on Sept. 27, 2007
Warsaw--ISKCON Leader, BB Govinda Swami, addressed an international conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), commonly known as the Helsinki Commission, on September 26th. The Swami is the spiritual head of the Hare Krishna community in Kazakhstan, where repeated abuses of believers by the government authorities have drawn international protests [see article here
The issue is drawing increased attention at this time, because Kazakhstan is up for election to the Chair of the OSCE, and many governments are opposing due to the poor history of humanitarian rights in Kazakhstan.
The speech is printed below in its entirety.
Thank you Mr. Moderator,
Yesterday there was fine discussion on combating intolerance and discrimination.
I would like to present examples of how governments quite unfortunately use intolerance and discrimination to impede the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief.
Since the 2006 HDIM (Human Dimension Implementation Meeting) the Kazakh Government has destroyed the Krishna commune in Kazakhstan.
Demolition of 14 homes of Krishna Hindu practitioners, and eviction of families, took place in November 2006.
Homes were destroyed one by one. Mothers with infants were thrown from their homes into the snow. Family belongings were loaded on trucks and driven away.
Kazakhstan has been requested by numerous organizations to address the issue of those who suffered due to demolitions. But nothing has been done to improve the situation.
The situation has become worse. New cases, and, another demolition conducted in June 2007, at 5 AM while people were still in bed. Twelve more homes destroyed, bringing the grand total of 26 homes.
Now, that's quite an alarm to wake up to, and, I feel it is a strong alarm that we should all be hearing today.
Only Krishna homes were targeted. Other homeowners with identical legal status, but different religious affiliation, have not had their ownership disturbed.
The government calls the issue a "property dispute," citing infractions committed by the community. But there are more than 40 examples of violation of due process and rule of law, committed by the government. This is never acknowledged.
Mr. Moderator, when a religious community is targeted by a campaign to prevent them from privatizing their land, drive them from their residences, seize their rightfully purchased homes, community land, and place of worship, it is more than a "property issue".
It is an example of an OSCE state using the nation's laws and judicial system for implementing discrimination and violence against a minority religion.
After procuring the list of names of the Krishna Hindus, authorities began selective discrimination stopping privatization of their residences and land plots.