6 March 2009
UZBEKISTAN: HOW MANY RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS BARRED FROM TRAVELLING?
Natalya Kadyrova is one of several Protestant Christians known to Forum 18News Service to have been denied the exit visas Uzbek citizens need before they can leave their own country, apparently as punishment for their religious activity. The wife of a pastor of a Tashkent Protestant church,Kadyrova has already been fined for her involvement with her church.Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses have told Forum 18 that their adherents have faced exit visa denials in the recent past. Human rights defenders are among others who face similar problems. However, Saken Kojahmetov, head of the Department of Entry and Exit at the Interior Ministry's Department of Entry, Exit and Legalisation of Citizenship in Tashkent, denied this to Forum 18. "We don't obstruct Uzbek citizens from travelling freely," he claimed. Asked why a number of religious believers cannot get exit visas,he responded: "If some people are saying this, let them come to me and raise their case and we will resolve it."