22 october 2017
Central Asia news
"Open Journalism in Central Asia" Media Conference organised by Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) starts today in Tashkent, which will discuss issues of freedom of the media. This event, expected for fifteen years, can rightly be considered a breakthrough in relations between Uzbekistan and the international journalistic community. However, a recent arrest of our Tashkent colleague Bobomurod Abdullayev overshadows the "press freedom festival," so rare for the whole region.
Sometimes, good news keeps on coming from Uzbekistan: journalist and human rights activist Solizhon Abdurakhmanov freed on 4 October, who spent more than nine years in prison on a fabricated charge. Abdurakhman Tashanov, representative of the human rights society "Ezgulik" informed Fergana about it.
Although Uzbek tribes had lived in Afghanistan for centuries, Soviet Uzbeks’ ethnic kin in Afghanistan weren’t part of their national narrative. The Afghan Uzbeks’ history was not studied properly in Soviet Uzbekistan, nor was it mentioned in our textbooks. At school, we were taught the history of Uzbekistan within the Soviet republic’s territory, and the history of Uzbek people stopped at the Soviet borders. The Soviet media didn’t mention Afghanistan’s Uzbeks. Later I discovered that they weren’t part of the Afghan narrative or curriculum either. The Uzbeks of Afghanistan were some kind of a taboo subject in the two neighbouring countries. But history they had.
The atmosphere in Uzbekistan is changing; breathing is becoming freer. A more biting press is emerging, the previously crushed and cornered public is reviving, and the authorities loudly declare adherence to universal human rights. A sudden and secret arrest of journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev in Tashkent against the background of the events described above makes us think about how much the authorities of the country are sincere in their intentions.
The first three weeks of the barely started cotton season in Uzbekistan has already claimed lives of four people. However, since 21 September Uzbek officials are fulfilling the Prime Minister's order prohibiting taking state employees to cotton fields. What made the Uzbek government dramatically change its policy towards using forced labour in agriculture? And is it the end of the long-standing and humiliating "cotton slavery" in the country?
September visit of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the United States intended to participate in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, actually accommodated many important events for official Tashkent, diplomatic, economic and humanitarian. Somehow, this trip of the Uzbek leader over the ocean can be considered a landmark for the relations between the two countries, not only because the first president of the country, Islam Karimov had not been visiting the United States for about 15 years, but also because Mirziyoyev actually demonstrated that multi-vector foreign policy, about which his predecessor was endlessly telling but, in fact, usually following a single course changing it with enviable constancy.
Human rights defender Bahrom Khamroev was born in Uzbekistan, but since 1992 he lives in Russia. Working for the Moscow-based Memorial Centre Bahrom oversees issues related to the protection of the civil rights of fellow countrymen and migrant workers who have arrived from other Central Asia republics in Russia, in particular, trying to prevent them from forced deportation of them to their homeland.
The Football Federation of Uzbekistan (UF) repeats own history ignoring the numerous warnings of local and foreign specialists, as well as the demands of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA), chose the authoritative way of national football management again. The federation conference in the Tashkent hotel "Radisson Blu" lasted only an hour and a half held on 12 September. The delegates elected Umidjon Ahmadjonov as the President Uzbek football federation on a non-alternative basis. The Tashkent city football federation nominated him.
As Fergana previously reported, Interpol supposedly removed the names of the Uzbek opposition leader Muhammad Salih and his younger brother Maksud Bekzhan from its wanted list. Salih himself had talked about this to a BBC journalist. Fergana’s Editor-in-chief editor Daniil Kislov spoke to the poli-tician himself to get his own comment.
On 5 September, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived in Bishkek to sign the agreement on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Many experts, including the leadership of both republics, are considering the first visit of the Uzbek president to Kyrgyzstan in 17 years as a sign of warming of bilateral relations. The delimitation and demarcation of 80 percent of the border are on the agenda. Skeptics point out that the treaty was prepared hastily and it is still unclear what specific sections of the border are disputed.
What do Russian theater, Uzbek poetry, public diplomacy and the U.S. State Department have in common? Please, meet the native of Tashkent, Ms. Elena Serebryanik-Bell, actress, choreographer, and interpreter - in the broadest sense of the word, since Elena, among other things, is perhaps the main practitioner of Uzbek dance and even more broadly, Uzbek culture, in the United States.
Exactly one year ago in Uzbekistan, a theatrical but rather false staging played under the title «Our president is alive and well». According to Fergana sources, the death of 78-year-old Islam Karimov from a stroke sustained two days earlier came on the day of 29 August 2016. Two days later, the official media assured that Karimov accepts congratulations on the Independence Day. However, it is not so important what day Karimov died on. The important thing is what is his legacy today in Uzbekistan. Finally, who is Islam Karimov? A great ruler or state criminal? A wise politician or an egoist ignoring someone else's opinion? A reformer or tyrant who strangled all the opportunities for economic growth of the country?
The 19th Central Asia media conference named “Open Journalism in Central Asia” organised by the office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media will be held in Tashkent on 18-19 October 2017. It is expected that participants, “including journalists, representatives from governments, civil society organisations and academia from Central Asia and Mongolia along with international experts will discuss current challenges to media freedom in Central Asia and Mongolia” including “current trends in news media distribution and challenges related to the digital and increasingly mobile environment, and how to better safeguard media freedom whilst combatting hate speech,” as well as “the latest media freedom developments and best practices,” the OSCE website informs.
Dictator’s relatives. Nephew of late Islam Karimov granted refugee status in Ukraine escaping extradition to Uzbekistan