The (unregistered) Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (HRAU) has reported, “On February 26, 2013, an activist of HRAU, Larisa Gregoryev and her 16 year-old son, Gregory Gregoryev, embarked on a hunger strike in protest against an outrage by the law-enforcement authorities of Uzbekistan. Policemen have tortured them, brought them to unfair criminal and administrative liability; kidnapped Gregory; and are not opening a criminal cases against the people that have committed all those crimes. The hunger strike will take place in the Gregoryevs’ apartment, in Tashkent.”
According to another message by the HRAU, “On March 1, an activist Zuleikha Yangurazov demanding the return of her apartment, joined the Gregoryevs. In 2006, by illegal order of the khokim [the head of local administration], a resident of Khorezm City have moved in her apartment, and the prosecutor’s office doesn’t wish to evict him.”
Later, Elena Urlayeva, the leader of the HRAU, reported that “On March 12, Rakhbarhon Adylov from Kokand City began a hunger strike. She layed down on a bench with a sign concerning the unjust courts, by the Supreme Court building in Tashkent,. However, the police took her away outside of Tashkent. ”
According to information published on the human rights websites, “For several years a resident of Tashkent, Larisa Gregoryev has been complaining to the police about a brothel near her residence. No action was taken, however, and the persecution of Gregoryev started. In August 2012, police broke down the door and rushed into the apartment of Larisa. She was taken in handcuffs to the police station, where she had teeth knocked out and some hair pulled out. Then the judge condemned Larisa three days in prison for “resistance to police.” Physical violence towards Larisa was proven through forensic examinations, but prosecutors have not yet filed the criminal case against the two policemen who were beating Larisa.
In September, Larisa was offered a reconciliation with those policemen. Larisa has not only refused, but rather joined the human rights defenders of the Alliance and started to protect people who have been detained by the police and the rights of children illegally working on the cotton fields. Larisa made an address to all Uzbek national authorities, as well as the ICRC and the Children’s Fund UNICEF. The pressure has increased on Larisa, as well as her son Gregory. Police arrested him and accused him of stealing a mobile phone, although Gregory said that he found the phone in the park. Policemen put handcuffs on the teenager and began kicking him in the head and the body, after which Gregory was hospitalized with a concussion and bruises all over his body.
One evening at the end of September, when Gregory again was home alone, unidentified men entered into their apartment. They hit Gregory on the head and gave him an intravenous injection.
Once again, in January 2013, unknown men entered into theirapartment. Gregory was alone and was kidnapped and taken to a secret children’s prison. There were about fifty children, mostly ethnic Russians. Reports say that they had nothing to sleep on, that they slept sitting on the freezing concrete floor. They said were hungry and they were given only a little bit of bread to eat each day. Three days later, Gregory and two other teenagers climbed over the barbed wire fence at the prison and escaped.
Almost every day, when Larisa and her son are not home, people trespass into their apartment. They steal documents and personal things, but police do not take action. Police and the security services themselves organize theft, kidnap and secretly keep children, and they use tortures and beatings. they are not responsible for their crimes, because prosecutors cover them from liability, despite the complaints of Gregoryev. Human rights activists of the Alliance sent a message to the UN Committee on Human Rights. ”
Larisa Gregoryev talkedabout their hunger strike and some details of the endured persecution:
“Gregory starved from 26 February to 4 March, and then I made him stop the hunger strike. I tried to starve as long as I can. In the morning on March 12, I finished the hunger strike, during which I was very weak. I was almost falling down from weakness. With the hunger strike, I was trying to bring the policemen who tortured my son to justice. While I was on the hunger strike, the authorities did not take any action against the police. Instead, unknown people were constantly calling our phone and using foul language and threatening us with death. We think that this was the law enforcement agencies or people hired by them.
“After the police had beaten me, last year, they offered me a ‘reconciliation; with them, but without any compensation for my harm. I refused, and in five days my child was beaten and detained in the police station. He was accused under article 169 of the Criminal Code for theft. Then I had to drive him to the hospital, where he stayed for a week. Shortly thereafter, in our apartment my son was hit on his head and given a shot. Overall, he had been unconcious from 9 pm to 5 am, eight hours. I took him to the Division of Toxicology, but they refused to determine what the substance entered into his vein. They just said that my son was “poisoned by unknown substances.”
“During the next attack, policemen opened the door in our apartment with their own key, entered and took my son to a children’s prison, where he was beaten and not fed for three days, until he ran away from there. My son showed me where this prison is, and who had beaten him, there, but those people did not admit it. Officially, that facility is a detention center for adults. I wrote a statement to all authorities and seven complaints to the President, but still I could not bring any criminal case. No one seeks criminals. I have a burning question about this children’s prison, because there are fifty other children, there. Some of them are there for over a year. I could leave the country, but that means to leave those children and that I do not see a task until the end.
-“At the end of February, I was, finally able to read the materials of the court case against my son, and I saw that his signatures were forged. The supposedly-stolen mobile phone owner was confused in his testimony. The guilt of my son has not been proven, at all. In spite of this, on March 5, the court found him guilty of theft, but immediately pardoned him. It’s important that my son didn’t plead guilty, even under torture. Gregory is a very strong person, it’s in our blood because we’re the Don Cossacks, but all these trials affect his health and ability to learn. He is, generally, a very gifted student. He graduated from the English middle school, and entered a vocational high school with a very high score. Now, though, Gregory was forced to drop out,- I cannot release him from the apartment alone. Every day when we go out, searches and missing things continue in the apartment. And even at night when we sleep, they come into our apartment. I’m afraid that my son will be kidnapped again. Also, we are constantly being watched on the street, as well as before the hunger strike.”
According to the HRAU, “The mother of five children, Zuleikha Yangurazov, has been deprived of her housing in Tashkent district by illegal order, issued by khokim to a resident of Khorezm City, Ilkhom Khozhanov. Using this order he invaded Yangurazov’s appartment and has been living in it for eight years. During all these years, Yangurazov has been seeking that the prosecutor’s office and the court return her housing. There have been 15 lawsuits between Yangurazov and Khodzhanov about the apartment. Zuleikha got several protests of prosecutors, who found that the order that was issued to Khodzhanov was illegal. In 2011, the judge made a decision to evict Khodzhanov and move in Yangurazov, but a higher court illegally took Khodzhanov’s appeal and in 2012, the judge of the court allowed it .In short, judges ‘stretch time’ and cover the perpetrator, who gave bribes to the judges.”
It should be emphasized that in September 2010 Ferghana reported that “Yangurazov decided to commit suicide. She joined the picket of defenders, which was held in Tashkent near the presidential administration building. She said that she had come in order to burn herself in protest against government inaction. Activists were trying to convince her not to do that, but with no effect. To prevent suicide police brought the woman in the building, set an appointment with the assistant of the president and assured that ‘all her problems will be solved.’
Apparently, though, the promises have not been fulfilled, since Yangurazovoy now had to resort to a hunger strike. Attempts to contact Yangurazov have not met with success.
Urlayeva said that “On March 6, Yangurazov had an appointment with the public defender Sayera Rashidov, and the results of that meeteng are unknown to her. In general, Yangurazov was exhausted by the hunger strike and desperate.”
The story of harassment of the Adylovs has been covered by many Uzbek opposition web-sites and some human rights activists. In 2012, in one of her open letters to the international community, Rakhbarhon wrote, “I am already seventy years old, my family lived in the city of Kokand, three of my children have got higher education, but since 2003 we have come under pressure from the authorities. When I was sixty-three, I was arrested, and for several years I was imprisoned on trumped-up charges. My daughter Muhayo Adylova has been illegally arrested, raped, tortured, her nose was broken and her hair was pulled out, and even after serving her prison sentence, policemen are searching for her again. My son Nazhot had also been tortured and for some years he has been in prison, as well as my daughter Heroda. My husband and my elderly mother died from stress. While we all were in prison, our housing has passed to other people, and after our release, we wander from friend to friend and ask to stay over night. Lawyers could not achieve neither acquittals, nor return home.”
In 2011, in her letter to the president of Uzbekistan, Rakhbarhon wrote, “My children and I have worked a long time for the people, none of us had ever been convicted before. I was a successful entrepreneur, the owner of a chain of stores. My son worked as an engineer. Muhayo, my daughter, worked in a kindergarten as a psychologist. She married a wealthy Pakistani, who presented her an apartment and jewelry. My daughter Heroda worked as a technologist in a Kokand meat factory, where she became a head of one of the departments. In 2001, a new director of the factory, Ibrahim Tadzhibayev, started to plunder property of the enterprise, and a conflict appeared between him and Heroda. Tadzhibayev turned out to be a very powerful man, with connections in, both the criminal world and with the police. Later on,Shukur Ruzmatov, an Interior Ministry official who once wooed Muhayo and was very offended by her refusal, intervened in the conflict. As a result of his criminal conspiracy, our family was devastated, and my three children and I received various sentences for crimes that we have not committed. Tell me, how could a wealthy family, leading a decent life, and for a few years be arrested and imprisoned for crimes such as robbery, fraud, extortion and protection rackets?
“In 2006, before condemning my daughter Muhayo, police humiliated her in many ways. As a result, she became pregnant, and when she was brought to a women’s colony, where she had a miscarriage and almost died. Now she is a sick person and cannot have children. She has stayed for two and a half years in the women’s prison, where she has been working as a seamstress, and during this time, she received about 30 certificates of honor from the prison authorities. Now again, without real reason, but on the testimony of brothel owners and crooks, a new criminal case has been brought against my daughter, and police want to throw her in prison. At the same time, the Kokand civil courtis delaying the return of our apartment, ignoring the decision of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan. The apartment was illegally obtained by three crooks as a ‘thank you’ for their slander against us during the investigations and court hearings.”
According to the HRAU, “On August 30, 2012 at a reception in the building of General Prosecutor of Uzbekistan, Rakhbarhon attempted suicide, as prosecutors had brought her to the point of suicide. Children and citizens in the waiting room prevented the suicide, and doctors from ambulance rendered medical aid. ”
Rakhbarhon said, “I am sick with cancer and therefore constantly taking medications. I must not starve, but nothing else is left to do. I was approached by the police that called over the phone for reinforcements. They began to insult me and oust me from the courthouse where I am hunger striking now. Then, they took me by my arms, put me in their car and drove me out of the city, where they dropped me off. I had to walk back to the courtbuilding and this is very far away. I intend to starve until those who illegally put us in prison and tortured us are punished, and until we get back our stolen property. ”
In Uzbekistan, there have been other cases of hunger strikes by activists, in the past. The most famous was, in June/July 2011, by the two female TV journalists, Malokhat Eshankulov and Sahodat Amonov. They were protesting against the suppression of freedom of speech in the country, theft in the Uzbek State TV-Radio company and their illegal dismissal. Earlier, they were suing the administration of the TV channel for their dismissal, but in May 2011 the District Court made a decision in favor of the TV channel. The journalists wanted to meet with President Karimov, but on June 27, the Day of the Media in Uzbekistan, they were arrested outside the presidential residence. The court fined them $ 1,500 “for holding an unauthorized protest.” The journalists started a hunger strike, at home. Later, the 17 year-old daughter of Eshankulov joined the strike.
The official response of the authorities did not follow, but the starving received calls and e-mails with insults and threats of imminent death. At the same time, they have been supported and visited by many human rights activists. The hunger strike has affected their health: they have received diagnoses of “first degree hypertension ” and “tachycardia. ” When the two women needed medical aid, the secret services agents came in the ambulance van, instead of doctors. They threatened the women and advised them to change their profession or leave the country to Russia or Europe. Amonov had been on a hunger strike for the 16th day when she was forcibly hospitalized. Eshankulov continued to starve with her daughter. To our knowledge, this protest has not changed the status of the censorship and theft, and did not lead to the restoration of the journalists at work, that is, not one of the goals of the hunger strike was achieved.
In 2009, another case of the journalist’ strike occurred, when a 36-year-old independent Tajik journalist, Shukhrat Shodiev, had been detained in Uzbekistan.
Asia-Plus reported that “The journalist was taken off the train at the Tajik border post between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on suspicion of importing weapons and banned literature to Uzbekistan. Shodiev has been placed into a closed military unit, but after he went on hunger strike and demanded a meeting with Tajik consul, he was released from custody. However, all his papers have been taken away from the journalist, and he has been moved to the city of Nukus, the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. ”
Prominent Uzbek politologist, Tashpulat Yuldashev, currently residing in Missouri, expressed his opinion about the hunger strikes.
“By a hunger strike, they will achieve nothing. Remember, Amonov and Eshankulov have been starving nearly 20 days, they were severely exhausted so that they were barely able to move, and then they have been strongly advised to stop their strike. If the Uzbek government was civilized, it would pay attention to the hunger strike on the very first day, just like, for example, in Russia. But in Uzbekistan, the power does not react to this kind of thing, at all. If the media is silent, the authorities believe that this man was crazy. The media can only encourage the authorities to enter the position of these women, because publication would attract international attention. They can also try to seek public defenders Sayera Rashidov and Akmal Saidov. Elena Urlayeva could help to connect them to those public defenders. However, Rashidov almost does not resolve questions, but only soothes people, inspires them with hope for a solution to their problem. So the main hope for the women is only the media.”
“It is difficult to expect that the police will be punished because the government itself is hiring such cruel, ruthless men to serve in the police. And if you meet the requirements of one of the citizen to punish perpetrators of torture, then people will start to complain about the mass accounts of torture.
“ As for the detained journalist Shodiev, whose strike action helped him to get free from the jail, we see a slightly different case. He’s a journalist, an educated person, he knows how to talk to the police. Our power is afraid of journalists. Besides, he is a citizen of another country. We must also take into account that the Tajik intelligentsia is much more active than Uzbek. His colleagues would raise a lot of noise. Our authorities are afraid to put pressure on those with whom they might have problems. And Gregoryev, Yangurazov and Adylov are not such people, which the public can hear, if the media wouldn’t publish their stories. These women do not know how to protect themselves. Unfortunately, they do not, also, have money for a lawyer. Although lawyers in Uzbekistan do not decide anything, but they can, at least, give a competent interview. ”
Photograph courtesy of HRAU. “Aida Eizeman” is the pseudonym of this journalist, who sent this to me as a biography. As such, it wouldn’t make much sense for her to have contact information available now, would it?