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Brief Chronological Overview

At least 80 percent of the population of Uzbekistan identifies as Muslim. The overwhelming majority of Uzbek Muslims are Sunnis and adhere to the Hanafi branch of Sunnism. The balance of the population are Sufis, non-Hanafi Sunnis, Shi’ite Muslims, Russian Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hare Krishnas, Bahais, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants—including Baptists, Evangelicals, and Seventh Day Adventists—and members of other smaller Christian confessions. Most independent Muslims are Hanafi Sunnis and a small percentage belong to the minority of Muslims who adhere to other branches of Sunnism.

Brief Islamic Revival and Government Backlash

During the Soviet period, the state kept a tight rein on religious practice, including in Uzbekistan. The Soviet government closed places of worship, restricted Islamic study to a few designated institutes, and required the official clergy to serve as informants. The Spiritual Directorate of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, established in 1943 under Stalin, monitored believers and defined the sphere of acceptable religious practice in the region. Meanwhile, those who flouted the restrictions of state-defined Islam practiced and studied in secret.

During the brief period of glasnost, restrictions on religious practice in Uzbekistan, as throughout the region, were loosened. People expressed their belief more openly, and the government and private organizations established new mosques and medressehs (religious schools). The rift between private Islamic practice and state-sponsored Islam narrowed. This process continued through Uzbekistan’s coming of age as an independent state. Government and foreign funds contributed to the building of new Muslim houses of prayer. Uzbekistan became the site of some 4,000 mosques, a dramatic increase from the estimated 80 mosques open during the Soviet period.8 President Karimov, former head of the Communist party in Uzbekistan, took pains to portray himself as an advocate of preserving Uzbekistan’s Islamic traditions, even holding the Koran in hand as he took the presidential oath of office in 1991.

As early as 1992, this openness began to shrink. The civil war in Tajikistan broke out in May 1992, pitting the Soviet-era, Russia-aligned elites against a coalition of pro-democracy activists and advocates of an Islamic state. It has been widely conjectured that the war led President Karimov and his advisors to fear the domestic opposition in general and Islamic opposition in particular. Long after the Tajik civil war ended, President Karimov continued to refer to Tajikistan as a cautionary example for Uzbekistan. In 1998 he specifically referred to Tajikistan to justify the passage of Uzbekistan’s restrictive law on religion, saying that if harsh anti-fundamentalist measures were not taken, “Tajikistan will come to Uzbekistan tomorrow.”9 In response to questions posed by Human Rights Watch regarding the arrest of independent Muslims, President Karimov’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulaziz Komilov, said, “The events that happened in Tajikistan must not happen in Uzbekistan. Tajikistan was planned as the first stage, and the second stage is Fergana, and the third stage is destabilization of all of Central Asia….”10 Minister Komilov made a similar argument in 1999, when he told Human Rights Watch, “Religious extremism is coming from the south. They want to devastate the country and establish a non-secular system like in Tajikistan…. Uzbekistan is next.”11 A general crackdown ensued against the political opposition, which, like religious groups, had benefited from the brief period of openness. The Karimov government outlawed the existing opposition parties, banned their newsletters, and arrested, beat, and forced into exile the parties’ leaders. Also in 1992, the government outlawed membership in the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), a political party with an Islamic platform.12 The leader of the Uzbekistan chapter of the IRP, Imam Abdulla Utaev, disappeared later that year, prompting observers to suspect foul play by state law enforcement agents.13

Restored State Control of Religion, 1992-1995

Having banned religious political parties, the government sought to prevent the emergence of other expressions of politicized Islam. It reinvigorated control over Islam and vilified people who defied such controls.

In 1993 the Uzbek government adopted a law on religion that retained many of the restrictive provisions found in the 1991 Soviet law on religion. Two institutions, the Muslim Spiritual Board and the Cabinet of Ministers’ Committee on Religious Affairs, were charged with defining acceptable Islamic practices and weeding out Islamic leaders who refused to conform to them. The Muslim Spiritual Board retained much of its predecessor’s authority: to register mosques and medressehs, appoint and dismiss individual imams, dictate the content of sermons, and issue religious edicts. Acceptable Muslim practice became limited to that which took place within the framework of these official religious institutions, under the tutelage of religious teachers and imams appointed by the Muslim Spiritual Board.

People who defied these limits were stigmatized as “Wahhabis,” regardless of whether they adhered to Wahhabism and even regardless of whether they believed in or advocated an Islamic state or shari’a (Islamic law). Among those labeled Wahhabis were observant Muslims who engaged in private prayer or privately studied religion, or who favored the establishment of an Islamic state in Uzbekistan or incorporation of shari’a as the law of the land. Law enforcement agencies also began to identify as “Wahhabis” those who proselytized, that is, called on fellow Muslims to become observant Muslims by declaring their submission to God and belief in the Prophet Muhammad, shunning alcohol, praying five times per day, observing religious holidays, and learning Arabic in order to study the Koran in its original language. Officials have cast well-known, independent-minded Muslim clerics, imams, as “Wahhabi” for their refusal to pay homage to President Karimov during religious services, to serve as informants for law enforcement agencies, or to comply otherwise with state controls on religion. Authorities now stigmatize virtually any person who has been associated with one of these independent Islamic leaders, who obtained religious instruction from one of them, or who attended religious services at one of their mosques, as a follower of a “Wahhabi” imam and, therefore, a “Wahhabi” himself. In addition, secular and religious authorities came to regard as “Wahhabis” those who manifest their religious beliefs in an overt way, such as by growing a beard or wearing a headscarf. As noted above, observance of the five daily Muslim prayers has also been interpreted as excessive expression of faith. Authorities also regard extensive study of Islamic scholarship as suspect, particularly that written and published outside of Uzbekistan.

Targeting Imams, 1995-1997

The disappearance of Sheikh Abduvali Kori Mirzoev was the first major indication that the government’s increasing hostility toward independent Islam would move beyond mere statements. Sheikh Mirzoev was the revered spiritual leader of the Jo’mi (Friday) mosque in Andijan. He was popular throughout Andijan province and was an independent-minded and outspoken member of the Muslim community in Uzbekistan. He allegedly advocated the future establishment of an Islamic state, based on shari’a, and resisted government efforts to control his religious services and beliefs.14

On August 29, 1995, Mirzoev and his assistant, Ramazanbek Matkarimov, were scheduled to fly from Tashkent to Moscow to attend an international conference. There were reports that one eyewitness at the airport saw security agents detain Mirzoev as he boarded the plane.15 There were no confirmed reports of sightings of either Mirzoev or his assistant afterward. An anonymous letter sent by a man claiming to be a former cellmate of Mirzoev contended, however, that the imam had been kept in the basement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in August 1995 and in Tashkent prison from September 1995 to April 1996.16 The Uzbek government, for its part, alleged that Imam Mirzoev had fabricated his own disappearance in order to justify the claim that the government was violating independent Muslims’ freedom of religion.17 The Jo’mi mosque, which the government labeled a “Wahhabi” mosque and a source of “reactionary” religious ideas, was closed after Mirzoev’s disappearance in 1995.18 As of this writing, the whereabouts of Imam Mirzoev and Matkarimov remain unknown. Mirzoev’s former assistant, Nematjon Parpiev, followed in the Sheikh’s footsteps to become an imam in Andijan. Parpiev disappeared in September 1997.19

Among those the government branded as “Wahhabis” by the mid-90s were clerics who had been appointed by the Muslim Spiritual Board. Perhaps the best known was Imam Obidkhon Kori Nazarov, imam of the Tokhtaboi mosque in Tashkent. Nazarov was rumored to be in line for the position of mufti, the highest post in the official Islamic clergy. In 1996, after Nazarov fell out of favor for diverging from the Muslim Spiritual Board’s religious guidelines and for refusing to serve as an informant for the National Security Service (SNB, formerly the KGB), the MSB dismissed him from his post at the Tokhtaboi mosque for “disobedience to the Board.”20 The authorities’ persecution of Nazarov’s family throughout subsequent years is documented in this report.

The Arrests Widen, 1997-2001

The government widened its crackdown on “Wahhabis” in the winter of 1997-98, in response to the December 1997 murder of several police officers and the beheading of a local government official and another prominent community member in Namangan province. At least several hundred, and possibly more than a thousand, independent Muslims in Namangan and Andijan provinces in the Fergana Valley were arrested during the first four months following the murders.21 The police now targeted people even loosely affiliated with imams Nazarov or Mirzoev, or other religious leaders who had fallen out of favor with authorities, as well as those who had sided with Nazarov at the time of his removal from the Tokhtaboi mosque. They placed those who had attended Nazarov’s mosque, years before, on special police registers, and subsequently arrested them. Hundreds of young men, labeled “Wahhabis” by the police, were arrested and convicted on falsified charges of possessing narcotics or bullets. Hundreds of others were detained and forced to shave their beards or were placed in administrative custody for ten to fifteen days on false charges and threatened with future arrest.

A marked rise in surveillance of independent Muslims that began in 1998 would contribute to the arrest patterns for several years. Beginning in 1998, official intelligence agencies, local administrators, and mahalla committees came under increased pressure to monitor and inform on citizens’ behavior, particularly “suspicious” religious activity. By 1999, for instance, President Karimov tasked mahalla committees to keep their “eyes open” to what was being said in local mosques.22

This widespread and highly intrusive surveillance network eventually produced a list of thousands of people, whom officials later identified as “enemies” or opponents of the government. Many of them were arrested after bombings in Tashkent in 1999.

A significant watershed in the effort to eliminate independent Islam was the adoption in May 1998 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. In conjunction with amendments to the criminal and administrative codes, the law made possession of “extremist” religious literature, membership in “extremist” religious organizations, and proselytizing punishable by long prison sentences. Adoption of the law left no doubt that the arrests underway were an instrument of central state policy, and not rogue activity by certain police forces or local officials.23 Uzbekistan’s foreign policy also spoke to the intentions of the government vis-à-vis independent Islam. In June 1998 Uzbekistan formed a troika with Russia and Tajikistan to counter “Islamic extremism” in Central Asia. The main targets of this anti-fundamentalist front were declared to be the “Wahhabists.”24

Bombings, Mass Arrests, and Trials

On February 16, 1999, five bombs exploded near government buildings in Tashkent, claiming more than a dozen lives and wounding many others.25 The bombings marked another turning point in the campaign against independent Islam. President Karimov immediately accused Islamic “extremists,” and pointed to the bombings to justify the arrests of independent Muslims that had already taken place.26 This triggered the arrest of thousands of independent Muslims. President Karimov characterized the bombings as an attempt on his own life and vowed to hold accountable, “The fathers who have brought [enemies of the state] up… together with their children.”27 This signaled a policy of collective punishment that in practice would involve the arrest of suspects’ fathers, brothers, and other male relatives absent any evidence other than kinship. Women relatives of suspects were also harassed and briefly detained during this period and, during later phases of the campaign, arrested and convicted.

A series of terrorism trials related to the bombings began in June 1999.28 Prosecutors repeatedly referred to the defendants as “Wahhabis,” and argued that the bombings were the product of a vast conspiracy of Islamic extremists and part of a plan to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. The state presented no material or forensic evidence linking those on trial with the explosions and committed numerous procedural violations during the course of the trials. The state also tortured the defendants, held them in incommunicado detention, deprived them of legal counsel, and intimidated and coerced witnesses and relatives of defendants. As a result, some observers were left in serious doubt as to the defendants’ involvement in the bombings.29

Many of the defendants in the bombings trials had been already in prison in February 1999 on charges apparently related to their religious affiliation. The incrimination of “Wahhabis” and other people already in prison at the time of the bombings was in fact directed by President Karimov personally. On the day of the bombings, February 16, 1999, President Karimov announced on national television, “I have instructed my staff. I told them: give me the list of people who have been imprisoned in connection with Namangan, Andijan and in general in connection with the Fergana Valley events. Regarding this list, give me additional information and tell me who among them are true criminals.”30 Those not incarcerated at the time of the bombings and who were charged with participation in the plot were also predominantly observant Muslims with past connections to imams Mirzoev or Nazarov. The prosecution made defendants’ religiosity, including the number of times a day they prayed, the year they began praying, and the mosques they had attended, the centerpiece of its case, and the courts accepted these factors as evidence of their guilt in the bombings.31 Court verdicts used the language of a politico-military campaign against Islamic fundamentalism—identifying various dates, for example, as being “after the beginning of the decisive struggle against Wahhabism.”32

After the bombings, independent Muslims who had been on government surveillance lists, many of whom had been detained or harassed in earlier phases of the campaign, were now re-arrested. Arrests of Hizb ut-Tahrir members, previously scattered and selective, now occurred en masse, even though its members had no known connection to the bombings or any other violent incident. Police raided members’ homes as well as public places where the group’s members were gathered or proselytizing. While the bombing clearly served as the catalyst for this new pattern of arrests, at least one observer also cites as an explanation Hizb ut-Tahrir’s increased visibility and popularity in Uzbekistan. Ahmed Rashid argued that because the group initially made its literature available only in Arabic, the Uzbek government did not view it with much apprehension. But by 1999 Hizb ut-Tahrir produced and distributed its literature in Uzbek and other Central Asian languages. Membership in the group, Rashid relates, also appears to have risen dramatically by 1999.33

In the wake of the February bombings, government leaders appeared to have given the police permission to use even the most brazen tactics against “extremists.” Masked officers with automatic weapons raided homes at night to seize suspects. They frequently planted drugs or bullets to prove guilt. They sometimes confiscated the Koran or other state-sanctioned religious texts as contraband or evidence of “extremism.” Relatives of wanted men were taken hostage pending the suspects’ appearance. Police also took relatives into custody to increase their leverage with religious detainees who refused to confess to crimes they did not commit. Police used increasingly sophisticated and brutal forms of torture, including electric shock, punctures with metal spikes, rape, and targeted beatings that would not leave marks visible when the defendants appeared in court.

Another government tactic used in the wake of the bombings to root out “extremists” was to offer pardon to those who turned themselves in, and then arrest those who complied. In April 1999 President Karimov and the minister of internal affairs promised to pardon those who asked the state’s forgiveness for engaging in unsanctioned religious expression or practice, and encouraged parents to turn in their sons for merciful treatment.34 The tactic proved effective, although the exact number who sought pardons is unknown. Human Rights Watch estimates that hundreds of independent Muslims turned themselves in to police in the capital alone in the immediate aftermath of the president’s promise. A Ministry of Internal Affairs official claimed that 700 people who had sought forgiveness in the first days of the policy had all been pardoned and returned to their families.35

Hundreds of men who voluntarily came forward, renounced their religious feelings or affiliations, begged for forgiveness for following the “wrong” religious path, and pledged their loyalty to the state were tried and imprisoned. Once the “confessed extremists” were in custody, the government paraded groups of them at public events designed to unite public opinion against their families and their supporters.

Emergence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,1999-2001

By fall 2000 government officials routinely justified the campaign to arrest independent Muslims as necessary to protect the country from violent attack by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). An armed, militant organization, the IMU seeks the overthrow of the Karimov government through violent means. It was founded in 1997, and is led by political and religious activists who fled Uzbekistan in 1992 under threat of arrest following the crackdown in the Fergana Valley. The IMU’s military leader was Juma Namangani (also known as Jumaboi Khojiev), who fought alongside the Islamic opposition against the government of Tajikistan during that country’s civil war. Its political leader, Tokhir Iuldash (also known as Tokhir Iuldashev) had led the youth wing of Adolat (Justice), an Islamic patrol group founded in Namangan in 1989.36 Based in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the IMU launched armed incursions into Kyrgyzstan in 1999, and into both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan during the summer of 2000.

The Uzbek government claimed that Iuldash and Namangani led militants based abroad in a “vast conspiracy” to commit the 1999 bombings, in collusion with the secular opposition, namely exiled politician Muhammad Solikh (also known as Salai Madaminov), and the independent Muslim religious leadership, including missing imams Mirzoev and Nazarov.37 Similarly, the state claimed that the March 30, 1999 hijacking of a bus carrying local residents in the Bukhara province was the result of collusion among Iuldash, Namangani, Solikh, and their followers inside the country. President Karimov, reacting soon after the hijacking, stated there was no political motivation behind the culprits’ actions. He announced on April 1, 1999, that, “These people are not putting forth any political demands, neither [sic] they are adopting any political disguise. They are thieves and robbers through and through.”38 Government authorities later called it a “terrorist” action. In addition, initial reports claimed that police and National Security Service forces had killed three of the five hijackers, but later five residents of the area were sentenced to death for allegedly having a role in the crime. They were scheduled to be executed by firing squad.39

In August 1999 armed militants crossed from Tajikistan into Kyrgyzstan and took several hostages. They quickly released the first hostages, but kept another group, including four Japanese geologists, for two months.40 The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, using that name publicly and taking responsibility for the hostage-taking, issued a statement, signed by Tokhir Iuldash, that included its demands: that President Karimov resign; that all religious prisoners in Uzbekistan be released; that those who fled religious persecution and other exiles be allowed to return to Uzbekistan; and that the government introduce shari’a.41

In August 2000 the IMU launched incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The group retreated two months later after pitched battles with government forces in both countries. The only casualty figures came from Kyrgyz and Uzbek government sources. Uzbek spokespeople presented the military’s losses to be low, reporting fewer than two dozen soldiers killed in the fighting.42 Kyrgyz sources reported that they had lost around thirty fighters.43 Reports ranged from fifteen to one hundred regarding deaths of IMU fighters.44

In September 2000 the U.S. government named the IMU a terrorist organization. A little more than a year later, following the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush and other world leaders revealed the IMU’s close cooperation with the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. The IMU bases in Afghanistan were reportedly targets of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Juma Namangani is believed to have been killed in northern Afghanistan in November 2001.

The Uzbek government has frequently claimed that the IMU, “Wahhabis,” and Hizb ut-Tahrir form a united movement, though it has never presented any material evidence to prove this is the case. This has caused many in the international community to conflate the aims and methods of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the IMU. Both the IMU and Hizb ut-Tahrir have an Islamic agenda and have criticized the Karimov administration’s crackdown on independent Islam. The two organizations are separate and unique, however, with markedly different aims and methods. In contrast to Hizb ut-Tahrir, the IMU has espoused and used violence to advance its goal of overthrowing the Karimov government. IMU violence has included kidnappings and military tactics, while Hizb ut-Tahrir has an avowed commitment to peaceful action only and has repeatedly decried the use of violence to attain its goals. Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks the re-establishment of the historical Caliphate that existed during the 7th and 8th centuries (and some say even lasted until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923). The IMU has expressed only a vague vision of an Islamic state based on shari’a, without elaborating on particular institutional arrangements. Moreover, the primary goal of the IMU is unquestionably the ouster of President Karimov and his administration.

Institutions of Control

Law enforcement and judicial agencies played a highly visible role in the campaign against independent Islam by arresting and imprisoning Muslims. Other institutions also played important roles in maintaining state control over the practice of Islam and expression of religious beliefs. The government’s virtually exclusive access to the means of mass communication made it possible for state actors to launch an intense propaganda campaign in coordination with the arrests. Mahalla, or neighborhood, committees provided a vast network of surveillance and social pressure at the local level. The official clergy has actively assisted government officials in formulating, publicly justifying, and implementing the campaign.

The Propaganda Campaign

In Uzbekistan, domestic radio, television and print media are subject to close government scrutiny and censorship.45 There is no national independent news coverage. The import of most foreign newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts is blocked. Locally broadcast, foreign-run radio programs are available only to a limited degree, as the government assigns them frequencies that are difficult to find on most modern radios. Government control of local newspapers, radio, and television assures the Karimov government a twenty-four-hour vehicle for the propagation of its views. The government re-monopolized access to the internet after a brief period of decentralization, giving it the capacity to more closely monitor communications and to restrict access to web sites. The vast majority of Uzbeks have no access to cable television, which broadcasts foreign news programs.

Control of the mass media has enabled the state to argue, unchallenged, that “religious extremists” pose a serious political and military threat to the country. Television stories about the aftermath of the February 1999 bombings or current events were juxtaposed on a split screen with images of armed Islamic militants fighting in Tajikistan and Afghanistan to illustrate the government’s message that Uzbekistan could be next in the region to face a militant Islamic opposition. Television news programs on the arrests or trials of independent Muslims consistently took the side of the state and often declared the accused guilty before a verdict had been reached. People were shown in handcuffs or behind bars while subtitles or voice-over narrative branded them “religious extremists” or “supporters of terrorists” and thereby shamed and judged them before the entire viewing audience.

Government-run media also played a pivotal role in implementing the government’s policy of encouraging contrition for religious “misdeeds.” Special broadcasts and nightly news programs aired pre-taped “confessions.” In them, young men, sometimes escorted by their parents, confessed to the cameras that they had taken the wrong religious path, begged for the forgiveness of the president and people of Uzbekistan, and then thanked or lauded the Karimov government for its benevolence in pardoning them.46 This served to bolster the government’s contention that these people had done something for which to be sorry, that their religious expression had been wrong and the government had been right. It also led viewers to believe, erroneously, that they could secure pardons from the government. This belief proved disastrous for many who subsequently turned themselves over to police custody to be forgiven and instead found themselves behind bars. Parents, for their part, were shown chastising or denouncing their children, as government and official Islamic policy directed them to do. Parents reiterated the government’s message that certain forms of Islamic practice or affiliation were “mistaken” and could bring punishment.

A particularly egregious example of the television propaganda campaign was a two-hour film the government produced and aired on national television that claimed to document the February 16, 1999 bombings and expose those responsible. Men incriminated themselves on screen, and the narrator strung the confessions together into the story of a vast conspiracy against the state of Uzbekistan involving the exiled secular opposition, Uzbek militants abroad, and independent Muslims within and outside the country. Poet Mamadali Makhmudov was one of the men featured in the broadcast incriminating himself and others. His appearance was shocking as, prior to the airing of the film, his whereabouts had not been confirmed and it was feared he had been disappeared. In a letter he wrote following the broadcast, Makhmudov alleged that police had kept him in a basement cell and had threatened to kill him and rape his wife if he did not incriminate himself and others for the television program.47 Some of the men who appeared in the broadcast were later tried and convicted.

Local Government Enforcers (Mahalla Committees)

Agents and officials at all levels of government have assisted and enforced the arrest campaign against independent Muslims since well before the February 1999 bombings. Crucial among these are mahalla, or neighborhood, committees.48 Together with local mayors, mahalla committees have undertaken surveillance and provided information about community residents’ religious beliefs and practices to police.49 They identify potential “religious extremists” and issue them stern warnings. They have also presided over various methods of social stigmatization, including “hate rallies.”

In 2000 Uzbekistan’s top leadership singled out the mahalla committees as particularly crucial to the campaign against “extremism.” In his January 22, 2000 address to Parliament, President Karimov named the strengthening of mahalla committees and local government authorities a priority of his administration.50 Following this lead, at a January 28 meeting of Tashkent government officials, state religious leaders, and senior law enforcement officers, Minister of Internal Affairs Zokirjon Almatov promised that police and mahalla committee leaders would support the government’s efforts to curb religious “extremism.”51 Following skirmishes between Uzbek military and security forces and the IMU in August 2000, Almatov reiterated the government’s call for local authorities to play an active role in the campaign against “extremists.” He said, “You brothers, parents, imams and leaders, wake up! Where are our young people heading? Why do you not take care of them? Why do you not stop them from becoming bad? You have the right to do many things. You are empowered to decide in your neighborhoods the life and fate of each citizen, each individual who is failing to give their child a proper upbringing, or those who are letting them get involved in these things.”52

Members of the mahalla committees conducted surveys in villages throughout Uzbekistan, either by visiting homes or by summoning residents to the committee office, to determine each resident’s degree of religiosity and possible religious affiliation. The “surveys” included questions such as whether or not one prayed or grew a beard and who had taught the family’s children about Islam. Those questioned were encouraged to comment on their neighbors’ religious education, practices, and beliefs as well as their own. The committees turned their files on individual citizens, the survey results, and other general surveillance over to local police chiefs.53

Memorial Human Rights Center, a Russian nongovernmental organization, obtained a document showing that the Ministry of Internal Affairs directed the surveys and ordered mahalla committees throughout the country to conduct them. The document, issued to the mahalla committee in a Fergana Valley city, describes the kind of information to be gathered by the local officials, and the people to be targeted as “suspicious.” The committee members were ordered to make a list of people who encourage women and minors to pray regularly, to list individuals who prayed at unregistered mosques, and to monitor or control men who at the time had or at one time wore a beard.54

The surveillance conducted by local officials along with that carried out by law enforcement agents bore substantial fruit. Following the February 1999 bombings, Minister of Internal Affairs Zokirjon Almatov claimed his ministry already had the names of 6,000 people alleged to be members of extremist groups.55 Memorial reported that during 1999, some 10,700 people were registered or “put on the list” by authorities in mahallas, or neighborhoods, for alleged adherence to “religious fundamentalism.”56 President Karimov himself, referring to Uzbek militants abroad and those he perceived as opponents of his government said, “We have their names on our list.”57

Court proceedings against independent Muslims frequently revealed the role mahalla committee leaders had played as police informants. Committee members have routinely served as witnesses for the prosecution, testifying to a person’s religious activity. They have served also as witnesses for the defense, in particular to testify to a defendant’s remorse for having followed the “wrong religious path.” They also routinely attest to the mahalla committee’s own efforts to steer the accused in the “right” direction. Judges in particular have questioned mahalla committee members about the steps they had taken prior to a defendant’s arrest to curb his unregistered religious activity or manifestation of religious belief. In one case involving thirteen men accused of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, the mahalla committee chairman was summoned to testify as to why such people had been participating in unregistered religious activity in his area. One of the lay assessors asked him to confirm whether or not he had received instruction from the hokimiat (mayor’s office) to “take care of illegal things.”58 The mahalla committee chairman acknowledged that he had been instructed to inform higher authorities if he discovered any illegal activities in his area. The judge then asked him what he would do if he discovered a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir in his neighborhood. The chairman responded that he would inform fellow members of the mahalla committee and report the person to the police.59

President Karimov charged mahalla committees with monitoring local mosques, including the conduct of imams and content of sermons. Speaking just after the February 16, 1999 bombings in Tashkent, he announced on national television:

...every neighbourhood committee should supervise the work of its local mosque. What are those mosques there for?... Mosques are designed to improve the life of the neighborhood, to improve people’s lives and to inculcate the belief in life after death in the minds of people. They should also explain to people what it’s like to have a guilty conscience, and to arouse their conscience. I repeat that if there is a mosque in the neighborhood then the local council should keep their eyes open.60

The president tasked the mahalla committees with ensuring that imams used their platform to warn congregations away from “dogmatism.” He queried,

What kind of talk is going on at mosques? Are those chief prayer leaders [imams] performing their duties of defending people?... They should be opening people’s eyes and helping them to tell truth from dogmatism... Are they opening people’s eyes? Are they warning people? These are legitimate questions. If I am performing my duties well and you are doing yours then those who call themselves chief prayer leaders and religious figures should also perform their duties. Right? Do they have a guilty conscience or not?61

Neighborhood Guardians

Several months after the bombings institutional arrangements to implement President Karimov’s vision of local control were strengthened. On April 14, 1999, parliament adopted a law regulating the work of mahallas.62 The Cabinet of Ministers issued a statute creating the position of “neighborhood guardian” (posbon),63 mahalla committee employees tasked specifically with monitoring residents’ behavior and serving as police informants.64

The posbon regulation merits more detailed treatment, as these “guardians” essentially serve as morality police, ensuring “adherence to social rules and the norms of manners and morals [in the neighborhood]…” and engaging “deviant” residents in order to alter their behavior.65

Posbons are subordinate to both the mahalla and to local police, and are described in the law as “the closest helpers of law enforcement organs.”66 As police collaborators, posbons gather information about fellow residents and record the findings from conversations with community residents. They turn these records over to the office of the local police inspector, much the way the mahalla committees hand surveys over to the police.67 Posbons are explicitly instructed to “identify guilty parties and to carry out searches;”68 they may also report people to law enforcement officials and summon them to the police station.69

The key role played by local informants in the government’s campaign against independent Muslims is also alluded to in the posbon regulation. Article 17 states that posbons’ duties include “identifying and undertaking preventative and educational measures of [sic] individuals…who invite [youth] to become members of organizations that have the intent to bring them under the influence of various religious extremist ideologies, individuals who undertake various forms of illegal propaganda and propagation activities, those who give religious education to adolescents in a manner contrary to the law and those individuals who spread slander about the constitutional system.”70

In addition to informing police about residents’ religious practices and beliefs, the mahalla committees also carried out their own forms of extrajudicial punishment. They summoned residents to warn them to stop growing beards and fined women who wore headscarves. They demanded that residents forswear Hizb ut-Tahrir membership or sign more general oaths promising not to become involved with “religious sects.” Harkening back to the Stalinist era, the mahalla committees, along with local police and other government officials, organized community “hate rallies” to publicly shame and denounce independent Muslims and their relatives.

The Role of Official Islam

During the early stages of the campaign, the Muslim Spiritual Board, also called the Muslim Board or Muftiate, took a lead role in cracking down on expressions of faith that did not comply with its dictates.71 Responsible for the appointment of imams and registration of mosques, the Muslim Spiritual Board was responsible for dismissing leading independent religious leaders and de-registering and closing the majority of mosques that had sprung up after independence. It kept a tight rein on the content of sermons, ensuring that they expressed support for the government, praised the president, and did not expound any views straying from the government line.

In June 1999, the mufti—chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Board and the highest officially sanctioned religious authority in the nation, Abdurashid Kori Bakhromov—went so far as to issue a fatwa, an Islamic decree, against Hizb ut-Tahrir. In it, he called for collective punishment against Hizb ut-Tahrir members, echoing the policy articulated by President Karimov just two months earlier, and called for members of the group to be socially stigmatized and isolated. Mufti Bakhromov declared on national television and radio that members of Hizb ut-Tahrir had criticized “modern Muslims” for failing to pursue jihad, failing to endorse the use of violence, and failing to elect Caliphs.72 He said, “That is why, as the chairman of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims in Uzbekistan and mufti, I have issued a fatwa ordering all Muslims to break off all family relations with mercenary-minded people belonging to the Hezb-e Tahrir [sic] sect, with those who have not shunned the sect’s goals, words, and oaths and have not repented. All neighbourly relations should be eliminated with them. They should not be spoken to. But extremely strict measures should be undertaken against them in order to open their eyes.”73

Just days after issuing this fatwa, the mufti signed an additional decree, announcing that those who did not recant oaths taken to unregistered Islamic groups would not be given a Muslim burial.74

The mufti proved he was willing to act on his own call for the denunciation of Hizb ut-Tahrir members when he had one young man arrested, after the man appealed to him to help stop the persecution of Muslims in Uzbekistan.75

The Committee on Religious Affairs

The Committee on Religious Affairs of the Cabinet of Ministers, operating under the authority of parliament and the president, has also played a central role in the criminal prosecution of independent Muslims. The 1998 religion law charged the committee with serving as a liaison between religions organizations and state agencies, and monitoring compliance with the law.76 Among the committee’s main activities is articulating views on the content of religious literature and the significance of certain beliefs, which prosecutors submit to courts as expert testimony.77 Because possession and distribution of literature are among the most common charges (and in some cases are the only charges) against independent Muslims, the committee’s role is significant.

As the government’s campaign progressed, such “expert testimony” routinely served as a crucial basis for convictions, along with coerced confessions by defendants. The committee’s expert opinions almost always found that statements made in independent Islamic groups’ literature were against the constitution. Prosecutors successfully used this opinion to substantiate the frequent charge that possession or distribution of such literature or sympathy with the views expressed therein amounted to anti-constitutional activity punishable by law. Members of the Committee on Religious Affairs did not, with few exceptions, testify in person. Rather, the committee’s reports were designed for the prosecution and were not made available to the defense. In a typical court proceeding, no private or impartial examination of the religious literature is provided as an alternative to the committee’s views, leaving the Cabinet of Ministers with a monopoly on the interpretation of religious literature. The literature itself is not presented in court. In fact, the content or text of the materials is often not discussed in court beyond an occasional reference to the title of the leaflet or book and a review of the committee’s decision.78

A few examples:

  • In his May 1999 verdict concerning Khojiakbar Ergashev (the son of Imam Tulkin Ergashev), Judge V. N. Sharipov relied on the conclusions reached by a group of experts from the Committee on Religious Affairs regarding books that police claimed they found in the Ergashev home. The committee found that Hizb ut-Tahrir used the publications Izzat va sharaf sari and Al-Vai (Consciousness) to spread the group’s ideas among the population. According to the committee, these ideas were presented as Islamic but actually “hid under the mask of Islam” so that Hizb ut-Tahrir could first gain public authority and then take power and establish an Islamic state.79 Judge Sharipov sentenced Ergashev to twelve years in prison for anti-constitutional activities and on other charges, none of which involved acts of violence or the defendant’s personally inciting anyone to violence.80

§ Committee experts examined Hizb ut-Tahrir literature that police claimed to have found in the home of Shukhrat Abdurakhimov. They stated that the materials called for the creation of a Caliphate and “contain[ed] illegal ideas regarding changing the existing order, in opposition to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan.”81 The same committee report contended that Abdurakhimov’s co-defendant, Rakhim Umarov, had possessed Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets that included calls for “the construction of an Islamic state, and seek to take power under the mask of the Muslim religion….”82 Solely on the basis of this second-hand information about leaflets—and the alleged possession of such literature—the court found Abdurakhimov guilty and sentenced him to seventeen years in prison and Umarov to a fifteen-year term on charges that included article 159, part 3, of the criminal code, an aggravated charge that is meant to apply to those who have repeatedly or as part of an organized group attempted the overthrow of the constitutional order.83

Judge Rakhmonov, who presided over the Tashkent City Court trial of thirteen accused Hizb ut-Tahrir members in July 1999, relied heavily on the interpretation of Hizb ut-Tahrir put forth by the Committee on Religious Affairs. The judge stated in court that he had received a forty-page report from the committee that outlined the origins of Hizb ut-Tahrir and its advocacy of a world Islamic government. The report also stated that the group was intent on converting all Muslims to its way of thinking “by any means” and found the group’s literature was being distributed throughout Uzbekistan without government permission.84 The procurator in this case asserted that the report by the Committee on Religious Affairs proved that the defendants’ involvement in spreading the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir, including advocacy of a Caliphate and implementation of shari’a, taking an oath of loyalty to the party, and distribution of leaflets were all part of “a plan to overthrow the government.”85 The procurator noted in particular that the committee had examined Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets and that the draft constitution for an Islamic state contained calls for the overthrow of the government of Uzbekistan.86 The committee, he said, had designated these books as illegal and against the constitution of Uzbekistan.87 In a notable expansion of the application of the committee’s mandate, the same procurator revealed that the committee’s report had decided also on the validity of the religious beliefs held by Hizb ut-Tahrir and had contained a prescription for proper belief. The committee report, he told the court, “says all the literature found was of a religious extremist group and [that] although you should be religious and recognize Allah, you should never give an oath... even Muhammad said jihad is not good for Muslims... Their activities are in contradiction to the Prophet’s words.”88

8 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2002, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, released on October 7, 2002. In this report, the U.S. Department of State noted that the number of mosques had decreased since the early independence period as a result of the Uzbek government’s registration policies. While closures were known to have taken place on a wide scale, exact figures were not available to Human Rights Watch as of September 2003.

9 As quoted in Uzbek radio second program, Tashkent, May 1, 1998, English translation in BBC Monitoring, May 5, 1998.

10 Human Rights Watch interview with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, Tashkent, May 26, 1998.

11 Human Rights Watch interview with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, Tashkent, August 2, 1999.

12 The ban was codified in article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, December 1992.

13 Human Rights Watch, “Crackdown in The Farghona Valley: Arbitrary Arrests and Religious Discrimination,” A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 10, No. 4 (D) May 1998. As of September 2003, Imam Utaev’s whereabouts remained unknown. “Disappearance” is defined as any situation where: “…persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.” United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (A/RES/47/133), December 18, 1992.

14 According to Munira Nasriddinova, the wife of one of Mirzoev’s peers, Imam Obidkhon Nazarov, the authorities targeted Mirzoev because of his popularity and because his allegiance was first to religion and not the state. She told Human Rights Watch, “Mirzoev was disappeared because he read the Koran in his sermons and led a lot of classes and had a lot of influence. So, they [state authorities] had no other way to ‘get’ him, but to disappear him. The government didn’t like that he…put religious law above that of the government.” Human Rights Watch interview with Munira Nasriddinova, wife of Imam Nazarov, Tashkent, May 23, 2001.

15 Author Monica Whitlock recounts the claim made by Mirzoev’s followers that they found an ethnic Russian woman who worked at the airport who said she had seen Mirzoev flanked by two plain-clothes men at the boarding gate. When the followers went back to the airport, they were unable to find the woman or anyone who would say they knew her. Monica Whitlock, Beyond the Oxus: The Central Asians, London: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, 2002, p. 208.

16 Anonymous letter provided to Human Rights Watch in electronic form, December 21, 2000. According to the letter, around March or April 1996 the Supreme Court tried Mirzoev in a closed hearing and sentenced him to an unknown term in prison.

17 Indictment against Iuldash Tursunbaev, issued by senior police investigator of special criminal affairs R.A. Gafurov, December 28, 1999.

18 Ibid.

19 Human Rights Watch, World Report 1999: The Events of 1998, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999).

20 Human Rights Watch interview with Munira Nasriddinova, Tashkent, May 23, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, May 28, 2001.

21 Human Rights Watch, “Crackdown InThe Farghona Valley: Arbitrary Arrests and Religious Discrimination,” A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 10, No. 4 (D), May 1998, footnote 11. These estimates reflect the findings of a Human Rights Watch research mission conducted in March 1998 to investigate allegations of mass arrests. One rights defender based in the Fergana Valley estimated that police arrested over one thousand independent Muslims in Namangan and Andijan alone.

22 Uzbek television first channel, February 16, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, February 16, 1999.

23 See ”The Legal Setting” in Chapter II for a detailed explanation of the legislation and restrictions on religion that it imposed.

24 Shamil Baigin, “Uzbeks, Russia to fight ‘militant Islam’ together,” Reuters, June 4, 1998.

25 Fatality figures range between thirteen (Agence France-Presse, February 18, 1999) and sixteen (Reuters, February 18, 1999.)

26 President Karimov suggested that the bombings showed that the concerns of the media and human rights groups regarding arrests prior to the bombings had been nothing more than “gossip” and that the government had acted rightly. “We have not imprisoned a single person unjustly,” he said on Uzbek television first channel, February 16, 1999, Worldwide Monitoring, February 16, 1999.

27 Uzbek television first channel, April 1, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, April 3, 1999.

28 By this time the prosecutor had indicted 128 people. The first trial involved twenty-two defendants.

29 Human Rights Watch monitored the proceedings in the first of these trials in their entirety. A description of the trial and some of the defendants can be found in Monica Whitlock, Beyond the Oxus: The Central Asians, London: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, 2002.

30 Uzbek television first channel, February 16, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, February 16, 1999.

31 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Supreme Court trial of twenty-two men charged with having committed the February 16, 1999 bombings, sessions held from June through July 1999.

32 Namangan Province Court verdict issued by Judge K. Abduvaliev, October 30, 1999.

33 Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002, p. 120

34 President Karimov announced this tactic at a press conference on April 1, 1999. Speaking of “fundamentalists” and those who had left Uzbekistan for military training abroad, he said, “As president and leader, I promise that we will forgive those who give themselves up.” Uzbek television first channel, April 1, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring April 3, 1999. Minister of Internal Affairs Zokirjon Almatov announced on April 4, 1999, that in accordance with President Karimov’s policy, members of “dogmatic and extremist groups” would be spared punishment if they turned themselves over to police. “We will certainly forgive them if they willingly give up and apply to the internal affairs agencies or the prosecutors’ offices for forgiveness,” Almatov promised on national television. Uzbek television first channel, April 4, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, April 5, 1999. Although the president’s promise had been made only in a speech and did not have the quality of legislation, Almatov said he would treat the wishes of Karimov as law and vowed that the actions of the police would be faithful to the president’s instructions: “As Internal Affairs Minister, I would like to say that all internal affairs agencies accept our president’s views and words as law. Every one of his instructions will be carried out without fail.” Then-Procurator General Usmon Khudoikulov, the state official responsible for supervision of the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases, added his voice: “If they surrender and admit their guilt, I repeat, we will forgive them,” he promised. In a more menacing tone, he added, “Otherwise, we will without fail find them and make them answer along with their fathers.” Ibid. The reference to punishment of fathers for the alleged crimes of their sons would surface frequently during the campaign, and indeed fathers and other relatives would be punished or held hostage by the government to secure arrests and “confessions” from independent Muslims.

35 Maj. Fahriddin Islomov, Uzbek TV first channel, April 19, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, April 19, 1999.

36 Adolat was a registered organization based on the Soviet model of people’s patrols (narodnaia druzhina). It fought prostitution and street crime, as well as the smuggling of local produce out of the region. While it fiercely opposed “Wahhabism,” it sought to impose on the local population observance of such Islamic rules as the banning of alcohol and wearing of headscarves. The government banned Adolat in 1992, arrested some of its members, and fired from local government those civil servants who had been its patrons. Other members, such as Iuldash, fled the country to avoid arrest.

37 The government had not begun yet to use the term IMU to refer to the allegiance of Namangani and Iuldash.

38 Quoted in “Uzbek head gives details of bus hijack shootout,” BBC Monitoring, April 1, 1999.

39 As of September 2003, there was no further information available regarding whether or not the men had indeed been executed. Death penalty statistics are not commonly made public in Uzbekistan.

40 Captured on August 23, their release on October 24, 1999 was credited to the alleged payment of a sizeable ransom by the government of Japan.

41 "Kyrgyz hostage-takers demand official talks," ITAR-TASS News Agency, Moscow, in English, September 15, 1999, reprinted in BBC Monitoring, September 15, 1999.

42 Abdumannob Polat and Nickolai Butkevich, "Unraveling the Mystery of the Tashkent Bombings: Theories and Implications," International Eurasian Institute for Economic and Political Research, December 4, 2000 [online],, (retrieved September 30, 2003); and "Uzbek President Says Military Underestimated Invaders' Strength," Interfax, August 22, 2000 [online],, (retrieved September 30, 2003).

43 Official statistics regarding the number of Kyrgyz soldiers killed in the fighting varied from 27 to 32. “Kyrgyz Troops Kill Nine Rebels in Mopping-up Operation,” AgenceFrance-Presse, September 25, 2000; and Armen Khanbabyan, “Will the ‘Hot Winter’ Turn into a ‘Hot Spring?’” Nezavisimaya Gazeta reprinted by WPS Agency, October 29, 2000; and “Kyrgyz Military still Gives Commands in Russian,” Russian Centre TV, in Russian, English translation in BBC Monitoring, October 30, 2000.

44 “Chronology of Uzbekistan, 1924-April 2001,” International Relations and Security Network,; and AFP, “Clashes erupt for third night running on Kyrgyz border,” AFP, September 15, 2000. During a series of sweeps before and after the IMU campaign, Uzbek military and police forces permanently displaced an estimated 4,000 residents of Surkhandaria—the location of some of the fighting in 2000 near the Tajikistan border—using force and coercive tactics. They now live in resettlement villages provided by the government in other districts of Surkhandaria province.

45 In May 2002 Uzbek authorities announced the end of pre-publication censorship. The government, however, continues to use other means of control to restrict the media, which engage in heavy self-censorship to avoid criticism of government policies. For more information, see: Human Rights Watch, “Uzbekistan: Silencing Critical Voices. Dissident Beaten and Ill in Police Custody.” Human Rights Watch Press release, February 26, 2003, (Accessed March 17, 2003).

46 For more detail on such “confessions,” see “Family Members: Arrests, House Arrest, Harrassment” and “‘Hate Rallies’ and Public Denunciations” in Chapter III.

47 Human Rights Watch press release, “Uzbek Torture Victims Sentenced to Prison Terms,” August 18, 1999.

48 Traditionally the mahalla is a centuries-old autonomous institution organized around Islamic rituals and social events. After the Soviet period, mahalla committees began to be regulated by law and given the authority to administer a range of activities within the mahalla territory. Although legally the mahalla committees’ activities are controlled through general neighborhood meetings, in practice administrative government authorities control their activities. Mahalla committees are effectively state actors. They carry out the policy objectives of senior officials and central government bodies at a local level.

49 The 1998 religion law tasked mahalla committees, along with other government agencies, with ensuring “observation of the legislation of freedom of worship and religious organizations.” Article 6, Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, May 1, 1998.

50 Uzbek television first channel, January 22, 2000, English translation in BBC Monitoring, January 22, 2000.

51 Uzbek television first channel, January 27, 2000, English translation in BBC Monitoring, January 28, 2000.

52 Uzbek television first channel, September 9, 2000, English translation in BBC Monitoring, September 10, 2000.

53 Human Rights Watch interviews, names withheld, Kokand, May 1998; and Central Asia Monitor, “News and Comments” section, Vol. 5, 1998, p. 31. That publication cited a Vremya MN article, a credible source, which reported that local leaders were monitoring the movements and behavior of religious and non-religious residents in Uzbekistan and maintaining lists of “potential trouble-makers.”

54 “Survey, Distributed in 1998 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan among Chairmen of Mahalla Committees,” name of Fergana Valley city in which this document was obtained is withheld, provided to Human Rights Watch electronically by Memorial, June 2002. See Appendix for full text.

55 “President Calls for Extremists to Surrender, Some Heed His Call,” Associated Press Newswires, April 5, 1999.

56 Memorial Human Rights Center and the Information Center for Human Rights in Central Asia, List of People Arrested and Tried in Uzbekistan for Political and Religious Reasons (January 1999 to April 2000), Moscow, May 2000.

57 Uzbek television first channel, April 1, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, April 3, 1999.

58 Lay assessors are non-professional citizens who preside over hearings along with the professional judge, or chairman, of the court. Typically two lay assessors, also called “people’s assessors,” are appointed to a case. They have full rights to question any member of the defense or prosecution teams. Inherited from the Soviet judicial system, this institution exists in many other post-Soviet states.

59 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 5, 1999.

60 Uzbek television first channel, February 16, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, February 16, 1999.

61 Ibid.

62 Law on Institutions of Self-Government of Citizens, adopted April 14, 1999.

63 Second Addition to the Cabinet of Ministers’ decision number 180 of April 19, 1999, “About the ‘Neighborhood Guardians’ Public Organizations Statute” (hereinafter, posbon regulation).

64Article 1, posbon regulation.

65 Articles 17 and 20, posbon regulation. Each “neighborhood guardian,” or posbon, is a government employee whose salary is paid from the local budget. (Article 4, posbon regulation.) The mahalla committee selects posbons, who are investigated by both the committee and the local police to determine their acceptability. (Articles 6 and 7, ibid.) Qualification is determined by a person’s clean police record, so-called moral health, and lifestyle. (Article 6, ibid.) Significantly, listed among the necessary qualifications of neighborhood guardians is that they be, “volunteers whose spiritual thought is pure and healthy.” (Article 3, ibid.)

66 Articles 11 and 16, posbon regulation.

67 Articles 11 and 16, ibid.

68 Articles 19, ibid.

69 Articles 17, 20 and 22, ibid.

70 Articles 17, ibid. Other responsibilities of posbons in the social sphere include educating residents regarding public safety and providing social support to alcoholics, drug addicts, and victims of parental neglect.

71 The Muslim Board of Uzbekistan is the successor institution to the Soviet era Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, established under Stalin’s leadership in 1943.

72 Uzbek radio first channel, June 11, 1999, English translation in BBC Monitoring, June 11, 1999.

73 Ibid. The program also reported that the head of the Cabinet of Ministers Committee on Religious Affairs expressed his support for the fatwa.

74 Interfax News Agency, June 15, 1999. Observant Muslim women in Uzbekistan have also claimed to Human Rights Watch that the mufti issued a decreeregarding the acceptable and unacceptable ways in which women could wear headscarves. Human Rights Watch interview with two independent Muslim women, names withheld at their request, Tashkent, 1999. Human Rights Watch was unable to obtain the text of such a declaration from the Muftiate.

75 See below, the case of Usmon Inagamov.

76 The Committee on Religious Affairs operates under the Cabinet of Ministers, which in turn answers to the president and parliament. The committee is tasked with acting as liaison between religious organizations and state agencies. Specifically, Article 6 of the 1998 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations states, “The coordination of relations between state organizations and religious organizations and control over the observation of the legislation on freedom of worship and religious organizations shall be carried out by the Committee on Religious Affairs under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan.” The committee in fact appears to be engaged primarily in determining, condemning and censoring the religious activity or ideas that fall outside of the state prescription for acceptable Muslim practice and belief, the religious literature that is “fundamentalist,” “extremist” or otherwise “illegal,” and those religious groups that, on the basis of their literature or beliefs, are banned.

77 The Committee also facilitates registration of religious groups of all faiths, and has taken up the issue of registration of smaller Christian groups and problems relating to Christian Sunday schools and day camps. Its staff, comprised of non-clerics with expertise on religious issues, also provides opinions on religious matters to a variety of government agencies, not only the procuracy and judiciary.

78 For this reason, Human Rights Watch was unable to review much of the literature used as evidence in court, except where our organization obtained it independently.

79 Tashkent City Court verdict, issued by Judge V.N. Sharipov, Tashkent, May 31, 1999.

80 Ibid. The Supreme Court reduced Ergashev’s sentence to a six-year term on appeal. Supreme Court appeals verdict, issued by R. A. Akbarov, August 9, 1999.

81 Verdict of the Tashkent Province Court, issued by Judge B. U. Ergashev, August 13, 1999.

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid. Additional information regarding criminal code article 159 is provided in “The Legal Setting” in Chapter II.

84 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 8, 1999.

85 Ibid. The procurator is the investigator and prosecutor of a case.

86 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 8, 1999. The procurator referred to a document called “The Islamic Charter,” however one Hizb ut-Tahrir representative in the United Kingdom, Imran Waheed, informed Human Rights Watch that there is no Hizb ut-Tahrir document by that name and that it is a mistranslation of the title of the draft constitution issued by Hizb ut-Tahrir. For the draft constitution, see, Hizb ut-Tahrir, “A Draft Constitution,” in The System of Islam (London: Al-Khilafah Publications, 2002), [also available online], (retrieved February 20, 2004). The System of Islam is a basic Hizb ut-Tahrir text. Electronic communication from Imran Waheed to Human Rights Watch, May 30, 2002.

87 Ibid.

88 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 8, 1999.

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