On August 6, 2020, a Turkmen court sentenced Brothers Eldor and Sanjarbek Saburov to two years in prison for their conscientious objection to military service. The siblings are 21 and 25 years old, respectively. The court refused the brothers’ request to appeal. This is the second time both were convicted for their neutrality.
In 2016, Brother Sanjarbek Saburov respectfully refused to be drafted into the army. Subsequently, he was convicted and sentenced to two years of probation.
The following year, Sanjarbek’s younger brother, Eldor, also refused to participate in military service. He was sentenced to two years of correctional labor with 20 percent of his wages garnished by the State.
According to Turkmen law, conscientious objectors can be criminally charged a second time if they continue to refuse military service. In April 2020, the military recruiting office again summoned the brothers to enlist. Both brothers refused to be drafted. They were criminally prosecuted, which resulted in their imprisonment.
Beyond the emotional toll, imprisonment will cause acute hardship for the brothers’ parents. Their father suffers from chronic back pain, which impairs his ability to work. His sons support the family by growing cotton. Now that they have been imprisoned, their parents will no longer have the financial support they need. Instead, the parents will now have to care for their sons’ needs in prison.
Turkmenistan does not offer alternative civilian service. Consequently, young brothers who refuse military service on the grounds of conscientious objection face one to four years in prison. Including the Saburov brothers, there are ten young Witnesses in prison in Turkmenistan for their neutrality.
We know Jehovah will bless our young brothers in Turkmenistan for their courageous stand. May each of them recall Jehovah’s promise to King Asa: “You, be strong and do not become discouraged, for your activity will be rewarded.”