Uzbekistan: Honour Thy Father and Mother

Nov 1, 2022 | VoM

Anton frowned and pressed the ‘end call’ button on his phone after again receiving no answer from his mother, Mussalam, in Uzbekistan.

He usually spoke with her every couple of days from his home in Russia. He grew concerned when, in 2019, she suddenly stopped answering his calls. Since his mother and father were both in their 70s, he decided to make the trip back to his home town in Uzbekistan to check on them.

Anton headed straight for his parents’ house, a comfortable place built around a central courtyard. He pounded on the metal gate in the dark until his brother opened a small grille in the gate to see who was there.

Oddly, when Anton’s brother saw him, he turned and called toward the house, “Anton is here. What should I do?” After his brother heard a response from someone inside, he looked back towards Anton and said, “Goodbye. Go away.”

“But where is Mother?” Anton insisted. “She is in Tashkent with our sister; she is ill,” his brother replied as he closed the grille. Not knowing where to go next, Anton spent the night at a neighbour’s house. Something seemed very wrong. He had to find out where his mother was and why his brother wouldn’t let him in the house.

Twenty years earlier, one of Anton’s sisters had placed her faith in Christ and shared the gospel with the family. Through her witness, Anton and his parents had also come to faith in Christ. Four other siblings, however, remained Muslim.

Anton’s oldest sister, Inessa, was hostile towards her Christian family members and became upset when her mother, Mussalam, began giving Bibles to neighbours. When one of her sisters died unexpectedly, Inessa accused her mother of murder. But a police investigation cleared Mussalam of any wrongdoing.

Although Inessa owned a restaurant and had her own home, she decided she also wanted her parents’ home. But when she and her two Muslim brothers tried to move in, Mussalam and her husband objected and told them: “It wouldn’t be a healthy mix.”

The three Muslim siblings then sued their parents, arguing that they intended to turn the house into a church. Mussalam’s daughters-in-law even falsely testified that she had forced them to read the Bible and go to church. In the end, the Muslim siblings quarrelled so much that they could not proceed with their lawsuit.

Still, Inessa persisted in her attempt to acquire her parents’ home. She spread rumours among neighbours that her mother had mental issues, and she asked a local police officer to compel her mother to go to a psychiatric institution. Inessa berated her mother continually and even beat her. One of Anton’s siblings sent him a video clip of Inessa, in a fur cap and coat, beating Mussalam in the courtyard of her own home. Anton also received a photo of his mother’s bruised face after the beating.

Now, Anton was worried that his Muslim sister and brothers had done something worse to his mother.

When he awoke the next morning, he went straight to the police. Though they didn’t seem eager to help, one of the officers told him that Inessa had planned to have his mother committed to a psychiatric hospital. “I didn’t believe it,” Anton said. “I expected some harassment like this from my sister and my brothers, but not this.”

Despite his doubts, Anton decided to follow up with a visit to the hospital. When he saw his mother’s name on the patient list, he was devastated. “I had a serious temptation to burn down my sister’s restaurant and house,” he admitted. “I wanted to beat my brothers.”

After insisting that the chief of police release his mother from the institution, Anton went to the school where Mussalam taught Russian literature, intending to ask the school principal to testify that his mother was of sound mind. During their conversation, the principal shared some shocking news. Inessa and one of her brothers, along with two employees from her restaurant, had burst into Mussalam’s classroom filled with 30 children and forcibly carried Mussalam from the room.

“It was basically a kidnapping,” Anton said. Inessa had bribed the police to look the other way while she had her mother committed to the psychiatric hospital, and she later admitted that she would have paid even more to have her mother locked away.

“Only God knows what kind of treatment she had there,” Anton said. “She was given injections so she could not walk, and she could not even think straight.” Meanwhile, one of Anton’s brothers had prevented their father from leaving home or talking to anyone while Mussalam was in the hospital.

Mussalam was not the same when she returned home after several weeks in the institution. “My daughter wanted to get me to the point where I would not be able to recognise what I was doing,” Mussalam said. “The doctors would hold me down and give me injections.” When Mussalam asked for help, the doctors and nurses told her, “You should have remained in Islam.”

During her long, slow recovery, Mussalam continued to struggle physically and mentally. “I was feeling really weak and my memory was not good,” she said. “They treated me with some kind of medicine that would make me really weak and incapable of doing things.”

Three years after being institutionalised by her daughter, Mussalam has fully recovered. Although she had worried that she would not be able to find another job, she found an even better position than the one she had and continues to teach part-time. She said she would work more hours if it weren’t forbidden for people her age under Uzbek law.

Mussalam is not afraid to speak her mind. During a court case resulting from her forced stay in the psychiatric hospital, a Muslim judge tried to provoke her by asking her why she had not made the Islamic pilgrimage. Mussalam boldly replied that the pilgrimage is a man-made institution that is not authorised by God.

Anton and his Christian sister continue to visit and care for their parents, who faithfully attend one of the few churches in Uzbekistan that have received official registration since 2017. Mussalam’s Muslim neighbours have decided they prefer having the loving Christian couple in the neighbourhood rather than their quarrelling Muslim children.