Date: February 24, 2021
Washington, DC –United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Nury Turkel today announced his adoption of Shamil Khakimov, who he will advocate for as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Mr. Khakimov is a 70-year-old Jehovah’s Witness from Tajikistan enduring a lengthy prison sentence for his peaceful religious practice.
“The Tajikistani government is treating Shamil Khakimov in an appalling way,” said USCIRF Commissioner Turkel. “Since 2019, this ailing, elderly man has been languishing in a decrepit and overcrowded prison on a bogus seven-and-a-half year prison sentence. This term could very well represent a death sentence for a man wrongly imprisoned for peacefully practicing his religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness.”
Mr. Khakimov has high blood pressure and was still recovering from major surgery at the time of his arrest on February 26, 2019. Tajikistani prisons are notoriously harsh, with torture and inhumane conditions widely reported. While in prison, Mr. Khakimov has been forbidden from reading his Bible. After his scheduled release in 2025 at the age of 74, his sentence will forbid him from participating in religious services for an additional three years.
“Tajikistani authorities are essentially destroying this man’s life because of his faith. Such atrocious violations cannot be tolerated if Tajikistan has any interest in improving its record on religious freedom,” Commissioner Turkel added.
USCIRF recently reported on the Tajikistani government’s widespread misuse of extremism laws, as well as and its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Global Persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. government designate Tajikistan as a “country of particular concern” for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
USCIRF will be holding a virtual event on religious prisoners of conscience on Thursday, February 25th at 11:00 am ET, and will feature Shamil Khakimov.