Uzbekistan: Devout Muslims Targeted in Sweeps
A rights group in Uzbekistan has reported that police have over the past week been raiding the homes of families known for their devout Islamic beliefs.
Surat Ikramov, head of the Tashkent-based Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders, said in a statement on Facebook on November 20 that 79 people from Tashkent and districts surrounding the city were detained and that all but seven were later released.
Ikramov earlier cited some of the people taken in custody as saying that they were questioned about the whereabouts of a criminal suspect called Guzal Tohtahodzhayeva, who has been wanted since 2008 on suspicion of belonging to an extremist religious group and conspiring to overthrow the government.
The sweep represents something of a reversal on a recent softening in the official stance against communities of perceived devout Muslims, who have often been included in blacklists of potential radicals.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced in September that the government had removed 16,000 names from the list of 17,000 suspected extremists. He previously asserted that the rehabilitations would constitute a vital measure in helping reintegrate those that had “strayed from the right path.”
The Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders said that all the people detained had been on the blacklist.
There has been no official confirmation of the sweep reported by Ikramov.
According to accounts provided to the rights activist, searches of people’s homes were carried out by officers from the Interior Ministry antiterrorism unit. The policemen told the households that they had warrants to conduct the search but declined to provide copies of the documents, Ikramov said.
One man, 23-year old Nasrulloh Azgamov, claims to have been beaten while in police custody. Ikramov said Azgamov’s father, Faizulla, has been in prison since 2001 on “religious grounds.” Faizulla Azgamov’s brother, Shukrullo, who was also jailed for similar reasons, died in 2006 after enduring severe abuse, the activist said.
Ikramov said in his latest update that detentions are still ongoing.