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Some Habits Are Hard To Break In Uzbekistan


Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has been talking about improving respect for citizens' rights in the country, but his words don't seem to have filtered down to the lower echelons of government. (file photo)

Uzbekistan's second president, Shavkat Mirziyoev, has suggested that he wants his country to be a kinder, gentler nation than the one he inherited when predecessor Islam Karimov's death was announced in September 2016.

Mirziyoev has warned security and law enforcement personnel about torturing suspects, he said confessions made under duress would not be admissible in courts, he's told government officials they must respect the rights of citizens, and he has called on citizens to report on corrupt or abusive officials.

It actually appears to be starting to pay off. Even media in Uzbekistan are sometimes posting videos of officials physically or verbally abusing subordinates or citizens.

But it might take a while for orders from above to filter down into the lower levels of government.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, was recently sent a video from inside Uzbekistan that seems to demonstrate the persistence of habits from the old regime are still present.

The two main figures in the video are Abbashan Vakkasov, the head of the Tax Inspection Department in Jizzakh Province, and Olim Zakirov, a senior tax inspector.

For the record, Mirzioyev was the governor of Jizzakh Province from 1996 to 2001.

The person who forwarded the video said he was an employee at the Jizzakh Tax Inspection Department and was working there at the end of November when Vakkasov showed up -- allegedly inebriated -- and was angered to discover Zakirov had not collected enough taxes. That raises some questions about how taxes are collected in Uzbekistan, but we'll stick with the physical abuse for this article.

As troubling as the video is to watch, the accounts the two men gave of the incident were unsettling. Ozodlik contacted both Vakksasov and Zakirov.

"He [Vakkasov] didn't beat me. He was just joking," Zakirov said.

Zakirov also denied Vakkasov had been drinking.

Vakkasov told Ozodlik, "Nothing like that happened," and hung up the phone.

The person who sent the video suggested Vakkasov was known for slapping around subordinates.

No action has been taken against Vakkasov, but Ozodlik only obtained the video on April 29.

Officials have been punished when videos such as this one make their way around the Internet.

Zakirov's reluctance to admit he was assaulted by a superior, even though the incident was on film, could be an indication that the behavior that developed over 26 years won't be rooted out quickly.

Based on material from RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.

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. Content will draw 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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