TURKMENISTAN: Shagildy Atakov still on blacklist

Former prisoner Shagildy Atakov, together with his wife Artygul, their five children and his brother Hoshgeldi, all Baptists, are still on the blacklist in the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan.

Shagildy leads a small independent Baptist congregation in the village of Kaakhka, near Ashgabad. He was a Christian prisoner of conscience from December 1998 to January 2001.

TURKMENISTAN: Shagildy Atakov banned from leaving

Shagildy Atakov (a Baptist who was imprisoned for three years in 1998) was recently taken off a plane at Ashgabad airport by government officials. Shagildy was due to fly to Moscow to meet fellow Baptists. He already had a ticket, had passed through passport control and was sitting in the aeroplane when officers of the secret police took him off the flight shortly before takeoff was due.

 

“Officers told him they had an order ‘from above’ not to allow him to leave the country,” a friend reported. “But none of them was prepared to say who had issued the order.”

 

“We blocked him from travelling ‚Äì he’s here on the list,” a Migration Service officer commented. “People are only stopped from leaving if they have problems with the government,” he added, without explaining what reasons trigger exit bans. Other religious believers (including Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees) have also been forbidden from leaving the country. Although the official refused to say how many people are barred from leaving from Ashgabad airport each day, regular travellers from the airport have stated that in recent months, several people are routinely taken off each flight, often from the aeroplane itself after they have passed through passport control.

Since his release from prison in January 2002, Shagildy had been able to make a previous visit to Russia. He has been living with his wife Artygul and their five children in the town of Kaakhka, midway between Ashgabad and Tejenstroy, near the border with Iran.He remains under close government surveillance. (Forum 18)

TURKMENISTAN: Police raid registered Baptist church

Anti-Terrorist police raided last Sunday’s (14 August) worship service of a registered Baptist church in the north-eastern town of Dashoguz. After the service, police questioned church members, confiscating all Turkmen-language Bibles and Hymnbooks.

The police took particular interest in children at the service, and were diappointed they were in the service with parental permission. Next day, church leaders were summoned for “more thorough interrogation,” and told that the Baptist Church’s national state registration is “not valid for northern Turkmenistan.”

 

This claim has been made elsewhere in the country, and Baptists strongly dispute it. Police pressured church leaders to sign a declaration that the church will not meet until it had state registration. “We met for worship before ‘your registration’ existed, and will continue to meet now we have registration, even if you did not recognise it. And we will continue to meet in future as our faith does not depend on registration,” church leaders told police.

Officers warned church leaders that they had no right to hold church services or to read the Bible together in the countryside, and that such activity was an offence. They said that without registration of the congregation in Dashoguz, the congregation cannot meet or spread their faith. “Individuals can only believe alone on their own at home,” police warned.

Earlier this year, Registered Baptists in the eastern towns of Turkmenabad and Mary also had their services attacked by police and similar claims were made in both cases that the congregations are in fact unregistered.

Registered congregations are pressured to give honour to the extreme cult of personality surrounding the country’s president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who likes to be called Turkmenbashi, or Father of the Turkmens.

Strong official pressure also continues to be used against unregistered – and de facto illegal – communities, such as those from the Baptist Council of Churches, whose congregations refuse on principle to register with the state authorities. (Forum 18)

Shagildy Atakov still preaching the Gospel (Turkmenistan)

Shagildy Atakov still preaching the Gospel (Turkmenistan) Shagildy Atakov was imprisoned in Turkmenistan from December 1998 to January 2002. During his imprisonment, he was brutally treated and came close to death. A recent visitor to Turkmenistan brings current news

 

The Atakovs continue to follow the Lord and are not ashamed of the Gospel. Christian literature is displayed publicly in Shagildy’s house. He remarks, We have nothing to hide. When people come here, they need to see that a Christian family is living in this house.

Police still monitor his movements. Often after he has been preaching at a house meeting, police officers arrive at the scene and ask about his whereabouts. Was Shagildy here? When the people in the house affirm that, they say, What a pity that we just missed him. We need to arrest him. Next time we’ll get him! After the following house meeting, they do the same. This way, they try to intimidate the people. (Friedenstimme)

Baptist church meeting raided again (Turkmenistan)

Law enforcement officers broke up the Sunday morning Baptist service in Balkanabad on 11 May and forcibly took all those present to the police station. The church, which meets in a private flat, had previously been raided in March and April.

One church member described what happened: Between ten and 12 people burst into the room and ordered us to leave the building. The service was still under way, but the law enforcement officers ordered that it stop and began to apply physical force, even on children, to turn everyone out of the building, paying no attention to the cries and screams of the children.