After 2 ½ years in prison, Umid Gojayev was released on February 17th and is now free and has rejoined his family. We thank you for your faithful prayers since our last post about Umid!
On April 19th, 2012, several men attacked Umid near his home in Dashoguz, Turkmenistan, forcing him to protect himself. Rather than punishing his attackers, the local police brought accusations of hooliganism against Umid, charges neighbors said were trumped up, and sentenced him to an unprecedented four-year prison term. The sentence was inordinately high because of his faith in Christ.
His wife, Malahat, faced the challenge of raising their children alone during his time in prison—their two sons, Daniel (then 6), David (then 5) and daughter Zubeida (then 3). She also had to make the journey to the prison to visit him and bring food, warm clothing and Christian books to provide him with both physical and spiritual food.
Turkmenistan is rapidly emerging as a developing country, largely due to enormous findings of oil and gas, an advancement with mixed side effects. On one side, it has brought in wealth as investors are pouring money into the economy. The other side of this exponential growth is that the country could become dependent on the exportation of oil and gas, and that, given the high level of secrecy and corruption. This growth will only benefit a small group of people that will not uphold the rights of citizens.
Turkmen citizens are living in many countries and some of these Turkmen expats have become involved with Islamic jihadists in the Middle East (Islamic State) and the Indian subcontinent (al Qaeda). Fearing the impact of the jihadists who return to Turkmenistan, the government now closely monitors all religious activity. Because of this, Turkmenistan is considered to be one of the most restrictive places in the world, completely lacking freedom of information or the press.
As we pray for the nation of Turkmenistan, we pause today to rejoice with Umid and Malahat. Thank you for your many prayers on their behalf.