Broken Promises: Freedom of Religion in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
(14/07-2010) The report “Broken Promises: Freedom of Religion or Belief Issues in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan” was launched during a side event at the Conference on Tolerance in Astana on 30 June.
The report is a result of cooperation between five human rights organizations: The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Forum 18 News service, Norwegian Mission to the East, the Oslo centre for Peace and Human Rights and the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Kazakhstan, as chair of the OSCE in 2010, should take concrete steps to keep the promises made on the eve of the chairmanship, and the report addresses this issue. The report is now available in Russian as well as in English and attracted great attention at the conference.
The report was launched though a seminar where participants of the Kazakhstani civil society as well as from the Kazakhstani government participated. The Ambassador of the Netherlands Mr.Frans Potuyt welcomed the audience with some well-thought words on the importance of freedom of religion, as the side event was convened by the Netherlands. Ninel Fokina of the Almaty Helsinki Committee said the report reflected the actual situation in Kazakhstan in a neutral and objective way.
The representatives of the government; the State Committee on Religious Affairs, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Interior, were met with several questions from religious organizations, and the Prosecutor General’s Office’s expressed readiness to investigate concrete issues, was addressed immediately by several religious groups and human rights activists.
John Kinahan of the Forum 18 News Service presented central points from the report in context. Professor Artur Artemyev addressed the organizations that spread slander about various so-called “non-traditional religious groups,” and Vyacheslav Abramov of Freedom House/Media Net provided an overview of the range of such negative statements in Kazakhstani media.
Many of the more than 70 listeners signed up to speak in the following discussion, but unfortunately there was not enough time for all to speak. However, the interest demonstrates that the discussion is heated in Kazakhstan at the moment, and that the mentioned report plays a central role in the discussion