Uzbekistan. Newly elected President Shavkat Mirziyoyev
showed some signs during the year of wanting to soften the
iron-hard rule of his representative and open up the country
and its economy more to the outside world.
In January, the traditional mass protest for prisoners
was issued, but some political prisoners were also released
under the new president. In February, journalist Muhammad
Bekjanov was released after 18 years in prison. Bekjanov
testified about torture with broken bones, lost hearing and
isolation so difficult that he forgot his children's name.
He said international support kept him alive, among other
things, he was awarded Reporters Without Borders Freedom
Award during prison time.
Countryaah.com, the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, resumed in March the cooperation with
Uzbekistan that was broken under the previous regime. The
EBRD wants to promote market economy and support small and
medium-sized businesses, municipal services and more. The
return of the EBRD was a victory for President Mirziyoyev's
line to modernize the Uzbek economy, which retained much of
the Soviet unity.
In April, regular air services between Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan resumed after a 25-year hiatus. The relationship
between the two neighboring countries has long been poor,
with disputes over, among other things, water resources, but
President Mirziyoyev has seen to improve it.
During the summer, a recording of President Mirziyoyev's
harsh criticism of his staff leaked, including Deputy Prime
Minister Rustam Azimov, an ally of the former president.
Shortly thereafter, Azimov was moved from his post, a sign
that Mirziyoyev strengthened his position of power.
In July it was announced that former President and
dictator Islam Karimov's daughter Gulnara Karimova is being
investigated for a series of crimes. Prosecutors confirmed
that she has been held in custody since a verdict in 2015.
She is suspected of money laundering and having received
billions of dollars from, among others, TeliaSonera. In
Sweden, three Telia executives were prosecuted during the
year for gross bribery in Uzbekistan, where the company
received business benefits and made profits by paying bribes
In August, it became possible for Uzbekistanis to travel
internationally without having to seek special permission, a
change that facilitates migrant workers in particular.
When state radio and TV at President Mirziyoyev's call
departed from his uncritical reporting on power, the
critical issues became so numerous that Prime Minister
Abdulla Aripov had enough. The newly appointed head of TV
and radio was laid off in August.
President Mirziyoyev announced in September that some
16,000 people have been removed from the authorities' list
of suspected or potentially suspected terrorists threatening
state security. About 1,000 people were left. According to
human rights groups, the list has been used to silence
dissidents and freeze them from society. The President
promised that the restorers will get work. One of those who
were deleted from the regime's black list was the writer and
regime critic Nurulloh Muhammad Raufkhon. He therefore
returned from exile in September in hopes of being able to
operate freely, but he was arrested at the airport and
charged with propaganda against the government.
To attract foreign investors, the government implemented
a currency reform in September. The currency sum was allowed
to float freely, which led to a 50 percent devaluation.
Foreign currency restrictions were also removed.
In September, the president reformed the government and
replaced the Minister of Defense, who was close to former
President Karimov. Thus, Mirziyoyev had relocated all strong
men from the Karimov era except the head of the State
At a visit to Kyrgyzstan in September, President
Mirziyoyev promised that Uzbekistan would be involved in
financing a major hydropower project, which had previously
been a conflict issue between the two neighboring countries.
The government announced in September that students,
teachers and health care workers will no longer be forced to
work with the cotton crop. The regime has previously
received harsh international criticism for thousands of
people risking losing their place of study or employment if
they refused. Students should study, Prime Minister Aripov
said when announcing the decision.
In October, several political prisoners were released,
including the well-known human rights activist Azam
Farmonov. At the same time, a writer was arrested in an
opposition newspaper accused of calling on the government to
The terrorist attack in Stockholm in April, which killed
five people, was carried out by a Uzbek citizen. Also at the
terrorist attack in New York in October, with eight
casualties, was the perpetrator from Uzbekistan.
Oppositionists in Uzbekistan believe that the dictatorship's
repression has driven extremism among regime opponents, who
cannot work in Uzbekistan and have gone into exile.