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Memorandum to the U.S. Government Regarding Religious Persecution in Uzbekistan
August 10, 2001

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Key Sections


Recommendations: Uzbekistan and the International Religious Freedom Act

A Note On Islam in Uzbekistan

Background on the Campaign of Religious Persecution

Unlawful Arrests and Prosecutions: 1999-2001

Extrajudicial Executions


Social Punishment
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Focus on Human Rights in

Social Punishment

The authorities bring to bear various forms of public ostracism against religious "extremists" and their families. One such method is the government practice, reminiscent of the Stalin era, of forcing detainees and/or their family members who are not in prison to attend "hate rallies" at which they are publicly denounced by officials and community residents. The "hate rallies" are organized by mahallah committees (neighborhood councils) and city mayors, with the participation of police and procuracy officials as well as members of the official clergy. They are carefully staged spectacles that function as a form of general intimidation and as extrajudicial punishment of targeted individuals or family groups. Typically they begin with broad warnings to shun religious trends deemed harmful to the state. Then officials bring forward the detainees and their relatives as live examples of the dangers of following unsanctioned religious trends. Local authorities and residents then have the opportunity to castigate the targeted individuals.

· On April 5, 2000 in Namangan, Omina Muidinova was ushered into the town hall in handcuffs along with three of her sons, her brother, and her son-in-law. They were stood in front of a crowd while officials stated the accusations against them. Officials then called on citizens in attendance to give their opinions of the detainees; several men condemned Muidinova, and some of them called for punishment of her parents as well; some even called for the accused family to be executed. Muidinova was then instructed to address the crowd and explain herself.72
· Even after authorities convicted Shukhrat Abdurahimov in 1999, they continued to persecute his mother, making her the subject of repeated "hate rallies." On three occasions her neighborhood council organized public meetings to condemn her and the rest of his family as disloyal citizens. Officials at the rallies and after allegedly accused the family of engaging in anti-state activities: Abdurahimov's mother was required to report to the police and representatives of her mahallah committee, even about her preferred candidate in the presidential elections.73

The official clergy at state-run mosques encourage community members to shun independent Muslims and have even hosted-at state mosques-public denunciations of detainees similar to the "hate rallies" organized by mahallah committees. At these gatherings, detainees are compelled to stand before an assembled crowd and plead for the state's forgiveness.

· After police allegedly tortured Anvar Mirakhmedov and forced him to confess to falsified charges, he was taken to appear at a series of mosques where he called on young people not to follow the path of "Wahhabism."74 Police also took Faizullo Saipov to give a penitent speech before the congregation at a mosque, to warn of the dangers of religious extremism.75 Both men had been promised release if they repented; once released, they were rearrested.76
· Human Rights Watch obtained a videotape of a January 21, 2000 sermon at the Kokcha mosque in Tashkent by Imam Rakhmatullo in the presence of a group of detainees brought there by authorities for a public ceremony of self-criticism and "repentance." After pointing out thirty to thirty-five detainees waiting in the front row to repent, he said, "What was the greatest quality that our Prophet Muhammad possessed? He always generously forgave guilt if a guilty person came to him with a confession and asked forgiveness.... Our respected President also possesses these same qualities. Even though criminals, hating our independence, slander the President and work against his policies, if they come to him and ask for forgiveness, ... the President will say, `I forgive them!'.... No one will cause them harm."77 The imam then denounced the detainees and they came forward to repent, reciting the state's formulations of their errors and crimes.

72 Written report to Human Rights Watch from Akhmat Abdullaev, Namangan representative of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, undated.

73 Written statement to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from a relative of Shukhrat Abdurahimov, name withheld, May 9, 2000, on file with Human Rights Watch.

74 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript of Tashkent City Court hearing, presided by Judge Sharipov, August 4, 2000.

75 Ibid.

76 Ibid. Other defendants in the same case included Dilshod Unusov and Tohir Obidov, whose attorneys objected to similar manipulation and rearrests of their clients.

77 Unofficial translation from Uzbek by Human Rights Watch.