Uzbekistan Christians Detained and Tortured for Their Faith, reports

Friday, July 1, 2005

Friday, July 1, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

TASHKENT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- International concern was mounting Thursday, June 30, over the plight of Protestant Christians in Uzbekistan amid new reports of torture and apparent police reluctance to investigate the murder of an American Christian.

The latest reported abuse of a teenaged Christian and other believers comes just weeks after the body of 65-year-old Kim Khen Pen Khin, a US citizen of Korean origin, was found June 11 on a street in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent. She had reportedly been assaulted and strangled.

Since her death, police investigations have centered on members of the Pentecostal churches she worked with rather than on the murder itself, suggested the news agency of Norwegian human rights group Forum 18.

In a controversial move, police arrested a 19-year-old evangelical Christian, Kural Bekjanov, June 14 on false charges of involvement in the murder, Forum 18 News Service (F18News) said. But soon he "was tortured by both police officers and prisoners to try to force him to abandon Christianity," F18News reported.

His mother, Gulya, allegedly saw him on June 26, when he had lost weight and had difficulty walking while his fingers and legs were covered in blood. "His mother heard the cries of her own son and begged them to stop beating him," F18News quoted a church source as saying on condition of anonymity.


"They told her it wasn't her son's cries, but she said she knew the sound of her own son's voice. Yesterday police threatened to put him on a chair wired up to the electricity – believe me, all this is happening," the church source added.

In addition seventeen church members were questioned in the aftermath of the murder, sometimes for several hours, church sources say. "They were insulted, humiliated and threatened. Police spoke to them in the way you would not even speak to animals. Each day it is getting worse and worse," a church member said, according to F18News.

Three church members of that group were allegedly beaten, including a pastor who was treated for a concussion. One of those arrested was reportedly told by a Lieutenant-Colonel of the police that "all Christians are animals who have sold themselves to America and should be shot as this is a Muslim state."


This is not an isolated incident, human rights watchers say. Protestants in Karakalpakstan, in north-west-Uzbekistan, have said they too have become the targets in "a long running anti-Christian campaign" by authorities.

Among other violent attacks, human rights watchers say that in Termez on the southern border
with Afghanistan, police arrested and "severely beat the pastor" of a local church this month before taking other believers to see him. They were allegedly warned that they would suffer the same fate.

In the western town of Urgench, the worship service on June 26 was reportedly raided by police and some of the members were detained for questioning. The church has been trying to register for two years and the pastor had been discussing a new registration application with authorities the previous week, F18News said.


Elsewhere, the trial of six members of the Bethany Church in Tashkent has been scheduled for July 7, after police raided the congregation whilst a service was taking place, added F18News, which has close contacts in the area.

Protestants say a widespread crackdown affecting churches across Uzbekistan intensified following an uprising against the government in May. Up to one thousand people are believed to have died in the clashes with security forces suppressing the revolt.

F18News said that ironically Christians in Andijan, where the uprising began, appeared to have been spared by police forces, but reports suggest that this may change. The reported crackdown on Christians comes amid growing international concern over attempts by Russia to increase its ties with the embattled government of Uzbekistan.


On Wednesday, June 29, Moscow announced it would soon conduct joint military exercises with the Uzbeks. The announcement by Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defense minister, came after he met with authoritarian Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Ivanov said the maneuvers would be in central Uzbekistan this summer, the first since Uzbekistan broke from the Soviet Union in 1991m news reports said.

Analysts say the televised remarks underscored the diplomatic difficulties that Western governments face as they seek leverage in Uzbekistan after its crackdown in the city of Andijan in May. NATO, European Union and United States officials have called for a credible investigation into the recent violence.

Karimov have denied wide spread human rights abuses by security forces under his government's control, but says he will not allow pro-democracy revolutions like those in former Soviet republics Georgia, Ukraine and neighboring Kyrgyzstan. The United States has expressed concern that Kyrgyzstan is sending back dozens of Uzbek refugees who were seeking asylum. (With Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife, BosNewsLife Research and reports from Uzbekistan and Russia).