State of emergency in Uzbekistan Autonomous Region after demonstrations

In Uzbekistan, a state of emergency has been declared in the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakia, following street protests that began on Friday and grew over the weekend over the weekend.

The rare demonstrations in the western region were directed against President Mirzijoyev‘s plans to introduce a new constitution, in which Karakalpakia’s autonomous status is no longer guaranteed. Many Karakalpakians live in the region, an ethnic minority with a language significantly different from Uzbek.

Since 1993, the region has been constitutionally an autonomous republic, with the right to separate from Uzbekistan if a majority of the population votes in a referendum. This autonomy was no longer included in the plans for a new constitution. President Mirzijoev has now said that he is withdrawing that part of his proposal. He paid a visit to Karakalpakia on Saturday.

Wounded

According to the Uzbek authorities, the demonstrations ended in violence as campaigners tried to storm government buildings in the regional capital of Nukoes, after which riot police broke them apart. Whether it was injured is unknown, but social media shares many images from the region showing wounded campaigners and blood on the streets.

The regional police do say that the organizers of the demonstrations have been arrested, as did campaigners who oppose the police.

Reformer

Since taking office in 2016, President Mirzijyev has presented himself as a reformer, a very different leader than the dictator Karimov, who held the former Soviet country in an iron grip for decades. Under Mirzijyev, the country opened its borders economically to the outside world.

He also stresses that โ€œfree civil societyโ€ is important, with guaranteed civil rights for all Uzbeks. Human rights organizations say residents are still victims of police brutality and judicial arbitrariness.

The new constitution, on which a referendum should be held sometime in the coming months, contains more guarantees of civil rights, according to the president. At the same time, the new law also allows him to stay in power longer. Mirzijoyev was re-elected last year and should leave after the current term, but under the new constitution, he can remain president for another two terms.