There was hope in Uzbekistan, after the death of Islam Karimov in 2016, that the period of heavy repression that existed during his would end and a more humane administration would emerge. The allowance and release of the call to prayer fed hope; and some improvements were made so that women could go out on the streets wearing hijabs. In addition incidents of torture in custody and prison decreased.
However, most of the arbitrary practices, pressures and bans that have existed since the Soviet era still continue.
The "black list" of 17 thousand people, which includes the names of those wanted or detained, was reduced to 1000 by the new president, Şevket Mirziyayev. Even if the number of names on it has been reduced, the existence of such a list, which is not based on any legal justification, summarizes the illegal situation in Uzbekistan. Despite partial improvements, the hijab ban for female students in secondary as well as in higher education continues to this day.
Children are still prevented from receiving a religious education, and arbitrary detentions and interrogations against alleged “extremists” continue. Different or opposing political parties and private media (newspaper, TV, internet) are banned.
In addition to this general situation, the issue we would like to bring to the agenda is the situation of Muslims who were investigated or imprisoned on charges such as "violation of the constitution" as well as under "extremism and fundamentalism" articles of the penal code, during Karimov's period.
Some of these individuals, were charged simply for their thoughts and beliefs and without any charge of action, and are still in prisons where they are serving long prison sentences; and some were forced to flee to other countries, including Turkey.
Recently, with the improvement of bilateral relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan, there have been reports that Uzbekistan intelligence sent lists of dissident Uzbeks in Turkey and demanded their extradition. It has also been learned that the Republic of Turkey’s Immigration Administration has processed these requests and put many people under surveillance.
In addition, some of these dissident Uzbeks who were placed in Removal Centers were returned to Uzbekistan without waiting for court decisions and/or without informing their lawyers and families.
Currently, many Uzbeks are being held in GGMs, awaiting the implementation of the "deportation" decision against them. We are concerned about the lives of these people, their safety and that of their families as well as their own life and property.
The situation of some of these "thought criminals" who have returned to their country with the belief that the situation in Uzbekistan has improved is another source of concern. Many Uzbeks who have returned to Uzbekistan have been imprisoned, some of them sentenced to heavy prison terms, based on investigations initiated during the Karimov era.
Despite all the positive speeches of President Mirziyayev, the cadres of the Karimov era continue to spread terror through detention, interrogation, court judgements and imprisonment.
As NGOs sensitive to this issue:
- We invite the government of Uzbekistan to abandon the oppressive and totalitarian practices inherited from the Soviet era and act on the basis of humanitarian law.
- We respectfully invite the Turkish government to stop the detention and extradition proceedings in accordance with human rights law until the humanitarian conditions in Uzbekistan improve.