The remains of a truck after riots in Nukus, capital of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, in Uzbekistan, July 3, 2022. KUN.UZ/VIA R
While on Monday, July 4th, the streets of Nukus, the capital of the Republic of Karakalpakstan south of the Aral Sea, seemed to have calmed down, the Uzbek government gave a first assessment of the demonstrations that took place there on July 1st and 2nd : 18 dead, 243 injured, 94 of them still in hospital. The names of the victims are not disclosed, nor is the circumstances of their deaths. During these two days of violence, more than 500 people were also arrested, including all leaders, journalists and human rights defenders.
The fire came suddenly in a country where opposition demonstrations are banned and where the 2005 Andijan massacre by security forces is still paralyzing civil society. On Friday July 1st, several thousand people flooded the streets of Noukus. Their anger was sparked by authoritarian President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s proposed changes to Uzbekistan’s constitution. And above all, through the article on the abolition of the autonomous republic’s right to secession by referendum.
The natives of this very poor republic, the Karakalpaks, are linguistically and culturally closer to the Kazakhs than to the Uzbeks. Its affiliation with Uzbekistan, decided by the Soviet authorities in 1936, led to recurring inter-ethnic tensions. Today, the 2 million inhabitants of Karakalpakstan (“the country of the black hat”) are divided roughly equally between Uzbeks, Karakalpaks and Kazakhs.
Also read articles reserved for our subscribers Thirty years after the fall of the USSR, the inseparable legacy of the Soviet borders in Central Asia
The riots began a little earlier, at the end of June, in several cities of this republic, which covers 40% of Uzbek territory. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the protests picked up steam on July 1, when influential journalist and human rights defender Dauletmurat Tajimuratov called for a rally “for the liberation of Karakalpakstan” in front of the Nukus Parliament on social networks. His immediate arrest by the police immediately swelled the mobilization and he was released in the evening.
An “internal question” for the Kremlin
The protest continues into the night while the central government sends riot police by plane to the scene. The next day, Saturday, the roads to Nukus are closed, as is internet access. According to authorities, police stations and prisons are being attacked, and weapons are being confiscated from demonstrators. But no independent source can confirm this. On the other hand, images from the Russian-language broadcaster Currenttime Asia — funded by the United States Congress — show bloody protesters at night and suggest the use of live ammunition by police.
You still have 55.18% of this article to read. The following is for subscribers only.