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Muslim Women Arrested In Southern Uzbekistan

KARSHI, Uzbekistan -- Some 30 women have been arrested in the southern Uzbek city of Karshi since the beginning of November, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Mehriniso Hamdamova, 40, a teacher of a religious course for women at Karshi's Kuk Gumbaz Mosque, is the latest woman to have been arrested.

Hamdamova's daughter, Latofat Orzikulova, told RFE/RL that in the early morning of November 5 a dozen police and security officers entered
Hamdamova's home and searched it.

She said that although they found nothing illegal they confiscated two Uzbek films on CDs and a book given to Hamdamova as a gift by the Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Uzbekistan.

Hamdamova is being held in pretrial detention after being charged with establishing "jamoats" (societies) and promoting them among young people.

Orzikulova said that on the same day several of Hamdamova's female relatives -- including her sister, a daughter-in-law, and nieces -- were also arrested. Orzikulova said police refused to say why her relatives were arrested.

The detentions are the latest in a string of arrests of women in Karshi.

Shoira Karomova, who works at a state department on religious affairs dealing with women and who helped develop the religious course taught by Hamdamova, told RFE/RL that she does not think Hamdamova's professional activities were the reason for her arrest, because her course had been officially approved.

Surat Ikromov, a leader of the Independent Group for Human Rights Defenders, told RFE/RL that the arrested women have been pressured while in detention in Karshi to give evidence against Hamdamova.

Hamdamova's relatives have appealed for help in the case to President Islam Karimov, the prosecutor-general, the head of the state security service, and the Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Uzbekistan.