Our condolences to a colleague, Alisher Abidov

Mukaddam Abidova,
Mukaddam Abidova, mother of Alisher Abidov, a representative of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia in Norway, died unexpectedly on 18 February 2018 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) at the age of 67.

Mukaddam Abidova was born in 1951 in Tashkent. She brought up two children. By a twist of fate, she had to live seventeen years apart from her son Alisher, who has been living in exile all these years due to events that forced him to leave the country.

The team of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia expresses its condolences to Alisher Abidov and all his relatives. Our hearts go out to you.


Uzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist

12 Human Rights Groups Call for Journalist’s, Others’ Immediate Release
Bobomurod Abdullaev
(Bishkek, February 12, 2018) – Uzbek authorities should ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment of a detained independent journalist, 12 human rights groups said today. Uzbek authorities should immediately release Bobomurod Abdullaev and other people detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, the groups said.

Abdullaev, a freelance reporter, worked for Fergana news agency and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), among other publications.

Bobomurod Abdullaev was detained on September 27, 2017 in Tashkent by officers in Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (known as the “SNB”) on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” (Article 159(4) of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code), which carries up to 20 years in prison. His relatives told representatives of several human rights groups on February 3, 2018 that he had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated since his detention. Uzbek authorities should immediately release Abdullaev and other people detained on similar grounds, the groups said.

“At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The 12 human rights groups are Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.

On February 8, a Tashkent-based human rights defender, Surat Ikramov, reported that following media reports of Abdullaev’s torture, two SNB officials implicated in abuses had been suspended from the case and had been told not to leave the city pending an investigation. On January 31, the Uzbek government announced the resignation and replacement of Rustam Inoyatov, the 73-year old chief of the SNB for 22 years, during which there were constant reports of torture and other ill-treatment carried out by SNB officials.

Authorities accused Abdullaev of writing “extremist” articles and of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government, along with Hayot Nasriddinov, a well-known economist and blogger, Akrom Malikov, an academic, and others.

Abdullaev’s relatives and other Uzbek human rights defenders told Human Rights Watch that since his arrest, security services have repeatedly tortured him and denied him his right to a legal counsel of his choosing and restricted visits with family members.

Abdullaev’s wife, Kattiqiz Balkhibaeva, told Human Rights Watch about her first meeting with her husband in October:
When I met my husband for the first time [at the SNB pre-trial detention center Gvardeiskaya in Tashkent], I brought him some warm clothes. The detective told me that I better not give any interviews to reporters or speak with anyone about the case. When I saw my husband, we were surrounded by five SNB officers and not able to speak freely. He looked at me, paused, and then told me not to speak to the press or hire a lawyer. Then an SNB officer told me that if I spoke with anyone about this, ‘it would be very bad for Bobomurod.’
Hayot Nasriddinov

In January, Abdullaev met with his mother and wife again and told them that he had been tortured since his arrest in September. He said that on the day he was arrested four SNB officers approached him near his home in Tashkent without explaining they intended to arrest him or showing any identification. As they approached he asked, “What happened?” and began to resist. The men then put a bag over his head, beat him all over his body, and stuffed him into a car. Abdullaev said that nearby residents witnessed the abduction.

Abdullaev said that in the days after his arrest he was kept in a freezing jail cell naked and forced to remain standing. He said he was given nothing to eat for five days and was only given food after he collapsed from exhaustion. He said that SNB officers denied him food on several occasions and threatened to destroy him and his family. He said he was repeatedly tied for several hours at a time to a bed in his cell for several hours at a time.

His mother, Gavkharjon Madaminova, has written numerous appeals to government bodies about her son’s detention and posted videos online appealing to the president for help, but received no meaningful responses.

SNB officials intimidated Abdullaev’s first attorney and would not let her meet with him, relatives said. Abdullaev hired Sergey Mayorov, a human rights lawyer, in November and was allowed to meet him on December 14 in the presence of the SNB detective overseeing the case. Eight days later, the SNB detective summoned Mayorov. SNB guards brought in Abdullaev, who said in their presence that he had decided to fire Mayorov and would be represented by a state-appointed lawyer. The SNB official showed Mayorov a statement firing him that was allegedly signed by Abdullaev ten days earlier. Before being forced to leave, Mayorov asked whether Abdullaev’s pre-trial detention had been extended, for how long, and when the investigation would be completed. The SNB officer refused to answer.

At a subsequent meeting with his wife later in December, Abdullaev asked her to pass on the message to Mayorov that he still wanted him to act as his lawyer at his trial. Authorities have not yet announced a trial date.

Abdullaev’s torture allegations demand a thorough and independent investigation and prosecution of anyone found responsible,” said Umida Niyazova of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “Reports that SNB officials who tortured him could face justice are encouraging signs if true, but Abdullaev, Nasriddinov and other detainees should be immediately released as authorities get to the bottom of what has occurred.

In a related case, on or around October 20, authorities arrested Nasriddinov, a blogger and economist, on or around October 20, also on extremism charges (Article 159(4)) that appear to be related to the conspiracy charges against Abdullaev. Nasriddinov similarly faces up to 20 years in prison. As of late 2017, his relatives had not been informed of the grounds for the arrest, and there are fears that they are under pressure not to talk to journalists and human rights groups. He is being held in a SNB pre-trial detention center in Tashkent, and there are serious concerns that he may have also been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.

Akrom Malikov, a researcher at Uzbekistan’s Institute of Handicrafts of the Academy of Sciences,
Akrom Malikov
has also been implicated and questioned in Abdullaev’s case. He was detained in July 2016 on extremism charges for allegedly writing articles for the opposition People’s Movement of Uzbekistan under a pseudonym. He is serving a six-year sentence in Navoi prison.

“There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured,” said Brigitte Dufour, director of IPHR. “This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not.”

Over the last 15 years, the UN special rapporteur for torture, the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Human Rights Committee, the US State Department, and the European Court of Human Rights, in a number of its rulings, and a number of national and international human rights groups have highlighted the widespread torture in Uzbekistan’s prisons and detention sites.

On November 30, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree prohibiting the courts from using evidence obtained through torture, and forbidding legal decisions based on any evidence not confirmed during trial. The decree, which comes into force in March, states that prosecutors will be required to check whether physical or psychological pressure was exerted on a defendant or their relatives. If enforced, the decree could help prevent torture and other ill-treatment in detention in Uzbekistan.

This case is yet another reminder that the Uzbek government should also allow for regular, unfettered, independent, expert monitoring of prison conditions,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “It should invite the UN special rapporteur on torture and other experts to visit the country and bring its laws and practices in line with international law and standards to help prevent torture in the future.”


Happy Twentieth Anniversary, Fergana.Ru Information Agency!

We would like to extend our sincere congratulations to all the staff of Fergananews and, in particular, to Fergananews agency correspondent Hayotkhon Nasreddinov and his family, and the family and friends of the late Alisher Saipov, who were awarded the Andrey Sakharov prize "For Courage" in the category of "Acts of Journalism" on 31 January 2018.

Alisher Saipov was awarded the prize posthumously. He died on October 24, 2007, after being shot in the back in Osh, Kyrgyzstan as he was walking down the street. To date no one has been brought to justice for his murder. Alisher Saipov worked as correspondent for Fergananews, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service, the Voice of America, and other publications. He covered the start of the so-called "March revolution" in 2005 in Kyrgyzstan, and reported on the aftermath of the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan in May 2005.  Shortly before his death Saipov established and ran the newspaper Siyosat (Politics), which quickly became popular in southern Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan.

Hayotkhon Nasreddinov is a blogger, journalist, human rights activist, economist and teacher. As an economist he has worked in various organizations in Uzbekistan and has written over thirty articles about his main area of expertise, Uzbekistan’s banking sector. On October 20, 2017 Nasreddinov was detained in Tashkent and remains at present in a pre-trial detention facility of the National Security Services (more commonly known by its Russian acronym SNB) in Tashkent. There is no information about any charges against him or whether a court has sanctioned his arrest.

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the online edition of the independent news agency Fergananews, also known as Fergana.ru, established by editor-in-chief Daniil Kislov in 1998 with the domain registered on 21 July 1999. Over the years, the news site has acquired thousands of regular readers, and counts amongst its authors Central Asia’s leading experts.  Fergananews covers issues of importance to the region such as human rights, humanitarian crises, labour migration, political developments and the actions and attitudes of the authorities in Central Asian countries towards the general public.

Fergananews’s correspondents on the ground often work in stressful and high-risk situations.

Currently, three Fergananews correspondents are in detention in Central Asia: Bobomurod Abdullayev and Hayotkhon Nasreddinov in Uzbekistan and Khayirullo Mirsaidov in Tajikistan. All of them have been detained on politically-motivated charges and have been denied access to adequate legal assistance. Over the last five years more than fifteen Fergananews journalists and correspondents in Central Asia have been the subject of politically-motivated prosecutions.

Fergananews has been blocked by state providers in Central Asian countries at various times, but despite these difficulties it continues to provide a vital platform for the exchange of views and commentaries on current affairs in the region and beyond.

We congratulate the staff of Fergananews on this anniversary and hope that they will continue their important presence in the information space and remain a source for comprehensive and independent information from the region.

We express our solidarity wi th the journalists imprisoned in Central Asia and their families and we will continue to seek justice for them.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), USA
Uzbek-German Forum (UGF), Germany

This statement is also supported by the following members of the Civic Solidarity Platform:

Bir Duno, Kyrgyzstan
Article 19, UK
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor, Armenia
Association UMDPL, Ukraine
Women of the Don, Russia
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Belarus
Public Verdict, Russia
Helsinki Committee of Armenia, Armenia
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Bulgaria
Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Lithuania
Liberico - Partnership for Human Rights, Germany
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Warsaw, Poland
Citizens’ Watch, Russia
Centre de la Protection Internationale, France
Center of Civil Freedoms, Tajikistan
Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
Centre for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Freedom Now, United States
Regional Center for Strategic Studies, Georgia
Helsinki Association,  Armenia
Center for Participation and Development, Georgia
Human Rights Matter, Germany
KRF Public Alternative, Ukraine
Legal Transformation Center, Belarus
Human Rights Information Center,Ukraine


If Paul Day builds a monument to late Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, the blood of his victims will taint the artist’s work forever

Islam Karimov ruled Uzbekistan brutally from 1989 until his death in 2016. (c)
Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

An open letter from Uzbek human rights activists to the British sculptor Paul Day, commissioned to commemorate former President Islam Karimov in December. The sculpture is due to be placed outside the Uzbek embassy in Moscow. 

Dear Mr Day,

Thanks to the man you plan to celebrate with your latest sculpture, none of us have been able to visit our homeland for many years. During Islam Karimov’s reign of terror, we lost loved ones, family members, friends. Brutal crackdowns by the security forces he controlled have denied countless of our fellow Uzbeks the kind of reunion captured by your talented work, the Meeting Place at St Pancras station.

You must already know that Karimov ordered the massacre of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Andijan in 2005. It is unlikely we will ever know the exact number, because he had the bodies hidden in mass graves. Those who tried to show them to the world were silenced.

You must know that before he died in 2016, Karimov subjected millions of people, including young children, to slavery in the cotton fields. That he imprisoned thousands of real or imagined opponents. That he had them tortured, sometimes to death. That he attacked artists who dared venture into politics and imposed strict censorship on the media, social sciences, literature and arts. These are the values you will be celebrating with your homage to his legacy.

How much are you being paid to heroise a monster, Mr. Day? 

You should know that the money you receive for this sculpture is dirty money. Karimov and his family abused their power to steal millions, if not billions of dollars from the state. They extorted lavish bribes from Western companies seeking to do business in Uzbekistan. His eldest daughter, Gulnara Karimova, extorted hundreds of  millions of dollars in bribes from international telecom companies. She laundered this money through dozens of offshore companies. Now the US has placed Gulnara Karimova on the Magnitsky sanctions list and her assets have been frozen. 

The Islam Karimov Foundation paying you was formed by his younger daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillayeva. Its purpose is to whitewash her family’s soiled reputation. Let us tell you where her money comes from. Under Karimov, Lola’s husband Timur Tillayev mysteriously gained control of Abu-Sahiy, a huge wholesale market in Tashkent. For years, they paid a meagre $625,000 in tax a month on this business empire. With Karimov gone, the market was wrested from the Tillayevs’ control in November last year. In the first two weeks of December alone, the market generated around $4.4 million in taxes, suggesting they were paying only a fraction  of the taxes due.

We are campaigning for the Uzbek authorities to dig deeper into the origins of the Tillayevs’ wealth. We suspect they will discover evidence of tax evasion and money laundering. If they do, the Foundation and any payments to you will come under the spotlight. Should the assets be frozen, you may never be paid in full.

Yet money should be the least of your worries. What of your artistic legacy?

One of your most famous works, Battle of Britain, pays tribute to the men and women who risked their lives to save civilians from Adolf Hitler’s bombing campaign. Liverpool is raising $2.5 million to build your Battle of the Atlantic Memorial. We assume you would not taint their legacy and yours by building a homage to Hitler. Why are you risking it with this celebration of a modern mass murderer? 

In 1991 you received a Prince’s Trust Award. The Taylor Foundation Prize in 1993. Lauréat of the Susse Foundry Prize in 1999 and an Honorary Doctorate at the University of Gloucestershire. We will be writing to each, as well as the Liverpool City Council, to ask if they still endorse an artist prepared to memorialise a dictator, a killer and a suppressor of artistic freedoms.

We urge you to reconsider and to pull out of your arrangement with the Karimov foundation.


Nadejda Atayeva,  Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, resident of France, n.atayeva[at]gmail.com

Umida Niyazova, Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, resident of Germany, umida.niyazova[at]gmail.com

Jodgor Obid, former political prisoner, poet, member of the International Pen-Club (Austria), resident of Austria

Ulughbek Haydarov, journalist, former political prisoner, resident of Canada

Daniel Anderson, former political prisoner, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, resident of Sweden

Kudrat Babadjanov, Uzbek journalist, editor of Eltuz.com, Sweden

Alisher Abidov, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, resident of Norway

Anvar Usmanov, journalist, resident of Germany

Mirrahmat Muminov, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, US resident

Dilobar Erkinzoda, Uzbek refugee, resident of Sweden

Salahaddin Usmanov, political emigre