Area: 448,978 sq km
Date of independence: September 1, 1991
Large ethnic minority: Uzbek (81 %), Russian (5 %) and Tajik (4 %)
Religion: Islam (90% of population)
The territory of present-day Uzbekistan was conquered by Russia in the late 19th century. Resistance to Red Army was eventually suppressed after the Revolution in 1917 and Uzbek Socialist republic established in 1924. Uzbekistan was the main producer of cotton in the Soviet Union with dramatic consequences for environment depleting water supplies, which have left the land and Aral Sea degraded and dried certain rivers. After receiving its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan managed to slightly diversify its economy and lessened its dependence on the cotton monoculture. Until recently the country was ruled by Islam Karimov, who remained loyal to the concepts of a command economy and totalitarian rule and left behind a legacy of repression, slavery and kleptocracy. The major challenge that Uzbekistan faces now is appointment of a new president upon whom will depend the regional stability and security.
According to Human Rights Watch, Uzbekistan’s human rights record is atrocious. Torture is endemic in the criminal justice system. Muslims and Christians who practice their religion outside strict state controls are persecuted and freedom of expression is severely limited. The government forces more than two millions adults to harvest cotton under abusive conditions. Uzbekistan has a lower score than Saudi Arabia in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index and a worse score in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Moreover, Uzbekistan also found itself among the 17 worst countries internationally for religious freedom, per the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, was one of only two post-Soviet countries in the top 15 globally for the total number of journalists jailed. And according to Freedom House, Uzbekistan was not only one of ten nations labeled as the “Worst of the Worst” in 2015, but has received the worst possible score every year since 2006.
Women in Uzbekistan are denied their fundamental right to be free from violence. Current legal, economic, and social structures prevent women from receiving appropriate services for domestic violence crimes. There is a lack of understanding of the phenomenon of domestic violence on the part of the Uzbek legal system, and that is why it fails to respond appropriately. Inappropriate prosecution of domestic violence and failure to provide state support for organizations that offer aid to victims, the Uzbek government did not follow its obligations as a member of the United Nations and is not in accord with international human rights law.
LGBT+ community is subjected to severe discrimination and homophobia. Consensual sexual relations between men are criminalized, with a maximum prison sentence of three years. It is often reported that police use blackmail and extortion against gay men, threatening to out or imprison them.
Uzbek authorities continue to crackdown on civil society activists, opposition members, and journalists. Justice for the 2005 Andijan massacre is still denied by authorities that shot and killed hundreds of protesters. Non-governmental organizations in Uzbekistan face notorious registration requirements and legal restrictions. Organizations are forced to join a government-controlled umbrella group, the National Association of Nongovernmental Noncommercial Organizations. All organizations are required to register with the government, but new groups are allowed to operate for six months while registration is pending. NGOs are required to submit quarterly reports to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) describing their activities and face the threat of closure if they fail to do so. In January 2007, Karimov enacted legislation that identified NGOs’ rights, permitting activities that are in accordance with their charters and are not prohibited by law.