Aman Sagidullaev fled Uzbekistan with his family in the summer of 2011. He had called for a referendum on independence for his native Karakalpakstan region in the country’s northwest. Apparently in response, Uzbek prosecutors charged him with embezzlement. After traveling to Russia, then to Kazakhstan, Sagidullaev has spent the last two years trying to obtain asylum in Kyrgyzstan.
He does not feel very welcome.
Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal political system of the Central Asia’s five states, and generally is the most open to refugees, but activists and critics charge that Bishkek has a history of bowing to political pressure from its more powerful neighbors, including Uzbekistan and China, sometimes colluding to deport refugees who face imminent torture upon their return home.
Sagidullaev asserts that Kyrgyz authorities rejected his asylum request “because they didn’t want to spoil relations with Uzbekistan.”
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Timur Toktonaliev is a Bishkek-based reporter.