A salafi mosque near the Daghestani capital Makhachkala has remained closed for over half a year, despite attempts by local worshippers to reopen it.
The mosque in the Village of Shamkhal in Makhachkala’s Kirovsky District was closed in May. According to residents, this happened after the appointment of a new police chief.
The police had previously shut down the mosque for failing to register with authorities, detaining a number of parishioners and putting them on the ‘preventative register’. The community then registered themselves as a religious group — ‘Muslim’ — with the Ministry of Justice.
The mosque was then again closed because the building is officially registered as a shop.
One of the leaders of the group, Gamzat Gamzatov, told OC Media the owner of the building has already submitted documents to re-register the building as a mosque, but the authorities have not responded.
A number of parishioners report that since the mosque’s closure, they have travelled 16 kilometres to Makhachkala every week for a Friday prayers. A number of older worshippers are unable to travel such a long distance, they say.
There are two other mosques in the village — both Sufi — which are not registered with the Ministry of Justice. According to Gamzatov, ‘they have no problems with law enforcement agencies’.
Gamzatov said that on Friday, 8 December, less than a dozen older people, all over 80 years old, were allowed into the building to pray.
‘As soon as the mosque was opened, three cars with policemen arrived. They waited for the old men to leave the mosque. I approached the police to find out what had happened. They answered that they came because the mosque was opened’, Gamzatov says.
Gamzatov was taken to the local police station to be questioned. He says the community has been on high alert since the closure.
‘A few months ago someone broke windows in the mosque. Someone also cut off the gas. Now the building does not have gas or heating. And recently, policemen came and tried to weld the front door shut. Now the mosque is constantly being guarded by 2–3 people. We don’t leave it unattended anymore’, Gamzatov said.