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Kazakhstan Approves Restrictive Religion Law

Aktobe's central mosque (file photo)

Aktobe's central mosque (file photo)

The upper house of Kazakhstan's parliament has approved a measure to restrict the registration of religious organizations and prohibit unauthorized religious activities.

The bill will require existing religious groups to dissolve and register again through a procedure that is virtually guaranteed to exclude smaller groups.

It was approved by the lower house of parliament on September 21.

Under the revised law, the construction of new places of worship must be approved by local authorities and the religious education of youth will also be under their control.

In addition, the new law imposes a ban on praying in the workplace.

Supporters of the amended law on religion, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev, say the legislation will help combat religious extremism.

The law was criticized today by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

ODIHR chief Janez Lenarčič said the law "unnecessarily restricts the freedom of religion" and called for a review of the law before it is signed into force.

The U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House says the provisions will curb the rights of Kazakhs to freely practice and express their faith.

based on RFE/RL and agency reports