Prosecutors in Uzbekistan have reacted swiftly to the indignation generated by footage that surfaced online showing a local official assaulting heads of schools for failing to organize sufficiently elaborate celebrations for Independence Day.
In the footage, a man identified as the mayor of Saikhunabad district, in the Syrdarya region, Nosir Egamberdiyev, is seen lining up school principals to give them dressings down one by one. At multiple turns, he deals powerful blows to the men’s shoulders, and in at least one instance, he repeatedly slaps one principal in the face. All the principals submit to the maltreatment without complaint.
“Is the independence of the state not your independence too?” Egamberdiyev is hearing shouting. “Is this not a holiday for you?”
The video initially appeared on the news website Kun.kz, but quickly went viral.
As the website explains, celebrations for Independence Day, which are normally held on September 1, were shifted to August 25 in Saikhunabad district. And then it was subsequently pushed back to two days later.
Celebrations for these kinds of events typically involve the participation of schoolchildren, but the mix-up in dates appears to have caught principals unprepared. For that, Egamberdiyev was rapped on the knuckles by his superior. He in turn decided to take out his frustration on his underlings.
The General Prosecutor’s Office is now looking to investigate these events, Podbrobno.uz reported, citing an anonymous source in the body. Particular attention is being paid to the case in view of the public outrage it has generated.
Speaking to Radio Free Europe’s Uzbek service, Radio Ozodlik, a principal at a school in the Saikhunabad district said this was pretty typical behavior for Egamberdiyev, who was appointed to this post in October. Teachers, health workers and farmers have likewise been victims of his robust physical abuse, the station’s informant said.
The example of assaulting underlings has long come from the very highest office in the land. The late President Islam Karimov, for instance, routinely chewed out ministers and is also known to have punched and thrown heavy objects at some of his minions. Everybody from regional governors down to district-level functionaries could be on the receiving end of the treatment.
Veteran journalist Ulugbek Haidarov said that when he worked in the Jizzakh region, he regularly saw and heard about similar instance of assaults on farmers by local officials. Victims would never file complaints with the police for fear of incurring even more abuse.
“Most likely they will fire Egamberdiyev, but no legal measures will be taken. We have never seen it happen in Uzbekistan that an official is fired and then jailed for beating his underlings. The general understanding is that he beat and swore in the ‘interests of the state,’” Haidarov told EurasiaNet.org.
Indeed, the one character missing from the story is the higher-up who purportedly berated Egamberdiyev in the first place, sparking the chain of events. Mildly punishing people low in the pecking order does little to change mindsets unless a positive example is set.