The Uzbek prosecutor’s office on Monday (July 4th) reported 18 dead during the unrest that opposed anti-government protesters and security forces in the northwest of the country at the end of last week.Uzbekistana country where no opposition is tolerated.
This new episode of violence is added to the long list of clashes, riots, repressions and confrontations which regularly shake the former Soviet republics of Central Asia over which Russia exercises a great influence.
“Eighteen people died of their injuries during the mass unrest in Nukus,” said, according to the agency Ria Novosti, Abror Mamatov, representative of the prosecution, during a briefing devoted to these events. The Uzbek national guard for its part reported 243 injuries.
The President of Uzbekistan, Chavkat Mirzioev, had admitted on Sunday ” victims “among civilians and police, following protests on Friday 1is and Saturday July 2 to denounce a constitutional reform project reducing the autonomy of Karakalpakistan, a poor region in northwestern Uzbekistan of which Nukus is the capital.
The representative of the prosecution announced the opening of an investigation for “attack against the constitutional order of the country”.
The sequence of events remains very vague, the authorities having cut most of the means of communication during the clashes. A few videos have leaked on the internet, showing injured and unconscious people.
Saturday 1is July, a month-long state of emergency was declared in the region. At the same time, the Uzbek president has promised to withdraw the decried constitutional amendments.
Shavkat Mirzioev also accused the protest organizers of “hiding behind slogans” policies to seek “take control of official local government buildings” and to seize weapons.
Often suppressed opposition
Since its independence to the fall of the USSR, Uzbekistan has never let any opposition emerge.
Came to power in 2016 on the death of his predecessor Islam Karimov, Chavkat Mirzioev, until then Prime Minister, carried out important economic and social reforms, also promising timid measures of political liberalization.
Re-elected last year, it has more recently given a turn of the screw. The Head of State wants to reform the Constitution so that it allows him to stay in power longer.
The Nukus unrest is the most serious internal crisis that President Mirzioev has faced so far.
In 2005, Islam Karimov had bloodily suppressed demonstrations in Andijan (east). Hundreds of people died there.
The Kremlin, a traditional ally of Tashkent, judged the events in Nukus to be “an internal matter”.
The European Union, which has encouraged reform efforts in recent years, has called for a “transparent and independent investigation” and regretted “loss of human life”. She noted that the President had withdrawn from the controversial amendments, while calling on her to “ensure human rights”.
A troubled region
Uzbekistan, bordering Afghanistan, is by far the most populated of the countries of ex-Soviet Central Asia with some 35 million inhabitants.
In January, another authoritarian state in the region, Kazakhstan, crushed a vast protest movement, killing more than 230 people. These events came as a shock, as this country had until then been considered the most stable and prosperous in the region.
Neighboring countries have also experienced turbulent times in the recent past, with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, for example, regularly clashing over their common border, notably due to conflicts over access to land and water.
The Tajik authorities have also just carried out an operation presented as “counter-terrorism” to neutralize influential local figures in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (BGAO), a vast mountainous area of the Pamir Mountains.
Kyrgyzstan has experienced three revolutions since 2005 (2005, 2010, 2020), as well as serious ethnic violence targeting the Uzbek minority in 2010 in the south of the country.
Russia supports the powers in place in these countries which it considers to belong to its own backyard.