Uzbekistan: An Activist’s Desperate Plea from Tashkent
In an email to supporters, journalists and friends, one of Uzbekistan’s few human rights activists, Elena Urlaeva, is pleading for help from Tashkent’s unrelenting attacks on herself and most recently, her family.
Urlaeva, a leader of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, writes that authorities are now trying to turn her husband against her to force her to stop her human rights work. In the past, Urlaeva says authorities have attempted to place her adopted son into foster care, and have threatened to commit Urlaeva to a psychiatric hospital – a Soviet-era method of silencing critics that has continued under President Islam Karimov.
In the March 13 email, Urlaeva recounts how on March 12 she returned home from attempting to lead a small protest march to Karimov’s residence, which was blocked by police, to find her husband, Mansur Mashurov, furious.
Urlaeva writes that a police officer had repeatedly called Mashurov, telling him that his wife was breaking the law and instructing him to evict her for holding “illegal human rights activities” in his home.
In an emotional email, Urlaeva recounts how over the course of two days, March 12 and 13, her husband, under what Urlaeva believes is the authorities’ influence, threatened both herself and their seven-year-old adopted son. In detail, Urlaeva describes how she, as well as her friends and neighbors, tried to contact local police to come to her aid, and how the authorities continually ignored her calls for help. Urlaeva believes the authorities are encouraging her husband to act in such a way. She writes:
I believe the government of Uzbekistan has purposefully created this situation my husband and I are in. No one comes to the defense of the child; no one comes to the defense of the human rights activist. In the past year, Mansur has skipped many days of work, and the administration purposefully encourages him to drink. No one notices that Mansur is being pressured into drunkenness and hooliganism, and that through him, the government wants to take care of me and create the right conditions to do away with a human rights activist.
Urlaeva has been repeatedly detained for her work inside Uzbekistan. Last August she said she had been beaten by police in Namangan, where she was protesting the treatment of local journalists. Urlaeva was briefly sent to a psychiatric hospital in 2005, but has been confirmed sane by independent Russian doctors. Authorities will decide whether to commit her again at a hearing in May.