Kyrgyzstan Supreme court places restrictions on practice of Ahmadiyya faith

Muslims who adhere to the Ahmadi doctrine in Kyrgyzstan do not have the right to register with the State, and cannot organise themselves as a religious community.

The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan on 10 July rejected the appeal made by by Salamat Kyshtobayev, leader of the country’s Ahmadi Muslim community, to revoke two earlier 2013 decisions of lower courts in favour of the State Commission for Religious Affairs’ (SCRA) 2011 refusal to give state registration to the community throughout the country.

Judge Aynash Tokbayeva chaired the hearing, sitting with Judges Kamil Osmonaliyev and Bolotbek Akmatov. The National Security Service (NSS) secret police took part in the hearing, as did the SCRA. .

This “means that Ahmadi Muslims cannot act like Ahmadi Muslims and organise meetings for worship or any other activity together,” Asel Bayastanova, the Ahmadis’ defence lawyer, told Forum 18 News Service. Now, if Ahmadis are to meet in private to pray, they risk arrest and a fine from police.

Ahmadis “may in theory, under the Constitution, unofficially gather in private places for worship,” she noted. “But the authorities may well punish them if they find Ahmadis meeting together for religious activity.”

For an Ahmadi living in the capital Bishkek, who wants to remain anonymous, the ruling “is equal to banning us in Kyrgyzstan.”

“If we are found by the NSS secret police, the ordinary police, or any other state agency to be carrying out ‘illegal’ religious activity, we will be given harsh punishments – maybe even imprisonment.”

As such, “this is a severe violation of our basic human rights, and also a potential danger in future for our lives in Kyrgyzstan,” he added.

Ahmadi Muslims told Forum 18 on 16 July that they are waiting to receive a copy of the Supreme Court decision before deciding what action to take. This may involve appeals to the United Nations (UN) and other international organisations.

Kyrgyzstan has about 5.4 million people. The official religion is Sunni Islam (about 70 per cent of the population). According to local sources, the Ahmadi community has about 600 members and many supporters.

Founded in the late 19th century in India, the Ahmadi faith is considered heretical by much of the Muslim world, Sunni and Shiite.

It considers its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the Promised Messiah long awaited by Muslims. For this reason Ahmadis are considered heretical in Central Asian countries.