Leader: President Islam Karimov
Population: 28 million (208,500 Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Authoritarian (republic)
World Watch List Rank: 16
Source of Persecution: Dictatorial paranoia/Organised corruption
The regime will do anything to stay in power, so no religious activities outside state-controlled institutions are allowed. The Russian Orthodox Church has more freedoms, but evangelical Christianity is seen as a destabilising element that needs to be eradicated. Churches live in fear of raids, termination of services, confiscation of literature, and the imposition of heavy fines, which are frequent and increasing. Church members face harassment, detention and arrest for holding private prayer meetings or possessing illegal literature.
- That God will strengthen and encourage Christians under pressure on many fronts
- That larger Christian groups will find ways to gather for worship or training
- For Tohar Haydarov, imprisoned in 2010 for ten years, on trumped-up charges.
- Persecution dynamics
Systemic corruption is rife in Uzbekistan and anyone opposing this, as Christians do, comes under pressure. Muslim-background believers face pressure from family, friends and community and are perceived as bringing shame to the community. The importation of Scripture is hindered, churches require compulsory registration and there are again frequent and increasingly heavy fines for conducting services or possessing material.
The future is unlikely to see improvement for believers, with an expected transition in leadership in coming years and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014, which could lead to an influx of Islamic extremists. Uzbekistan also has the highest number of political prisoners among all former Soviet Union states (estimated between 5,000 to 10,000). If those prisoners – frequently imprisoned on true or alleged terrorist charges – are released, this could further fuel sentiment against the Christian minority.