Human Rights in Uzbekistan 1999

Report of Human Rights Watch

In a new report about Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch documents a pernicious form of religious discrimination practiced by the government against Muslims. The report, Class Dismissed: Discriminatory Expulsions of Muslim Students describes the government's zero-tolerance policy toward Muslim students who wear headscarves and beards. Government officials have unceremoniously expelled the students from schools and universities. Most of those expelled were girls and young women.
"The government of Uzbekistan is assaulting religious freedom from all sides," said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "The expulsion of Muslim students is yet another aspect of this campaign."
In some cases, university officials have joined state security agents to intimidate and harass Muslim students who persisted in wearing religious attire, and their families. The Ministry of State Security (the successor to the KGB) has threatened some students, and warned their parents of being fired from their jobs.
The discriminatory policy is part of the Karimov government's crackdown on Muslims not affiliated with government-sanctioned mosques. Since late 1997, police and security forces have arrested thousands of Muslims who do not adhere to officially-sanctioned Islam or do not attend government-approved mosques. Police have planted evidence on suspects and beaten detainees. Judges presided over blatantly unfair trials, ignoring police misdeeds and convicting men on the basis of their religious beliefs.
The Uzbek government has claimed that the students' religious attire identifies them as members of "Wahabi" sects seeking to establish an Islamic state. Yet none of the students claimed affiliation with "Wahabism," and none was charged with any violent act or with disrupting public order.
Last month, the U.S. State Department criticized Uzbekistan for its religious practices in its first report on religious freedom around the world. Prior to the report's release, the Uzbek government released five Christians imprisoned for their religious beliefs. It did not release any Muslim detainees.
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