Authorities in Uzbekistan have reportedly removed more than 4,000 people from blacklists of people suspected of radical Islamist affiliations following an extensive outreach exercise.
The move marks the latest chapter in the efforts to normalize relations between the state and the religiously devout that have been in train since the ascent to power of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Anybody included in such lists were required to report to the police once a month and inform them of their activities. They were also not permitted to leave their region of residence without informing the authorities.
The extremist label has been broadly applied to suspected adherents of many groups, such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement.
RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, Radio Ozodlik, reported this week that another 5,000 people could qualify for the amnesty. Arguments in favor of rehabilitation were made by imams.
“Our imams made the case for 10,990 people. Of those, 4,152 are in the clear. Soon other Muslims … will be removed from the blacklist,” the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Uzbekistan said in a statement.
A former imam in the Kashkadarya region, Bobohon Hamdamov, told EurasiaNet.org that before people could apply for rehabilitation they were required to issue a statement of repentance and write a letter.
“People removed from blacklists can now work where they want and they will no longer have to go to the police station to give reports on their doings. They will be eligible for welfare benefits and they can visit public events in their region,” he said.
The rehabilitation exercise began in earnest in early June, when Mirziyoyev spoke during a visit to Andijan about the need for Muslims that had “gone astray” to be welcomed back into the fold of public life.
“There are people who have gone astray that want to return to normal life. We should make those people our friends and beckon them to spirituality,” Mirziyoyev said.
Later, on June 15, during a meeting with clerics and other religious officials, Mirziyoyev specifically addressed the blacklist issue, stating that working groups of 10 people apiece should be established in every district of the country to review each individual case. The groups included representatives from the police, the security services, the General Prosecutor’s Office, local government, neighborhood committees and mosques.