Jehovah’s Witnesses were present in Uzbekistan for decades before the country became an independent nation in 1991. In 1992, Uzbekistan adopted a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights. However, with regard to religious freedom, the government often disregards the basic tenets of that constitution.
Uzbekistan authorities continue to deny legal registration to all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses except for one in Chirchik. a As a result, any religious meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses held outside of the Kingdom Hall in Chirchik is deemed unlawful. Police often disrupt the Witnesses’ religious meetings held elsewhere, even those held in private homes. Authorities have arrested those in attendance and seized their personal belongings and religious literature. Officials have detained some Witnesses for days and subjected them to physical and verbal abuse. Some Witnesses have been heavily fined, criminally convicted, and sentenced to years of imprisonment for their religious activity. The State’s refusal to grant registration effectively criminalizes common, peaceful, religious activity.
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to work with government representatives, seeking approval to register congregations throughout Uzbekistan, particularly in Tashkent. If granted, such a legal standing would provide a measure of protection against discrimination and foster respect for the Witnesses’ right to religious freedom.
a First registered in 1994 and reregistered in 1999.