Monday, February 27, 2006


Islamic Tolerance Watch : Tajikistan Authorities Destroy Countries Only Synagogue

and who says Muslims don't respect other religions :

Authorities in Tajikistan have started demolishing the country's only synagogue in order to make way for a new presidential residence, an official said Friday.

The century-old synagogue on government land in the ex-Soviet republic's capital Dushanbe will be completely torn down by June "as part of the plans to build a new presidential palace," said city administration spokesman Shavkat Saidov.

Last month, city authorities demolished the synagogue's ritual bathhouse, classroom and kosher butchery, the Norway-based international Forum 18 religious rights group said.

Tajikistan's Jewish community, mainly made up of Bukharan Jews, is mostly elderly and poor and cannot afford to build a new synagogue. About 280 Jews live in Dushanbe, of about 480 across the country.

The International Sephardic Leadership Council expressed "dismay" that the city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan has started to destroy what is described as "an active and functioning synagogue -- the only synagogue in the entire country. The 150 members of the Jewish community, mainly made up of Bukharian Jews, is elderly and poor and cannot afford to build a new synagogue."

The synagogue was built by the Jewish community a century ago. It was earmarked for demolition under plans for construction of a "Palace of Nations" (the Tajik president's new residence). Between January 7-20, 2006 the city authorities demolished the mikva (ritual bathhouse), classroom and kosher butchery of the synagogue.

While the government claims the synagogue technically belongs to the state, Rabbi Mikhail Abdurakhmanov of Dushanbe told a human rights group, "By rights the synagogue ought to belong to the Jews who paid for its construction about 100 years ago." He reported then that the authorities had offered a plot of land some distance from central Dushanbe, where the community could build a new synagogue. Yet, there was no way the mainly elderly congregation could afford to build a new synagogue.

Shamsuddin Nuriddinov, head of the Dushanbe Religious Affairs Department was quoted by a human rights group. He stated the government has no intention of offering financial compensation for the demolition of the synagogue. "Religion is separate from the state here in Tajikistan ... If the Jews want to have a synagogue, let them pay for it out of their own funds." Shelomo Alfassa, director of the International Sephardic Leadership Council stated:

It is "an ominous message for a Jewish community," the ISLC said, "that while living under a government that is attempting to rebuild its economic, political and social image -- it starts by wiping out the only synagogue in its country. The international Jewish community must do everything it can to help the remaining elderly and poverty-stricken Jews there, this includes considering emigration."

In past years, the secular led Tajikistan government has been accused of tolerating the presence of training camps for Islamic militants, an accusation which it has strongly denied.

A local citizen reported that when a Jewish member of the synagogue filmed the destruction, officials threatened to break his video-camera. Reports have circulated that members of the community indicate that they have been threatened by government officials for raising their voices.

Tajikistan, west of China and north of Afghanistan, became independent in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union and has now completed its transition from the civil war that plagued the country from 1992 to 1997. Today, the country is 90% Muslim.

Bukharian Jews have lived in Tajikistan for over 1,000 years without experiencing anti-Semitism. They were joined by a small Ashkenazi presence following World War II.

In 1995, the Dushanbe synagogue and several Jewish homes were broken into and ransacked. From this event, fear caused many Jews from Dushanbe to emigrate. About 10,000 Tajik Jews have fled to Israel since 1989. In 1992, there was a little-known but successful airlift operation to bring Jews out of Tajikistan and into Israel.


J, what a sad story...I will cross-post it you-know-where...


good for getting the mesg out phil, ill pm U as soon as i find my password for meic, had to wipe my machine the other day so lost em all

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