American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) on Monday submitted a periodical review before the United Nations (UN) Council for Human Rights, detailing the plight of the Azeri Christians and other religious minorities living in the country. The report highlighted the persecution at the state level that the Christians face in the Central Asian republic.
The report says that the Azeri government used its secular-looking constitution to its advantage without actually letting out the fact that the constitution also discriminates at certain levels with the minorities. For example, it states that the state would have nothing to do with the religion of the people but at the same time, it also required religious organisations to be registered with the government.
The report highlights how common people are made to face heavy fines and also jailed for distributing bible and are charged with ‘non-compliance’ with the laws since the distribution wasn’t pre-registered.
“Twenty-two Christians were arrested for assembling to worship and two of the pastors were required to pay fines. The religious group had applied for registration, but the authorities had not granted them permission to gather for worship by the time they assembled”, the report claims at one point.
In another instance, a Baptist pastor named Hamid Shabanov was arrested by the government on the charge of leading worship without the permission by the government but the reality was that the pastor had repeatedly sought permission and was denied repeatedly by the state.
Such incidents go unreported largely because the major world powers don’t really have an interest in the region or because they have so much to gain from the region that they wouldn’t care what sort of human rights violations were being committed in the countries there. Azerbaijan is another such country that largely remains underreported and thus the violations there go unreported not only in the Western media but also in the major organisations such as United Nations’ Council of Human Rights.