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Uzbek imam Fazliddin Parpiev

An Uzbek imam is out of a job after he posted a video appeal to President Shavkat Mirziyoev asking him to allow more religious freedoms, including lifting the state's ban on women's Islamic head scarves and on men's beards.

Fazliddin Parpiev was serving as imam of Tashkent's Omina mosque when he was relieved of his duties on September 8, just a day after he shared the 20-minute video on Facebook after having delivered Friday Prayers.

While the state-backed Muslim Board of Uzbekistan did not specifically mention the post among its reasons for letting Parpiev go, the 32-year-old told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service prior to his dismissal that an official with the state's religious-affairs department had told him that "you shouldn't have deviated from the script" -- an apparent reference to him questioning state positions on Islam.

The dismissal letter, which was signed by four top officials of the state-backed board, said the decision to terminate Parpiev's contract was reached by the board's ethics commission.

The board did not respond to requests from RFE/RL for comment. When contacted by RFE/RL after his dismissal, Parpiev said that "I did my duty by speaking the truth. I didn't breach any laws."

He said he would not be making further comments because his "authority was terminated."

In the video appeal, which was recorded at the Omina mosque, Parpiev pays tribute to "Mirziyoev's reforms," which the former imam says gave the Uzbek people "hope and trust" in the government.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev (file photo)
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev (file photo)

Since coming to power in 2016, Mirziyoev has taken modest steps to relax restrictions on religious freedom in the predominantly Muslim country.

Mirziyoev released hundreds of Muslims who were imprisoned on religious extremism charges during the tenure of his predecessor, Islam Karimov. Those freed were widely believed to have been imprisoned on trumped-up charges.

In addition to those released from prison, thousands were removed from a Karimov-era blacklist of potential religious extremists.

Religion in Uzbekistan remains strictly regulated by authorities, however.

The government reportedly continues to bar the wearing of the Islamic hijab in schools and offices. A 1998 law prohibits the wearing of religious clothing in public, with the exception of religious figures. The law stipulates a fine or a two-week detention for offenders.

There have also been frequent reports of police singling out men with long beards, considered by authorities as a possible sign or Islamic extremism, for harassment.

In his video, Parpiev claims that some officials go door to door demanding that women remove their hijabs, and force men to shave their beards.

He urged the president to provide more "freedom of conscience" in Uzbekistan, noting that he believed Uzbekistan should remain a secular state.

The cleric warned Mirziyoev against officials whom he alleged perform "illegal" acts and violate people's rights in the president's name.

Parpiev said he was encouraged by the president's comments that real friends should tell the truth.

The cleric, however, mentioned that he was aware that by criticizing officials he was taking a risk.

Parpiev said he hadn't ruled out the possibility that he might be punished by some officials. "But I'm not afraid of that," he said.

During a Facebook Live post on September 9, Parpiev said he didn't regret making his video appeal.

Speaking in a more informal setting at home and without his signature Uzbek hat, Parpiev said his smartphone had been taken away by his father.

The cleric's two Facebook posts had been watched thousands of times as of September 10.

Written by RFE/RL correspondent Farangis Najibullah, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent Khurmat Babajan.
New High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks on the opening day of the 39th UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva on September 10.

The new UN human rights chief has warned about abuses worldwide, voicing concern about developments in China, the United States, and other countries in her first speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, a former Chilean president who was once a political detainee herself, spoke as the council opened a three-week session in Geneva on September 10.

Bachelet urged China to let monitors into the country following "deeply disturbing" allegations of large reeducation camps in which Uyghurs and other minorities are held in the western province of Xinjiang.

In a September 10 report echoing findings released by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination a month ago, Human Rights Watch presented evidence of what it said was the "arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life" by the authorities Xinjiang.

Bachelet, who said there have also been reports of "patterns of human rights violations in other regions," called on the Chinese government to permit access for her office across the country.

Bachelet also said she was alarmed by antimigrant violence in Germany and was sending teams to Austria and Italy to look into the protection of migrants in those countries.

She said that Italy had denied entry to ships seeing to rescue migrants on the Mediterranean, and voiced concern over reports of a sharp increase in violence and racism against migrants, Africans, and Roma.

Turning to the United States, Bachelet called the separation of migrant families by the authorities "unconscionable" and expressed concern that 500 migrant children who were taken away from their parents had not yet been returned to them.

She criticized the announcement by President Donald Trump's administration last week that it would withdraw from a court agreement limiting detention of migrant children to 20 days.

Bachelet also expressed concern about "ongoing military operations" in the rebel-held Idlib Province in Syria, lamenting the "interminable and terrible" suffering of Syrian people and appealing for justice for victims of human rights violations during the 7-1/2-year civil war there.

Idlib residents and rescue workers said that Russian and Syrian government aircraft resumed intensive strikes in the northwestern province on September 9, a day after Russia and Iran rejected Turkey's call for a cease-fire to be announced at a summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rohani, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Bachelet called on the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen to hold perpetrators of air strikes on civilians to account. An air strike in August hit a bus, killing dozens of children.

"The recent Saudi royal order which appears to provide a blanket pardon to members of the Saudi armed forces for actions taken in Yemen is very concerning," she said.

Bachelet was appointed in August to succeed Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat who served as the UN rights chief for four years.

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