Monday, August 29, 2016


Voice Of Dissent Flees Uzbekistan

Nigora Hidoyatova, the outspoken leader of the unregistered Free Peasants Uzbek opposition party.
Nigora Hidoyatova, the outspoken leader of the unregistered Free Peasants Uzbek opposition party.
By Farangis Najibullah
One of Uzbekistan's few remaining opposition figures has fled the country after coming to the conclusion that she would be charged with seeking to overthrow the government.

Nigora Hidoyatova, the outspoken leader of the unregistered Free Peasants (Ozod Dehqonlar) opposition party, spoke to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service shortly after her arrival this week in a third country, whose identity she did not reveal for security reasons.

"I left Uzbekistan on July 13 because I was threatened, she said.  "I was recently summoned for interrogation 15 times as a witness. But on the 16th time I was summoned as a defendant. It meant I was going to be charged. The person who brought the summons told me to come with a defense lawyer."

Hidoyatova maintains that over the course of many interrogations, authorities made it clear that they were preparing to charge her with setting up an illegal organization and seeking to overthrow the government by force. 

"These are very serious charges which carry harsh punishments, and once convicted and imprisoned you can't be pardoned under any amnesty," she said.

The decisive moment for Hidoyatova came when her interrogators brought forward three people to provide testimony against her.

She claims she knew two of them, but she had never met the third, whom she described as a native Uzbek from Tajikistan.

The man claimed he had seen Hidoyatova at a meeting with exiled Uzbek opposition leaders in Istanbul, where they allegedly discussed ways to overthrow the government in Tashkent.

"The so-called witness also said that my role was to coordinate financial support, which we -- allegedly -- were to receive from the United States to overthrow the government," Hidoyatova said.

"I knew what that meant," she added. "Imprisonment was imminent if I stayed in Uzbekistan."

Self-Imposed Exile

The 48-year-old mother of two grown-up children made the decision to follow the footsteps of many other Uzbek opposition leaders, and opted for self-imposed exile.

A historian by profession, Hidoyatova joined politics in 2003, when she set up her party of Free Peasants. 

Authorities refused to register the party, and its members were denied the right to register as candidates for 2004 parliamentary elections.

Free Peasants subsequently joined the opposition groups "Erk" and "Birlik" in boycotting the election, and Hidoyatova vowed to continue fighting for democracy.

She has since gained a reputation as a rare and powerful voice of dissent coming from a nation tightly controlled by the autocratic regime of President Islam Karimov.

Her name frequently appears in regional media, where she criticizes Tashkent's policies. In Uzbekistan itself, however, Hidoyatova and other opposition activists have no access to the media, which is largely state-controlled.

Political activity, conviction, and arrest are not unfamiliar in Hidoyatova's household.

Her sister, Nodira, has been arrested twice on what rights activists have described as politically motivated charges.

Nodira, a member of the opposition Sunshine Uzbekistan alliance, was sentenced to 10 years in prison following her criticism of the government following the 2005 Andijon massacre. She was released from prison early, but is barred from leaving the country.

Hidoyatova's father, Goga Hidoyatov, is a prominent historian and author of numerous works, including school history textbooks. Her grandparents Abror Hidoyatov and Sara Eshonturaeva were iconic actors and household names in Uzbekistan.

Once, when asked by the media about his daughter Nodira's prison sentence, Goga Hidoyatov said: "One day, she will prevail, like Nelson Mandela."

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on an interview conducted by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 20, 2012 11:52
Maybe it's true. yet, many people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc. Central Asia, the Middle East in general, but also some African nations like Ivory Coast, etc. and even South American countries like Colombia, etc. tell the same stories.
Impossible to stay, danger of persecution, incarceration, etc. yet, very interestingly, two to three years later many of those who were persecuted go back for vacations many times without any threat whatsoever.
curious where Mrs Hidoyatova will end up.

That Karimov is not very tolerant has been proven. Yet, if you speak to people from Uzbekistan who go there regularly and who are not intimidated by the regime the picture is quite a different one.

So far, even according to this very article no one of her family has been killed; her sister was released. Torture wasn't mentioned, the parents still live in Uzbekistan.

somehow quite strange, sometimes.
In Response

by: Aisha from: Dubai
July 20, 2012 22:42
To reply to your comment I would say, yes you are right about other countries may be, but this is absolutely not related toUzbekistan. I say that not because I am an Uzbek woman, many of Uzbek women will be afraid even to reply to this comment, but because I knew Hidoyatov's family, Goga Abrorovuch Hidoyatov was my lecturer at the Uni, I knew his daughter Nadira also. And I am familiar with their very advanced (comparing with others), modern and truly democratic ways of thinking. If I did not know the situation in my country and if I did not know this family very well, then I would say that this people are exaggerating. But the situation is really dangerous in Uzbekistan for those who expressed different thoughts about democracy than the official ideology. Journalists, businessmen, writers are spending their life in prison, being tortured and accused on anything just to isolate them from the society. When you speak with people everybody say that they are happy, but deep inside their eyes you can feel fear, fear being jailed, fear for their family, fear for their future. That's why Uzbeks are silent. If they speak they will be jailed. I can not put my real name, because I have fear as well. Sorry for that, but I am human been.
In Response

by: Marat from: Usa
July 21, 2012 20:14
To: Anonymous
Oh! Means her family should be killed? And her sister should be tortured? It is not enough being accused on something which she did not do? She has to be tortured? Only then you will believe? How you can judge in what situation her family lives?

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