Wednesday, September 19, 2007


18 September, 2007

“The Armenian (Apostolic) Church, which has formal legal status as the national church, enjoys some privileges not available to other religious groups”, says the US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report. According to the report, “the law places some restrictions on the religious freedom of adherents of minority religious groups, and there were some restrictions in practice. In general, societal attitudes toward some minority religious groups were ambivalent, and there were reports of societal discrimination directed against members of these groups.

During the reporting period, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists reported that low-level government officials denied them the use of public space for religious gatherings. However, the Jehovah's Witnesses noted that, in general, they were free to assemble without harassment by police or other government entities. Jehovah's Witnesses reported that judges sentenced them to longer prison terms for evasion of alternative military service than in the past, although the sentences were still within the range allowed by law”.

The report says that “a customs issue pertaining to the Jehovah's Witnesses ability to obtain shipments of religious literature was not resolved at the end of the reporting period On March 29, 2007, customs officials in Yerevan reevaluated a shipment of religious periodicals received by the Jehovah's Witnesses at a significantly higher rate than the group expected, making it financially difficult for them to arrange clearance of the shipment. Customs officials maintained that the reevaluation complied with the customs code”.

By the way at the end the report says: “The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During these discussions, the U.S. Government emphasized to authorities that continued eligibility for the $235 million (approximately 79 billion AMD) Millennium Challenge Compact remained contingent upon the Government's performance in meeting good governance indicators, which include standards of respect for religious freedom”.


The US State Department reflects on Karabakh in the unit referring to Azerbaijan. Here it was mentioned that the Armenian Apoistolic Church has a special status in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“In 1990s during the war with Armenia all ethnic Azerbaijanis have fled, mainly Muslims, from Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 7 territories and are unable to return”, says the report . The US Department of State uses “occupied” noting that “the occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh--a predominantly ethnic Armenian area over which the Government of Azerbaijan had no control--officials reportedly released jailed Baptist conscientious objector Gagik Mirzoyan and transferred him to a military unit to complete the remainder of his military service. Also in the occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Jehovah's Witness and conscientious objector Areg Hovhanesyan remained in jail after being sentenced in 2005 to 4 years in prison for evading military service, a sentence he did not appeal”.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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