Uzbekistan. According to Countryaah, the regime’s repression against the opposition continued. Human trafficking, blackmail, embezzlement and rape were used as accusations in trials against activists. The President of the Bukhara Department of the only officially registered human rights group in Uzbekistan was sentenced to four years in prison, and according to Human Rights Watch on his report on how children are exploited in the cotton harvest. A 75-year-old human rights activist was sentenced to five years in prison, and a member of the Freedom Party was abused along with his wife after he was charged with rape.
The International Committee of the Red Cross announced in April that its inspections in Uzbek prisons would cease, as they were thought to be meaningless when they were not allowed to speak to prisoners privately without witnesses. According to a UN report at the end of the year, the use of torture was systematic.
Forced labor and child labor in the cotton harvest seemed to continue. According to the Ferghana news site, people who commit traffic offenses must pick cotton for a week to get their driver’s license back. International observers made checks on child labor, but nonetheless, foreign media reported that a six-year-old boy was suffocated under a cotton ball while sleeping. A journalist who reported on forced labor was sentenced in September to a short prison sentence, formally under another indictment. In October, it was reported that a man committed suicide when he did not manage to fill his quota in forced labor and had to stand in public.
It was reported that people left Uzbekistan to escape the pressure they are subjected to in forced labor. Emigration of labor is generally very extensive. During the year, estimates from economists revealed that over 33% of the workforce has emigrated. President Islam Karimov described the emigrants as a disgrace to the nation, but calculations said that the millions of Uzbek guest workers in the Russian Federation send home the equivalent of close to SEK 50 billion a year, a significant portion of the country’s income.
Dictator Karimov’s powerful daughter Gulnara Karimova ended the year in a power struggle that seemed to have links to TeliaSonera’s disputed business in Uzbekistan. Karimova was seen as a political power factor with aspirations to succeed his 75-year-old father, who according to rumors had failed health. But during the year, Karimova lost some power and privileges, which was assumed to be linked to an investigation in Switzerland on money laundering and an investigation in Sweden on bribery and serious money laundering within TeliaSonera. TeliaSonera was accused of paying billions to a Gibraltar registered mailbox company linked to Gulnara Karimova to obtain 3G license in Uzbekistan.
During the fall, Karimova’s TV and radio channels were closed, her media companies were suspected of financial crime, and employees were arrested. There were judges who said she was about to lose a fight for the future power in the country. In November came information that Karimova planned to go into exile.
In the fall, it was reported that children in some schools in Uzbekistan were denied school books if they were not simultaneously subscribed to state-run newspapers marketed in the schools. Uzbekistan’s mass media is tightly controlled, and Reporters Without Borders described the media environment as a nightmare for journalists.