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Qishloq Ovozi

Uzbek authorities have been on edge for months, especially since a black flag resembling that of the Islamic State militant group was hung on an overpass in Tashkent in September.

Rapid reaction forces from Uzbekistan's National Security Service (SNB) and the Interior Ministry have been deployed in the Parkent district, some 20 kilometers outside Tashkent, after threats were made to blow up several buildings in the area.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, reports that SNB chief Rustam Inoyatov and Interior Minister Adham Ahmadboyev have gone to the Parkent district to oversee the security operation.

On April 25, a leaflet was found plastered to the window of a secondary school in Parkent. The leaflet, in the Uzbek language but written in Arabic script, contained a threat to blow up the school.

Officials took the threat seriously, but some believe the message might have been a prank.

But, on April 27, more leaflets, placed in plastic bottles, were found in Parkent, at the Transportation and Services College, a kindergarten, and an apartment building. The leaflets said those buildings would be blown up also "in the coming days."

Roadside checkpoints have been established and cars are being stopped and searched. The buildings that the leaflets said would be targeted have been cordoned off and placed under 24-hour surveillance.

At the Transportation and Services College, sources told Ozodlik that the faculty has organized round-the-clock patrols of the campus area and police have been visiting the college regularly.

House searches that started after the first leaflet was found are continuing.

Uzbek authorities have been on edge for months now, fearing that, when foreign forces withdrew the bulk of their troops from Afghanistan, some of the problems in the neighboring country could spill across the border into Uzbekistan.

There have been previous bombings in Uzbekistan -- in 1999 in Tashkent and again in 2004, in both Tashkent and the ancient Silk Route city of Bukhara.

Last September a black flag resembling that of the Islamic State militant group was hung on an overpass in Tashkent.

And Uzbek authorities are acutely aware that the government's prime terror nemesis – the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – has been active lately in at least five northern Afghan provinces bordering Central Asia.

-- Bruce Pannier with contributions by Farruh Yusupov from RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

Human rights defenders Adelaida Kim (left) and Elena Urlaeva

There are not many human rights defenders left in Uzbekistan. To put it mildly, the government, having done much that it would prefer remain unpublicized, does not like their activities.

Yet some rights activists remain, undaunted by the threats, beatings, and forced incarcerations of authorities, and they continue to demand that their rights -- and the rights of Uzbekistan’s people -- be respected.

Adelaida Kim of the Rights Defenders Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU) is one such person. She featured in an earlier Qishloq Ovozi. She was in court then, she was in court again in April, and, as was true in the previous post, she brought a complaint against police.

Kim claims that police Colonel Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev, the head of Tashkent’s department for fighting terrorism, insulted and verbally abused her and after that she faced “fabricated” charges and was ordered to pay hefty fine.

It started when Kim and colleague Lyudmila Brosalina were demonstrating outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Tashkent on May 8, 2014. Kim was demanding an end to hostilities in eastern Ukraine, specifically the “vicious murders of unarmed people...”

There were only the two of them, but Uzbek authorities worry that such acts could mushroom and lead to antigovernment protests, so any picket is dispersed quickly.

Kim was detained -- far from the first time that has happened -- and brought to police headquarters. There, Kim says, Egamberdyev insulted and berated her and told her she should move to Ukraine.

Kim was also charged with an administrative offense and fined 6 million Uzbek som (about $2,400). Kim appealed, and in January the Supreme Court lowered the fine to about 300,000 som ($120).

On April 8, the hearing opened in Kim’s case against Egamberdyev and two other policemen. Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev arrived, except, as Kim pointed out, it was not the right Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev. The person who showed up in the courtroom on April 8 was a deputy district police chief who was also named Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev.

Neither of the two policemen named in Kim’s lawsuit showed up for the trial either. The hearing was adjourned and scheduled to reconvene when the correct Bakhtiyor Egamberdyev was located and summoned.

As of the time of this writing, there have not been any reports that the trial has resumed.

Standing outside the courthouse on April 8 was PAU leader Yelena Urlaeva, holding a sign of support for Kim.

The story of Urlaeva in April was very different than Kim’s ordeal.

Rights activist Yelena Urlaeva with the letter she wrote to Uzbekistan's interior minister.
Rights activist Yelena Urlaeva with the letter she wrote to Uzbekistan's interior minister.

But first a bit about Yelena Urlaeva, whom I have called the bravest person in Uzbekistan. She’s helped expose child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvests and given the outside world the names of Uzbeks arrested, hastily tried, and thrown into prison. She’s pointed out the inconsistencies in the authorities’ reasons for trying these people and the violations that occur in the judicial system when they are convicted and sentenced. Without Uraleva’s work, some of these people would have simply vanished -- locked away, out of sight and out of mind, forgotten.

And for more than two decades, she’s paid the price. Urlaeva has been detained many, many times. She's been forcibly committed to psychiatric clinics, ordered by courts to take medications, physically assaulted, and regularly threatened. And she still keeps defending the rights of the people of Uzbekistan.

Given her harsh treatment by the authorities, it was amazing to see that on April 7 Urlaeva sent a letter to Uzbekistan’s interior minister requesting that the head of the department for fighting terrorism in the Mirzo-Ulughbek district of Tashkent, Ilyas Mustafaev, be promoted.

It’s not a joke. Urlaeva is totally sincere.

Ilyas Mustafaev (left) is a frequent visitor to Urlaeva's apartment.
Ilyas Mustafaev (left) is a frequent visitor to Urlaeva's apartment.

Mustafaev has been detaining Urlaeva for some 17 years, but in her letter the PAU leader said Mustafaev has always fulfilled his duties honestly -- both as an officer and as a human being.

“I understand Mustafaev," she said. "He’s a soldier and carries out orders."

This story just gets better.

Mustafaev has had to come to Urlaeva’s flat so often that he is now considered a guest and is offered a place to sit and given something to eat and drink, even when he comes with official warnings.

“Ilyas calls my mother ‘mama’ and mama calls him ‘son’,” Urlaeva said. Mustafaev has even shown up at her birthday parties.

Urlaeva recalled that when she was demonstrating in 2010, “someone in civilian clothes” started hitting her and Mustafaev pulled the attacker away and apologized “for his colleague” and took her home.

In her letter recommending Mustafaev be raised in rank, Urlaeva wrote, “This worthy officer is already more than 50 years old and is still a major.” She asked that he be promoted by April 28, which Urlaeva knows is Mustafaev’s birthday.

I haven’t heard if Mustafaev has gotten his promotion or not.

-- Bruce Pannier

My thanks to for the coverage of Kim and Urlaeva

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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.



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