27 june 2017
Central Asia news
It has been exactly six months since the new head of Uzbekistan took office. Sadness from the death of the first and beloved leader of an independent country has not yet completely left the hearts of Uzbek people. But the expectations of a bright future under the tutelage of the new leader ease the burden of losing the old one. TV and in newspapers are saying only good things about Islam Karimov, while people, it happens, are swearing and cursing “the father of all Uzbeks” for the fall of the living standard, for stagnation and for the lawless tyranny of those who must monitor the enforcement of the law.
On 4 June at 12 am in Tashkent, an impromptu public action was held at the entrance to Bobur Park in Tashkent to collect signatures under the petition demanding “To punish those guilty of the death of Ibragimov Jasurbek” - a student of the Tashkent medical college brutally beaten in early May and died a month later in hospital after series of operations. Days before this action the letter of Jasurbek's mother's has been shared in the social networks telling that the names of the alleged killers of her son are known to everyone, however nobody has been brought to justice so far. Moreover, she said the Borovsky Tashkent Medical College management and staff, where Jasurbek studied, cover young criminals in collusion with their parents.
This May brought remarkable events, which will develop during summer vacations and will define how autumn will develop further. Surely, these are activities around presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan clearing and modifying political and media space for the pro-presidential candidate, or Uzbekistan summing its attempts to revive the economy through investment and improving its foreign image. How would Kazakhstan reconsider its economic policy and change its attitude towards rule of law to outrun its main economic rival - Uzbekistan? Whether xenophobia in Russia will die out. How Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will cope with doubts of its public about anti-corruption campaigns in both countries? These questions were raised in May and I will outline them for you.
The recent terror act in the St. Petersburg metro on 3 April, in the organisation of which Russian special services suspect people from Central Asia, exacerbated issues related to migration processes from the countries of this region to Russia. Last week in Moscow, the Sakharov Center jointly with the Yegor Gaidar Foundation organised a discussion during which experts discussed whether there is any ground to say that it is among the migrants that recruitment of terrorists takes place, and if so, what causes migrants to join the ranks of radical Islamists, what role is played by large-scale corruption, typical of most Central Asian countries, and whether it is possible to oppose it.
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.