Jesus & His World: Christian News
Speech and Hearing Impaired Baptists Targeted In Action In Former Soviet State
Forum 18 News Service
Aug 5, 2003
TURKMENISTAN - Two deaf and dumb Baptist women are the latest victims of Turkmenistan's campaign against religious minorities, Forum 18 News Service has learned.
On 18 July 2003 Olga Shchedrova, a deaf and dumb Baptist woman, was summoned to the court in Turkmenabad in western Turkmenistan, where she was threatened with fines and imprisonment for 15 days and attempts were made to force her to deliver summonses to other Christians, which she refused to do.
On 21 July court officials took Shchedrova's passport, which they were holding, to the social security department and without her being present or giving her permission drew her pension of 300,000 manat ($58). They withheld 255,000 in payment of her fine (the fine was 250,000) ($48.00. Throughout the conversation they made fun of her.
On 21 July deaf and dumb Baptist Nezire Kamalova was also summoned to court. She was also threatened with 15 days' imprisonment if she failed to pay her fine. Kamalova's non-Christian mother accompanied her to the court and after the hearing became very hostile towards her. She paid the fine for Nazire and is now threatening to send her to non-Christian relatives in a distant village so that she will be unable to attend Christian services in Turkmenabad.
Forum 18's attempts to establish whether the authorities regarded this as normal practice in Turkmenistan were in vain. Both at the city administration and at the procuracy, officials who did not give their names hung up when Forum 18 tried to phone them on 1 August.
Turkmenistan has the harshest religious policy of all the former Soviet republics. No faiths except for the officially-sanctioned Muslim Board and the Russian Orthodox Church have been allowed to register any communities.
The government treats all unregistered religious activity as illegal. Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists and other Protestants, as well as the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Lutherans, the Jews, Hare Krishna communities, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'is and others are thus denied the opportunity of worshipping legally.
Since May 2003, pressure on religious minorities has intensified with a series of apparently coordinated raids in six different locations on various communities, including Baptist and Pentecostal churches, as well as Hare Krishna communities (see F18News 10 June 2003). In all these cases, the police burst into private apartments where members of religious minorities had gathered, and took them to the police station.
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