Turkmen Pastor and Family Evicted from their Home

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Property Confiscation Pending Against Two Other Convert Families
by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, December 12 (Compass) -- Turkmenistan's political police evicted a Protestant Christian pastor with his wife and two children from their home near Ashgabad on December 9, confiscating their personal deed of ownership and sealing the gate to prevent their return.

Two other families in his congregation remain under house arrest, apparently slated to lose their private homes as well, an Ashgabad source confirmed today.

Last Saturday, officials of the National Security Committee (KNB) gave Shokhrat Piriyev and his family one day to pack up and vacate their home in Bagyr village, nine miles from central Ashgabad in the Ahal region. Before evening the same day, the KNB came and sealed the gate to the house.

Located at No. 43 Sowhoznaya Street, the small three-room house of the Turkmen pastor has been confiscated as government property under an official resolution issued by the district governor. Piriyev had purchased the home in September and moved into it in late October.

Piriyev, 27, is now under KNB orders to move back to his hometown of Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou) near the country's eastern border.

"They forced me to write the letter (to) give my house to the property of the government," Piriyev told a source on December 10. After Piriyev was forced to sign over his house ownership papers to the government, the head of the local KNB visited his wife Nurowa Mahpura, coercing her with threats to add her signature to the document.

"They want us to go to Charjou to live, and we don't know what to do," the pastor admitted. With his wife, daughter Shaira (7) and son Dawut (6), Piriyev is staying temporarily with another family in the capital, Ashgabad.

Together with three other Turkmen Christian converts, Piriyev has taken the brunt of three weeks of harsh physical torture and threats from the KNB (the former KGB). All three, Batir Nurov, Babamurat Gaebov and Umit Koshkarov, are members of a Protestant house church pastored by Piriyev.

The group came under KNB investigation on November 22, when multiple copies of Christian videos in the Turkmen language were found in the wreck of a car that one had been driving.

All four Christians were subjected to beatings, electric shocks and other forms of torture while held for interrogations from November 22 to November 24 at the KNB building in Anau, a city in Akhalskoye district near Ashgabad. After three days, they were ordered at the conclusion of their so-called "administrative case" to pay small monetary fines, sign agreements to move back to their hometowns and surrender their homes to the government.

Compass has confirmed that since their release November 24, all four of the men have been "invited" back to KNB headquarters several times for questioning and further intimidation. The three married men said the threats left them no choice but to sign prepared statements, declaring that they were "voluntarily giving" their homes over to government ownership.

As of this morning, however, KNB officials had not ousted Nurov or Koshkarov from their flats. Gaebov, who is single, does not own a home.

The local procurator is reportedly holding Nurov's passport and one of Koshkarov's military service documents in his possession. Without their identity papers, which Turkmen citizens are required to carry on their persons, the men remain in effect under house arrest.

Piriyev and his church were harassed in February of this year by KBN officials for meeting for Christian worship without official registration. Since 1997, the government has extended legal status only to officially sanctioned Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy.

In an "urgent action" bulletin issued December 5, Amnesty International called for international inquiries on this most recent report of "detention and severe torture" of the four Protestant Christians.

Although President Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree back in May reaffirming the inviolability of private property, the Human Rights Watch annual report on Turkmenistan released last week noted "a continuing spate of official confiscations of private homes" this year.

"We all are in a difficult situation here," one of the four converts told Compass today. "Please pray for our wives and children. We need God's wisdom and strength."

Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.