Uzbekistan: President, Public Reach Out Helping Hand to Fire Victims' Families
In a marked contrast with his predecessor, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed sorrow that so many Uzbeks are forced to migrate for work.
On the first day alone of a public charity drive to assist families of a bus fire in Kazakhstan that claimed lives of 52 citizens of Uzbekistan, around $7,500 were collected.
The campaign was started online by a resident of Tashkent, Khushnudbek Khudaiberdiyev, who said the plan is to raise $1,250 for each family. At the latest count, the amount collected was $13,750 overall.
Twenty-one of the fatalities were from one single district in the Namangan region, in the east of the country. Out of those, 10 were from one single neighborhood called Katta Kurama.
“The first impression is that the living conditions of the people killed is indeed not very good. They are living in absolute poverty,” said Khudaiberdiyev, a 29-year old lawyer.
Namangan authorities are providing some funds towards buying food and paying for burial costs for the families.
“One Namangan region village, Chindovul, lost eight people. As a result, 24 children are now without fathers,” Igor Reshetnikov, a reporter for a local newspaper, told Eurasianet.org.
In the days after the January 18, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered the payment of lump-sum benefits to families of all the victims. The size of the payout was not made public.
What was most striking, however, were the president’s moving and candid remarks about the underlying causes of the tragedy, make during a visit to the Surkhandarya region on January 20.
"It's not for nothing that they say that these people are going through torment and suffering in foreign countries. These poor people too, after all, have their hopes before God, to feed their children and bring some money back to their fathers… They were so young… And all of them from Uzbekistan. We are so deeply saddened,” Mirziyoyev said.
Even to acknowledge the tragedy at all marks a stark departure from the studied indifference preferred by his predecessor, Islam Karimov, who died in September 2016. Despite the considerable hardship endured by Uzbek expatriate laborers, Karimov was openly contemptuous of their efforts.
“Those people who go to Moscow to clean the streets are just lazybones. You just feel disgust when Uzbeks go there just to earn a crust of bread. Nobody is dying of hunger in Uzbekistan,” Karimov said in June 2013.
Mirziyoyev has steadily evolved from recognizing migration as a social phenomenon in the first place — which Karimov was disinclined to do — to identifying it as a potential evil whose necessity is causing suffering and emotional hardship. While lamentations alone will make no difference, the openness to transparency raises hope that relevant policymaking will increasingly be grounded in reality.