Uzbekistan. In January, the second round of the
parliamentary elections started before the New Year.
Uzbekistan has a population of 32.96 million (2018). No
opposition parties were allowed to participate, and openly
opposition politicians were imprisoned or had fled the
country. In addition, in practice, Parliament had no power
over President Islam Karimov. The parties that were elected
were all loyal to Karimov. The OSCE had election observers
in place, but only a few. The election was considered
pointless from a democratic point of view, but Karimov
himself claimed that the election showed that the country
was approaching the creation of democracy.
Following a scandal involving 147 children infected with
HIV in hospital care, in March 21 people were sentenced to
prison for between five and eight years. The care workers
were accused of causing the infection through carelessness
and poor hygiene. The children were infected in 2007 and
2008, and several of them have since died.
This spring's bloody political and ethnic conflict in
southern Kyrgyzstan had repercussions in Uzbekistan. Tens of
thousands of ethnic Uzbeks in the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana
Valley fled the violence to Uzbekistan, but the regime there
soon closed the border. President Karimov claimed that
outside forces were behind the violence in Kyrgyzstan and
tried to pull Uzbekistan into turmoil. He called for an
independent international investigation.
In August, it was reported that the armed guerrilla
Uzbekistan's Islamic Movement (IMU) has been given a new
leader, Usman Adil, after the former guerrilla leader was
said to have been killed in one of the US military attacks
in Pakistan. The IMU is linked to al-Qaeda and was
considered to have grown in strength in recent years.
In November, a new political party, National interests,
was formed by lawyer Ruhiddin Komilov, who had his lawyer's
license revoked after defending human rights activists,
independent journalists and political prisoners. About 15
people who participated in the founding of the party were
arrested and interrogated by police.
An Uzbek imam who moved to Sweden was accused during the
year by state television in Uzbekistan for planning
terrorist acts against Uzbekistan. He was wanted by
Interpol. Shortly before, Uzbek refugees in Sweden had told
the media that they were exposed to espionage by the Uzbek
regime and that refugees returning to Uzbekistan had been
extorted and tortured.
Contemporary History of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan's contemporary history is the country's
history after 1991. Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union
in the years 1924 to 1991, but upon its dissolution
Uzbekistan became an independent state and the leader of the
Uzbek Communist Party Islam Karimov became president.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Uzbekistan fell victim to several
terrorist attacks. Karimov used the attacks to legitimize
the political opposition. On May 13, 2005, several hundred
protesters were killed by security forces in the city of
Following the terrorist attack on the United States in
2001, Uzbekistan participated in Operation Enduring Freedom,
the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and allowed
the Americans to use an air base in Uzbekistan.
Independent organizations considered the Karimov regime
to be one of the most authoritarian and oppressive in the
world. Although there have been some signs of improvement in
the human rights situation since Mirziyoyev came to power in
2016, the human rights situation in Uzbekistan is still
considered among the worst in the world. The mass media is
strongly influenced by censorship and self-censorship. All
ethnic minorities are guaranteed full citizenship rights,
but many Europeans have moved to Russia, partly for economic
Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the
regime for very serious abuses: In 2015, the American human
rights organization Freedom House described the country as
"one of the world's worst" when it comes to human rights
violations. The few critical journalists and activists in
the country are said to have been subjected to torture,
wrongful prosecution and forced hospitalization in
psychiatric hospitals. A 2013 UN report describes torture in
the judiciary as a "systematic" phenomenon that goes
unpunished (UN, 2013).
Following the turmoil in the country in 2004/2005, fewer
and more international organizations and media have been
allowed to operate in the country. Uzbek authorities closed
the offices of BBC, Radio Liberty, Freedom House and many
more in 2004. Human rights organization Human Rights Watch
(HRW) was expelled from Uzbekistan in 2011. International
organizations also point to forced labor as a major problem.
Around one million Uzbeks - both children and adults - are
forced to work on the fall of cotton, which is Uzbekistan's
most important export commodity.
The human rights organization HRW reports on the
following positive measures on the human rights front since
Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016:
- A reduction in the number of people on the security
service's "blacklist" from 17582 to 1352.
- Increased political willingness to cooperate through
the UN. In 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights visited the country, and the UN Special
Rapporteur on Religious Freedom was invited to
Uzbekistan for the first time in 15 years.
- An increase in the press visa issued so that foreign
journalists can increasingly report from Uzbekistan.
- Decide to liquidate the visa requirement for Uzbek
citizens from 2019.