How many Jews are there in Turkmenistan

main menu

The Turkmen constitution in the 2016 version contains an extensive catalog of fundamental rights. It provides for the separation of religion and state and guarantees freedom of religion and belief. The predominant religion is Sunni Islam in the form of the Hanafi school of law. Originally only two religious communities were allowed in Turkmenistan: Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity. The Catholic Church has also been officially recognized since 2010. Diplomatic relations with the Vatican were established in 2018. The rural population traditionally practices popular Islam, while the urban population is largely non-religious.

In fact, there is a significant gap between the legislative framework and its implementation. Freedom of religion and belief, like all fundamental rights and freedoms, is severely restricted, and the government particularly wants to prevent the emergence of radical Islam. Attempts at proselytizing by religious communities are prohibited. The The practice of religion is under close state control, also for members of registered denominations.


Demographic proportions of religious communities

According to official figures, the Turkmen population numbered 5.8 million people; reliable figures on the denominational groups are not available. The proportion of Russian Orthodox will be a maximum of 9 percent estimated. Around 2 percent are accounted for by smaller communities such as various Protestant churches (e.g. Pentecostal churches, Seven-Day Adventists, New Apostolic Church), Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Bahá'ís, Hare Krishna, Shiite Muslims.


Legal situation

Turkmenistan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Pact) on May 1, 1997.

Turkmenistan defines itself as a secular state in its revised constitution of 2016 (Article 1). Article 18 guarantees freedom of religion and belief as well as the separation of religion and state. Interference by religious organizations in state affairs is prohibited. The education system is secular. According to Article 19, the ideology of religious organizations, political parties and other entities should not be binding. Article 28 contains a prohibition of discrimination. Article 41 establishes the right to free choice of religion and the right to express one's religious beliefs and to participate in religious acts and ceremonies. Confession to any religion is also possible. Article 42 also grants freedom of religion in a negative sense: Nobody can be forced to express their opinion or belief or to renounce them. Limits to the practice of religion are defined in Article 30, according to which the exercise of civil rights and freedoms must not violate those of other persons or the "requirements of morality, law, public order and national security".

The Religious Organizations and Freedom Act 2016 prohibits any unauthorized religious activity. The ban includes holding church services, distributing religious material and proselytizing. Religious communities can be dissolved by court order if the court finds that their activities are inconsistent with the Constitution, "violate the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens" or affect their "health and morals", or they are "contrary to public safety and "Violate order" or "undermine the security of the state".

After a revision of the Law on Religious Organizations and Freedom in 2016, all religious communities, including those previously registered, had to register again to let. While the earlier version differentiated between "religious groups" (<50 members) and "religious organizations (> 50 members), and only five members were required for a foundation, the version from 2016 has been tightened significantly. There are now 50 founding members for registration over 18 years and the submission of comprehensive information and documents required. According to official information, 121 religious organizations and seven religious groups were approved in 2014, including 99 Sunni organizations, five Shiite and 13 Russian Orthodox as well as eleven other religious communities, including the Catholic Church, Bahá ' í, Hare Krishna and various Protestant churches. Some smaller communities (including Protestant Free Churches from the USA and Jehovah's Witnesses) were not registered and were considered illegal, they could face fines or arrest. Unverified sources indicate that after the change in the law, alongside Sunni Islam b Until January 2019, only two smaller Protestant congregations succeeded in registering.

The Council for Religious Affairs, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice and which monitors the practice of religion including the registration, financing, holding of church services, religious education and dissemination and importation of religious literature, determines the admissibility of an application for registration of a religious community. If the latter gives his approval, the application is forwarded to the Ministry of Justice, which initiates an inter-ministerial approval process with the participation of the security services. The Administrative Law, the Law on Assemblies, the Criminal Law and other laws also contain relevant provisions on the registration of religious communities.

Religious organization are entitled to own propertydonated by natural or legal persons, transferred by the state to the religious organization or acquired in any other way that "does not contradict the laws of Turkmenistan". Acceptance of contributions by foreign bodies requires approval, their use must be proven contains a differentiated list of fines for the unauthorized acceptance of foreign donations from both registered and unregistered religious groups.

Article 223 of Criminal code criminalizes all religious gatherings or events unless they are registered and approved. This also applies, for example, to weddings, christenings or funeral services. Participation in pilgrimages or regular visits to places of worship can be sanctioned on this basis.

Turkmen law does not provide a legal option to refuse military service. Refusal is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years. There are currently eleven members of Jehovah's Witnesses because of it Conscientious objection to military service in custody.


Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

In practice, the Registration religious as well as civil society organizations handled restrictively. The administrative hurdles are high, the handling is not transparent. The state controls the practice of religion like any other communal manifestation to ensure that it conforms to the established line and that meetings are not covertly used for political purposes. In particular, the government fears the emergence of radical Islam. Against this background, the term extremism was expanded in the course of the amendment to the Criminal Code.

The Practice of religion will also be used by registered communities closely monitored. Justice Department officials have the right to attend religious events organized by registered organizations and to interview religious leaders on all aspects of their work. The Religious Affairs Council must approve the appointment of religious leaders and works under the direction of the (government-appointed) Grand Mufti. A general ban on gathering and the printing, importing or distribution of religious writings also apply to registered communities. Exemptions from the council are possible, but are made more difficult by numerous administrative hurdles.

In recent years, many churches and mosques have been destroyed due to an alleged lack of building permits.

Representatives of religious minorities report that ethnic Turkmens who turn away from Islam ("Apostasy") or are members of a non-Islamic religious minority are more often officially checked and questioned than others.

An exercise of Violence in the name of religion has not been recorded, there is also no public defamation of certain religious groups in the (state-controlled) media. Social media are blocked in Turkmenistan. Social defamation (e.g. when converting to another denomination outside of Islam) is not actively pursued by the state.


Interreligious cooperation structures

As part of a round table convened sporadically by the government for the first time in 2018, questions about their admission and activities are to be discussed with representatives of all religious groups. The round table has met twice so far, and concrete results have not been published. Beyond Islam, religious organizations do not play a visible social role, also because of their small size. The assumption of responsibility for peace by religious actors is not a topic of public discourse.