OCTOBER 27, 2020
A Tajik military court will soon * announce its verdict in the case involving Brother Rustamjon Norov. He faces two to five years in prison for conscientious objection. He has been in custody since October 1, 2020.
Born: 1998 (Dushanbe)
Biography: Renovated apartments and refurbished furniture to help support himself and his family. Loves to play soccer
Baptized in 2016 at the age of 17. Two years later, he moved from his family’s Russian-language congregation to help in the Tajik-language field
In 2016, Brother Rustamjon Norov voluntarily reported to the local conscription office. He explained his neutral stand and requested alternative civilian service. The following year, he repeated the process. The deputy commander of the conscription office respected Brother Norov and was impressed by his explanation. For the next three years, Brother Norov was not summoned for compulsory military service.
But on September 24, 2020, Brother Norov was summoned to the district conscription office. The conscription officers questioned him for three hours and declared him fit to perform military service. The officers then tried to force him to undergo a medical examination. Brother Norov’s father witnessed the incident and requested that the officers forward his son’s case to the prosecutor’s office.
Brother Norov and his father reported to the prosecutor’s office on October 1. The prosecutor assigned a district police officer to escort them to the district conscription office. When they arrived, Brother Norov’s father was denied entry. Brother Norov was held in custody for two days. He had not been formally charged or tried for a crime. While in custody, the officers prevented him from consulting with his lawyer.
On October 3, Brother Norov was transferred to a military unit in the city of Khujand, some 300 kilometers (186 mi) away from his family in Dushanbe. Over the next two days, he was transferred to a number of different military units in Khujand.
On October 6, Brother Norov was allowed to call his family and receive visits from his lawyer. However, on October 17, a Tajik military court ordered him to pretrial detention. He will remain in detention while the prosecution continues its investigation and until the court reaches a verdict. Brother Norov is accused of falsifying his medical history to evade military service.
Despite being in detention, Brother Norov remains in good spirits with full trust in Jehovah. He is thankful to Jehovah for helping him build the faith and courage needed for this trial. He is also appreciative for an unexpected test that came in 2013. That year, local authorities forcibly took Brother Norov and his younger brother, Ravshan, from school to the military recruiting office for a medical examination. Rustamjon was only 15 years old at the time—well below the draft age—and an unbaptized publisher. After this incident, the boys’ father, Batyr, devoted more time during family worship to helping the boys to be able to defend their Christian neutrality. Periodically, Batyr would play the role of a conscription officer and the boys would practice defending their faith.
Rustamjon says: “Before we started having our family practice sessions, I thought I was ready to defend my faith. However, during the role playing, I was surprised at how nervous and afraid I would become. It made me realize that I needed to pray and study more about my faith and my decision to be neutral. My fear gradually disappeared. In the spring of 2016, I made a personal dedication to Jehovah and got baptized.”
Rustamjon has also been encouraged by associating with older, mature brothers who faced imprisonment because of their faith. He says: “I clearly understand the potential consequences of my neutral stand. If I am sent to prison, I consider it an honor to sanctify Jehovah’s name in a ‘new territory.’”
“Our family,” says Rustamjon’s father, “is thankful to Jehovah for the great honor to do his will and to be tools in his loving hands. To our spiritual family, we say, ‘we really feel your love, prayers, and support—emotionally and spiritually.’ We are not worried or anxious. The peace of God fills our hearts, just as Jehovah assures us in his Word!”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
^ par. 3 Advance notice of the verdict date is not always available