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Exiles Picket Uzbek Consulate In Turkey

Ўзбекистон Халқ ҳаракати Истанбулда пикет ўтказди
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WATCH: Uzbeks demonstrate against President Islam Karimov in Istanbul

Dozens of Uzbek exiles picketed the Uzbek Consulate in Istanbul on September 1 to demand democratic changes, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Protester Aliboi Yulyakhshiev told RFE/RL that the opposition People's Movement organized the rally, in which some 50 people took part.

"Uzbekistan officially marks its 20th anniversary of independence on today [September 1], but we consider it President Islam Karimov's personal holiday, not a holiday for the Uzbek people," Yulyakhshiev said.

"In fact, the people of Uzbekistan declared their independence on June 20, 1990, when the parliament adopted the republic's declaration of sovereignty," he said. "Karimov hijacked our independence. Uzbekistan gained its political independence, but in terms of real liberty, democracy, and justice, Uzbekistan is not independent. That is why we decided to gather today and express our opinion."

The protesters put forward five demands of the Uzbek government at the rally, namely: stop all antidemocratic policies, establish press freedom, release all political prisoners, allow the return home of all exiled politicians and political parties, and to hold immediate presidential, parliamentary, and local elections.

Karimov, 73, has ruled Uzbekistan -- considered by international rights watchdogs to be a severe violator of human rights and basic freedoms -- since 1990.

Read more in Uzbek here