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President Islam Karimov's iron grip on the country has forced many critics of his administration, including Mutabar Tajibaeva, seen here protesting in front of the European Commission in Brussels in January, to voice their grievances abroad or not at all.
The United States government has expressed concern over a decision by Uzbekistan's Supreme Court to approve the closure of the Tashkent office of the internationally respected Human Rights Watch group.

A statement issued by U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said international nongovernmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch "have an important function to play around the world" and that Washington regrets that Human Rights Watch will not be able to continue its work in Uzbekistan.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch announced in March that it was being forced to close its Tashkent office after Uzbek authorities took steps to liquidate its office registration after years of obstructing the group's work.

In a statement after last week's decision by the Uzbek Supreme Court, Human Rights Watch said the Uzbek government continues to interfere with independent civil society and harass activists.

The statement condemned the Uzbek government for what it called an "atrocious human rights record in general."

compiled from RFE/RL reports
Iran's chief prosecutor, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, says 14 men have been arrested and charged over an alleged gang rape at a party near the central city of Isfahan last month, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The men allegedly crashed a party in the city of Khomeini Shahr late last month, locked all the men in a room, and raped the women attending the party.

Colonel Hossein Hosseinzadeh, chief of the police department's detectives bureau in Isfahan, was quoted in Iranian media as saying, "If the women at the party had worn their hijab properly, they might not have been persecuted."

Sociologist Mehrdad Darvishpour told Radio Farda on June 13 that the police are in no position to make such a judgment or to say who is responsible for the crimes.

He said that such comments by a police official send a negative message. "The police blatantly tell women that in the event they are raped, they will have no support," Darvishpour said, "and it tells men that they are allowed to rape any woman whose dress they find 'tempting' and whose hijab is not as the police would like it to be."

The leader of Friday Prayers in Khomeini Shahr also criticized the women who attended the party, saying those who were raped had "provoked" men by "drinking wine and dancing," and adding that their "crimes" should also be investigated.

A "moral security" campaign directed against the "improper" wearing of the hijab was launched in Tehran on June 13.

Police deputy commander Ahmad Reza Radan said that his forces would patrol the city and take action against women who wear tight clothes or whose hair is visible from under their head scarf, as well as those who walk dogs or are guilty of "noise pollution."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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