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Turkmenistan: Update to TMT32580.E of 2 September 1999 on the treatment of Christians

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 31 January 2003
Citation / Document Symbol TMT40478.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Turkmenistan: Update to TMT32580.E of 2 September 1999 on the treatment of Christians, 31 January 2003, TMT40478.E, available at: [accessed 24 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis 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.

In a November 2001 interview, former Turkmen foreign minister Boris Shikhmuradov stated, "Christianity has been ‘crushed'" in Turkmenistan (KNS 6 Nov. 2001). The United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) characterizes the situation in Turkmenistan as one of "ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedoms" (US 7 Mar. 2002, 1). Other observers similarly describe it as having the most repressive religious policies of the former Soviet states (KNS 24 July 2002; IPS 8 Feb. 2001) and, according to US Helsinki, "the worst record on religious freedom" among the 55 member states of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (US Newswire 20 Dec. 2001). In its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2002, the US Department of State observed that the situation reflects the Turkmen government's concern with maintaining state-control and its fear of civil unrest and undue foreign influence and added that "[t]here were no reports of general, overt societal discrimination or violence based on religion" (ARIRF 7 Oct. 2002).

Officially, registration of a religious community requires the identification of 500 members (ibid.; IPS 8 Feb. 2001; US 7 Mar. 2002, 3) and the only authorized religious communities are the tightly controlled and regulated Muslim (89 percent of the population) and Russian Orthodox (9 per cent) communities (ibid., 1-2). Even so, Shikhmuradov characterized the Russian Orthodox Church as being "in a terrible state" and without rights (KNS 6 Nov. 2001). Small communities of Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Armenian Orthodox, (US 7 Mar. 2002, 2), Armenian Apostolic and Lutherans (KNS 24 July 2002) also exist; however, the government has not registered any of these groups (ARIRF 7 Oct. 2002). Turkmen authorities reportedly treat these communities as illegal (KNS 24 July 2002), routinely harass members for holding religious meetings (IPS 8 Feb. 2001) and the interrogation and intimidation of those attempting to collect the required 500 signatures for registration were reported (US 7 Mar. 2002, 4). In addition, between November 2001 and February 2002 police raided Adventist, Baptist and Jehovah's Witness meetings in a number of Turkmen cities (HRW 2003). In one such instance, officers of the National Security Committee (KNB), police and representatives of the khyakimlik (district administration) raided an apartment under the guise of conducting a passport check (KNS 12 June 2001).

The Research Directorate found numerous reports detailing the poor treatment of Christians in Turkmenistan, including instances of detention (ibid. 7 Dec. 2001; ibid. 5 Dec. 2001), imprisonment (ibid. 22 Mar. 2002; ibid. 29 Nov. 2001), fines (ibid. 23 Jan. 2002), beatings (ibid. 17 May 2002; AFP 6 Feb. 2001), drugging (AP 8 Feb. 2001), torture (KNS 18 May 2001; US Newswire 20 Dec. 2001) and forced renunciation of faith (KNS 17 May 2002; HRW 2003). Deportations are not uncommon (KNS 18 July 2002; ibid. 7 Dec. 2001; ibid. 29 Nov. 2001; ibid. 8 May 2001); indeed, an international Christian monitoring group reports "ongoing" efforts by Turkmen authorities to deport all foreign Christians from Turkmenistan" (ICI May 2002).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 6 February 2001. "Amnesty Fears Baptist Could Die After Suspected Prison Camp Beatings." (NEXIS)

Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2002 (ARIRF). 7 October 2002. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

Associated Press (AP). 8 February 2001. "Report: Imprisoned Baptist Leader in Turkmenistan Treated with Deadly Drugs." (NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2003. "Turkmenistan." In Human Rights Watch World Report 2003. [Accessed 21 Jan. 2003]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 8 February 2001. Sergei Blagov. "Religion - Russia: Religious Organizations Risk Closure." (NEXIS)

International Christian Concern (ICI). 23 May 2002. "Turkmenistan - Christian Persecution in Turkmenistan." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

Keston News Service (KNS). 24 July 2002. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Mother Condemns Renewed Sentence for Jehovah's Witness." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 18 July 2002. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Imam Joins Moves to Deport Baptists." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 17 May 2002. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Protestants Forced to Renounce Their Faith." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 22 March 2002. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Six Jehovah's Witnesses in Labour Camps." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 23 January 2002. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Further Fines on Baptists." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 7 December 2001. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Adventists Detained at Prayer Meeting." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 5 December 2001. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Reprisals Restart Against Protestants." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 29 November 2001. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Situation Eases for Punished Protestants." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 6 November 2001. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: ‘Every Believer Is Controlled' Says Former Foreign Minister." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 12 June 2001. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Campaign Against Religious Meetings in Private Homes?" [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 18 May 2001. Malcolm Walker. "Turkmenistan: Baptist Tortured." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

_____. 8 May 2001. Felix Corley. "Turkmenistan: Russian Protestant Has Been Deported." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2003]

United States (US). 7 March 2002. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Turkmenistan. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

US Newswire. 20 December 2001. "Helsinki Commission News: Commissioners Raise Religious Freedom Concerns with Turkmenistan Ambassador to US." (NEXIS)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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