wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07BISHKEK946
2007-07-20 11:35:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bishkek
Cable title:  

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN KYRGYZSTAN: CLAMPING DOWN OR

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  KDEM  KIRF  KG 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO8119
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHEK #0946/01 2011135
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201135Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BISHKEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9958
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2232
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0668
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2637
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2016
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO BRUSSELS BE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BISHKEK 000946 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM KIRF KG
SUBJECT: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN KYRGYZSTAN: CLAMPING DOWN OR
BUSINESS AS USUAL?


BISHKEK 00000946 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: CDA Lee Litzenberger, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: Chairman of the State Agency for Religious
Affairs (SARA), Toigonbek Kalmatov, told the press July 12
that Kyrgyzstan needed "tougher" legislation to combat
religious extremism, and SARA was working on "five draft
laws." Kalmatov claimed that over 400 religious
organizations, including Hizb-ut Tahrir, Falun Gong, and the
Unification church, were unregistered, and thus operating
illegally in Kyrgyzstan. Kalmatov vowed to work with civil
society, NGOs, and media to educate society on the dangers of
religious extremism, intolerance, and religious
discrimination. Kyrgyz law already requires that all
religious organizations register with SARA, and it is not
clear at this point what Kalmatov intends by promulgating
"tougher" laws. Prior to the press conference, Kalmatov told
the Embassy he wanted to hold an interfaith festival and to
establish a think tank to focus on religious tolerance, and
our conversations with SARA staff indicate they are looking
to consult broadly in drafting new laws. We will closely
monitor the development of SARA's draft amendments to
Kyrgyzstan's laws on religion and will make clear to SARA
that we expect any new legislation to respect religious
freedom. End Summary.

TOUGHER LAWS NEEDED?


--------------------------





2. (SBU) SARA Chairman Toigonbek Kalmatov told the press July
12 that Kyrgyzstan needed "tougher" legislation to curb the
activities of radical religious organizations. Kalmatov said
that Kyrgyzstan had fairly liberal laws on registration, and
while every religious organization was required to register
with SARA, any religious organization would be registered as
long as its charter did not contradict Kyrgyz law. Kalmatov
said there were 2142 officially registered organizations, but
over 400 faith-based groups that were operating without
registration, and thus illegally, in Kyrgyzstan. To combat
such activities, SARA was working on "five draft laws" on
religious activities. Kalmatov, however, did not provide any
details of the drafts.



3. (C) Kalmatov said that the "current religious situation"
demanded serious attention. He expressed concern about the
activities of the banned Hizb-ut Tahrir and other
"destructive" groups. He also commented on an increase in
proselytizing, which was creating tensions in some villages.
Kalmatov said that a number of organizations banned in other
countries -- such as Hizb-ut Tahrir, the Unification Church,
Falun Gong, the White Brotherhood, and the Maharishi movement
-- were "creating problems" in Kyrgyzstan. While the
constitution protected freedom of religion, Kalmatov said,
such entities should not promote activities that are not in

line with Kyrgyz law. At the same time, Kalmatov vowed to
work with civil society, NGOs, other government agencies, and
media to educate society on the dangers of religious
extremism, intolerance, and religious discrimination.

GOING TOO FAR?


--------------------------





4. (C) One minority religious leader expressed concern that
the changes in the law could be used against them. Baptist
Pastor Shumlin Aleksandr told us he was concerned about the
possibility of additional pressure against missionaries, and
he cited the ongoing difficulties of one Baptist church in
Karakulja to obtain registration from SARA, despite repeated
attempts to do so. A former SARA official complained to us
about the "unprofessional attitude" of the current SARA
leadership and warned that SARA's policy could actually push
the country toward greater "Islamization".

BUSINESS AS USUAL?

BISHKEK 00000946 002.2 OF 002




--------------------------





5. (C) SARA officials dismissed claims that the government
was clamping down on religious freedom. SARA religious
issues expert Kanybek Mamataliyev told us that Kalmatov was
trying to improve the conditions for religious freedom in
Kyrgyzstan by speaking out publicly against intolerance and
the activities of banned religious groups. Janybek Botoyev,
a SARA lawyer, added separately that SARA was forming a
working group with representatives from religious
organizations and civil society to draft a new law on
religion. He hoped that a draft could be submitted to
parliament by the fall. (Note: SARA has been working on a
new law on religious organizations since 2001. End Note.)

PROMOTING TOLERANCE BY FOLLOWING U.S. EXAMPLE


--------------------------





6. (C) Kalmatov returned July 7 from the United States after
participating in an International Visitor (IV) program
focused on religious diversity and inter-faith dialogue. In
a meeting with us held prior to the press conference,
Kalmatov went on at length how he had been impressed by the
interfaith dialogue in the U.S. and wanted to emulate such
practices in Kyrgyzstan. He said he planned to stage an
interfaith festival, and he also wanted to establish a think
tank to focus on religious tolerance issues. He also thought
there could be greater cooperation with theology faculties at
universities.

COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) There is an obvious disconnect between Kalmatov's call
for "tougher" laws and his remarks -- at the press conference
and to us -- about promoting tolerance and inter-faith
dialogue. Kalmatov believes there should be more public
education about the dangers of extremism, but he also seems
to believe that "tougher" laws will help SARA to deal with
the problem. Kyrgyz law already requires that all religious
organizations register with SARA, and it is not clear at this
point what Kalmatov intends by promulgating "tougher" laws.
Our conversations with SARA staff indicate they are looking
to consult broadly in drafting new laws, however. We will
closely monitor the development of SARA's draft amendments to
Kyrgyzstan's laws on religion and make clear to SARA that we
expect any new legislation to respect religious freedom.
LITZENBERGER