Kazakhstan continues aggression against minorities, ignores international outcry
Demolition of 13 houses in the Hare Krishna community of the Karasai district, Almaty province, appointed for May 4, 2007, was stopped.
Another thirteen community houses are under the threat of being demolished and the Supreme Court ruling makes it possible for the authorities to confiscate the 116 acres of land at any moment. The IHF and HRWF urge the Kazakh authorities to strictly abide by the international human rights standards the country has committed itself to and to take all available measures to solve the case of the Hare Krishna community in a peaceful, fair and unbiased manner.
Karasai district officials brought busloads of laborers and police officers with them, indiscriminately taking crowbars and sledgehammers to the homes. They threw personal possessions out into the street, even as the horrified devotees pleaded with them and begged for mercy. Mechanical diggers then moved in, literally “crushing the houses to dust.”
His Holiness BB Govinda Swami and Anuttama Dasa are in Washington, DC this week to raise awareness about the crisis in Kazakhstan, meeting with high-ranking US officials and human rights advocates. Govinda Swami is also collecting funds for the newly displaced devotees.
SELEKSIA, Kazakhstan -- The house where Maya Salakhutdinova lived is now a shell of ruined walls with broken cinder blocks and splintered wood spilling in a heap onto a narrow lane. Last month, her house and 11 others in this village, a secluded enclave about an hour from Almaty, Kazakhstan's commercial capital, were bulldozed by court order.
All the destroyed homes belonged to members of a Hare Krishna community, which has a temple in a converted farmhouse here, as well as 116 acres of farmland. A bulldozing in November leveled 14 Hare Krishna homes.
The Kazakh authorities have increased controls on religious communities in recent years, especially by banning unregistered religious activity and increasing punishments for it. Among recent victims have been Council of Churches Baptists, who refuse on principle to seek state registration, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
The British government is being urged to speak to the Kazakhstan President to stop the harassment and human rights abuse against minority Hindu communities in that country. British MP's this week said they would pressure the Foreign Secretary to act after attending an event organized by the Hindu Forum of Europe at the House of Commons.
On November 4, 2007, the practitioners of the Society for Krishna Consciousness were informed by Mr. Ermek Abdykalykov, previous owner of the property, that they have one week to vacate their farm.
A court in Kazakhstan decided on 23 October to hand a confiscated Hare Krishna farm near the commercial capital Almaty from the regional authority's ownership into the hands of the man who originally sold it in 1999. But since the court decision, Forum 18 News Service has learnt, a battle has emerged between the state and the new "owner".
On November 8, 2007, the Supervisory Panel of the Almaty Provincial Court cancelled its decision on the transfer of 116-acre Krishna Society farm to Mr. E. Abdykalykov. The court ruled that the land be again returned to the Kazakhstan Government.
Madrid – In a decision condemned by human rights activists, journalists, and Kazakhstan’s opposition party, the Republic of Kazakhstan was awarded the 2010 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the group’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, on December 1. Kazakhstan is the first former Soviet republic to chair the OSCE, which is a human rights and defense watchdog.
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev criticized foreign missionaries on Thursday as a threat to national stability and urged lawmakers to curb their activities. The mainly Muslim country has positioned itself as an area of stability in the potentially volatile Central Asian region. But some rights groups have criticized its treatment of small groups such as Hare Krishna.
As an effort to resolve the conflict caused by the destruction of 26 homes and confiscation of 116 acres of property of the Society for Krishna Consciousness the Kazakhstan government has continually offered unsuitable land plots.
The latest offer has been 10 acres of a landfill/garbage dump in Illi District, Almaty Province.
On June 22, 2008, the Hakim of Zhetisu district, Almaty Province, Orynbay Zhanedil, intimidated the worshippers at the Sunday service of the Society for Krishna Consciousness.
As the Krishna congregation arrived by bus, on the territory of the commune in Zhetisu district, the Hakim arrived accompanied by a car of local policemen.
Kazakh authorities continue to apply pressure against religious communities across the country, Forum 18 News Service has found. The latest example of the authorities' attempts to take places of worship away from religious minorities is a court case against Grace Protestant Church in Semey, in Eastern Kazakhstan Region.
Immediately following the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Astana dedicated to "Transparency in the OSCE" the Kazakhstan government has begun a new attack on the embattled religious community of the Society for Krishna Consciousness. The Karasai District Hakim, A. Musakhanov, has cancelled the license to use the buildings possessed by the Krishna Society. The deputy Hakim, M. Bigediev, has told the directors of the Krishna Society to "be ready for new court cases."
Almaty regional Public Prosecutor's Office seems keen to seize property from religious communities, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Six property cases against Christian and Muslim religious organisations in the region are known to have been initiated since mid-June. Amongst them is Agafe Protestant Church, the regional Economic Court ruling – despite numerous violations of due process – that the Church's building and land should be confiscated. A defence lawyer has received anonymous death threats, and an appeal will take place on 27 August. The regions' Hare Krishna commune also continues to struggle to retain its property.
On September 11, 2008 the assistant Hakim of Almaty province, S. Mukanov, informed the directors of the Society for Krishna Consciousness that the court has accepted the proposal of the Karasai district Hakim to declare the Society's buildings legally invalid.
In a letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Expert Committee on Legislation and Implementation of the Institute spelled out the numerous violations of religious liberty and of political commitments to religious liberty that Kazakhstan has made with the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Kazakhstan's Parliament today (26 November) completed its consideration of a harsh Law which will seriously restrict freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The Parliament passed the law despite an agreement reached on 25 November for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to conduct a legislative review of the latest text of the controversial new amendments, which are now on their way to President Nursultan Nazarbaev for him to sign or reject.
Karasai district court supported a peace initiative of the Society for Krishna Consciousness and suggested that the parties make an amicable agreement. Hearings in the Karasai district court regarding the demolition of the only Hare Krishna temple in Kazakhstan continue. The plaintiff, Hakim of the Karasai district, demands that the buildings of the Society should be declared illegal and be demolished.
On December 1, 2008 the Karasai district court Judge Shakirov informed the directors of the Krishna Society that the Karasai government had withdrawn its claim to invalidate the purpose of usage and demolition of the Temple and barn at the Krishna community in Kazakhstan.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan has sent a repressive new law severely limiting freedom of religion or belief for review by the country's Constitutional Council, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Meanwhile, the government continues to repress the exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
The Washington D.C. based Institute on Religion and Public Policy – one of the world’s best respected advocates for freedom of religion and belief – has condemned the Kazakhstan government’s January 27 deportation of ISKCON leader Bhakti Bringha Govinda Swami.
Human rights defenders and religious communities remain highly concerned that the Constitutional Council will approve and President Nursultan Nazarbaev will sign a controversial Law restricting religious freedom. Many provisions of the Law have been seriously criticised in a Legal Opinion from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council announced on 11 February that the restrictive "Law on Amendments and Additions to Several Legislative Acts on Questions of Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" is unconstitutional. Gulnara Baygeldy, the Council's press officer, told Forum 18 News Service from the capital Astana on 12 February that "now the President [Nursultan Nazarbaev] should decide to agree or disagree with us within 10 days.
On February 19th, 2009 the assistant Hakim of Almaty province, S. Mukanov, has demanded the farm property occupied by the Krishna Society be vacated by March 1, 2009. Mukanov emphasized that failure to vacate will result in new court cases against the Krishna Society.
Many in Kazakhstan remain wary, certain that officials will try again to impose harsh new restrictions on freedom of religion and belief. "This is not the end of the attempt to adopt such a law," Yevgeny Zhovtis, head of the Almaty-based Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, told Forum 18. "I think they will try again." He believes fresh attempts could come in 2011 or 2012, after Kazakhstan has completed its chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). "But I'm not sure that they won't try again in 2009."
In 1992, the first BBT book in Kazakh—Easy Journey to Other Planets—was released after being translated by a volunteer. The North European BBT wanted to strike while the iron was hot. They needed someone more full-time. And who better than their enthusiastic new book distributor in Almaty?
On September 16, 2009 the Krishna Society appealed to the Almaty Oblast deputy Hakim, S. Mukanov to allot the Society the 15-hectare land plot that the society has occupied and developed for the past ten years. The Kazakhstan government destroyed 26 homes of Hindu practitioners of the community. Their land plots were confiscated. The owners of the destroyed houses were left homeless and never offered compensation or humanitarian aid. All of the land plots have been resold by the Kazakh government.
The latest news about the long-running battle between the Government of Kazakhstan and ISKCON’s “Krishna Society” has just come in: the Government now wants to allot devotees only one hectare of land as compensation for the forty-eight hectares they confiscated and the twenty-six homes they demolished back in late 2006.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev today signed into law two restrictive and oppressive religion laws that threaten fundamental freedoms and places religious minorities at significant risk in the country.
Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, Ahmadis, and Hare Krishna: the ax of religious repression and censorship of books and magazines continues to fall on the Kazakh faithful, with freedom of worship increasingly at risk, already reduced by stringent and illiberal laws.
Under the new law, devotees will be legally allowed to teach and preach Krishna consciousness in what the law calls a “Cult House,” meaning a temple, church or mosque or other official place of worship.