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Uzbek Singer Otajonov Quits Presidential Race After Attack

Uzbek singer Jahongir Otajonov (file photo)
Uzbek singer Jahongir Otajonov (file photo)

TASHKENT -- Well-known Uzbek singer and politician Jahongir Otajonov says he has quit running in the presidential campaign weeks after he and his colleagues were attacked by unknown individuals for organizing a session of the banned opposition Erk (Freedom) party.

"Every [online political] stream of mine cuts my mom's life by five years. The tears of my parents they shed every day is too much for me. What's the point of being a president if something bad happens to them? I want to extend my apologies to the people as I am quitting political activities for now," Otajonov said.

Otajonov's statement was placed on Instagram on July 10, but the post became inaccessible two days later. It was not clear if Otajonov had removed it, or Uzbek if authorities had blocked it to avoid speculation about pressure being imposed on him.

Otajonov announced his intention to take part in the October presidential election in January.

In late-March, while in Turkey, Otajonov was threatened physically by several unknown individuals.

Uzbek Singer Warned Of Beating After Announcing Run For President
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In April, the Erk party, which was banned in the 1990s with its leader Muhammad Solih forced out of the country and his associates jailed, named Otajonov among its possible presidential candidates .

In late May, Erk held a meeting at Otajonov's home in Tashkent and put him forward as their presidential candidate.

But later that day, as party representatives discussed their plans, a group of some 20 people forced their way into Otajonov's home and broke up the meeting.

President Shavkat Mirziyoev took over Central Asia's most-populous nation after his authoritarian predecessor Islam Karimov's death was announced on September 1, 2016.

Since then, Mirziyoev has positioned himself as a reformer, releasing political prisoners and opening his country to its neighbors and outer world, though many activists have cautioned that the reforms have not gone far enough.

Though Mirziyoev has said he is not against having opposition political groups in Uzbekistan, it has been nearly impossible for any genuine opposition party to be registered in Uzbekistan since the country gained independence in late 1991.

The next presidential election in Uzbekistan will be held on October 24.

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