for her trouble.1 It was part of a sting operation that netted 40 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut, Siberia—a major dark turn of events that nobody had anticipated. Twelve officers jumped from three vehicles pulled over to detain 2 Witnesses who were walking alongside the street.2 Mr. Zhukov was not tortured at the police station, but he did not escape hearing the screams of those seven Witnesses who were—music turned up loud to mask the sounds, but there was no masking them. He is a lawyer, as it turns out, who once served as assistant prosecutor in the city, and now is legal advisor to a construction firm. “Please register the exact time. Somebody is being beaten here,” he shouted. An FSB agent entered the room and said, “Don’t worry, they do not beat anyone here”—there was a drug addict within who was screaming his head off, he was told. And the former prosecutor believed it, only discovering the truth later from his brothers who had been on the other side of the door. He told the magazine that “until recently, he could not believe that law enforcement officers could torture believers.” Though cuffed for three hours while his home was searched and beaten on his legs whenever they were judged to be insufficiently far apart, the handcuffs were removed for his escort to the waiting vehicle. “We won’t scare people,” he was told. He answered back that he preferred to wear them, for the neighbors had known him his entire life and were in good position to know whether he was a criminal or not. But off they came, and he was placed into the van—not one that said Police but one that bore the markings ‘Northern Roadway,’ as though off for a friendly commiseration with his former colleagues in law, though his smashed-in apartment balcony must have suggested otherwise. They must have hoped to have kept it under wraps. They must have hoped to cast a pall upon the Witness community, but otherwise not suffer their deeds to see the light of day. How else can one account for such a hurried and stupid explanation, shortly thereafter, that the Witnesses had beaten themselves up (as only a sect member could do) to thwart the police investigation? “After the arrest and searches, they, under the direction of the lawyers who arrived in Surgut, got together and during the meeting struck each other, which could then be presented as evidence of torture,” one “insider” said, for ura.ru. “Well-known lawyers who specialize in representing the interests of the Jehovists throughout the country are involved in the case. Services each cost 5 million rubles. The main task is to ruin the criminal case, to attract public attention.”3 Of course! They must have figured that they had to say something, and quickly, for the accounts of the victims along with undeniable photo evidence4 were promptly showcased throughout the world, and the European Court of Human Rights demanded independent investigation.5 Local hospitals told the released victims that would be treated for their injuries, but that those injuries would not be documented.6 Plainly, they had been leaned upon by someone. Surgut, as determined by a rough atlas survey, is the 67th most populous city in Russia. Perhaps authorities hoped there wouldn’t be much of any support, legal or otherwise, for Witnesses way out there, instead of one of the victims actually being a lawyer. Another victim said one agent had told him: “We had to specifically come from Moscow for this.”7 Why couldn’t he have just stayed in Moscow, where Jehovah’s Witnesses surely are more numerous and are having just as great a challenge coping with the Orwellian law that says you can be a Jehovah’s Witness just so long as you do not do any of the things Jehovah’s Witnesses do, which apparently includes existing? No, to this writer, this episode has the earmarks of a deed meant to be done in a remote corner that unexpectedly turned out to be a world stage, necessitating a hasty (and clumsy) response. Reported Znak.com: “The believers think that all of this was done with just one goal—to beat out "evidence necessary to the investigation" from those who had decided to exercise their right granted by the Russian constitution not to provide evidence against themselves and their associates.” A committee spokesman in the Khanty-Mansi region, Oleg Menshikh, told TASS news agency on February 20 that no law had been violated during the interrogations. “Nobody tortured them,” he said. “There was no physical or psychological pressure on them.”5 But two days later there was an about face, with the same official declaring that the government had decided to probe the claim “given the agitation that has arisen after publication of this information in the media.”8 That’s not entirely promising, a cynic might reply, and many did, was it not like saying: “Look, if they want an official document saying that we didn’t do it, we can comply with that”? So be it. Whose version of truth will prevail? From within the Nazi death camps, Jehovah’s Witnesses smuggled out detailed diagrams of their layout, and those were published in Watchtower magazines.9 They were disbelieved by other media outlets until post-liberation proved them all true. The Witnesses’ veracity is well established, even by those who don’t like them. On the other hand, stories of abuse, even torture, by Russian police are legion by groups of many different stripes. Not everything pointed to a quick whitewash. Following an early meeting of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Ermolaev, a department chief, told Znak.com: "I admit to you that what these people described at the meeting, with these horrible details, all of this shocked me….I cannot describe for you in detail, since nobody has authorized me to do so. But what they said, I registered it all, documented it. I will send all of these materials to the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for Yugra and to the prosecutor's office of the region.”10So time will tell.* When the young boy cries “The emperor has no clothes!” and the latter in response just keeps on strutting his stuff, there’s not much one can do about it other than thoroughly documenting his nakedness and broadcasting it far and wide. This, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done, most notably through their website. No wonder the urgent need of those who oppose to deprive them of organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses are regarded by many as the canary in the coal mine. What happens to them may soon happen to others. Two American Mormon missionaries were deported in early March and there were reports that they might be next in line for wider persecution. However, Alexander Verkhovsky, one of the top Russian experts on extremism, xenophobia, nationalism, and human rights, wrote in March 2019, that Witnesses just might become a canary pointing in the other direction. “The growing campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses inspires horror, but it also gives a chance that this time someone will finally catch on and think. [The Witnesses] are too obviously not a threat to security and at the same time they are just as clearly impossible to “eradicate”, since more than 100,000 people cannot be imprisoned or forced out of the country, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have not given up on their faith during difficult times.”11 The situation is too ludicrous, and too unambiguous. The popular mind confuses Muslim groups in a non-Muslim country, so that peaceful Muslim groups are mistaken for groups that have done very bad things. Even Mormons cannot be said to be apolitical—in the United States, they are the most politically polarized of all faiths.12 But Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed neutrality for their entire existence, and their “pacifist” stance is attested to by all. Just how dangerous can they be? Maybe the recent shocker of torture for a Christian group (Russians are used to it for Muslim activists suspected of “excessive radicalism,” Verkhovsky speculates) will cause the government to recalibrate. Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses will hope for the best and ever be respectful of government, but they can be forgiven if they become jaded at the speculations of a quick turnaround. They have seen their country sail blithely past many buoys of ludicrousness. Did not Dennis Christensen say that he hoped the judge would be fair, “but he also [knew] what country he lived in?” Did not the country ban a Bible on the basis that it is not a Bible and the entire educated world knows that it is? Did not every interested person in the world see, via the Witness website, video evidence of Russian police in riot gear scaling fences to break down the door of a Kingdom Hall en route to arresting those inside, and the only ones refusing to see it were the ones that had a moral obligation to do so—the Russian Supreme Court? Maybe this buoy will be yet one more left in the wake of the unshamable ship. Can the Russian authorities be shamed? Possibly not. The ban itself shames them, and they could see it come from miles away but embraced it anyway. The present reality harkens back to what columnist Andrew Sorokowski wrote prior to the ban: “Why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers?” Nonetheless, trash it they did and it is not so clear when or even if that course will reverse.13 Mr. Verkhovsky takes for granted that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not give up on their faith. How can they? They will recall the verse about paying Caesar’s things to Caesar but God’s things to God. They will think of the verse that says you do not fear the one who can kill the body and afterwards do no more. The one to fear is the one who can take away the soul.14 Though ever a small minority, many have protested the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past two years. Atheists have held up banners in support of them. An activist from Kaliningradian scaled a lamppost to hang as sign proclaiming: “Jehovah's Witnesses are banned, they will also ban God.”15 Perhaps he is more accurate than he knows. Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.”16 “Of course they are scared,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy tells a source. “But it does not mean that they will cease to be Jehovah's witnesses and do what is important to them…Jehovah's witnesses are good people, but they cannot abandon their faith when the state expects this refusal from them.”17 Just to keep things in perspective, for anyone can be too close to the forest to see the trees. Virtually all of Jehovah’s Witnesses were exiled to Siberia during the late 1940s and early 50s. Today, about 200 of them are detained out of a population of 170,000. It is outrageous, of course, and for many there is a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, terrible though it may be for those affected individuals, life goes on and most of the Russian Witnesses are not suffering. They are cautious, yes, but they have always been cautious. They know their country. They know their government. They know their police. They've had the potential for trouble for many years and have adjusted. For the vast majority, life goes on as usual: they work, they go to school, they marry, some have children, they visit family both Witnesses and non-Witnesses, they buy groceries, they play in the park. They know they must be careful, but they have always known it. They note with approval the heightened world and national attention to their faith, even if some individuals endure more than their share of injustice. They strengthen their weak ones. A few have actually stated that the last two years have been good for them because it has strengthened their relationships with each other and with their God. Russia is a huge country and not everyone plugs into the news. Many only vaguely know of the ban, many don’t care about it, and some, as seen above, actively don’t support it. Nor do they treat their JW acquaintances any differently because of it. This writer is told of one case where a school boss refused to dismiss a Witness employee, telling his superior that she is the best teacher he has, and he would hope for more like her. At a certain meeting location held in a private home, a Witnesses’ unbelieving husbands says: "Everybody knows that you are not extremists." That’s good to hear, for another aftermath of the Surgut episode is that one father of three, a firefighter, was thereafter fired from his job despite triggering no complaints over 20 years, joining many others of similar experience. “My three kids have been crying ever since the operatives barged down the door,” he said. “Now I have no job, but I am certain my God will show me a way through.”18 Says Sivulskiy: “law enforcement is making monstrous efforts to find clusters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their small gatherings”—large assemblies are out of the question.19 But Russia is a monstrous country, and efforts have been sporadic. Will they diminish, level off, or intensify? Witnesses recently reconsidered Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days.” “Some” does not mean “all,” it was observed, as the Witnesses continue to show resolve amidst adversity. They don’t like what is happening, but they always knew that it might. ***~~~*** Every religion has its apostates. The trend now is that their activism is in direct proportion to the degree of firmness exercised within their former faith so as to encourage members to stay on the path that they have chosen. Apostates of the world have even united to wage common war against faiths they perceive as having similar attributes. And nobody has apostates more voracious than those of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some members of this avid JW-opposer community gloated over this new development. By far, however, the tactics of torture were condemned by that group. Make no mistake, such condemnation is noted and appreciated, however it is also substantially watered down by the recognition that their goals are the same—that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is only in methods that they differ. Spiritually speaking, is it not a situation of good cop/bad cop? They hope for the same outcome. The good cop is likely sincere that he does not want you to fall into the clutches of the bad cop, for he knows how bad that bad cop can be. But they both have the same goal. Physically, of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses will far prefer the good cop. They are not superhuman and nobody wants to be mistreated. Spiritually, however, the good and the bad cop is the same. In fact, the good cop may even be worse. A thug is a thug is a thug. His malice is unmistakable and is on plain display. He doesn’t masquerade as a friend whose only aim is to help you. He doesn’t patronize you with a concocted “us versus them” scenario from which he is trying to free you. The mutual goal is that Jehovah’s Witnesses should no longer be Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is that talk about the hope of God’s kingdom should stop, and the grapes already on the vine should wither, and to that end there is an effort to strangle the support organization. To be sure, their methods differ. It is as though one faction says to another, “You’re going about it all wrong!” Yet the two factions are working in tandem, pressing for the same end. As much as the saying goes that “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” sometimes you can get pretty close. The majority can be fooled for the longest time. If it were not so, then the prophets of old would not have had the time that they did—a time which was revisited upon Christians of the first century, and a time which is being revisited on Christians in Russia today: “What more shall I say?” the Bible writer asks. “I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle….Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.”20 Jehovah’s Witnesses will put the experience off as long as they can, thank you very much, but they do not imagine themselves outsmarting the scripture, nor Jesus words that his followers would be hated. Anton Chivchalov, the individual who covered court proceedings via tweet at five minute intervals, per personal email to this writer, offers a gloomy assessment of how Russians view Jehovah’s Witnesses, notwithstanding that there are some who see right through it. “In Russia there are many myths about Jehovah's Witnesses that 99% people believe,” he writes. “They break up families, take people's property, kill their own children by refusing blood transfusion, American spies, want to overturn the government, etc. This is mostly the cause of the hate.” “Can it really be that high? what with Putin‘s recent statement of seeming support and at least a certain amount of favorable press? Are the human rights people, supportive journalists, and religious scholars all viewed as rabble-rousers?” I asked. “Yes,” Chivchalov answered. “They are too few. General public still hates Witnesses and approves of the repressions.21 And many people hate human rights movements too (thinking they work for the US).” Jehovah’s people are not wildly popular anywhere, but it appears that in Russia they face the most unhinged opposition, against which they are standing strong. They have this writer’s undying respect. Timofei Zhukov the Jehovah’s Witness hauled down to the police station where fellow congregation members were tortured, had this to say to Kommersant: “I will tell you, not as a believer, but as a lawyer—these investigators and [F.S.B agents] esfesbeshniki simply do not know what they are doing. The did not understand anything—whom they are coming to search. what kind of people these are, what they are accused of. It seems that the authorities told them: “There are bad people live there and they are corrupting the state system. Go and do what you want with them.” Where did they get the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses were bad people? After the ordeal, Mr. Zhukov spoke with some of his former colleagues, who encouraged him to desist from “such nonsense.” He told them that Witnesses were doing their work for them to a great extent. “You are investigating crime, but you have a problem with prevention. And I come to people and I say: ‘It is bad to steal. It is bad to lie. It is bad to smoke.’” They are not bad people. They are good people. Jerod Kushner, the U.S. President’s son-in-law, well prior to his political days, said of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from whom he would buy property that they were persons of “high integrity” with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” The journalists of Present Time comment to the director of the Sova Center Alexander Verkhovsky, after hearing his description: “Then they look like perfect citizens.” “You see, they would be ideal citizens in some other country,” is the latter’s reply.22 They are not bad people. They are good people. So from where comes the perception that they are bad people? It is a question that might well have been asked in the first century. The historian Tacitus writes the following about the persecution of Christians after Nero pinned the blame upon them for burning down Rome: "Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race." In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man."23 Note the dim view of Christians, fully shared by Tacitus. They were “hated for their enormities.” They were readily thought to be persons “hating the human race.” They were the deluded followers of a “pernicious superstition.” The cruel wrath of Nero unleashed genuine compassion, however they were regarded “guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment.” How could this have been perceived of Christ’s followers only 35 years after his death? Professor G. A. Wells, author of The Jesus Myth, writes that “the context of Tacitus’ remarks itself suggests that he relied on Christian informants.”24 Who could possibly have been their “informants?” They could not have been faithful members, for these would not “inform.” They could not have been non-members, for these would not have anything to “inform” about. There is little left to choose from other than former disgruntled members—today (and then) we would call them “apostates.” These came to wish their former faith ill. Perhaps some of them even posed as reformers of that faith, whistleblowers to whatever upset them—particularly if they had been ousted for conduct contrary to tenets of the faith. The parallels are too blatant to ignore. If it was they in former times, how can it not be they in present times? How else can such a manifestly good people—in the first century and in the present—be so widely portrayed as bad? It is the “apostates” that present that picture of good portrayed as bad. It is the apostates that spark the conflagration, with unrelenting and incendiary charges. Any student of human nature knows that if you repeat a charge often enough, no matter how unlikely, it impresses itself on the general populace. Surely advertising teaches us that. The match doesn’t catch everywhere, but in Russia if finds the kindling just right—a government hostile for 100 years to the land in which Witness headquarters is located, at the same time in close union with the dominant house church, hostile to even traditional Christian faiths. It doesn’t happen everywhere. But the apostates ever light the match to encourage conflagration and sometime the planets align. The religious enemies of the Jesus’ day had to be careful: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled...and they consulted together to arrest Jesus by treachery and put him to death. But they said: ‘Not during the festival, that there may not be a riot among the people.’”25 They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Russia. There wouldn’t have been a riot. There would have been widespread approval. They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Rome, too. There was widespread approval back then—such is the change in popular perception wrought by then and now apostates. Kommersant asked Mr. Zhukov why the government persecutes his people, and he told them that he didn’t really know—he could speculate, but he didn’t really know.26 It was the same answer as President Putin himself offered just two months ago—he didn’t really know why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Mr. Zhukov did note however, that early Christians, too, were called “sectarians” and that they, too, had been persecuted. Even the Russian president can’t figure it out! Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, writes that his “comments are hard to explain other than as an expression of genuine puzzlement over so much effort being expended to eliminate an evidently nonexistent threat.”27 How can it not be the machinations of someone devious? What arguments does that international community of apostates/opposers to the faith make? They are settling the score, largely, in the cases of those who were disfellowshipped, spinning for an irreligious world the myth that Jehovah’s Witnesses break up families, a point of view that was not accepted by the European Court of Human Rights: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”28 Many, even most today, will look askance at any scenario in which spiritual considerations can trigger a family divide—no matter from which side it arises, but they will not think it an evil that compares with global terrorism. Families have divided since the beginning of time, often for matters far more fleeting than religion. In the West, it is not uncommon for the elderly to be abandoned in nursing homes, never to be contacted again, for no greater reason that they have become inconvenient. It is not something in which governments typically wish to meddle. No, it makes no sense, the mass portrayal of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “bad people.” If they refuse blood transfusions, surely it must be acknowledged somewhere along the line that progressive doctors have learned to accommodate their point of view, and it so doing, they have devised medicine that is both safer and more cost-effective.29 And, though it has played no part in Russia, a widespread war against child sexual abuse finds Jehovah’s Witness “clergy” accused of covering up pedophilia. This is an unsavory thing, yet they come off almost as knights in shining armor when compared to religious denominations in general in which the leaders themselves have been the pedophile abusers.30 The “us versus them” scenario avidly advanced by apostates has caught on. Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complains that “this sect promotes external and inner extremism, inciting hatred to those who think and believe in a different way and bullying their own members,” and even hopes that “recognizing this sect as extremist [will give] a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” He has been conditioned to misunderstand everything. Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to carry out the tenets of their religious beliefs “because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.”31 Silantyev is “crazy” and yet his craziness has spread to influence those whom you would think would not be crazy to act in crazy ways. Writes Bandow: “Moscow denies that it is persecuting JWs for their beliefs. Rather, explained Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, ‘the situation is actually being presented as if these people are being persecuted for their belief and religious activity. Yet the decision, which was made by the Supreme Court amongst others, is unrelated to religion. It is about a violation of the law, which religious organizations have no right to breach.’ The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.” This writer would be a wealthy individual indeed if he had a few dollars for every disgruntled ex-Witness who, upon failing to turn the JW ship in the direction of his choosing, went on scorch the JW earth with terminology from George Orwell’s 1984. Witnesses practice “doublethink” and have “thought police” who sniff out ones committing “thoughtcrime,” or even ones who fail to do “goodthink” (thought approved by the party). It is an intensification of a trend seen everywhere: failing to sway the other side and consequently declaring them “arrogant.” Yet the first actual instance of 1984 comes, not from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but from those who oppose them. If memory serves, was not Mr. O’Brien a pleasant and refined man on the surface, posing as Winston’s friend, before revealing his true character—and thus combining both good cop and bad cop into a single character? ***~~~*** *In fact, the Russian investigation into torture found, in a very short time, that there was nothing to it at all.32 Endnotes: 1…Chernykh, Alexander, “We are the same people as you, but now we are called criminals and extremists,” Kommersant, March 1, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://kommersant.ru/doc/3899000 2…Carroll, Oliver, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html 3…Zavlayov, Dmity, “Source: Jehovah's Witnesses, Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, are trying to ruin a criminal case with accusations against security officials,” Ura.News, February 28, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://ura.news/news/1052374340 4…Pomomarev, Lev, “Read and Watch,” blog post for echo.msk.ru, February 26, 2019, assessed March 15, 2019, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/lev_ponomarev/2378667-echo/ 5…“ECHR Imposes Interim Measures in Response to Torture Complaint From Surgut,” jw-russia.org, February 27, 2019 6…Luxmoore, Matthew, “‘Time Becomes a Blur When You’re Experiencing Great Pain’: Russian Jehovah’s Witness Alleges Police Torture,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, February 22, 2019 7…Lemon, Jason, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Tortured With Electric Shocks and Suffocation in Russia, Church Says” Newsweek, February 23, 2019 8…“Russia Says it Will Probe Jehovah’s Witnesses Torture Claim,” apnews.com, February 23, 2019, accessed March 19, 2019, https://apnews.com/f43f396dac9c4159987493f92123a3f9 9… Also, see Crusade Against Christianity, (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1938) . Regarding this book, the 1965 Watchtower volume, December 1, 1965 issue, recalls on page 733: “Meantime in Germany, the Nazi fury rages and our brothers are exposed to frightful, inhuman persecution, which they withstand even at the cost of their lives. Documented material that reaches our office about such persecution is carefully preserved. Then Brother Rutherford approves publishing a book giving the evidence of the sufferings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. It appears under the title “Kreuzzug gegen das Christentum in the German language. It is also published in French and Polish.” See some of diagrams at “The Evils of Nazism Exposed,” Awake!, August 22, 1995, 11. 10…”Stories of Surgut "Jehovah's Witnesses" about torture in the TFR shocked the Ugra Ombudsman,” Znak.com, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, https://www.znak.com/2019-02-25/rasskazy_surgutskih_svideteley_iegovy_o_pytkah_v_skr_shokirovali_yugorskogo_ombudsmena 11… Verkhovsky, Alexander, “The Fight Against Religious Extremism’ all Widers, Need to be Narrowed Down,” ng.ru, March 5, 2019 12…. Michael Lipka, “U.S. Religious Groups and Their Political Leanings,” Pew Research Center, February 23, 2016, accessed March 9, 2019 13…Andrew Sorokowski, “Witnesses to Persecution,” Religious Information Service of Ukraine, May 5, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://risu.org.ua/article_print.php?id=66964&name=asorokowski_column&_lang=en& 14…Matthew 10:28 15…”They Will Also Ban God,” klops.ru, Mrch 9, 2019, accessed March 11, 2019, https://news.rambler.ru/other/41842016 16…Emily P. Baran, Dissent on the Margins - How Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) 240 17…Ryzhova, Anna, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/ 18…ibid….Carroll, Oliver, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html 19…2nd notice …Ryzhova, Anna, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/ 20…Hebrews 11:32-38 21…Chivchalov’s comment does not entirely square with remarks I made above (based upon the visits of a personal acquaintance who has traveled in Russia) but I believe it is a case of no one person seeing the entire picture. Plainly the ‘99%’ is hyperbole. The title says it all in this Moscow Times article: “Many Russians Don’t Know the Jehovah’s Witnesses, But They Still Want Them Banned” (themoscowtimes.com, July 13, 2017). Chivchalov himself said at the time that it depends upon how the subject is breached. If it is just a matter of shooing away uninvited callers, most Russians will say yes. But if it is a matter of sending those ones to jail, they will not go that far. 22…www.currenttime.tv/a/Jehovah-witnesses-Russia/29785245.html 23…Tacitus, Annals, 117 c.e. 24….Wells, G. A., The Historical Evidence for Jesus, (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1982) 17 25…Mathew 26: 3-5 26… Chernykh, Alexander, “We Are the Same” 27…Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile on Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and Worldwide,” nationalreview.com, March 1, 2019, assessed March 21, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/jehovahs-witnesses-persecuted-russia-worldwide 28…Fautre, Willie, “Cults and Religious Freedom Around the World,” address to the ICSA Annual International Conference, Montreal Canada, July 5-7, 2012, accessed March 21, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/5201173/Cult_Issues_and_Religous_Freedom 29… “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,” New Scientist, April 26, 2008 30…See the category https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/pedophiles (by this author) 31….Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile” 32…”The Examination Found No Signs of Torture in the Follower of “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” RIA Novosti, Moscow, March 21, 2019
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a U.S.-based religious denomination that Russia has branded extremist and banned, says that police in Russia's Khanty-Mansi region have tortured several members of the congregation. In a February 19 statement, the religious group said that at least seven of its adherents were "subjected to torture -- electric shocks, suffocation, and cruel beatings" by the Investigative Committee's officers in the city of Surgut, in northwestern Siberia, after they were detained on February 15 on extremism charges. The statement says that those detained refused to answer police questions about other members of the congregation and after the only legal representative left the interrogation room, the officers "tied the victims’ hands behind their backs, beat them, poured water on their naked bodies, and subjected them to electric shocks." "The torture lasted for several hours," the statement said. According to the statement, 19 members of the congregation were charged with the alleged organization of extremist activities and at least three of them remain behind bars. The released members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses turned to medical institutions to document bodily harm sustained during torture, the statement says, adding that the group will seek justice in court. The Investigative Committee rejected the Jehovah's Witnesses' statement. Homes Raided A committee spokesman in the Khanty-Mansi region, Oleg Menshikh, told the TASS news agency on February 20 that no law was violated during the interrogations. "Nobody tortured them. There was no physical or psychological pressure on them," TASS quoted Menshikh as saying. Police have started raiding the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in that region and in the region of Mordovia on February 7, a day after a Russian court convicted Dennis Christensen, a Danish member of the religious group, on an extremism charge and sentenced him to six years in prison in the western city of Oryol. Human rights organizations, the European Union, and United States officials have condemned Christensen’s conviction and called on Russia to respect freedom of religion. Christensen was arrested in Oryol in May 2017, a month after Russia's Supreme Court labeled the religious group an extremist organization and banned it. He was the first Jehovah’s Witness to be detained in Russia following the ban. Since then, dozens of other members of the group in different Russian regions have been detained and face similar extremism charges. With reporting by TASS Source
At least seven of Jehovah’s Witnesses were subjected to torture—electric shocks, suffocation, and cruel beatings—on the first floor of the Russian Investigative Committee’s building at ul. Ostrovskogo, d. 47, in Surgut. While being tortured, officers interrogated the Witnesses, demanding to know: “Where are meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses held? Who attends the meetings? What are the elders’ last names? What is your mobile phone password?” On February 15, 2019, mass searches in Surgut started in the early morning hours. Worshippers were taken to the Investigative Committee offices. Investigators began interrogating the Witnesses, who refused to disclose details about their fellow worshippers. After the only legal representative in the room left, victims report that the following occurred: agents put a bag over the victims’ heads, sealed it with tape, tied their hands behind their backs, and beat them. Then, after stripping the Witnesses naked and dousing them with water, the agents shocked them with stun guns. This sadistic torture lasted for about two hours. At least three Witnesses are still behind bars. Additionally, after the mass searches were completed, the Russian authorities initiated criminal cases against a total of 19 Witnesses for so-called “organizing an extremist organization.” Those who have been released have had their injuries documented by medical professionals and have filed complaints with supervisory agencies. The Witnesses will pursue all available legal remedies for this crime, since such an egregious abuse of authority is punishable under the Russian Criminal Code. Additionally, The Russian Federation is subject to several international bodies that protect individuals from torture. https://www.jw-russia.org/en/news/19021923-622.html