Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The US Embassy in Kazakhstan has condemned the destruction by Kazakh riot police of eleven homes within a Hare Krishna village. The destruction took place on November 21st in the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan and has been termed unjust treatment of the religious group.
“The forceful eviction of homeowners in freezing temperatures and the destruction of their possessions contradicted principles of due process and fairness,” the US Embassy said in a December 7 statement.
The Embassy further urged authorities to cease “further aggressive actions” and instead seek a peaceful conclusion to ongoing legal disputes with Hare Krishnas concerning the land.
Officials from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in the U.S. had previously called for an international response to the November 21 demolition of 13 homes, and a range of groups have condemned it, including the British Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The US State Department’s 2005 International Religious Freedom Report cited instances of “continued local government and police harassment” reported by Hare Krishnas in Kazakhstan. It reported that over 50% of the country’s population is historically Muslim but the republic includes congregations of Russian Orthodox, Baptists and other Christian and religious groups.
Ironically the original demolition of the Hare Krishna homes occurred on the same day President Nursultan Nazarbayev was in London for a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair seeking his support for Kazakhstan’s bid to be the OSCE chairman-in-office in 2009. In London, some 10,000 members of Britain’s Hindu community protested the demolition of the Hare Krishna property in Kazakhstan.
This was not the first time Kazakh authorities have attempted to confiscate the Hare Krishna community’s land. In April 2006, Kazakh authorities had tried to bulldoze the homes, but retreated in the presence of journalists.
In an official statement issued after the demolition event, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, expressed concern about the treatment of Hare Krishnas.
“Recent steps against the Hare Krishnas and members of other religious communities indicate that the government of Kazakhstan, regrettably, is moving in the wrong direction with regard to respecting the universal right to freedom of religion or belief,” said Felice D. Gaer, chair of the Commission.