Turkmenistan slightly improves attitude towards freedom of religion: U.S State Department
Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, Dec. 4 / Trend H. Hasanov /
In general, there were some small improvements in the status of respect for religious freedom by the state during the reporting period, the annual report of the U.S. State Department said.
The report, prepared by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, pays attention to the fact that the Turkmen Constitution envisages freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion. But in practice the government continued to restrict freedom of religion.
All groups must register to get the legal status. The unregistered religious activity is illegal and can be punished administratively in the form of fines.
"In general, the government gave legal force to existing legal restrictions on religious freedom. But there were some small improvements in the status of respect for religious freedom by the state for the reporting period," the report said.
"The unsettled state practice in the treatment with some registered and unregistered groups continued for the previous reporting period."
Several religious groups failed to register. But the authorities restricted the opportunity to have a property for registered groups, to print or import religious materials, to receive foreign guests and to engage in religion.
The report states that "there are no reports of abuse and public violence based on religious affiliation, religious belief or practice."
The state has made little for the promotion of interfaith understanding or dialogue beyond the understanding and dialogue that exists between Muslims and Orthodox through its Council on Religious Affairs. The majority of citizens are Sunni Muslims: Turkmen people's ethnicity associated with Islam. Historically, the Turkmen society was tolerant and included different religious beliefs. But ethnic Turkmen people who appeal to other religious groups, particularly in less well-known Protestant groups are treated with suspicion and sometimes banished.
The U.S. Government discusses freedom of religion issues with the Turkmen government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.