25 may 2017
Central Asia news
There will be no economic growth and progress in Uzbekistan in the next ten years, since the new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev continues the path of his predecessor Islam Karimov ‘without political reforms,’ which the country needs as air. They must be carried out first; otherwise any other changes will be useless. It was stated by the Uzbek opposition people's democratic movement ‘Birdamlik’ (‘Solidarity’) leader Bakhodir Choriev.
Activists of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU) held a traditional action in the centre of Tashkent at the foot of the ‘Courage’ monument on 13 May to commemorate the hundreds of peaceful Andijan residents, who died during the shooting of the rally 12 years ago. To the surprise of the participants, this time the event passed without any interference by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Security Service (SNB).
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has been in Uzbekistan since 10 until 12 May 2017. Human rights defenders and civil society activists both at home and abroad were eagerly awaiting this important event. It was the first trip of the UN official to this country and to Central Asia in general. And it should be noted that none of its six predecessors visited Uzbekistan at this high international level before.
This year in March, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karakalpakstan (an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan) upheld the sentence on extending the term of imprisonment to five years for 39-year-old human rights activist Azam Farmonov. Azam Farmonov has been confined in Jaslyk prison for eleven years (since June 2006), which the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Theo van Boven back in 2002 recommended to close it down because of its location in an ecologically impoverished zone. At a time of unsound optimism about Uzbekistan, and when the new president has begun to talk about the problems accumulated in the country winning universal love, I wish to recall about people who had not been afraid to criticise power at the time of the Karimov swamp, and who still remain in custody.
Problems with the conservation of saiga (or saiga antelope - the saiga antelope) in Uzbekistan have increased, while attention from the state has decreased. About this tells an open letter from the public representatives of the country to the chairman of the State Committee for Nature Protection (‘Goskompriroda’, since 21 April 2017 - State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection) sent on 11 April 2017. There is no answer yet.
On 10 May 2017, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein arrives in Uzbekistan with a two-day visit after a long break. We offered several well-known human rights defenders and experts on the region to comment on this important event and suggest concerns that a high UN official should raise in conversation with the leaders of the Central Asian country. In their common opinion, the main thing is that the visit would not have appeared formal, but initiates the process of actual promotion of human rights in Uzbekistan.
The ‘Immortal Regiment’ action, which relatives and descendants of those killed at the fronts of the Great Patriotic War had been planning to organise and hold on 9 May 2017 in Tajikistan, was prohibited. One of the official reasons is that ‘according to Islamic traditions, it is inadmissible to go out into the streets and avenues with portraits of the deceased.’ The other is a tense situation and clashes in neighbouring Afghanistan. Fergana correspondent spoke with Dushanbe residents, who call these arguments absurd and far-fetched accusing the authorities of double standards and hypocrisy. In fact, the government is simply afraid of any manifestations of civil activity, they believe.
Brothers and neighbours speak about Rakhmat Akilov in Uzbekistan and Abror and Akram Azimov brothers in Kyrgyzstan. A good childhood and obedience, law-abiding behaviour, positive reputation in the neighbourhood, diligence – such testimonials would make a decent citizen, but not terrorist.
‘The main paradox of official monuments: pompously performed in granite and erected in the main squares they are less durable than ordinary decorative plastics in the depths of the park, which is destroyed by a sluggish time and not by impatient decisions of the milieu of the patriarchs.’ Art critic and expert of Central Asia Boris Chukhovich tells four paradoxical stories related to the competition on the monument to the first president of the country Islam Karimov that just ended in Uzbekistan.
Gulyam and Sardor Umarov, natives of Uzbekistan, children of the formerly well-known opposition figure Sanjar Umarov, are currently engaged in large-scale technological projects in the U.S., while not forgetting their roots and developing business which is relevant with the interests of their homeland.
A reporter of Fergana was able to visit a mahalla (neighbourhood) in Samarkand where the relatives of Rakhmat Akilov live. Swedish police arrested Mr Akilov as the main suspect of a terrorist act in Stockholm early April. Residents of Mr Akilov’s neighbourhood in Samarkand maintain that he was “distanced from politics and ideas of religious extremism.” No one saw him observing religious rites. Like the rest of the majority of Muslims in Uzbekistan, he would maintain only the so-called “household Islam,” and behaved like any other law-abiding person.
Representatives of the US embassy and a number of international organisations were allowed to visit Yelana Urlayeva, the chairman of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (HRAU), in her hospital room. However, there is no clarity as to justifications for subjecting her to forced psychiatric treatment to date, the Tashkent-based rights advocate’s relatives told Fergana. The medical institution administration has not provided any information as to Ms Urlayeva’s arrest and forced treatment.
Things are going from bad to worse for Uzbekistan’s anticorruption whistleblower with a court ordering his confinement to a pretrial detention facility pending criminal hearings into corruption. Olim Sulaimanov, who came to prominence last year after posting a video online alleging he had been harassed for bribes by tax officials, appeared in Mirzo Ulugbek district court in Tashkent on February 15 following a surprise summons from investigators earlier this month.
The latest decree the Uzbek head of state directs the society toward “improving the place and role of self-governance by citizens in society, turn them into local bodies engaged in providing realistic assistance and cooperation to the people.” the decree also provides for renovating mahalla committee buildings and paying pension benefits to the committee leaderships in full and in a timely manner. The national council for coordinating mahallas is now granted the status of a legal entity in the form of an association of citizens assemblies. Prime Minister of Uzbekistan is appointed the head of the national council. His first deputy’s rank is elevated to the status of a minister, who will be in charge of household matters, medical and transpiration services; the chairman’s deputy’s rank is elevated to the status of a deputy minister.
Neo-patrimonial regimes have been established in Central Asian countries following the implosion of the Soviet Union. The new elites divided entire economies and “sweet-spot” government positions between “bosses” and their “vassals.” Meanwhile, the rest of the society, who are excluded from such networks, has no chances to secure good jobs, to peacefully and beneficially conduct business and remains impoverished. Such systems of management create fertile grounds for booming human trafficking and joining the ranks of IS, Kazakh political scientist Talgat Mamyrayymov says in the article he authored below.