Life and safety of the Uzbek poet Yusuf Juma and his family is under threat

Yusuf JUMA
We are writing to you to express our serious concern about life and security of a prominent Uzbek poet, Yusuf Juma and his family.  

On December 10, 2007, armed men from the Uzbek state security service stormed his house and caused substantial damage to his property. He, himself, and his family members managed to avoid arrest. However, on December 17, 2007, Yusuf Juma and his son Bobur Jumaev were arrested by the Uzbek law enforcement agents. On December 22, 2007 they were transferred to Otobozor prison in Bukhara region.

Such actions of the Uzbek authorities are meant to intimidate the public and to impose a sense of fear in people to prevent further protests against the re-election of the incumbent president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov for the third term.

Yusuf Juma is one of Uzbekistan’s most prominent and respected poets, whose talent and courage became a source of inspiration for many Uzbeks. He exposed dictatorial regime and its cruelty in his pamphlets and poems and that what has made him one of the most dangerous people for the regime.

Born in 1958 in the Karakul region of Bukhara province, he graduated from the Bukhara Pedagogical Institute. In 1984 his first collection of poems, The Gold Apple of Truth, was published to great acclaim. In the early 1990s he became an active member of the opposition movement Birlik. Since that time he has been subjected to harassment by the authorities, and his poems have been banned from publication in Uzbekistan. In 2001 he was accused of “insulting the President of Uzbekistan” (article 159 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan) and was given three-year conditional prison sentence. 

On December 6, 2007, Yusuf Juma and two of his sons began a series of small demonstrations in their home region of Karakul, Bukhara province, calling for the resignation of Uzbekistan’s incumbent president, Islam Karimov. They have applied for permission to hold pickets to the local authorities. For several days they protested in various areas of the town, and then on December 10 they moved their picket to the main bus stop in the centre of Karakul town. This time there was a severe reaction. Juma and his sons were beaten by a group of policemen and forced to end their protest action.

Early on that same evening, the home of Yusuf Juma was stormed by Uzbek security operatives.  Shooting indiscriminately, they destroyed everything, which was on their way. Poet’s archive and library, property possessions was destroyed. Heavily armed security forces killed two family dogs as well as some other farm animals belonging to the family. Poet’s daughter was arrested and nothing is known about her whereabouts.

Having avoided arrest or murder on December 10, Juma and part of his family went into hiding.  On December 19, Yusuf Juma and his son, Bobur Jumaev were arrested at the house of Mukhiddin Akramkhodjaev, an activist of Birdamlik civic movement in Tashkent region. Presently both of them are in Otobozor prison in Bukhara region. According to local human rights defenders they are being denied access to lawyer.

Other members of Yusuf Juma’s family have also been targeted. On December 4, 2007, another of his sons, Mashrab Jumaev, was arrested on a charge of rape. The alleged rape victim has since then given a statement saying that police officers forced her to make this false claim. However, Mashrab Jumaev remains in detention. He is now accused of violating Article 159 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan (public statements calling to unconstitutional change of the existing state order, assumption of power, or removal of legally elected authorities from power, or to unconstitutional impairment of integrity of the territory of Uzbekistan as well as dissemination of materials containing such statements).

In autumn of 2007, the local prosecutor launched a criminal case against Yusuf Juma’s wife, Gulnora Oltieva, on a charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional regime of Uzbekistan.” Her supposed crime was to offer support to the workers of a local factory, who refused to sign a petition in support of Islam Karimov’s re-election to the presidency.

For many years, the government of Uzbekistan has been trying to silence its critics. The attack on the house of the Uzbek poet Yusuf Juma demonstrates clearly how the current regime is willing to use force against peaceful protestors. The conciliatory approach of the EU and the USA in responding to the Andijan massacre of May 13, 2005 has reinforced the repressive machine of the Uzbek government and encouraged the cynical liquidation of those brave enough to stand up to the regime. We believe that the murder of the Kyrgyz journalist Alisher Saipov on October 24, 2007 in the city of Osh is an example of new methods being employed by the Uzbek authorities to silence their opponents. Using force against the family of Yusuf Juma is another act of violence, and this behaviour will continue until the international community deplores such actions.

The case of Yusuf Juma requires urgent attention and intervention of the international community

We appeal to the international community, as represented by the recipients of this petition, to work immediately and assertively to apply pressure on the government of Uzbekistan:

  • to provide information about whereabouts of Yusuf Juma and members of his family;
  • to render humane treatment to arrested Yusuf Juma and members of his family, who are under detention;
  • to allow access of lawyer to Yusuf Juma and other arrested members of his family in prison;
  • to demand their immediate release from detention;
  • to stop persecution of the family members and relatives of Yusuf Juma and provide protection to the family of Yusuf Juma and their relatives.
 We attach to this appeal poem dedicated to massacre in the city of Andijan on May 13, 2005.


Jodgor OBID
Uzbek poet, member of the International PEN club, Austria, jodgor.obid@gmx.at

Writer, UK

Chairman, Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Sweden

Suleymon MUROD
Regional co-ordinator. ERK Democratic Party in USA and Canada

Jahongir MAMATOV
Chairman, Congress of Democratic Forces of Uzbekistan, USA

Abdujalil  BOYMATOV
Member, Secretariat of the Society for Human Rights in Uzbekistan, Ireland

Shahida YAKUB
Director, Uzbekistan Initiative London. UK, uil@uzbekistaninitiative.com

Director, Programme on Monitoring of Human Rights in Central Asia, Russia

President, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France asiecentrale@neuf.fr

Sheenagh PUGH
Writer, UK

Writer, UK

PhD on philology, professor of Gratz State University, Austria

Director, Bureau on Family Issues “Social Integration Initiative”, Austria

Chairman, “Memorial” Human Rights Society of Russia, Russia

Valentin GEFTER
Director, Human Rights Institute, Russia

Journalist, correspondent of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Czech Republic

Humanities bibliographer, poet, Germane

Poet, USA

Writer, France

Former Chairman of Ferghana region branch of “Ezgulik” human rights society, Sweden

Representative, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, USA

Bernhard KLASEN
Representative, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Germany

Foreign Office of United Opposition of Kazakhstan, Germany

Nurmukhammad KHANAMOV
Chairman, Republican Party “Turkmenistan”, Austria

Director, Human Rights Centre, Azerbaijan

Former prisoner of conscious, Chairman of Human Rights Organisation DEVAMM, imam of Baku “Juma” mosque, Azerbaijan

Chairwoman, Society for Protection of Oilmen of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan

Director of "Democracy Monitor" Public Union, Azerbaijan

Director, Kazakh Community Association in Poland, Poland

Chairman Vietnam Reform Party, USA

Director, Public Foundation “Ar.Rukh.Khak”, Kazakhstan

Elizabeth PLEBANI
RTV reporter, Media Terra Productions, Netherlands

Representative, Uzbekistan Initiative-USA, USA

Maksud BEKJAN,
Uzbek poet, Norway

Nosir ZOKIR,
Head of Namangan region bureau of Birlik party, Uzbekistan

Representative of the Society of Human Rights in Uzbekistan in Namangan region, Uzbekistan