Our Shavkat is in the Basement of the National Security Service!

This was the report I received from Norway and was shocked by this news. Since 15 April, a dear friend of mine has been behind bars.

Shavkatjon Hajihanov lived and worked legally in Norway for many years. He and I were originally from
Uzbekistan, but we met during my business trip to Oslo. And we have spent more than three years together working on human rights.

“Why did he go back?” I asked our mutual friend, and he replied: “Shavkatjon received news that his mother was near death!” It turned out that when attempts were made to talk him out of going back to Uzbekistan, he became irritated and explained that he must save his mother…

All together, Shavkatjon had lived outside of Uzbekistan for more than 18 years. He had left the country because the officers of the interior affairs agencies gave him no peace, as they did with many other residents of the Ferghana Valley. Many of them, from the day they become adults, are put in the registry at the internal affairs departments [the police] according to their place of residence permit and each one is called in for a “chat.” The reason  is most often the slander said by a neighbor or relative obtained by torture. It is impossible to defend oneself from this lawlessness. That is how many wind up behind bars, and the best means of avoiding these trials was emigration.

Shavkatjon Hajihanov left for South Korea, where he had the opportunity to get a job, and there made the acquaintance of Nemat Ahunov. Shavkatjon earned some money and then returned. And once again, the threat of arrest arose again; by that time, many of his fellow classmates and neighbors were imprisoned. Once again, he decided to leave the country. Together with Nemat, he headed for Norway, where he lived and worked legally. Both were happy that they had an opportunity to help their relatives.

Shavkatjon was a member of the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia. From the very beginning, he actively took part in public actions to abolish child and forced labor. He would provide financial assistance out of his own funds to those who suffered injuries during the cotton campaign. He took care of the relatives of people who were imprisoned on fabricated charges. And each time, when he made a financial contribution to our organization, he strongly urged us not to publicly mention his name, believing that to be inappropriate. He is characterized as honest, hard-working, and helpful.

Late in the evening of 11 April 2014, Shavkatjon Hajihanov flew from Norway. He arrived in Kyrgyzstan on 13 April. Fearing political persecution, he decided to get into Uzbekistan unnoticed. Early on the morning of 14 April, Shavkatjon crossed the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, avoiding the checkpoint, which is a violation of the rules for crossing state borders. He had a mobile phone and a change of clothing with him. He headed directly to the city of Margilan, where his mother, wife and children live. He reached home toward lunch-time, and of course, everyone was overjoyed with his appearance.

Then on the afternoon of 15 April, 15 armed men broke into the house, and another 15 people surrounded the whole house, involving all the neighbors and residents of the street in the operation. Shavkatjon Hajihanov was brought out of the house in hand-cuffs, shorts, and his slippers. He was not allowed even to get dressed or approach his mother. Before the eyes of his sick mother and frightened family and neighbors, the security service officers roughly push him out of the house with the butt of a rifle and shoved him into their car. At the same time, they detained his nephew, sister and brother. All of them were taken to the Ferghana Regional Directorate of the National Security Service of Uzbekistan.

By evening, all were released from custody except Shavkatjon Hajihanov. But the next day there was a face-to-face meeting arranged between Shavkatjon and his nephew who had met him at the border of Uzbekistan. According to his relatives, Shavkatjon stood in the office of the investigator in his shorts and slippers, shivering from the cold, and marks of beatings were visible on his body. Seeing Shavkatjon, his nephew fell to his knees before the guard and began to beg him to let him give his sneakers to his uncle. And when the guard gave his consent for this, he hugged Shavkatjon and hurriedly began to put on the shoes. Both of them were crying, and Shavkatjon kept asking him to report all this at the embassy, because it was impossible for him to survive this hell… Hearing this, the guard began to beat Shavkatjon with all his strengthen on his head and back, not leaving him the strength to remain on his feet, and then dragged him out of the building where they were located. After that, blows could still be heard for some time.

Then the news came that on the evening of 15 April, Nemat Ahunov, who had come back from Norway several months earlier, was brought to the basement of the SNB in Ferghana Valley.

Not long before his return to Uzbekistan, Ahunov  had quarreled with Hajihanov, and stolen a photo from his album where Shavkat was shown next to me in a picture. We had taken our picture together. There were also photographs with the human rights defender Mutabar Tajibayeva and Muhammad Salih who had received political asylum in Norway as leader of the Erk Democratic Party of Uzbekistan. It is not known what exactly Nemat did with those photos.

Hajihanov’s lawyer has reported that Shavkatjon has already been charged with several articles of the Criminal Code. His family remember only Art. 223 (illegal border-crossing or illegal entry into the Republic of Uzbekistan).

It is difficult for me to hide my personal relationship to Shavkatjon Hajihanov. Everyone who knows him will understand me. We both want our country to be developed and economically strong, so that human rights would be observed there.

For the sake of the security of his family and friends, Shavkatjon took part in the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia under conditions of confidentiality. And since the Uzbek authorities have learned about this, then I confirm that Shavkatjon was a human rights advocate who deserves the respect of the public.

Even a few days ago, I did not imagine that I would have to tell how Shavkatjon would be forced to perjure himself under torture, and state that he is acquainted with militants. And only because of the fact that he personally knows human rights activists and Muhammad Salih.

With respect for Shavkatjon Hajihanov,
Nadejda Atayeva