Uzbekistan. According to
Countryaah.com, the political change under President Shavkat
Mirziyoyev continued in 2018. In January, the powerful head
of the security service MXX, heir to the Soviet KGB, was
dismissed. The MXX chief was seen as a rival to Mirziyoyev
of power and was one of the last influential men from the
circle of the president and dictator Islam Karimov.
Opposition politician and human rights activist Isroiljon
Xoldorov was released in February after nearly twelve years
in prison. Xoldorov led the opposition party Erk in the city
of Andizhan and was a major source of information about the
Andizyan massacre in 2005, when security forces killed
hundreds of protesters.
In February, after 19 years in prison, journalist Yusuf
Ruzimuradov was also released. In a trial that was
considered politically motivated, he had been convicted of
attempting to overthrow Karimov's regime. Ruzimuradov was
believed to have served a longer sentence than any other
journalist in the world.
In March, neighboring countries met Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan's presidents and then decided, among other
things, to abandon the visa requirement for travel across
the common border. Later in the year, the two countries
began joint mine clearance in the border area. Many people
have been killed and injured by landmines deployed in 2000
by Uzbekistan to prevent militant Islamists from crossing
Human rights activist Gaybullo Jalilov was released in
March after serving eight years in prison. He had been
sentenced to 13 years accused of plans for terrorist attack,
a judgment that, according to Human Rights Watch, was
political with fabricated evidence. Jalilov was reported to
have been subjected to regular torture in prison.
At the same time, in March, human rights activist Musajon
Bobojonov was sentenced to three years' conditional
imprisonment for publishing material that threatened
security and public order. He rebuffed the allegations,
saying he had never promoted religious extremism.
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullajev denied accusations of
having planned to overthrow the government in another
notable trial, which was seen as a test of President
Mirziyoyev's will for reform. Abdullaev was threatened with
imprisonment for up to 20 years.
In May, opposition activist Fahriddin Tilleyev, who
served four years, was released from an eight-year prison
sentence on human trafficking charges. He was released just
before President Mirziyoyev would make an official visit to
the United States.
In June, a former chief of the security service MXX was
sentenced to 14 years in prison for torture and abuse of
power. Several of his employees were sentenced to long
prison terms on similar grounds. Torture was used
extensively during the previous regime, and President
Mirziyoyev has promised to try to end that legacy. In a
decree, he has banned courts from using evidence obtained
through torture, but charges of torture have continued.
Journalist Muhammad Bekjon was released in July after
nearly 18 years in prison. He was previously editor-in-chief
of the opposition newspaper Erk, fled abroad but was
kidnapped in Ukraine in 1999, taken to Uzbekistan and
convicted of involvement in an alleged terrorist attack on
Before the two-year anniversary of Karimov's death in
September, orders were issued that his name should no longer
be mentioned in state radio and TV. Journalists stated that
they were threatened with punishment if Karimov's name was
mentioned in their program. Instead, journalists said they
had been called upon to praise the new president.
In September, an imam in Tashkent who called for
increased religious freedom was dismissed. He had posted a
video on Facebook urging President Mirziyoyev to allow more
religious freedom, including lifting the ban on women's main
scarves and men's beards.
A prominent human rights activist and outspoken critic of
Karimov returned to Uzbekistan in September after more than
ten years in exile in France. Tolib Yoqubov fled the country
in 2007 for fear of his safety. The now 78-year-old activist
was allowed to return to his home country a few weeks before
President Mirziyoyev would visit France.
Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation signed major
economic cooperation agreements when President Vladimir
Putin visited Tashkent in October. Among other things,
Russian Rosatom will build Uzbekistan's first nuclear power
plant for the equivalent of SEK 100 billion.
President Mirziyoyev fired a deputy prime minister in
October after a video revealed how he humiliated a group of
farmers and local government officials during an inspection
trip. As punishment for their failure to irrigate wheat
fields, the minister forced them to stand for a long time in
a water-filled ditch and then run in wet clothes.