It's not an islamic regime imposing Shari'ah law. It's not a communist dictatorship outlawing all religion. It's not a Hindu nationalist movement hostile to minority faiths.

Turkmenistan is a former Soviet state now run by a "president for life" who governs the Muslim-majority nation with command-style rule. And there's a twist: President Saparmurat Niyazov has styled himself a prophet. He's written a holy book—Rukhanama (Spirituality)—and has given it authority equal to that of the Qur'an. It was on Niyazov's Rukhanama that seven Protestant Christians, under threats from authorities last May, swore an oath renouncing the Bible and their faith in Christ.

When three other believers in the same village (Deinau) refused to deny their faith, they were expelled from their homes by police and agents of the KNB (National Security Committee, the former KGB), according to Keston News Service. Murad Djumanazarov, Jamilya Boltaeva, and Nurmurad (his last name is unknown) went into hiding after the knb issued an order to hunt them down.

On paper, Turkmenistan guarantees religious and other freedoms. The one-party government, however, invokes a constitutional article overruling such rights in the interests of "national security."

"In practice, Turkmenistan is perhaps the most repressive of the former Soviet republics in terms of religious freedom or any other human right," states Freedom House's Religious Freedom in the World. Niyazov is trying to strangle Christianity through intimidation, closing churches, confiscating property, and torture, rights organizations say.

The Russian Orthodox Church and Sunni Islam are effectively the only legal religions. Members of other faiths are subject to criminal fines, beatings, and imprisonment.

Including ...

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