[Uzbekistan] loosening up, while everyone else is growing more authoritarianFrom: email@example.com
The Dictator's Handbook
Apr 02 2018 15:03:22
As Authoritarianism Spreads, Uzbekistan Goes the Other Way
The twists and turns in Mr. Abdullaev’s case point to what, 18 months
after the death of Uzbekistan’s longtime dictator, Islam Karimov, is
the central question hanging over efforts by new leadership to open up
one of the world’s most repressive countries: Can a brutal and once
all-powerful security apparatus with roots deep in the former Soviet
republic be transformed into a law enforcement agency?
The internet is still censored, albeit less than before, and fear of
the security service, known by its Russian-language acronym, S.N.B.,
remains widespread. It is still considered dangerous even to utter the
name of the security service in public.
A report on Uzbekistan released last week by Human Rights Watch
concluded that while repression had eased, the arrest of Mr. Abdullaev
and other journalists, along with the role of the S.N.B. in monitoring,
censoring and punishing publications that step out of line, still have
“a chilling effect” on free speech and “are standing in the way of
dismantling the country’s authoritarian system.”
But senior officials and even some of Uzbekistan’s harshest critics
insist that the country’s new leader, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is
serious about bucking a drift toward authoritarian rule around the
world — a trend evident in Cambodia, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey
and even in once-proudly democratic nations such as Hungary and Poland.
Uzbekistan’s neighbors in Central Asia, all authoritarian with the
exception of Kyrgyzstan, the smallest country in the region, show no
sign of loosening up. Kazakhstan, ruled by the same leader since
independence in 1991, still allows no real opposition, while Tajikistan
and Turkmenistan have grown more repressive.
In Uzbekistan over the past year, at least 27 jailed high-profile
dissidents, some of them held in prison for nearly two decades, have
been released and about 18,000 people who were judged disloyal by the
S.N.B. under Mr. Karimov have been removed from a blacklist that made
it impossible for them to travel or get work.