El 9 de julio, el bloguero uzbeko Miraziz Bazarov publicó en Facebook una carta abierta al Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Asiático de Desarrollo (ADB), donde destacaba la probabilidad de que el gobierno estuviera usando los fondos de asistencia para la COVID-19 de manera indebida. Se demostró que la acusación de Bazarov estaba justificada, pero pagó un precio por ella: el Servicio de Seguridad Estatal (SGB) lo llamó para interrogarlo.

Bazarov se dirigió al FMI y el ADB porque ellos —junto con el Banco Mundial— otorgaron casi mil millones de dólares en créditos para la batalla de Uzbekistán contra la COVID-19; pero Uzbekistán tiene una larga historia de corrupción, se ubica en el puesto 153 entre 180 países en el ranking del Índice de Percepción de la Corrupción de Transparencia Internacional, principalmente porque su funcionarios usaron con frecuencia sus puestos para enriquecerse y silenciar a sus críticos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shavkat Mirziyoyev in June. Photo: Getty Images.

In the three years since Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected president of Uzbekistan, he has embarked on a wide-ranging reform process including currency liberalization, eliminating forced labour and abolishing exit visas. This has encouraged foreign investors and the population, but a rare protest last week over natural gas and electricity shortages shows that the Uzbek population’s faith in change under the new leadership could be wearing thin, while foreign direct investment that adds real value to the economy is in short supply.

When Mirziyoyev came to power, Uzbekistan was on the verge of bankruptcy. A former prime minister of 13 years, and a pragmatic economist, the new president set on a rapid course to open Uzbekistan up to its neighbours and remove barriers to trade and foreign investment.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AP Images President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, 2017

After spending decades as a pariah state, feared or at best ignored by even its near neighbors because of its reputation as one of the most repressive and closed nations in the world, Uzbekistan is slowly emerging from the shadows. Along with other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is worried about the expansion of the Taliban and ISIS into Afghanistan—and, under a new president, is for the first time taking the lead on making peace in the region.

Tashkent’s self-imposed international isolation ended this week when it hosted a major peace conference on Afghanistan at the end of March. The meeting, which takes place today, brings together the foreign ministers of India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, all four Central Asian Republics, and the UN, as well as representatives from the US and EU.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uzbekistan’s New President Steps Towards Ambitious Reform With Security Chief Sacking

The president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has dismissed his much-feared head of the National Security Service (SNB), Rustam Inoyatov, marking the final step of a transition of power in Uzbekistan. Since taking office in 2016, Mirziyoev has removed high-ranking government officials and replaced them with allies.

At first glance, this looks like a standard power grab. The two most important sackings were Inoyatov and Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Asimov. Following the death of President Islam Karimov in August 2016, Mirziyoyev – who was then prime minister – made a closed-door deal with Inoyatov and Asimov to set up a new government: Mirziyoyev would become president, and Asimov and Inoyatov would be at his side as prime minister and head of the powerful SNB.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sept. 1 marked Uzbekistan’s 25th year of independence and the first national celebration of it without the president, Islam Karimov, in attendance. A few days earlier, the Uzbek government announced that Mr. Karimov, 78, had suffered a serious brain hemorrhage — an unusual proclamation considering pronouncements about his health were often as glowing as those made by Donald Trump’s doctor.

Though the government has since reported his death, it was clear from the first announcement of his illness that Uzbekistan had changed. Uzbekistan was built largely around the cult of Mr. Karimov. Secretive and suspicious, he never named a successor.

Roughly half of the country’s population is under 25 years old: These Uzbeks have known no other leader than Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uzbekistan will most likely celebrate its 1st September independence day without long-serving President Islam Karimov, marking a potentially dramatic first for this strategic Central Asian country since it broke free of the former Soviet Union 25 years ago.

The 78-year-old leader has ruled with iron fist since 1991, but suffered a brain hemorrhage on 27 August. The Uzbek authorities have broken their taboo about discussing the president’s health, saying he has a serious problem that may take time to treat. After years of speculation and anticipation, Central Asia’s most populous state may now face a tense transition, a prospect that is deeply unnerving for its neighbours.…  Seguir leyendo »

On May 13, 2005, military forces dispatched by the government of Uzbekistan fired on a massive protest in the city of Andijon, killing hundreds of Uzbek citizens. The day before, thousands had gathered in Andijon’s Bobur Square to protest the imprisonment of 23 businessmen and, more broadly, to protest the deteriorating social, political and economic conditions of Uzbekistan.

The next day the crowd grew to over 10,000, some drawn by an expectation that President Islam Karimov would come to address the protest. Instead, demonstrators were greeted by gunfire. According to eyewitness accounts, the military fired indiscriminately, killing innocent bystanders. Human rights activists put the death toll at more than 700.…  Seguir leyendo »

El domingo 29 de marzo Islam Karímov renovará su mandato presidencial. El resultado no es sólo previsible, sino seguro. Sin embargo, el futuro del país, a medio y largo plazo, resulta muy incierto. La gran cuestión pendiente, y sobre la que sólo cabe conjeturar, es la de la sucesión del presidente Karímov. Sus 77 años hacen de ésta una cuestión cada vez más acuciante.

El hermetismo del régimen uzbeko, la naturaleza opaca de su sistema político y el creciente déficit de estudios sobre el terreno dificultan la prospectiva. Así, los escenarios que barajan los analistas son muy abiertos y cubren un espectro amplio que oscila desde una transición sin apenas cambios, gestionada en las bambalinas del poder –con la emergencia de un nuevo hombre fuerte–, hasta la descomposición del régimen –con fuertes turbulencias políticas y sociales y un papel central para las fuerzas islamistas–.…  Seguir leyendo »

Not long after I spoke out against a massacre of mostly peaceful protesters in Uzbekistan in 2005, I was arrested by government security services and taken away. I was drugged, beaten, falsely accused of directing the uprising, charged with financial crimes and sentenced to 14 1/2 years in prison. There I was put to work in a brick factory, and my health deteriorated.

During the brutally cold January of 2008, as a punishment for political prisoners, three other inmates and I were put for five freezing days in the "monkey cage" — an unheated, open-air cell — wearing only T-shirts and pants.…  Seguir leyendo »

There is perhaps no country on earth surrounded by more difficult neighbors than Afghanistan. When the U.S. wants to ship matériel to its troops there, it can’t go through Tajikistan because the roads are so poor; it can’t go through Turkmenistan because that country maintains an isolationist neutrality; and, for obvious reasons, it can’t go through Iran.

Until Nov. 26, the U.S. military shipped about a third of its supplies through Pakistan, but after an American attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the country cut off NATO’s access to the border, and there is little indication that officials in Islamabad intend to change their minds.…  Seguir leyendo »

I should be writing this from Tashkent, where for 15 years Human Rights Watch has maintained a field office. Until last month.

Last Christmas Eve, the Uzbek government denied me accreditation to work in the country, and now it has forced us to close our office there, the first time in Human Rights Watch’s 33-years of operation that a government has shut down one of our offices.

The government hasn’t cited any official grounds, but the matter seems to have been decided long ago. It has been clear for years that the government does not want anyone reporting on human rights violations.…  Seguir leyendo »

En el palizón que lleva un decenio dándose para mantener la seguridad de Afganistán, Estados Unidos ha hecho malabarismos con políticas exteriores contradictorias en Uzbekistán y Kirguistán, países que estos días visita la secretaria de Estado, Hillary Clinton. Estos frágiles estados del Asia Central desempeñan decisivos papeles de apoyo en la guerra. Una es la política de relaciones con esos dos estados postsoviéticos en sí mismos, encaminada a fomentar la gestión idónea de los asuntos públicos, los derechos humanos y los vínculos comerciales. La otra es la política para utilizarlos como centros de comunicaciones para la guerra de Afganistán.

Lamentablemente, las dos políticas han resultado con frecuencia antagónicas, lo que ha menoscabado la influencia a largo plazo de EE.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Uzbekistan it seems that promoting condoms and sterile needles to stop the spread of HIV is "immoral" and deserving of imprisonment in its notorious jails. The country, ruled by dictator Islam Karimov – and recently lambasted by the UN Human Rights Committee – has given one of its leading Aids workers a seven-year sentence.

Maxim Popov is the founder of the now-closed non-governmental Aids organisation, Izis. The group had support from international donors including USAid and the British government's Department for International Development (DfID).

Publications used worldwide in sexual health promotion got him into trouble with the dictatorship. They included HIV and Aids Today, a brochure that discusses the use of condoms in HIV prevention, the need for sterile needles for injecting drug users, and education on HIV prevention within same-sex relations; a UNAids brochure, HIV and Men who have Sex with Men in Asia and the Pacific and a textbook, Healthy Lifestyles, the Guidance for Teachers, published in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan with international funding.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the presidents of two Central Asian countries meet to discuss matters of mutual concern, the outcome of their talks may seem irrelevant to American politicians. Indeed, why should talks that took place last month in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, have any effect on Washington? But they do. Why? Because what is in play may be the future of just how much assistance ends up going to Afghanistan from Central Asian countries (and others) to help the American war effort. That is something the U.S. badly needs.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to former President Jimmy Carter, told me from his office at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington recently that with "Kazakhstan assuming the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it will be in a position to influence the politics in the region.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last fall, Alisher Saipov, a human rights reporter for Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was denounced by Uzbekistan's state-controlled media. Not long afterward, the 26-year-old journalist was fatally shot in front of his office in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Human rights groups believe that Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek who was born in Kyrgyzstan and lived there, was killed by the ruthless security services of neighboring Uzbekistan.

Last month, the Uzbek media were again stirring up trouble. State television smeared the entire Uzbek service of RFE/RL, denouncing its journalists as criminals and airing broadcasters' photographs as well as private information about their family members, including home addresses.…  Seguir leyendo »