Uzbekistan: President Visits Infamous Psychiatric Clinic
The president of Uzbekistan bust another taboo this week with a visit to a psychiatric clinic in Tashkent that has at times been used to incarcerate activists and journalists.
The secretive facility is regularly mentioned in the reports of local and international rights activists. So it was a surprise when on June 26, at the close of the holy month of Ramadan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev decided to drop in to check on renovation works.
Uzbekistan’s First Channel featured the visit in its evening bulletin, making for the first time most people had likely seen the inside of a building known popularly by the name “psikhushka,” or madhouse.
“Have the mayor, the minister or his deputies ever visited this hospital, which is right in the middle of the city? Have they seen the conditions here? Immaterial of what conditions patients kept here may suffer from, they are still our citizens and we should care properly for them. We must create the best possible conditions for the sick,” Mirziyoyev said in televised remarks.
Mirziyoyev called for including the renovation of old medical facilities and the building of new ones into broader state investment programs. He also called for increasing the living standards of healthcare workers and to provide them with suitable housing.
In observance of the end of Ramadan, Mirziyoyev handed out gifts to patients, including televisions, fridges and clothes.
Head doctor Hairullo Husanhodjayev told state television that this was the first time the psychiatric had received such a visit in its 120 years since inception.
The institute enjoys a grim reputation, having served at times as a site for so-called punitive psychiatry. The most recent subject of this sinister Soviet-devised form of repression was famed rights activist Yelena Urlaeva, who was sectioned there in March. Urlaeva had been due to meet with representatives of the World Bank to debrief them about the use of forced labor in the cotton fields. Despite the protests of her international peers, Urlaeva was kept at the clinic against her will for 24 days.
Another victim of the same policy was Jamshid Karimov — a critic of the government and the nephew of the late President Islam Karimov. He was held for many years in a psychiatric clinic in the city of Samarkand but was finally released in March.