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Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights


Transnational repression carried out by the Uzbek authorities

Transnational repression carried out by the Uzbek authorities

The Erkin O'zbekiston (Free Uzbekistan) movement is an opposition movement to the current government of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The main goal of the movement is to come to power democratically and to build a secular, democratic state in Uzbekistan, taking into account national interests. The Erkin O'zbekiston movement is a recognised political movement that systematically participates in the work of the OSCE and other international organisations.

The doors of Uzbekistan remain closed even to the secular and democratic opposition. Hence, the headquarters of the Movement is located in the city of Düsseldorf (Germany).

Since the start of its political activities in autumn 2019, both inside and outside the country, the Erkin O'zbekiston movement (hereinafter - Movement) has been subjected to repression by the Uzbek authorities.


Distorting documented facts, on 18 October 2019, Uzbekistan's central state news agency uza.uz published (article in Uzbek) an extensive defamatory article about the Movement's founder Hasanboy Burhanov. Uza.uz is one of the largest news agencies not only in Uzbekistan but also in Central Asia.

At the end of 2019, Ismat Khushev, one of the voices of Uzbek propaganda who obtained political refugee status in Canada under false documents and then citizenship of this country, recorded several videos with threats and curses directed at Hasanboy Burhanov,(videos in Uzbek: 1; 2; 3.)

Ismat Khushev is close to both the Uzbek security services and to Uzbek mafia boss and Russian mafia affiliate Gafur Rakhimov. Rakhimov is one of the leaders of the transnational organised crime group “Brothers' Circle” and is under sanctions by the US Department of the Treasury (article in English).

In the period 2020-2022, the Agency for Information and Mass Communications under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan issued complaints to the YouTube administration about video content posted by the Erkin O'zbekiston movement on its channel. As a result, more than 20 videos with critical materials investigating the corrupt activities of President Mirziyoyev's family and a number of major officials of his regime were blocked.

In April 2020, operatives of Uzbekistan's State Security Service conducted preventive detentions of Burhanov's relatives, friends and supporters (article in Russian). People in civilian clothes, accompanied by armed men in camouflage uniforms, interrogated the detainees for several hours, forcing them on camera to say false and insulting words against Hasanboy Burhanov and repudiate him (video clip in Uzbek and Russian).

For fear of being repressed, Burhanov's relatives have not been in contact with him for a long time. Despite the fact that the security services of Uzbekistan are aware of this fact, they visit them on a monthly basis, demanding to force the founder of the Movement to return to Uzbekistan under any pretext.

On 2-3 January 2021, a woman who introduced herself as a relative of Shavkat Mirziyoyev called the Movement's WhatsApp number published on social networks and said that she would organise physical violence if Burhanov did not stop his political activities. One of these threats was recorded on a smartphone camera and published on social networks. Some time later, following a complaint by the Agency for Information and Mass Communications, the video was blocked on the YouTube platform, but it remained on the Facebook page (the video is in Uzbek).

In October 2021, a few days before Burhanov was to attend another OSCE event in Vienna, he received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as Roman. He said that he was an OSCE staff member at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna and wanted to talk about his criminal case. During the telephone conversation, the man, who identified himself as Roman, an OSCE staff member, asked Burkhanov leading questions in an attempt to get the answers he wanted from the Movement's founder. The Uzbek troll factory used this method to put Burhanov out of his psychological equilibrium before his participation in a major international political event (video in Russian).

On 21 October 2021, the Uzbek authorities sent a falsified image of Burhanov's severed head to one of the movement's messengers with the inscription "Death to traitors" (text in Uzbek).

At OSCE/ODIHR annual meetings and conferences, which Burhanov has regularly attended since 2018, the Uzbek delegation has organised a number of provocations against the Movement's founder using various government-organized non-governmental organisations (GONGOs).

On 2-3 May 2023, during Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's visit to Germany, Burhanov and a number of Uzbek activists living abroad organised protests in front of the German Chancellor's office and the Presidential Palace in Berlin. Mirziyoyev's critics were attempted to be blocked by about 10-15 masked, athletic men who had been brought in by the Uzbek authorities. They openly threatened Burhanov with physical violence and obstructed their protest in every possible way (video in Uzbek).

On 29 September 2023, while the first Central Asia-Germany summit was underway in Berlin, Burhanov organised a protest action against the pro-Russian policy of the Uzbek authorities. Since the security of the action was provided by German law enforcement agencies, the involved supporters of Mirziyoyev's regime were not able to create obstacles and move to aggressive actions. However, the Uzbek troll factory left a large number of negative comments with verbal insults, harassment, and threats under publications in social networks about the event.

The Mirziyoyev regime continues to persecute supporters of the Movement in Uzbekistan as well. They are summoned to law enforcement agencies and forced under threat of reprisals to refuse to participate in opposition activities and co-operate with the Movement. Uzbekistan's punitive authorities also persecute social media followers who comment, like or repost Movement publications. In late 2023, one subscriber was able to record a conversation with a police officer who demanded that she come to his office for an explanatory interview, all because of comments she had left under the Movement's social media posts (video in Uzbek).

For 2 months, starting from 12 January 2024, all of the social network accounts associated with Erkin O'zbekiston were under massive attack from bots and trolls of the Uzbek troll factory. Under each post, the trolls left numerous comments containing threats of physical violence, insulting remarks, including those related to disability, and derogatory language (video in Uzbek). They created more than a dozen clone accounts of Erkin O'zbekiston and Hasanboy Burhanov on Facebook, YouTube and Telegram, as a result of which inappropriate comments associated with their names appear under popular publications. All this is aimed at forming a negative public image of the Movement and its founder.

The Movement's website is blocked in Uzbekistan. Due to numerous complaints from the Uzbek troll factory, the Erkin O'zbekiston Facebook page is under constant threat of being deleted.

When visiting democratic countries, Uzbek officials and officials claim that Uzbek citizens have barrier-free opportunities to participate in the political life of the state. The GONGOs and propaganda voices of the Mirziyoyev regime, participating in international human rights events, confirm the official position of the Uzbek authorities, thus legitimising the authoritarian regime of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. In reality, there are no independent political opponents of the authorities in Uzbekistan, no free media, no place for alternative opinions and free expression of the will of the people.

The political opposition movement Erkin O'zbekiston strongly condemns the practice of intimidation and transnational repression used by the Mirziyoyev regime abroad against its political opponents.

We call on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the OSCE, the leaders of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other interested States to include the issue of transnational repression by the Uzbek authorities on the agenda of negotiations at their next meetings with the leadership of Uzbekistan.

Without creating problems and without setting any conditions, the Uzbek authorities should ensure the safe return of the political opposition movement Erkin O'zbekiston to its homeland to participate in the socio-political life of the country, i.e. to take part in parliamentary and presidential elections.

Press service of the political opposition movement Erkin O'zbekiston

Düsseldorf, Germany.

April 14th 2024

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