Forty police accompanied by National Guard military personnel raided a church in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on 25 November, ransacking the property during Sunday morning worship.
Fourteen Christians were detained, including a fourteen-year-old boy. Police held them outside in the winter cold as they attempted to force the churchgoers to admit they had attended an “unauthorised meeting”. When they refused, the fourteen were subjected to nine and a half hours of interrogation before being released.
During the raid on the unregistered church, every member of the congregation was photographed and their details recorded. Hymn books and 7,800 other items of Christian literature were confiscated. Later in the evening, as temperatures dropped below zero, the church’s heating was cut off by the police.
The congregation were told by officials "we will come every Sunday and disrupt the church service every time until you give up and stop your activity … We as the state cannot adjust to you, you need to adjust to our laws."
This incident marks the first time the National Guard, a branch of the Uzbekistan military, has been involved in such a raid. The justice ministry has refused to explain why they were involved, describing the incident simply as a “special operation”.
Churches are required by law to register in Uzbekistan, but stringent requirements make it nearly impossible for most churches to do so. Uzbek Christians face frequent persecution including violent raids on meetings and homes, confiscation of property as well as unlawful detention and beatings.
From Forum 18 and Barnabas Fund contacts