The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Uzbekistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2019


#equality #freedom #human_rights #politics #tolerance #uzbekistan

Republic of Uzbekistan

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Land Area 425 400km21
Population28.1m (2011)2
Life Expectancy69.40yrs (2017)3
GNI$5 748 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesUZ, UZB, 8605
Internet Domain.uz6
CurrencySom (UZS)7

Uzbekistan is very poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world, and it has cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Uzbekistan does better than average in opposing gender inequality9. But unfortunately Uzbekistan gets most other things wrong. It does worse than average in commentary from Human Rights Watch10, eliminating modern slavery11, its Global Peace Index rating12, its nominal commitment to Human Rights13 and in LGBT equality14. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in supporting press freedom15 and in fighting corruption16. Since the death of President Islam Karimov, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev "has taken some steps to improve the country´s abysmal human rights record, such as releasing some political prisoners, relaxing certain restrictions on free expression, removing citizens from the security services´ notorious “black list,” and increasing accountability of government institutions to the citizenry", instigating a cautious "sense of hope" amongst some17, that Uzbekistan may start to climb out of its abusive human rights abyss. For the first time in 7 years, a Human Rights Watch delegation was permitted to visit in 201717.

1. Politics and Freedom

#burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #mass_media #peace #politics #slavery #Uzbekistan

In the year-and-a-half since Uzbekistan´s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev assumed power following the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, he has taken some steps to improve the country´s abysmal human rights record, such as releasing some political prisoners, relaxing certain restrictions on free expression, removing citizens from the security services´ notorious “black list,” and increasing accountability of government institutions to the citizenry.

These moves, coupled with Tashkent´s efforts to improve ties with its Central Asian neighbors, have contributed to a sense of hope in Uzbekistan about the possibility for change not witnessed in many years.

At the same time, Uzbek security services brought fresh charges against journalists [and] it is far from clear if Uzbekistan´s still-authoritarian government will follow up the modest steps it has taken thus far with institutional change and sustainable human rights improvements. Grave rights violations such as torture, politically motivated imprisonment, and forced labor in the cotton fields remain widespread. [...]

Thousands of individuals imprisoned on politically motivated charges remain behind bars and many have experienced torture or ill-treatment. [...]

Uzbekistan´s Federation of Trade Unions... despite its title is governed mainly by representatives from governmentand employers, not workers.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

Corruption (2012-2016)16
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score16
2New Zealand90.6
172S. Sudan13.8
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)12
Pos.Lower is better12
2New Zealand1.24
110El Salvador2.22
World Avg2.02
Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)10
Pos.Higher is better
96Bosnia & Herzegovina-6
World Avg-1.9

Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)13
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
126Sri Lanka13
World Avg15.1

Press Freedom (2013)15
Pos.Lower is better15
161Sri Lanka5659
162Saudi Arabia5688
165Equatorial Guinea6720
World Avg3249

The media is highly controlled, although in 2017 some small elements of independent criticism of the previous President (Karimov) were aired, and one or two stations "have acquired a reputation for more critical reporting, and thegovernment indicated it would invite the BBC´s Uzbek service to base a correspondent in Tashkent"17.

On September 27, Uzbek security services detained Bobomurod Abdullaev, an independent journalist, in Tashkent, for “attempts to overthrow the constitutional regime.” He has been denied meaningful access to a lawyer, nor has his family been granted access, and he faces up to 20 years in prison.

On the same day, police also detained Nurullo Muhummad Raufkhon, an Uzbek author, at Tashkent airport, after he arrived from Turkey following two years of exile. He was charged with extremism for his book Bu Kunlar (These Days), which criticizes Karimov. He was released on October 1, but still faces charges. On October 20, security services arrested another journalist, Hayot Nasreddinov, on extremism charges.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

Slavery (2018)11
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims11
98Sierra Leone0.50
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory18. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends19. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life20. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves21.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery22. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity23. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.24. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi11, Eritrea11, Indonesia25) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery26.

Uzbekistan does poorly in protecting the vulnerable from forced labour. The nominal efforts that it does are often undermined by a failure to follow-through with checks that anti-slavery measures are being effective.

Workers stay at a former school in a village in Tashkent region, hours from their hometown. The building is dilapidated, cold and ruined. They sleep on the floor and eat breakfast in the former gym having been forcibly mobilized to pick cotton. Forced labour has been a regular feature of cotton harvests in post-Soviet Uzbekistan. However, in mid-September 2017, the Uzbek President referred to ending forced labour in a speech to the United Nations and the government recalled school children and state workers from the fields. While this is great progress, implementation needs to be supported and carefully monitored. NGO monitors revealed that even as workers are being brought back from the fields, some local officials are extorting funds from businesses and individuals to pay for "replacement" workers. Activists trying to monitor the situation also report being threatened and harassed.

"Global Slavery Index" by Walk Free Foundation (2018)27

Forced labor in Uzbekistan´s cotton sector in 2017 remained systematic, both during the spring weeding season and the fall cotton harvest. The government issued a public decree prohibiting the forced mobilization of public sector workers, including teachers, medical personnel, and students into the cotton fields in August, and re-iterated the ban in September, which resulted in many forced laborers returning to their homes and places of work and study. However, various authorities continued to mobilize public sector workers and students to pick cotton on threat of punishment or loss of employment, despite the public decree. In various regions, such as Bukhara, public sector workers were forced to sign forms that they would “voluntarily” pick cotton [or] to conceal their actual professions. [...]

Global corporations have engaged closely on the issue of forced labor in Uzbekistan´s cotton sector, with over 300 companies, as of June, pledging not to knowingly source Uzbek cotton in their supply chains until the government endsforced labor.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)17

2. Gender Equality

#gender #misogyny #politics #Uzbekistan #women

Gender Inequality (2015)9
Pos.Lower is better9
World Avg0.36

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

Year Women Can Vote28
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
43Myanmar (Burma)1935
46Dominican Rep.1942
World Avg1930

Uzbekistan is on the way towards ending gender inequality but women are still in an unfavourable position much of the time.


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance #Uzbekistan

LGBT Equality (2017)14
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence29. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws30. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries29. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

This trouble country also goes to the effort to needlessly criminalize homosexuality between men, filling prisons with convictions of up to three years17 for consensual and private behaviour that ought not be the state's business.

4. Uzbekistan Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Uzbekistan

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
70Bosnia & Herzegovina55.9
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion


"Uzbekistan maintains some of the world´s most restrictive policies on the exercise of worship or belief"17 and sociologists Grim & Finke place Uzbekistan into the worst category, along with just 13 other countries32. It is dangerous for religious folk to congregate even in private; in 2017 April for example, "four Protestant men were sentenced to short prison terms on charges of meeting for worship in ahome"17.

Current edition: 2019 Jan 01
Parent page: Uzbekistan (Republic of Uzbekistan)

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#burundi #corruption #equality #eritrea #france #freedom #gender #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #intolerance #mass_media #misogyny #peace #politics #sexuality #slavery #tolerance #uzbekistan #women

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References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

Grim & Finke. Dr Grim is senior researcher in religion and world affairs at the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C, USA. Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
(2011) The Price of Freedom Denied. Subtitled: "Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century". Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Cambridge University Press, UK. An e-book.

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on


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  29. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p278.^
  30. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p289. According to a 1992 ruling of the Human Rights Committee, which declared that 'it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of privacy' when discussing Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See Human Rights Committee, Communication 488/1992, paragraph 8.2.^
  31. "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" by Vexen Crabtree (2019)^
  32. Grim & Finke (2011). Chapter 5 "A Closer Look China, India, and Iran" digital location 3560.^

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