Freedom of religion or belief in Kyrgyzstan

In connection with the examination of Kyrgyzstan in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, 1 and 2 June, NHC local partner Open Viewpoint made an alternative report urging Kyrgyzstan to ensure citizens' access to objective information on religion.

One year ago, President Atambayev assembled his Security Council and discussed challenges in Kyrgyzstan related to security and religion. In the year since, the government has established several working groups which are looking at various aspects of religion in Kyrgyzstan – for example on legislation, education, security and the role of the State Commission on Religious Affairs. One of the projected results is a new State Policy on Religion. However, the situation is still not satisfactory resolved. The state needs to pay more attention to its positive obligation to secure the effective enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief in Kyrgyzstan – in development of strategies and policies as well as in practice.

Based on the Bakiev-era restrictive law on religion, religious groups in Kyrgyzstan are obliged to undergo a tiresome registration process in order to meet fellow believers legally. Believers are subject to harrassment, fines and imprisonment. Mosques and other religious buildings are subject to inspections and even closure, and literature and other religious material is censored. The atmosphere in society is influenced by negative terminology regarding so-called non-traditional religions and sects.

On 1 and 2 June 2015, Kyrgyzstan was examined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva. In that connection, NHC local partner Open Viewpoint submitted an alternative report on the right to education and parents’ rights to raise own children in Kyrgyzstan, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief.

The recommendations of the report urge Kyrgyzstani authorities to take action to change attitudes to the freedom of religion or belief as a positive obligation of the State. Further, to eliminate the negative perception of religious organizations. This should be ensured through thorough and objective training and education both for members of state bodies, teachers as well as children in schools.

Read the report here.

At the same time, in Bishkek, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee together with the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities visited Kyrgyzstan with the same purpose, discussing the matter with relevant state bodies. The emphasis was on the prevention of stereotypes and discrimination, Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights obligations regarding freedom of religion or belief, the importance of neutral terminology and methodology, as well as the benefits of teaching about religion in a secular state.

In the framework of the NHC program on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the NHC and Forum 18 have published two reports that can be found here.