The Dzhizak regional administration continues its campaign of dissenter harassment and displacement
Photo: Dzhamshid Mukhtarov
"Human rights activists and oppositionists giving the population of Dzhizak the alternative information on the tragic events in Andizhan this May are being suppressed and harassed," Dzhamshid Mukhtarov of Human Rights Society Ezgulik told foreign journalists on December 22. According to the activist, 15 representatives of the human rights community were assailed and beaten and threatened with displacement in Dzhizak itself and its environs.
Mukhtarov himself barely avoided arrest on fabricated charges of being an Islamic fundamentalist in August 2005. He avoided detention only because Birlik leader Vasila Inoyatova phoned the then Interior Minister Zakir Almatov on his behalf. Mukhtarov's activeness in the human rights movement rekindled his conflict with law enforcement agencies.
"Thirty-two farmers from the Dzhizak district approached me complaining that the local administration had confiscated their land from them," Mukhtarov said. "A statement on that score was published in independent media outlets. It was also put into circulation in the form of leaflets. That was when I found myself under pressure. The police devised a cunning ploy. A young girl turned up at the Ezgulik office in Dzhizak. She asked me to help her with the passport and employment. I told her right then and there that our human rights organization did not handle matters like of this kind but the girl went on insisting. She ended up inviting me to her place for a cup of tea. I turned the offer down. The girl kept returning every day. I managed to draw her out several days later. The girl confessed that the police had told her to compromise me or set me up in return for help with her problems. I taped her confession and appealed to the Directorate of Internal Affairs requesting protection from provocations. Ulugbek Karimov, Deputy Chief of the Dzhizak Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs, listened to the tape and promised me to take measures. Two days later, on December 21, I was attacked. I was walking home at 10 p.m. or so when several men jumped out of a car and knocked me down. It happened so fast that I did not even see how many assailants there were, much less see enough to identify them afterwards. A blow at the head with something hard put me out. Some kindhearted pedestrians found me in the morning and helped me get to my place. Once I came to, I discovered that the attackers had got away with my Dictaphone and a folder with documents in it. They had not been interested in money."
Mukhtarov says that human rights activists' appeals to the prosecutor's office and law enforcement agencies are but a waste of time. Instead of doing something or at least running an investigation, the authorities advise human rights activists to leave the Dzhizak region.
"Erkin Kholmuradov (he is chairman of the mahallja committee and parliamentarian), Akbar Khasanov of the counter-terrorism department, and other representatives of the local administration told me to get out more than once. My elderly mother was plainly told that unless I left of my own volition, a criminal case would be fabricated against me and I would end up in jail. Denied protection by the law, I therefore appeal to journalists to inform general public of the threat to my freedom and life and of the similar threats other activists of the human rights community and oppositionists are facing..."
Gavkhar Yuldasheva, leader of the Ezgulik organization of the Gallja-Aral district, was assailed as well. The activist found herself under pressure following the appeal to her from the locals who said that $4,700 worth of a grant to the local administration from Counterpart Consortium (the money was to be used to improve the water supply system) had disappeared from the bank account without a trace. On May 13, when the events in Andizhan were unfolding toward their tragic end, Yuldasheva was taken to the nearest police station and questioned on her attitude with regard to the events in Andizhan. On August 1, the police formed a ring around Yuldasheva's place and thus prevented her from meeting with US Ambassador David Moran on a visit to Dzhizak. When Yuldasheva went out to get a loaf of bread the following evening, a man she knew as official of the local administration, knocked her down, seized her by the hair, and smashed her face with several deliberate blows. The human rights activist spent a fortnight in hospital. She received several more offers to leave the Dzhizak region for good after that.
A great deal of Ezgulik activists joined the organization after 2001, in the period when the government of Uzbekistan was advertising relations of partnership with the United States and Europe. The relations soured after the tragedy in Andizhan on May 13, 2005, and the authorities turned against the human rights community without bothering with what impression this campaign would make on the international community.