UzbekistanHuman Rights - History

UzbekistanHuman Rights - History

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The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government restricted these rights for both online and offline media.

Freedom of Expression: The government exercises official and unofficial restrictions on the ability of individuals to criticize the government or to discuss matters of general public interest. The law restricts criticism of the president, and publicly insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The law specifically prohibits publication of articles that incite religious confrontation and ethnic discord or that advocate subverting or overthrowing the constitutional order.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media does not operate freely because the state exercises broad control over media coverage. All media entities, foreign and domestic, must register with authorities and provide the names of their founder, chief editor, and staff members. Print media must also provide hard copies of publications to the government. The law holds all foreign and domestic media organizations accountable for the accuracy of their reporting, prohibits foreign journalists from working in the country without official accreditation, and subjects foreign media outlets to domestic mass media laws. The government used accreditation rules to deny foreign journalists and media outlets the opportunity to work in the country.

Amendments to the Law on Information Technologies hold bloggers legally accountable for the accuracy of what they post and prohibit posts potentially perceived as defaming an individual’s “honor and dignity.” Limitations also preclude perceived calls for public disorder, encroachment on constitutional order, posting pornography or state secrets, issuing “threats to the state,” and “other activities that are subject to criminal and other types of responsibilities according to legislation.”

The government prohibited the promotion of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism as well as the instigation of ethnic and religious hatred.

Articles in state-controlled newspapers reflected the government’s viewpoint. The main government newspapers published selected international wire stories. The government prohibited legal entities with more than 30 percent foreign ownership from establishing media outlets. The government allowed publication of a few private newspapers with limited circulation containing advertising, horoscopes, and some substantive local news, including infrequent stories critical of government socioeconomic policies.

The government used large-circulation tabloids, such as Darakchi and Bekajon, as platforms to publish articles that criticized lower-level government officials. A few purportedly independent websites consistently reported the government’s viewpoint. During the year, however, press and news organizations began broadcasting and publishing a wider variety of views and news, to include criticisms and policies enacted under former president Karimov. In July the government launched Ozbekiston, a 24-hour news channel that broadcast current affairs and news in Uzbek, Russian, and English. Most of the programming was prerecorded for later broadcast, especially programming with political content or government officials.

Violence and Harassment: Police and security services subjected print and broadcast journalists to arrest, harassment, and intimidation as well as to bureaucratic restrictions on their activity. In August police detained Samarkand-based journalist Toshpulat Rahmatullayev for taking photos at the Samarkand Extension Center of the Tashkent University for a story on university enrollment and admissions testing. Police interrogated Rahmatullayev and deleted the journalist’s photos from his camera before releasing him without charges. Uzbek Security Services arrested journalist Hayot Nasreddinov on October 20. Nasreddinov was a journalist and contributed as a blogger to RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, according to Shukhrat Babadjanov, a reporter with the broadcaster. In 2012-13, he worked as a freelancer for Moscow-based, which published dozens of his articles. Nasreddinov was charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists and senior editorial staff in state media organizations reported that some officials’ responsibilities included censorship. In many cases the government placed individuals as editors in chief with the expressed intent that they serve as the main censor for a particular media outlet. Continuing the past trend of moderate criticism of the government, online publications like and have published critical stories on issues such as electricity outages, currency, trade, and the black market.

Government security services and other offices regularly directed publishers and broadcasters to propagate stories that discredited individuals and human rights activists. In April online news site UzMetronom, known as a placement site for deliberate government leaks, including from the security ministries, distributed reports intended to discredit human rights activist Elena Urlaeva.

There was often little distinction between the editorial content of a government and a privately owned newspaper. Journalists engaged in little investigative reporting. Widely read tabloids occasionally published articles that presented mild criticism of government policies or discussed some problems that the government considered sensitive, such as trafficking in persons.

In April a presidential decree established an “International Press Club” and directed ministers to begin engaging with the press. Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov held a press conference July 5, during which he took questions and spoke on a range of issues for nearly two hours. Access to the press club is severely limited to predominantly state media representatives.

Libel/Slander Laws: The criminal and administrative codes impose significant fines for libel and defamation. The government used charges of libel, slander, and defamation to punish journalists, human rights activists, and others who criticized the president or the government. In February businessman Olim Sulaymanov created a Facebook video that accused a Prosecutor General’s Office official of freezing his business assets after he refused to pay what he said was a protection racket fee. Sulaymanov later appeared on a talk show to discuss the case. Following the talk show appearance, the Prosecutor’s Office filed a court motion against Sulaymanov, accusing him of libel. In April a Tashkent court sentenced Sulaymanov to three years in jail.


The government generally allowed access to the internet, including social media sites. Internet service providers, allegedly at the government’s request, routinely blocked access to websites or certain pages of websites that the government considered objectionable, such as,, and The government blocked several domestic and international news websites and those operated by opposition political parties.

The media law defines websites as media outlets, requiring them to register with authorities and provide the names of their founder, chief editor, and staff members. Websites were not required to submit hard copies of publications to the government.

According to government statistics, approximately 39 percent of individuals in the country used the internet. Unofficial estimates, especially of internet access through mobile communications devices, were higher. Several active online forums allowed registered users to post comments and read discussions on a range of social problems. To become a registered user in these forums, individuals must provide personally identifiable information. It was not clear whether the government attempted to collect this information, although provisions of the Law on Information Technologies require internet cafe proprietors to log customers’ browser history.

A decree requires all websites seeking the “.uz” domain to register with the government’s Agency for Press and Information. The decree generally affected only government-owned or government-controlled websites. Opposition websites and those operated by international NGOs or media outlets tended to have domain names registered outside the country.


The government continued to limit academic freedom and cultural events. Authorities occasionally required department head approval for university lectures, and university professors generally practiced self-censorship.

Although a decree prohibits cooperation between higher educational institutions and foreign entities without the explicit approval of the government, foreign institutions often were able to obtain such approval through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially for foreign-language projects. Some school and university administrations, however, continued to pressure teachers and students to refrain from participating in conferences sponsored by diplomatic missions.

Human Rights in Uzbekistan

SEATTLE — Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia that is one of the two double-landlocked countries in the world, surrounded entirely by other landlocked countries. Although officially Uzbekistan is a unitary constitutional republic, it has a history of highly repressive authoritarian regimes. The country’s first president Islam Karimov ruled for 27 years until his death in September 2016. According to several reports, the state of human rights in Uzbekistan presents a bleak picture in various aspects.

Lack of political freedom

Although opposition political parties exist in Uzbekistan, their significance is limited because the Uzbek government has a history of quelling opposition leaders and parties that are a potential challenge to its power base. Elections are unfair and rigged. The judicial and legislative branches of government serve the executive, further strengthening its grip on power.

The government has extradited Uzbek human rights defenders and activists in foreign countries. The returnees have to face imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment without access to a free trial. Moreover, the families and relatives of these activists were intimidated and even persecuted, in some cases through the state-created and controlled mahalla neighborhood committees.

Freedom of the press

Freedom of expression remains an illusion. Though the government officials talk of democratic and liberal ideals, in practice Uzbekistan is one of the most repressive countries in terms of freedom of the press in Central Asia. Journalists face intimidation and persecution for working for foreign media outlets. The Freedom House, names Uzbekistan a “not free” country, giving it an aggregate score of 3 out of 100. The country also received the lowest possible score in political and civil liberties.

Freedom of belief

Lack of religious freedom also scars the state of human rights in Uzbekistan. Due to the rise of religious radical groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the state has come to repress religious activities. Authorities imprison believers for practicing their faith outside state controls. Reports show that more than 12,000 persons are currently imprisoned on vague “terrorism” and “anti-constitution” related charges.

The government banned shared Muslim iftar — breaking of fast meals in public during Ramadan. It also severely restricted the dissemination of religious literature. Further, the authorities continue to ban people under 18 from attending mosques.

While keeping a check on extreme forms of religious activities is vital to the country’s peace and security, repressing the freedom of belief altogether for unclear reasons may prove counterproductive. Analysts suggest that, like in other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan uses the anti-religious radicalization campaign as a tool to quell political opposition.

Forced labor

According to Amnesty International’s annual report on human rights in Uzbekistan, the government compelled more than a million public sector employees to work in cotton fields, in the preparation of the fields in the spring and harvest in the autumn. One report showed that children under 18 were also forced to work in the fields. According to the Amnesty International 2016 Global Slavery Index, “Uzbekistan was the world’s second-biggest user of modern-day slavery.” Human rights defenders who tried to report this abusive practice were detained and tortured.

What is worse is that local newspapers, such as Uzbekistan Today and UzDaily, do not provide sufficient critical reports or opinion articles that reflect the sorry state of affairs of human rights in Uzbekistan as reported by international media outlets and human rights groups. The good news is that the country is relatively at peace, but this should not come at the cost of the repression of political, economic and individual freedoms of its citizens.

Uzbekistan: OSCE Should Monitor Andijan Trials

I am writing today to urge the OSCE to send international monitors to Uzbekistan to observe the trials of those arrested for their alleged involvement in the events in Andijan in mid-May.

I am writing today to urge the OSCE to send international monitors to Uzbekistan to observe the trials of those arrested for their alleged involvement in the events in Andijan in mid-May. We noted with interest the commitment that President Karimov gave to you during your recent visit to Tashkent that the Andijan trials “would be open to interested parties and that the OSCE Centre in Tashkent would have the opportunity of observing such trials.” (OSCE Press Release, July 29, 2005) We welcome this commitment and urge the OSCE to send international monitors, as well as staff from the OSCE Centre in Tashkent, to all trials that involve defendants accused of having been involved in the Andijan events.

The Andijan Massacre and its Aftermath
On May 13, 2005, Human Rights Watch estimates that government forces massacred hundreds of unarmed civilians in Andijan. In response to the takeover of government buildings by gunmen and a massive demonstration attended by unarmed Andijan residents, government security forces used excessive and indiscriminate force, opening fire without warning and killing and wounding unarmed people. Government snipers shot people as they fled the scene, and armored personnel carriers (APCs) mowed people down. After the peak of the carnage, government forces returned to the scene and executed the wounded where they lay. (See the Human Rights Watch report “Bullets were Falling Like Rain”)

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, government authorities closed off the square where much of the killing had taken place. The bodies were removed and signs and evidence of the massacre were erased. Authorities washed the blood from the street and painted over the bullet-riddled buildings of the surrounding neighborhood. The government stationed armed guards around the local hospitals, and forbade access to the hospitals, morgues and cemeteries. Foreign journalists were detained by police, threatened, and forcibly evicted from the city. Law enforcement officials confiscated journalists’ notes, video and tape recordings, and photographs—vital evidence of the details of the massacre. In the hours and days that followed, government road blocks were thrown up, Andijan became a closed city, with access granted only to select few with government permission. Human rights defenders and journalists from outside Andijan were prevented from entering to investigate the circumstances of the massacre or speak to witnesses.

In the intervening months since the massacre, the government of Uzbekistan has undertaken a wide-scale crackdown on anyone with information about the massacre and engaged in an intense effort to cover up all evidence of government responsibility for the killings. The government has aggressively pursued the “truth-tellers,” human rights defenders, independent journalists, and political activists who have attempted to spread information about the actual events of May 13 and the days that followed. Members of these groups have been beaten, detained and arrested on spurious charges, put under surveillance, and harassed and threatened. Human rights defenders from Andijan in particular have been forced to abandon their work or flee the country.

In place of the truth, the Uzbek government has worked tirelessly to present a fictitious version of events to absolve government forces of all responsibility for the massacre. Later this month, Human Rights Watch will publish a report based on our most recent fact-finding mission to Andijan in July that documents the government’s cynical attempts to silence witnesses and manufacture evidence. Through coercive measures, including torture, the government is producing “evidence” of “Islamic extremists’” responsibility for the deaths and injuries of May 13. The authorities have rounded up hundreds of Andijan residents, including participants in the May 13 demonstration as well as individuals who have little or no direct knowledge of the violence that took place on May 13. The authorities detain Andijan residents for several days, subject them to interrogation, torture them, and force them to sign false confessions. The Karimov government is working furiously to rewrite history, to produce a new account of the Andijan events, and to bury the facts that contradict the government’s version.

Uzbekistan’s Record: Persecution and Denial of the Right to a Fair Trial
Already prior to the Andijan massacre, the Uzbek government had a well-documented record of persecution of political opponents and independent Muslims. For more than 10 years, the Uzbek government has imprisoned thousands of people on charges of “religious extremism” or “attempt to overthrow the constitutional system.” Thousands of people in prison on religious charges are not implicated in or even charged with any violent act, let alone terrorism. Those imprisoned include people who attended mosques not registered with the government, who were followers of imams who fell out of favor with the authorities, or who belonged to unregistered religious organizations. Police and security agents have tortured many people to compel them to confess to being members of “fundamentalist” groups, and have harassed and threatened their families. Courts have handed down prison sentences of up to 15-20 years, following grossly unfair trials.

In general, defendants in Uzbekistan rarely have a fair trial. Defendants are routinely denied the most fundamental due process guarantees and access to defense counsel. Convictions are often based on fabricated evidence. The prospects for a fair trial dim even further for those brought up on political charges, such as anti-state activities, terrorism, or religion-related charges. The particular judicial bias that politically sensitive cases face is detailed in the Human Rights Watch report entitled Creating Enemies of the State: Religious Persecution in Uzbekistan. Human Rights Watch found that defendants charged with political and religion-related violations face additional problems and obstacles to obtaining due process during the trial phase. The country’s judiciary is not independent of the executive. Judges display marked deference toward and bias in favor of procurators. They approach defendants with hostility and suspicion rather than presumption of innocence. Corruption in the judiciary is rampant.

Persons accused of “religious extremism” and other politically sensitive charges are denied the right to examine witnesses against them. An aggressive defense is the rare exception that proves the rule: defense counsel is sidelined, fearful, and passive. Defendants themselves must stick to the “script” of confession and contrition or else they are silenced. Judges routinely ignore or inadequately address court testimony regarding fabrication of evidence and coercive methods—including torture—used to procure defendants’ testimony to police.

* * *
Against this backdrop of repression and rewriting of history, it is extremely unlikely that any person brought to trial for crimes allegedly committed during the Andijan events can hope for a fair trial. It is incumbent upon the international community, including in particular the OSCE given its geographic scope and established expertise in trial monitoring, to ensure that the trials are closely monitored by international observers and violations of international due process are carefully documented and publicized.

We understand that the first Andijan trials are expected to begin in September. We therefore ask you, as a matter of the utmost urgency, to use your good offices to ensure that the OSCE and its member states deploy international representatives to monitor these trials on behalf of the OSCE and report to OSCE participating states regarding the conduct of these trials, including any procedural violations. We also urge you to seek assurances from the Uzbek government that, consistent with President Karimov’s promise to you, the trials will be open to interested parties such as local and international human rights groups and that the government will facilitate the work of such groups, including by providing visas where needed.

As you may know, Human Rights Watch has had a permanent presence in Uzbekistan, through our Tashkent office, since 1996. We have monitored recent developments in Uzbekistan, including the Uzbek government’s cover-up efforts and the crackdown on human rights defenders, political activists and others. We would very much welcome an opportunity to discuss our findings and concerns with you, and will be contacting your office in the coming days to see if such a meeting can be arranged when I will be in Vienna in late September.

Thank you for your attention to this extremely serious matter.

Holly Cartner
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia division
Human Rights Watch

Ambassador Christian Strohal, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE

Human rights in Uzbekistan: achievements and tasks for the future.

Uzbekistan has been carrying out reforms on the principle of “human interests above all else” and ensuring proper protection of human rights. Thus, the country has identified human rights protection as one of the priority areas.

The analysis demonstrates that work in this area has a systemic character. The country has made a breakthrough in ensuring socio-economic, civil, and political rights.

First of all, the government carried out outstanding work to eradicate forced and child labor in cotton harvesting campaigns. For many years, it is no secret that these very issues have been a “stigma” on the international image of Uzbekistan. The government succeeded in close interaction with international organizations (including the ILO) and civil activists to eliminate problems in this area. As such, the government carried out significant structural changes in the agriculture sector. The high political will of the country’s leadership played an undoubted role in this. As a result, in its 2020 report, the International Labor Organization announced the end of child and forced labor in the cotton industry of Uzbekistan. According to the organization, the republic has made significant progress in enforcing fundamental labor rights in the cotton fields. The systematic recruitment of students, teachers, doctors, and nurses has wholly stopped. For the first time in ten years of monitoring in cotton-growing regions of Uzbekistan, the Uzbek Human Rights Forum did not record a single case of forced labor.

The following breakthrough result of the ongoing reforms to ensure human rights were transforming the notorious “propiska” system. Society viewed it as an obstacle to citizens’ freedom of movement for many years. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev called it shackles on the feet of a citizen and took measures to change it radically. According to the efforts to transform this system, there is a transition to a notification registration system. These measures also favorably affected the property rights of citizens. For many years, citizens from other regions of the country could not buy housing in the capital in their name if they did not have a permanent residence permit in Tashkent. Many citizens had to register their real estate in Tashkent in the name of acquaintances with a permanent residence permit and then live as tenants in their own house. As a result of the reforms, after abolishing the requirement for registration when buying housing, people bought almost 13 thousand apartments in Tashkent – of which 70% were purchased by people living in other cities. The government has also taken decisive measures to reduce the number of stateless persons. Last year alone, 50 thousand of our compatriots acquired Uzbek citizenship. This year, more than 20 thousand people will receive citizenship.

Uzbekistan has come a long way in ensuring the religious rights and freedoms of citizens. It is no secret that for many years the international community has expressed concern about this matter. The transformations have created favorable organizational and legal conditions to implement the constitutional right to religious freedom. Officials reduced the state duty amount for the registration of religious organizations five times and canceled their quarterly reporting. The Ministry of Justice’s powers to terminate the activities of a religious organization have been transferred to the judicial authorities. The shameful practice of the so-called “black lists” has been discontinued, and the government removed more than 20 thousand citizens suspected of having links with religious extremist organizations from the register and the “black lists,” and abolished the practice of further maintaining such “lists.” In 2017, for the first time in the history of independent Uzbekistan, our country was visited by the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on freedom of conscience or faith, Ahmad Shahid. Based on his recommendations, parliament approved a Roadmap to ensure freedom of conscience and belief. On the initiative of President Sh.M. Mirziyoyev, the UN adopted a special resolution, “Enlightenment and Religious Tolerance.” Another example of the recognition of progress in this area is the complete exclusion of Uzbekistan from the US Special Checklist on Religious Freedom.

Freedom of speech and the media have become the hallmark of the new Uzbekistan. The state made previously inaccessible foreign information resources available in the country. The country opened accreditation for foreign journalists (Voice of America, BBC, The Economist, and others), citizen journalists – the so-called “Bloggers” – have become the new reality of the country. Journalists began to raise previously untouched topics openly, criticism and analysis began to appear more often on the press pages. The President of the country has repeatedly expressed his support to the media representatives and urged them to cover the burning issues. As a result, according to the world press freedom rating of the Reporters Without Borders, the country improved its ratings by 13 positions from 2017 to 2020. It was also indicated in the reports of Human Rights Watch, which in November 2017, for the first time in a decade, had the opportunity to conduct direct research in the country, that under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, “the situation with freedom of the press has improved, the media environment has entered a stage of changes.” The government has released several previously imprisoned prominent journalists.

Uzbekistan has also come a long way in ensuring citizens’ rights to a fair and public trial. The number of acquittals in courts in 2017-2020 was 2,770. In 2018 alone, courts terminated 1,881 criminal cases for insufficient evidence. The charges against 5462 persons unjustifiably brought forward during the investigation were excluded from the corpus delicti, and 3,290 persons were released in the courtroom. In 2019, 859 persons were acquitted, 3080 persons were released in the courtroom. For a clear comparison, in 2016, the number of acquittals in the entire judicial system was only 28. As a result of the practical implementation of humanism in the judicial and legal sphere in 2019, 1,853 people were released from punishment, including 210 young people and 270 women. Three thousand three hundred thirty-three persons who had served their sentences returned to their families, including 646 convicted for participation in the activities of banned organizations.

One of the main achievements in ensuring human rights in the country has been the systematic work to eradicate torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Strict liability has been established for the use of evidence obtained as a result of illegal methods. Article 235 of the Criminal Code (torture) was brought in line with article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture. Following the recommendations of international organizations, the President of Uzbekistan signed a Resolution on the liquidation of the notorious “Jaslyk” colony in Karakalpakstan. Since March 2019, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Ombudsman) has been acting as a “national preventive mechanism.” This mechanism provides for the organization of monitoring institutions to execute punishment, places of detention, and memorable reception centers for studying the provision of human rights and freedoms there, guaranteed by law. When considering complaints and when checking on his initiative cases of violation of citizens’ rights, independence, and legitimate interests, the Ombudsman has the right to visit places of detention and conduct face-to-face meetings freely. Their administration is obliged to provide the Ombudsman with the necessary conditions for unhindered and confidential meetings and conversations with persons in custody. The monitoring groups include representatives of civil society institutions, as well as deputies of the Legislative Chamber and members of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan. During the pandemic, using personal protective equipment, the Ombudsman also visited ten penitentiary institutions (four penal colonies and six penal colony settlements).

Reforms to ensure gender equality and women’s rights have become another important area. The Government of Uzbekistan has developed a Strategy for Achieving Gender Equality for the Period up to 2030. A particular procedure is being introduced, according to which all new draft laws will be analyzed from a gender equality perspective. The creation of a parliamentary Commission on Gender Equality in Uzbekistan in 2019 helped to strengthen women’s position in society and their status. At the level of legislative and state policy in Uzbekistan, mechanisms have been created to ensure and protect women’s rights. The law “On guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men” guarantees the provision of equal rights for women and men to be elected to representative bodies of power and the possibility of nominating candidates for deputies from political parties. As noted by the President of Uzbekistan, “the role of women is great in identifying and timely solving social problems, enhancing the effectiveness of management.” For example, in the 2019 parliamentary elections, a gender quota was applied: elected women deputies accounted for 32 percent of the total number of elected deputies and 25 percent of members of the Senate. This policy is in

line with the established UN recommendations. In terms of the number of women deputies, the parliament of Uzbekistan has risen to 37th place among 190 national parliaments of the world over the past five years (it was 128th). The government also adopted laws to protect women from harassment and violence and protect reproductive health.

As already mentioned, Uzbekistan has been carrying out human rights reforms at a systemic, comprehensive level. Accordingly, the state adopted the National Human Rights Strategy on June 22, 2020. It became the first strategic document in the history of Uzbekistan, which defined a set of long-term targeted measures to ensure personal, political, economic, social, and cultural human rights.

Out of the 78 points of the Road Map, authorities implemented 32 in 2020. In particular, the Strategy provides for the adoption of 33 bills, including 20 new ones, of which four new laws have already been adopted: “On Education” (new edition), “On combating human trafficking” (new edition), On employment of the population” and “On the rights of persons with disabilities. ”

Undoubtedly, the achieved results are receiving the deserved international appraisal. On October 13, 2020, for the first time in history, Uzbekistan was elected a UN Human Rights Council member for a three-year term – 2021-2023. In these elections, Uzbekistan received the

most significant number of votes – 169 out of 193 UN member states voted for our country.

Simultaneously, ensuring human rights is not a static but a dynamic process that requires constant improvement and complete dedication. Based on this logic, one may argue that some tasks remain for the future, which will further improve the country’s human rights protection system. In particular, in the course of work on improving the method for detecting and preventing cases of torture, it is recommended to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. Continuing work to strengthen further the financial and functional independence of the Ombudsman, including the allocation of additional resources for Secretariat and regional representatives of the Ombudsman, is also a further task. To ensure gender equality and women’s rights, strengthening the criminalization of domestic violence is another issue for discussion. As for some cases of illegal interference in media activities, the government should take further measures to eradicate them further and improve the foundations of freedom of speech. UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratification is another goal for the state. The government also plans to adopt a Law on the Children’s Ombudsman.

Summarizing the above, we can say that the listed facts testify to essential milestones in Uzbekistan’s path of reforms to ensure human rights and recognize the policy pursued in this area by the international community. The country does not intend to stop at the achieved progress and continue to solve the urgent tasks of protecting human rights. I am glad that there is a high political will of the country’s leadership for this. The historical status of a member of the UN HRC will allow Uzbekistan to use international platforms for the exchange of experience and more effective promotion of its initiatives in the international arena.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The government did not conduct free and fair elections, restricted freedom of expression, and suppressed political opposition.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Former president Karimov died in September 2016, and a special presidential election took place in 2016. The interim president and prime minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, won the election with 88 percent of the vote. Four candidates, including Mirziyoyev, campaigned for president in the election. For the 2016 special presidential elections, the government for the first time invited OSCE/ODIHR to conduct a full-scope observation mission with both short- and long-term observers. According to OSCE/ODIHR, the 2016 presidential election demonstrated that systemic shortcomings in the election system persisted and that the dominant position of state actors and limits on fundamental freedoms continued to undermine political pluralism. Voters lacked a genuine choice of political alternatives. Only registered political parties could nominate candidates. The government declined to register new political parties, preventing candidates not affiliated with an existing registered political party from running. The candidates did not participate in debates among themselves.

These conditions resulted in a campaign that lacked genuine competition. Due to a highly restrictive and controlled media environment, voters did not have access to alternate viewpoints beyond a state-defined narrative. The OSCE/ODIHR report noted significant irregularities on election day, including indications of ballot box stuffing and widespread proxy voting.

The most recent parliamentary elections took place on December 22. According to the OSCE’s observer mission’s preliminary conclusions, the elections took place under improved legislation and with greater tolerance of independent voices but did not yet demonstrate genuine competition and full respect of election-day procedures. The OSCE considered the previous parliamentary elections, held in 2014, not in accordance with international standards. During their observations, OSCE observers in 2014 uncovered registration restrictions of potential voters, restrictions on a candidate’s ability to be listed on a ballot, lack of candidate access to media, ballot box stuffing, lack of ballot secrecy, and intimidation.

President Mirziyoyev signed an updated election code law on June 25, which combines all election-related legislation into a single document to regulate pre-election work and administration of the elections, including to local councils. In addition to combining election-related laws, the law enacts a single electronic list of voters to facilitate the principle of “one voter-one vote.” It also lifted voting rights restrictions on inmates incarcerated for misdemeanors or less serious crimes.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law allows independent political parties. The Ministry of Justice has broad powers to oversee parties and may withhold financial and legal support to those it judges to be opposed to government policy. There are five registered political parties. The government allowed the Ecological Party, which had previously been an environmental movement that was founded in 2008, to register as a new political party. The law makes it difficult for genuinely independent political parties to organize, nominate candidates, and campaign. The law allows the Ministry of Justice to suspend parties for as long as six months without a court order. The government also exercised control over established parties by controlling their financing and media exposure.

The law prohibits judges, public prosecutors, State Security Service officials, members of the armed forces, foreign citizens, and stateless persons from joining political parties. The law prohibits parties that are based on religion or ethnicity oppose the sovereignty, integrity, or security of the country, or the constitutional rights and freedoms of its citizens promote war or social, national, or religious hostility or seek to overthrow the government. The law also prohibits the Islamist political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, stating it promotes hate and condones acts of terrorism.

The government has banned or denied registration to several political parties following the 2005 violence in Andijon. Former party leaders remained in exile, and their parties struggled to remain relevant without a strong domestic base.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority communities in the political process, and they did participate. National minorities have full political rights under the constitution, and political parties made campaign materials available in minority languages. Central Election Commission regulations ensure that persons with disabilities can independently participate in the election. In addition, the Central Elections Commission can print some ballots in braille.

Human rights

Organizations such as Amnesty International Amnesty International
(AI,) human-rights organization founded in 1961 by Englishman Peter Benenson it campaigns internationally against the detention of prisoners of conscience, for the fair trial of political prisoners, to abolish the death penalty and torture of prisoners,
. Click the link for more information. and Human Rights Watch promote human rights and denounce human-rights abuses. In addition, such abuses around the world are monitored and documented by independent investigators ("special rapporteurs") appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, which, in turn, rebukes cited nations for their human-rights failures. (The council replaced the UN Human Rights Commission, which had been accused of protecting human-rights violators, in mid-2006. Similar accusations have been leveled at the new council, and the United States withdrew from it in 2018 over its criticism of Israel.)

In Europe, the supranational European Court of Human Rights, established under the Council of Europe Council of Europe,
international organization founded in 1949 to promote greater unity within Europe and to safeguard its political and cultural heritage by promoting human rights and democracy. The council is headquartered in Strasbourg, France.
. Click the link for more information. , is intended to protect individual human rights from government abuse. In the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States Organization of American States
(OAS), international organization, created Apr. 30, 1948, at Bogotá, Colombia, by agreement of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,
. Click the link for more information. , enforces the American Convention on Human Rights, but individuals cannot appeal directly to the court. The African Union has both the African Commission and the African Court on Human and People's Rights. The former may decide complaints against all parties to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights the latter has a more restricted jurisdiction.

The charging in 1998 by a Spanish court of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto
, 1915�, president and dictator of Chile (1973󈟆). An army general who served as chief of staff (1972󈞵) and commander of the army (1973), he led the coup that overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende (Sept., 1973).
. Click the link for more information. with human-rights violations and the 1999 British ruling that he could be extradited to Spain, as well as the indictment and arrest (2000) in Senegal of former Chadian president Hissène Habré for human-rights violations during his presidency (although charges were later dropped, he was subsequently rearrested on a Belgian warrant), were regarded as small steps forward in the international protection of human rights.

See also civil rights civil rights,
rights that a nation's inhabitants enjoy by law. The term is broader than "political rights," which refer only to rights devolving from the franchise and are held usually only by a citizen, and unlike "natural rights," civil rights have a legal as well as a
. Click the link for more information. feminism feminism,
movement for the political, social, and educational equality of women with men the movement has occurred mainly in Europe and the United States. It has its roots in the humanism of the 18th cent. and in the Industrial Revolution.
. Click the link for more information. gay-rights movement gay-rights movement,
organized efforts to end the criminalization of homosexuality and protect the civil rights of homosexuals. While there was some organized activity on behalf of the rights of homosexuals from the mid-19th through the first half of the 20th cent.
. Click the link for more information. war crimes war crimes,
in international law, violations of the laws of war (see war, laws of). Those accused have been tried by their own military and civilian courts, by those of their enemy, and by expressly established international tribunals.
. Click the link for more information. .


See M. A. Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001) A. Fagan, The Atlas of Human Rights (2010) S. Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010) A. Neier, The International Human Rights Movement (2012).

The Boycott on Uzbek Cotton Needs to End

On March 6, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a landmark decree that eliminated production quotas in the country’s cotton industry, abolishing a system that was first instituted in the 1920s under the Gosplan system of the Soviet Union. That quota system—an integral part of the Uzbek economy for nearly a century—contributed to systemic human rights violations by encouraging the use of forced labor. The Uzbek cotton harvest is the world’s largest seasonal labor mobilization, bringing more than 2 million workers to the fields to pick cotton by hand. Despite substantial recent progress in labor reforms, more than 100,000 individuals are estimated to have been forced to work in the fields last year.

On March 6, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a landmark decree that eliminated production quotas in the country’s cotton industry, abolishing a system that was first instituted in the 1920s under the Gosplan system of the Soviet Union. That quota system—an integral part of the Uzbek economy for nearly a century—contributed to systemic human rights violations by encouraging the use of forced labor. The Uzbek cotton harvest is the world’s largest seasonal labor mobilization, bringing more than 2 million workers to the fields to pick cotton by hand. Despite substantial recent progress in labor reforms, more than 100,000 individuals are estimated to have been forced to work in the fields last year.

Uzbekistan’s forced-labor problem is just one part of a complex legacy of the cotton harvest and its role in the country’s state-led economy. For decades, the career prospects of state officials across Uzbekistan’s districts were largely dependent on their ability to hit cotton production quotas set by the central government. Local governors would mobilize public-sector workers and university students, while also emphasizing cotton-picking as a patriotic duty. Most Uzbek families have pictures in their family albums of parents and grandparents helping to pick cotton in the fields. For many Uzbeks, there remains nostalgia about the shared experience of manual labor, but the quota system created perverse incentives and power dynamics—local officials would often force adults and even children into the fields to work unpaid. Given this long history and the scale of the rights violations, the recent steps by the Uzbek government to modernize its cotton industry represent one of the most significant labor reform efforts in the world. Today, real progress has been made, but Uzbekistan’s cotton industry has yet to draw sufficient foreign investment, in large part due to an international boycott on Uzbek cotton that remains in place. Should investment fail to materialize, it will jeopardize the privatization of the cotton industry and hurt prospects for the country’s wider reform program. Uzbekistan’s forced-labor problem is just one part of a complex legacy of the cotton harvest and its role in the country’s state-led economy.

The efforts being made to restructure Uzbekistan’s cotton industry speak to the ambition of Mirziyoyev’s reforms, which have encompassed significant macroeconomic reforms such as the liberalization of the currency, fiscal reforms such as the overhaul of the tax system, political reforms such as the creation of new powers for the legislature, and social reforms such as greater protections for free speech and the media. Within this wider program, the reforms to the cotton industry have been among the most successful. The International Labour Organization (ILO), which has been providing technical assistance to support the Uzbek government’s reform efforts through initiatives funded by the European Union, the United States, and Switzerland, determined in its review of the 2019 harvest that “systematic forced labour did not occur” and that “systemic child labour is no longer used during the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan.”

These findings are borne out by data. More than 1.75 million Uzbeks were mobilized in the 2019 harvest, down from a staggering 3.4 million pickers in 2015. The decrease in the number of laborers reflects both relaxed quotas and the increased use of mechanization in the harvest. More importantly, the ILO noted a major reduction in the use of forced labor. Estimates suggest that 102,000 people were forced to partake in the harvest last year, down from 448,000 four years prior the share of forced labor as part of the total labor force has more than halved from 14 percent to 6 percent. In the same period, the average compensation offered to laborers for each kilogram of picked cotton has seen a sevenfold increase, from 200 som (.02 at 2015 free market rates) to up to 1,400 som (.15 at 2019 rates), making this kind of work more attractive for local laborers in the country’s rural areas.

[Mapping the Coronavirus Outbreak: Get daily updates on the pandemic and learn how it’s affecting countries around the world.]

On top of its efforts to curb forced labor practices, the Mirziyoyev government has taken a multifaceted approach in its efforts to improve the economic viability and social value of the Uzbek cotton industry. The government has not only enabled farmers to cultivate their land according to market demand, but also boosted investment in new technology to increase crop yields and productivity, including modern irrigation systems and equipment to mechanize the harvesting process. The restructuring also includes the formation of clusters that seek to create a longer value chain within the Uzbek cotton industry, developing capacities for textile and garment production, with an eye to exports. Finally, local governments have launched public education campaigns, collaborating with local activists in order to help Uzbek citizens—especially those living in rural areas—learn and exercise their rights.

While much work remains to be done in order to fully eliminate forced labor from the Uzbek cotton industry, the progress made over the past few years is significant and represents a victory for human-rights campaigners who have long pressured the government to take action on this issue. This includes the Cotton Campaign, which, since 2007, has played a central role in raising international awareness about the conditions faced by many Uzbek agricultural laborers. Additionally, more than 300 brands and retailers are currently signatories to the Uzbek Cotton Pledge, an international boycott of Uzbek-sourced cotton and textiles. These firms include Spanish fashion retailer Zara, American department store Macy’s, German sports-apparel maker Adidas, and Swedish-Dutch furniture-maker Ikea. The scale of this boycott no doubt compelled the government towards reform.

The scale of this boycott no doubt compelled the government towards reform. In October 2019, the leadership of the Cotton Campaign met with Sardor Umurzakov, the Uzbek minister for investments, to discuss the county’s progress in cotton labor reform—an instance of direct dialogue that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

While much of the pressure on the Mirziyoyev government is coming from grassroots activists, including local campaigners, there is also an important economic incentive for reform. The export of cotton and cotton-based textiles is worth about $1.3 billion dollars to the Uzbek economy each year, accounting for 15 percent of total exports. Export revenues are supposed to help fund the country’s economic modernization and diversification—a key pillar of the government’s economic program. But the state of the cotton industry has mostly deterred would-be investors, and new capital inflows are sorely needed.

This economic incentive is further buttressed by powerful geopolitical considerations. Currently, Uzbekistan is forced to sell most cotton and textile products at relatively low margins to China in addition to countries that are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States, deepening economic dependency on the bloc, which is dominated by Russia. The failure to end the international boycott on Uzbek cotton and draw in new investors could hobble the sector’s long-term development, which would in turn stymie economic development and discourage further reforms. A cautionary tale can be seen in neighboring Kazakhstan, which has lost much of the momentum for economic and political reform after a failed privatization drive burned relationships with global investors.

Uzbekistan is a key partner for the West in Central Asia. It is the most populous country and among the fastest-growing economies in the region, and both the European Union and the United States have launched new strategies in the past year that aim to support Uzbek exports. The European Union is currently negotiating a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan that would, among other things, help make it easier for Uzbek producers to export textiles to the EU.

Human-rights campaigners have now arrived at a crossroads, and they must decide if an end to the cotton boycott is justified in order to consolidate the gains they have made and further aid the development of a fairer and more just Uzbek economy. This will no doubt be a difficult decision to make. The boycott has been institutionalized and is central to the work of many organizations and activists. For these campaigners, the fact that the country’s forced labor practices have not yet been fully abolished makes the decision more fraught. Multinational companies must be encouraged to resume purchases of Uzbek cotton and cotton-derived products.

But in order to capitalize on the progress marked by Mirziyoyev’s reforms, multinational companies must be encouraged to resume purchases of Uzbek cotton and cotton-derived products, and, further, to invest in the modernization of the industry. The future of Uzbekistan depends on it.

Importantly, activists don’t need to end their work completely they can play a leading role in this next phase of the country’s development by monitoring supply chains and encouraging corporate social responsibility, such as environmental management and investment in local communities, all to ensure businesses behave ethically. These efforts could be modeled on “fair trade” supply chains that have boosted supplier and consumer confidence in the coffee and cocoa industries in both Latin America and Africa.

The Uzbek government could continue to play a constructive role, too. It could encourage the transition from boycott to responsible trade by continuing its good-faith efforts to engage in honest dialogue with both local and foreign activists. It also needs to create space for third-party actors to monitor multinational corporations, which will require making it easier for foreign campaigners to establish nongovernmental organizations in the country and to engage with the ILO and local activists on the ground. Dialogue and engagement between all of the relevant actors is essential to achieving the full eradication of forced labor in Uzbekistan.

Seasonal Cotton Slavery In Uzbekistan

Slavery may have been abolished in the 19th century according to its archaic understanding. However, in contemporary times, it has manifested itself in varied and more vicious forms which are embedded in the institutional structures of some countries. Today, 40 million people are estimated to be tricked or forced into modern slavery worldwide. Human rights violations such as dilution of labour rights are gateways to modern slavery. In Asia, the situation is particularly rampant.

Uzbekistan has the 5 th largest number of modern slaves associated with its globally infamous cotton production. Cotton, in the whole of central Asia, is regarded as “white gold” as it earns heavy revenue for the governments and the small cluster of elites. Uzbekistan is the largest producer and exporter of Cotton amongst its competitors. The production process has traditionally been labour-intensive. Despite the efforts to mechanise the process, it continues to employ millions of people, especially during the harvest season. During the harvest season, government through its various branches and institution forces the people to pick cotton from farms in return of no compensation.

This has been taken into cognisance by the domestic media as well as international bodies like Human Rights Watch. The government of Uzbekistan responded to activists rallying against the questionable by cracking down on them. Calls to boycott the Uzbek cotton in countries where it is exported have received mixed reaction but does it really help slavery on ground? Many reforms that have been undertaken in desperation for seeking foreign investment, since the death of former President Karimov, have pleased the Western media and officials. There have also been public efforts to reduce forced labour during the cotton harvests. However, many activists are still of the opinion that the applause is coming too quickly.

Image source: Fight Slavery

The structure of slavery and stakeholders

Cotton production is the lifeline of Uzbekistan’s economy. The production is controlled by the state and the producers are required to meet quotas set by the state. The government controls the inputs for cotton production through joint-stock companies which have a monopoly for the input provided by them. The system for making financial transactions is called Selkhozfond. It is housed in the Ministry of Finance, is controlled by high-level officials and does not publicly report income or expenditures. In 2015 the government launched an agricultural “re-optimization” plan to reduce the size of agricultural land allotments and to take over the land of farmers who failed to meet cotton quotas.

The Prime Minister oversees the implementation of the cotton production plan through heads of various ministries and regional and local bodies. These hierarchical channels are also used to mobilize labour from schools, universities, hospitals, mosques, etc. There are quotas for mobilising labour too on government employees who often resort to threats of expulsion, suspension or trail by the court to force people into cotton picking.

Source: Human Rights Watch

The World Bank has been engaged with Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector since 1995 with Cotton Sub-Sector Improvement Project, which was aimed at liberalizing cotton prices and privatizing the cottonseed industry. The world bank does not acknowledge that child and forced labour is linked to the cotton production in the country, but due to international pressure has taken measure for mitigating the risk of child and forced labour in the sector. The institution has also faced criticism for continuing lending for cotton production although the state still controls it heavily. The response has been that the loans extended were for mechanisation of the production process so that less manual labour is required as slavery-like conditions stem from its heavy dependence on manual work. However, child and forced labour continued on a massive scale even during the 2015-16 cycle, so did the lending.

Human Rights Abuse

Despite having domestic legislation against child labour, free speech and labour rights and signing various international conventions such as the Forced Labour Convention No. 29, Minimum Age Convention No. 138 and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No 182. The country has been recklessly committing human rights violations. The Uzbekistan Human Rights Defenders’ Alliance reports that young children as young as 11 were found picking cotton in Andijan, Ferghana and Tashkent regions. Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum documented evidence of forced labour in three additional regions along with evidence linking World Bank-funded cotton production and forced and child labour. School principals must find their own farmers to negotiate with about the harvesting by schoolchildren, as well as take on transportation costs. ILO in its recent report claimed that in 2019 no children were mobilised to work in cotton fields for the first time. This made UK and other countries rethink their plans to boycott Uzbek cotton. However, adult systematic forced labour continues to prevail.

Another human rights violation linked to cotton production is the arbitrary arrests of activists. Under the rule of Islam Karimov, several human rights defenders were put under house arrest and many were detained as political prisoners. In January-February 2008 the government released seven human rights defenders, and another two in October, apparently as a gesture toward the European Union. The authorities prevented the released defenders from meeting with foreign visitors and generally from pursuing their human rights work. Two fled the country, fearing for their safety. The elected leader of the Human Rights Alliance in Uzbekistan, Ms Elena Urlaeva was involuntarily detained in a psychiatric facility and mentally tortured. The purpose of her detention is assumed to be of preventing her from documenting forced labour during the 2016 cotton production cycle.

Since September 2016, authorities have released more than 50 people imprisoned on politically motivated charges, including rights activists, journalists, and opposition activists. However, forced labour in the cotton sector remains widespread. Public sector employees in small towns from across the country still complained of having to pick cotton or pay for someone to do it in their place.

Response by The State

Civil Society groups in both Uzbekistan and other European Nations have requested for the removal of State quotas and ensuring Uzbekistan’s commitments compliance with International Conventions on labour on a global level. Tashkent in response to global pressures has taken steps towards greater liberalisation and market reforms for sustainable rural development post-2016.

In May 2018, Mirziyoev’s government issued a decree aimed at completely ending forced labour. The hope is that the private sector will pay cotton-pickers, instead of simply forcing them into the fields. Anecdotal stories tell of entire farms not having received any type of payment—cash or in-kind—for several years. This is driving local Uzbek peasants cross the border into southern Kyrgyzstan and work illegally, exacerbating border tensions. Privatisation was introduced in the form of “clusters”. ILO recommends phasing out the role of Hokimiats, state institutions and enterprises in production, recruitment and related value chains. The private clusters must start involving social partners and local civil society to maximize social benefits for communities. Clusters, it was hoped, would invest in mechanization and water saving, which would further reduce the burden on manual labour. However, the shift would take time, so the demand for seasonal labour in cotton production and harvesting in the near future will remain high.

In March 2020 the President abolished the quota system for the cultivation and sale of cotton. The system was seen as the root cause of modern slavery in the country. Activists agreed that the move will allow farmers to exercise more agency in the choice of cash crop they can grow.

The Debate on Boycott

There are strong arguments both in favour and against the boycott on Uzbek cotton. On one side are the domestic and international NGOs and Civil Society Groups opposing the lifting the boycott. On the other side are the government officials rallying for lifting the boycott basing their arguments on the ILO (2019) report and reforms took since 2016.

The argument in favour of rolling back the boycott is based on employment and revenue generation, especially in desperate times of a pandemic. The Uzbek government estimates that it can quickly generate much-needed jobs and let the country earn an extra $1 billion this year alone by selling cotton and textiles on Western markets. The export volumes could double year-on-year. The Tashkent government says that nearly 7,000 companies in cotton-related industries employ more than 200,000 workers, whose incomes support 1 million people in the country. An estimated 150,000 people in the country have already lost their jobs. The government is in desperate need of foreign direct investment as it stated to open up its economy after years of tyranny under their former leader.

The Uzbek-German Forum on Human Rights, meanwhile, agreed there’s been progress. However, forced labour continues to be a significant problem for adults, and a network of government agencies, state-owned enterprises, and other informal organizations continues to perpetuate the issue. The international coalition of a rights group called, the Cotton Campaign, had been lobbying endlessly with the government and Multi-national companies said, it was too early to lift a boycott of Uzbek cotton despite Tashkent’s progress in eradicating forced labour and its request to take the global recession into account. Corporate responsibility of 300 brands backing the pledge to boycott has demanded “greater assurance” given their zero-tolerance policies on forced labour. The International Labour Organisation’s finding that more than 100,000 people were in forced labour during Uzbekistan’s 2019 cotton harvest, have left them unconvinced of Tashkent’s proposition.

Cotton Campaign coordinator, Allison Gill has said that Uzbekistan still has a long way to go in empowering civil society, including registering independent nongovernmental organizations and creating space for workers to organize independently. A free and vibrant climate for civil society groups promotes transparency and accountability essential to create responsible investment in the economy.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

U.S. Department of State

More information about Uzbekistan is available on the Uzbekistan Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


The United States established diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan in 1992 following its independence from the Soviet Union. Since then, the United States and Uzbekistan have developed a broad-based relationship, cooperating in such areas as border and regional security programs, economic relations, political and civil society issues, and English language training. Uzbekistan is important to U.S. interests in ensuring stability, prosperity, and security in the broader Central Asian region, and the U.S. has provided security assistance to the country to further these goals. Regional threats include illegal narcotics, trafficking in persons, terrorism, and extremism. Uzbekistan is a key partner supporting international efforts in Afghanistan, primarily through provision of electricity, development of rail infrastructure connecting Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and support to the Northern Distribution Network logistics system serving North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. Assistance to Uzbekistan

U.S. assistance goals are to improve livelihoods of citizens through support for the agricultural sector, address the threats of infectious disease and transnational crime, increase citizen input into government decision-making, and aid the government&rsquos efforts to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. A fact sheet on U.S. assistance to Uzbekistan can be found here.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Uzbekistan's economy was historically based primarily on agriculture and natural resource extraction. While the country remains a major producer of energy and minerals, with uranium one of Uzbekistan's largest exports to the United States, manufacturing has grown in recent years and now accounts for approximately one quarter of GDP, surpassing agriculture. Uzbekistan has signed a trade and investment framework agreement with the United States and other Central Asian countries establishing a regional forum to discuss ways to improve investment climates and expand trade within Central Asia.

Uzbekistan's Membership in International Organizations

Uzbekistan and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Uzbekistan is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Partnership for Peace and an observer to the World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan is Pamela Spratlen other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Uzbekistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 1746 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036 tel.: (202) 887-5300.

More information about Uzbekistan is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Tybee Island commemorates Civil Rights history with official unveiling of wade-in markers

&ldquoWhen you come across the bridge to Tybee Island and stick your feet in the sand, you know you&rsquore in a place where it was desegregated before the civil rights was passed," said Edna Jackson, former Savannah mayor and civil rights activist.

Jackson is referring to the explosive summers of 1960 to 1963, where young African Americans risked their lives to wade in the waters of Tybee Island beach in defiance of Jim Crow laws. It was these wade-ins that led to the eventual desegregation of the formerly whites-only beach eight months before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

More than five decades later, Jackson, who participated in the wade in as a 15-year-old girl is celebrating the first physical memorial of that history.

Two markers, a wooden panel commemorating the historical wade-ins and another documenting recent efforts at racial justice, were installed in early March between the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Fort Screven.

The markers are the result of the combined efforts of Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization and the Tybee Island Historical Society to pay tribute to the largely uncharted history of Black life on the island.

To bring awareness to both past and present struggles, Tybee MLK along with the city, hosted an unveiling ceremony Wednesday night replete with local leaders, activists and storytellers to officially celebrate the installation of those markers, a crucial first step in the uncovering of that untold history.

&ldquoContinue the work that you are doing because the struggle is not over,&rdquo said Jackson, echoing the main sentiment of that evening.

Among the speakers was Attorney Chad Mance, president of the Savannah branch of the NAACP, who called attention to the age-old idea that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.

&ldquoIf we don&rsquot remember it, if we don&rsquot commemorate it and we don&rsquot celebrate, if we don't allow it to unite us. it will certainly invite us and it will haunt us because a less favorable history will repeat itself,&rdquo said Mance.

Accordingly, the rest of the evening was filled with colorful and emotional recollections of the past. Vaughnette Goode-Walker, executive director of the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, led the crowd in song, with lyrics echoing &ldquowade in the water,&rdquo sung by the first wade-in protestors on their way to Tybee Island on August 17, 1960, not knowing what lay ahead of them.

Allen Lewis, researcher for the wade-in panels and vice president of the Tybee Island Historical Society, recounted the violent clashes happening across the nation at the height of the Civil Rights Era &mdash a bloody wade-in with over 125 demonstrators in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1960 fiery uprisings on Savannah&rsquos Broughton Street in 1963 an attempt by Alabama Gov. George Wallace to block Black students at the University of Alabama, and the murder of Medgar Evans in Jackson, Mississippi, by the White Citizen&rsquos Council, in which a guilty verdict was never delivered that same summer.

Jamal Touré, a historian of the Gullah-Geechee people, punctuated the evening with a poetic performance recalling the ancestral history of the first Africans who were brought to the Georgia coast to be enslaved. However, unexpectedly, he offers a moment of cultural respite, referring to Tybee Island as a place of liberty.

&ldquoDuring the Civil War, Fort Pulaski was a safe haven and Tybee Island was a safe haven for Africans in Chatham County because it was under the control of the Union Army,&rdquo said Touré, noting that there&rsquos power in remembering moments of freedom.

In the present day, that freedom is still being fought for.

&ldquoWe have struggles too because there&rsquos still hate, ignorance, indifference and apathy out there,&rdquo said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

Tybee has taken steps to promote racial equity in the past years with the creation of a racial equity ordinance in city council that established several initiatives, such as dedicating additional physical markers to Black history, conducting an annual review of the city&rsquos arrest and sentencing data, and making Juneteenth an annual city holiday.

While moving in the right direction, some still point out more needs to be done.

Recently, Orange Crush, an annual unlicensed beach party attended mostly by Black college students moved their celebration from Tybee Island to Jacksonville, Florida, after decades of a contentious relationship with the island.

Some, including Julia Pearce, founder of Tybee MLK, recognize that old ideas and systems are hard to unmoor and break down.

While the city of Savannah is about 53% Black, Tybee Island is about 2% Black.

&ldquoThe remnants of that still exist today and that&rsquos what we&rsquore fighting against, and how do we fight an idea?&rdquo asked Pearce, &ldquoBy doing the work and telling the truth.&rdquo

She said she&rsquos looking forward while remembering the past. The organization has several projects in the works including creating a memorial for Lazaretto Bridge, where Africans were first brought to &ldquoquarantine&rdquo and documenting the life of the Black community that existed on Tybee Island during segregation.

The effort is already paying off. Connie Williams, who just moved to Chatham County from Indiana, said she&rsquos doing her own personal documentation of Black history.

&ldquoI really was kind of excited to see [this] because these things are not written in the books,&rdquo Williams said. &ldquoI think everyone should know the struggles that people had, not just in Alabama and places like that, but also on islands like this.&rdquo

Watch the video: Human Rights Defenders in Uzbekistan


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