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Encouraging Developments for Religious Freedom in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan Religion
Uzbekistan Religion

“In Uzbekistan, steps have been taken to improve its record on religious freedom, and those steps continue," said Ambassador-at-Large Brownback.

Encouraging Developments for Religious Freedom in Uzbekistan
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At the release of the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom in June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted countries that have taken positive steps in extending religious liberty for their citizens during the past year. One of them is Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic that has had a history of severe religious repression:

“In Uzbekistan, steps have been taken to improve its record on religious freedom, and those steps continue . . . We documented no police raids of unregistered religious group meetings during 2019, compared with 114 such raids in 2018, and 240 the year before that.”

In an interview, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback also complimented the Uzbek government for taking significant measures to open up space for religious freedom:

“It’s just a delight to work with a leadership that wants to move forward on this. And President [Shavkat] Mirziyoyev, you know, he’s cautious about it. He said, ’You know, we want to measure 10 times and cut once,’ which I appreciate. But I want to keep pushing forward.”

Ambassador Brownback also pointed to the absence of raids on religious institutions in Uzbekistan last year, and he cited other positive developments:

“They’re letting children under the age of 18 go to the mosque, whereas before they were saying under the age of 18, they couldn’t go. They registered eight churches in the country. Now we think they ought to register more. We think there ought to be more and wider open freedoms. But these are major moves forward and we’re very pleased to see them happening.”

Ambassador Brownback noted that respect for religious freedom and for other fundamental human rights tends to open a country to other benefits as well, such as economic prosperity and security. But it is a process, he says:

“Now it doesn’t happen quickly . . . It’s like creating a better atmosphere. It’s getting better soil in the ground. You still have to plant the seeds. You still have to fertilize.”

In Uzbekistan, he said, “We’ve got better soil now. We can grow bigger and more crops.”