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Guest posted a topic in Jehovah’s Witnesses's TopicsBy Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 Prisoner of conscience Daniil Islamov is preparing to appeal for the last time to Tajikistan's Supreme Court against a six-month jail term for refusing compulsory military service. If this appeal is rejected, he is likely to appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee. Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Daniil Islamov is preparing to appeal for the last time to Tajikistan's Supreme Court against a six-month jail term imposed in October 2017 for refusing compulsory military service (see below). The government and the Supreme Court have not ordered prisoner of conscience Islamov's release, despite the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 5 October publicly stating that Tajikistan should release him "immediately" (see below). If the Supreme Court rejects this final appeal, prisoner of conscience Islamov is likely to file a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee (see below). In Yavan Prison with fellow-prisoner of conscience? Prisoner of conscience Islamov is thought to be being held in Yavan Prison in the south-western Khatlon Region, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 27 February. This is the same prison prisoner of conscience Bakhrom Kholmatov is held in. Protestant Pastor Kholmatov was jailed for three years in July 2017 for allegedly "singing extremist songs in church and so inciting ‘religious hatred'". He decided in November not to continue appealing against his jail term. The government threatened family members, friends, and church members with reprisals if they revealed any details of the case, trial, or jailing (see F18News 5 December 2017
A United Nations committee is calling for the immediate release of an 18-year-old Jehovah’s Witness the panel says is being unlawfully detained in Tajikistan because of his faith. The U.N.Â’sÂ Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionÂ says Daniil Islamov is imprisoned in Tajikistan for conscientiously objecting to the countryÂ’s mandatory military service. Though JehovahÂ’s Witnesses pay taxes, IslamovÂ’s faith precludes him from reciting patriotic pledges, singing nationalistic songs, or joining the military. The right of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses to adhere to their faithÂ’s rejection of military service Â— they believe their allegiance is to God alone Â— is recognized in the U.S. and other Western countries. But Tajikistan has no law concerning conscientious objectors. Islamov sought permission for alternative civilian service but was denied, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, which oversees the Working Group. Â“The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Islamov immediately and to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,Â” a resolution passed by WGAD on IslamovÂ’s case reads. Islamov, who turned 18 in January, was forcibly conscripted into TajikistanÂ’s military in April and promptly arrested for refusing to wear a military uniform and take the oath of service. From the JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ New York world headquarters, spokesman David A. Semonian said itÂ’s encouraging that the Working Group declared IslamovÂ’s pretrial detention arbitrary. READ:Â Soldiers of Conscience: The War Within Those Trained to Kill But Â“we are very concerned that the Working GroupÂ’s opinion had no effect on the courtÂ’s subsequent decision to convict and imprison him for conscientiously refusing to serve in the military,Â” Semonian said. Â“We will update the Working Group on this disturbing development, and we expect that they will issue an even stronger directive to release Daniil.Â” JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have recently suffered crackdowns in Russia and other former Soviet republics, including Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. In April, Russia declared JehovahÂ’s Witnesses Â“extremistsÂ” and formally banned them. In May, the Witnesses, who number about 8 million worldwide, released a report documenting 50 cases of persecution, including harassment, beatings, the closing of churches, and arson attacks. Increasingly, theÂ crackdowns are focused on the young, including children. Among them was the case of an 8-year-old Russian girl forced by her principal to sing patriotic songs before her classmates. JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have appealed RussiaÂ’s decision to ban them, but that appeal was denied. A second and final appeal is in process. ViaÂ Religion News Service. Â
Guest posted a topic in Jehovah’s Witnesses's TopicsThe NSC secret police in Khujand arrested Protestant pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov on 10 April after raiding his church and seizing Christian literature. Officials claim songbooks and a book "More Than a Carpenter" are "extremist". The pastor is being investigated on "extremism" criminal charges. On 10 April the National Security Committee (NSC) secret police in Tajikistan's northern Sogd Region arrested Bakhrom Kholmatov, Pastor of the Sunmin Sunbogym (Good News of Grace) Protestant Church in the regional capital Khujand. He remains in NSC secret police custody, apparently under investigation on criminal charges of "extremism". The charges follow the seizure of Christian books during a raid on his Church. "Pastor Kholmatov's family and Church members don't know what the NSC secret police is doing with him," Protestants from Sogd Region who are closely following the situation and who, for fear of state reprisals, asked not to give their names, complained to Forum 18 on 20 April. They said they have had no news of Pastor Kholmatov's physical conditions or state of health since his arrest. Reached on 28 April, the duty officer at the NSC secret police in the capital Dushanbe refused to transfer Forum 18's call to anyone. He consulted a colleague, then gave another number, which turned out to be that of a pharmacy (which said it often receives calls from people given the number by various state agencies). Called back, the NSC duty officer again said he would consult a colleague, then came back and told Forum 18 it had called a wrong number. He then put the phone down. The Deputy Head of the State Committee for Religious Affairs in Dushanbe, Khuseyn Shokirov, refused to explain why Pastor Kholmatov is under arrest accused of "extremism" (see below). The NSC secret police, together with the State Committee for Religious Affairs and other law-enforcement agencies, began raiding Sunmin Sunbogym's affiliated congregations in Sogd Region in early February. Officials closed down the congregation in the town of Konibodom in March after interrogating and beating church members. NSC secret police officers arrested Pastor Kholmatov after they raided the Khujand Church in April (see below). Meanwhile, officials in Dushanbe have closed down two kindergartens. One was closed after officials found a Christian songbook, the other apparently because Protestants were employed there (see below). "Extremism" punishments Officials have not revealed what criminal charges Pastor Kholmatov will or might face. The Criminal Code punishes a number of crimes related to "extremism". Criminal Code Article 307-2 punishes "leading or organising an extremist community". Punishments are prison terms of up to 12 years (if conducted by an individual using their official position). The Article allows an individual to be freed from punishment if they voluntarily agree to stop their activity. This Article was among several related to "extremism" added to the Criminal Code in December 2015. As elsewhere in the region, the Tajik authorities frequently use "extremism"-related charges to punish individuals for exercising freedom of religion or belief outside the framework of religious communities that the state allows to operate. Such charges are mainly levelled against Muslims. In April 2016, a court in Sogd Region handed down an eight year prison term to Imam Khamid Karimov, the leader of the Mosque in Unji-Bobojon village. The Judge handed down seven year prison terms to each of four members of his Mosque. These – and many other Muslims, especially those accused of being Salafis – were imprisoned using Criminal Code "extremism" punishments (see F18News 19 May 2016
There's fresh impetus to explore Namibia's startling landscapes this year CREDIT:FOTOLIA 6 JANUARY 2017 • 12:31PM If your ambition this year is to try new things and explore new places, you're in luck. From Nicaragua to Tajikistan, a number of hitherto "undiscovered" destinations are increasingly catering to discerning holidaymakers, with a host of new resorts opening and experiences launching over the year to come. Read below for more on the most exciting outdoor adventures to be enjoyed around the world in 2017, or for something more sedate see our guides to 2017's best wellness and fitness breaks; 2017's best luxury beach holidays; the year's best yachting and sailing holidays; and the best cities to visit over the next 12 months. The Desert Circuit: Namibia Exclusive Lodges The four new luxury lodges on the Namibia Exclusive circuit are located in some of the most remote and beautiful northern parts of the country, each designed by architect Greg Scott and built of local materials that reflect the region’s landscapes and cultural traditions. Sorris Sorris Lodge in Damaraland has been built into huge granite boulders scattered across the desert landscape, its modern African rammed-earth structures and pool offering views over the Ugab River and the mountains of the Brandberg Massif. Sorris Sorris Lodge Omatandeka Lodge is surrounded by vast plains inhabited by the Himba people, table-top mountains and a vital wildlife corridor used by mountain zebra, oryx and endangered black rhino, while Sheya Shuushona Lodge, on the northern boundary of Etosha National Park, is surrounded by photogenic salt pans that change colour with the seasons and turn into a lake in the rainy season. Finally, Xaudum Lodge, the most recent addition, is surrounded by the sand dunes of the Kalahari, home to some 3,000 elephants. All four lodges are located in areas with indigenous communities and contribute funds so these people can continue to live in traditional ways on their ancestors’ land. The Explorations Company offers a nine-night safari, staying at three Namibia Exclusive lodges, from £8,985 per person including flights, air transfers, full board and guiding. The Italian Castle: Castello di Ugento, Puglia There are few buildings in Europe in which guests can stay above a Norman keep, dine beneath 17th-century Baroque frescoes and wander around a garden in which Bronze Age artefacts have been found. In April, on the southern heel of Italy, the (rather wonderfully named) d’Amore family will open their restored thousand-year-old Castello di Ugento to paying guests for the first time (doubles from £260). Visitors can relax within walled gardens, in which more than 100 medicinal and aromatic plants are grown for the kitchen and spa; admire the frescoes painted in 1694 to portray the noble family’s history; sample local wines in an ancient cistern-turned-cellar; and take cookery lessons in a wing turned by the Culinary Institute of America into its first European school. A maximum of 18 guests will sleep in stone-walled rooms with high, star-vaulted ceilings and views over Ugento’s rooftops, and they will feast on Puglian favourites cooked by Milanese chef Odette Fada, whose refined cuisine at the renowned Rex Il Ristorante in Los Angeles and San Domenico NY made her name as one of America’s finest Italian chefs. The nearest beaches are two miles away and Baroque towns such as Lecce are a short drive from the castle. The Urban Forest: Aman Shanghai Aman’s latest property in China (its fourth) must be one of its most anticipated to date. The Shanghai retreat (rates not yet available) is a picture of leafy tranquility – and full of surprises. If a visitor were to drop into the 100-acre property, planted with thousand-year-old camphor trees and interspersed with historic Ming- and Qing-dynasty houses, they’d never believe that they were within easy reach of buzzy downtown Shanghai. Neither the forest nor village are native to this area; both were moved here over the past 10 years from Jiangxi, some 500 miles southwest, by Ma Dadong, a pioneering businessman, when the building of a reservoir threatened their survival. Aman Shanghai Now that the painstaking replanting (which took three years) and the building of the hotel are complete, the 37 villas in the new sanctuary are being decorated with original beams, floors, sculptures and carvings from the uplifted village homes. Kerry Hill, the project’s architect, has taken care to reflect traditional Chinese culture while blending in contemporary comforts and natural tones of earth, moss and creamy whites. Guests can take day trips to Shanghai, walk in the forest, sample Eastern cuisine, or relax in the spa, beside the two pools or in the Nan Shu Fang contemplation garden. The South American Sleeper: The Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru For the first time in May 2017, travellers will be able not only to traverse the Andes in one of the most luxurious trains on earth, but to sleep overnight on one. The Belmond Andean Explorer has been built to carry up to 68 passengers in en-suite cabins decorated by the South African designer Inge Moore in contemporary light woods and comforting alpaca-wool colours. Each of the train’s cars is fitted with expansive windows to frame views of the Andean plains, mountains and grand architecture, including the Unesco World Heritage Site of Arequipa. Although another two trains already operate in this area – Belmond’s Hiram Bingham, which offers day trips to Machu Picchu, and the more traditional Inca Princess – this is the first modern luxury train to offer trips from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, on one- and two-night journeys. Chefs from the Hotel Monasterio in Cusco will serve modern Peruvian cuisine in two dining cars; guests can also enjoy spacious lounge and observation cars, and an open deck. Doubles from £738 , all-inclusive, for one night. The Gorilla Camp: Bisate Lodge, Rwanda One of the key trends in Africa in 2017 is the growth of camps that offer both sustainable luxury and adventure. Hence Wilderness Safaris’ decision to open Bisate Lodge in June as a luxury base for tracking the 10 habituated gorilla groups in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (doubles from £1,762 full board, excluding gorilla permits). The lodge, raised high above the forest floor in the amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, has been designed by architect Nick Plewman to echo the spherical, thatched structures that dot the hills, as well as the layout of traditional Rwandan palaces. The interiors by Caline Williams-Wynn have been inspired by the rich detail of Rwandan textiles, many of which are made using a technique called imigongo, an ancient art form incorporating geometric shapes. When the first guests arrive, they will be able not only to track gorillas, but to hike to Dian Fossey’s grave and her former research station at Karisoke, to trek to the top of a nearby volcano, and then to relax in the extensively reforested gardens. The Jungle Retreat: Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat, Nicaragua Nicaragua’s first luxe mountain resort sits in the lush landscape of Nandaime, just 40 minutes’ drive from the pretty colonial city of Granada. Nekupe – or heaven, in the indigenous Chorotega language – was designed with the help of a feng shui architect to have the highest energy flow and least environmental impact possible, and the four freestanding villas and four expansive suites, with king-sized beds, made-for-sharing bathtubs and alfresco showers, are decorated in earth tones and warm woods that echo the serene setting (doubles from £720, full board). Floor-to-ceiling windows frame views over Mombacho volcano’s perfect cone, and wraparound terraces are perfect for sipping daiquiris, before farm-to-table feasts of nuevo-Nicaraguan cuisine. Nekupe will provide access to Nicaragua's underexplored nature reserves The surrounding nature reserve, which echoes with the sounds of primates and toucans, can be explored on ATVs, as well as on paths created for hikers, bikers and horseback riders, or on zip wires, which soar above the forest canopy. For those not expending energy on target-shooting, tennis and yoga, there is an infinity pool and a spa. The Cook Ski Spot: Lech, Austria Size matters to ski resorts, so the hotly anticipated coronation of Ski Arlberg as Austria’s largest contiguous ski area is big news indeed. Encompassing eight villages, including big hitters St Anton, Lechand Zürs, Ski Arlberg is already one of the best-known ski areas in the Alps. But now its four new lifts are open, linking the entire area to deliver 109 miles of pistes (three more than Val d’Isère), Ski Arlberg will join the ranks of the world’s über resorts. New developments have given Lech a leg up The four connected lifts, known as the Flexenbahn, will place Lech at the epicentre of the ski area (stealing some thunder from St Anton). While expanding its lifts, Lech has also been consolidating its position as Austria’s leading town for luxury ski chalets. In December – hot on the heels of properties like the Aurelio Clubhouse, Chalet N, Chalet 1597 and Überhaus, which have raised the luxury bar in recent years – Severin’s Alpine Retreat will open its doors. The nine-suite hotel will be fitted with only the best: Minotti furnishings, a spa with an indoor infinity pool and hypoxic chamber for altitude training, and a ski room with bespoke Indigo kit. Guests can take over the chalet, for free rein over the suites, restaurant, capacious spa and fire-lit lounges, or plump for The Residence: a sleek four-bedroom private apartment spanning two floors with a professional kitchen, cinema, bar and outdoor hot tub. The Oxford Ski Company offers a week for two people at Severin’s Alpine Retreat from £6,440, including transfers and flights. The Rugged Destination: Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan Tajikistan was the second-fastest growing tourist destination in the world in 2015, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Which is why in 2017 Edge Expeditions will be running a two-week Luxury Tajikistan tour of the country’s spectacular Pamir Mountains: one the most diverse, wild, exhilarating and least-explored corners of the planet. With a team of expert guides, a maximum of eight guests will traverse the raw wilderness by either four-wheel-drive vehicles, with a driver, or motorbikes. Journeying along the legendary Pamir Highway, travellers will spend days exploring azure mountain lakes, hidden valleys, ancient ruins and high mountain passes that very few outsiders ever get to see. The trip starts off at a five-star hotel in the capital, Dushanbe, while on the road the ground crew will prepare yurt camps with hot showers, comfortable beds, Egyptian cotton sheets and gourmet meals prepared by the expedition’s private chef. Along the way, both British and Tajik guides will interpret the layered history of the region, while astronomers with telescopes will also be on hand to explore some of the least light-polluted night skies in the world. Edge Expeditions is offering a 14-day Luxury Tajikistan journey by four-wheel-drive or motorcycle, from £9,495 full board, starting and ending at Dushanbe, including transfers, motorcycle rental or vehicle (with driver), back-up vehicles, guides and medic, but excluding international flights.