Eating Crow

by Joshua Foust on 12/23/2008 · 5 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I mocked Human Rights Watch’s delirious condemnation of Kazakhstan’s human rights record before it assumes the OSCE chairmanship. I still think it was an overheated report, but my skepticism about Kazakhstan’s actual religious environment might have been misplaced. Forum18 reports:

The “Law on Amendments and Additions to Several Legislative Acts on Questions of Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” seriously restricts freedom of religion and belief in Kazakhstan, and breaks the country’s international human rights commitments. Among the new restrictions on human rights, it would for the first time explicitly ban unregistered religious activity.

The Law amends numerous articles of the current Religion Law, the Code of Administrative Offences and several other laws, and was finally approved by the lower house of parliament on 26 November. It is being considered by President Nazarbaev as state officials continue to take actions against religious communities’ right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief.

The Kazakh authorities have repeatedly refused to allow the publication of a legal review of the draft conducted by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), claiming – falsely – that this refusal is due to the OSCE. Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, Director of the ODIHR, has expressed disappointment at the “hasty” passage of the Law, and has called for it to be changed to make it “fully reflecting OSCE commitments and other international standards.”

There remains a chance Uncle Nazzy will reject the new law. But without any leverage—say, threatening their OSCE chairmanship—there is little influence the West could exert. This is a disappointing development, to say the least.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 5 comments }

Oldschool Boy December 24, 2008 at 12:46 am

Real freedom of religion is freedom from any religion.

“Religion is opium for people” Karl Marx

Matthew December 25, 2008 at 1:34 am

This law only codifies what has been happening for a number of years. Kazakhstan is returning to a Soviet-style of governance in several spheres, including religion. Though Kazakhstan’s religious establishments were initially more liberal than their Soviet predecessors, they have recently returned to the standards and practices of the Soviet era. This was happening before the country was awarded the OSCE chairmanship. The logic behind giving them the chairmanship (which, I believe, was that such a ‘reward’ would encourage/force them to liberalize) is as faulty now as when it was used to give China the 2008 Olympics, and will have similar (non)results.

Oldschool Boy December 27, 2008 at 2:26 am

Although religion and state are proclaimed separate, the Government of Kazakhstan has always been trying to control religion. An example is current mufti of Kazakhstan Derbisali. Before his appointment by Nazarbayev he had been a scholar, a professor of Asian Studies in the Kazakh National State University and a vice-president of the university. I think similarly heads of the Russian Chirch in Kazakhstan if not presidential appointees are somehow reporting to the Government, most probably to the National Security Committee (KNB).
I guess the approach is simple here, if the State can not control a confession it will simply prohibit it.
I do not think President will reject the law. By the way, vast majority of people in Kazakhstan would support it. The people are too affraid of extremist organizations like Al-Quaeda to care much about the religious freedom. Besides, the new law does not relally restrict the existing religions, as far as I understand. So who cares?

Oldschool Boy December 27, 2008 at 2:43 am

By the way, how can freedom of religion and belief be restricted?
As far as I know, anybody can believe in anything. Have they already invented a mind control device in Kazakhstan. I thought that would first be invented in a more scientifically and technologically advanced country.

Turgai Sangar December 27, 2008 at 6:50 am

Marx was right in part of his analysis and I also back his quest social justice. However, the rejection of God, the Prophets and their key message of social justice led to utter failure.

BTW, congratulations to all with the birthday of Jesus/Isa Ben Maryam (pbuH)! May the new upcoming year also bring the downfall of the Karimovs.

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