State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Kyrgyzstan
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||16 July 2009|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Kyrgyzstan, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a66d9b08.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Kyrgyz parliament adopted a new law on religion which caused much controversy. Observers claim that the law is excessively restrictive and is designed to target the missionary groups of Protestant Christians and adherents of the more radical forms of Islam.
Religion remains a contentious issue in this predominantly Muslim republic as secular government remains fearful of Islamic extremism. The government crackdown on Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic movement, escalated in the southern town of Nookat on 1 October when a demonstration against the town council's refusal to arrange a celebration of the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr turned violent. The demonstration was dispersed by riot squads, followed by a large number of detentions resulting in the convictions of 32 people for offences ranging from incitement to cause mass unrest and overthrow the authorities, to instigation of ethnic or religious strife.
Strict limitations on public display of Muslim faith have a particular gender dimension in education. Although headscarves are not explicitly banned and in the past schools tolerated them, in 2008 many schools began insisting that scarves were not part of the prescribed uniform and warning that anyone who broke the rules would be excluded. This followed the issuing of a set of instructions by the Kyrgyz education ministry to enforce the school uniform rules. Girls and their families in southern Kyrgyzstan, where a large percentage of the population are ethnic Uzbeks, are faced with the difficult choice of removing the headscarves or giving up on school. Local authorities appear to be acting on ministry recommendations and exerting pressure on schools to change their internal rules. The Kyrgyz human rights ombudsperson and human rights activists have condemned the headscarf ban as a gross violation of human rights.
Furthermore, in the south, there is increasing conflict over the use of the Uzbek language in the media. In the region, the Uzbek language – of Turkic origin like Kyrgyz – is widely spoken by a community estimated at between 600,000 and 1.2 million. To serve its needs, several independent local TV stations broadcast part of the time in Uzbek. Kyrgyz authorities accused two of them – Osh TV and Mezon TV – of breaking the law stipulating that 50 per cent of broadcasting should be in Kyrgyz. The two companies claim the case against them is politically inspired, amounting to orchestrated pressure on the Uzbek minority at election time. One reason the two stations focused on ethnic Uzbek issues in particular, they say, was that the national broadcasters generally ignored the minority.