Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in Turkmenistan since the late 1980’s. Soon after gaining independence from the Soviet Union in October 1991, the government began to restrict religious freedom severely.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have legal recognition in Turkmenistan. Some Witnesses have endured severe beatings, arbitrary detention, home searches, imprisonment, and fines for manifesting their religious beliefs. In some instances, they have been imprisoned on charges fabricated by police. Since Turkmenistan has no provision for alternative civilian service, young Witness men are prosecuted and punished for their conscientious objection to military service. Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed complaints on these issues with the UN Human Rights Committee and other international organizations.
In October 2014 the President of Turkmenistan amnestied eight Witnesses who had been unjustly imprisoned. The Witnesses have publicly expressed their appreciation to the government of Turkmenistan for this positive development. They hope the government will take further steps to protect the right to freedom of religion.