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Karakalpak victims of transnational repressions. Who are they?

Tleubike Yuldasheva is a Karakalpak activist who has been engaged in human rights activism since at least 2013. In 2019 in Nukus, on Freedom Square, Yuldasheva and another Karakalpak activist Perizat Begzhanova, with their children, tried to hold a peaceful protest over the lack of support for poor families, single mothers and unemployment benefits. The women held up posters that read: “We are going on a hunger strike”, “Stop persecuting us in your own country”, “Women’s Committee – no!”, “Respect the Constitution of Karakalpakstan”. Her activism resulted in persecution,torture, physical and sexual assault by law enforcement officers, leading her to flee the country in October 2019. In October 2021, during a press conference at the office of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, held in Almaty, Tleubike Yuldasheva said that in 2019 she was raped by the employees of the special services of Uzbekistan. To confirm this, the activist showed photographs and screenshots of videos from the scene of the rape, which security forces sent her with threats to make them public if she did not stop her activities. Yuldasheva stated that the employees of the special services of Uzbekistan blackmailed her with these photos and videos of the sexual assault to keep her silent. Yuldasheva fled Uzbekistan in 2019 and settled in Kazakhstan.

In Kazakhstan Yuldasheva continued her human rights activism, participating in conferences and rallies. After protests on 1-2 July 2022 Uzbekistan charged her under Article 159(4) “Encroachments on the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, Article 244(3) “Mass riots” and Article 244¹(3) paras “a, g” “Production, storage, distribution or demonstration of materials containing a threat to public safety and public order” of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan. Tleubike was found guilty and sentenced  in absentiato 8,5 years in prison.  The government of Uzbekistan issued a warrant for Yuldasheva’s arrest and requested her extradition from Kazakhstan. On November 13, 2022, she was detained at the Zhaysan checkpoint in the Aktobe region. Despite seeking release to Russia, the Kazakh border guards, citing her inclusion in the interstate wanted list, detained her. Subsequently, the court extended her arrest until November 13, 2023. She was released from prison on November 13, 2023. Extradition request of Uzbekistan hasn’t been fulfilled due to her asylum application. On November 28, 2023 Migration service of Kazakhstan denied her asylum application.

Mirmanbetova Ziuar is a Karakalpak activist. She migrated to Kazakhstan as a worker in 2001. Since 2016, Ziuar was an activist in the Karakalpak diaspora. Threats from the National Security Service of Uzbekistan commenced in 2019, prompting a meeting where Ziuar was coerced to cease all actions related to the Karakalpak diaspora. However, she later spoke openly about the harassment of Karakalpaks and the persecution of activists by Uzbek authorities through social networks. During a visit to see her parents in Nukus in 2021, Mirmanbetova was illegally detained without charges and held in a police department basement from December 27, 2021 to January 7, 2022. She endured torture, threats, and blackmail. Upon release, she was brought to her parents’ house, with police forbidding calling an ambulance. Ziuar managed to travel to Kazakhstan only in February, escorted by police officers at the border, who threatened her and demanded to halt any activism about Karakalpakstan. Despite threats, Ziuar continued her activism, even holding a press conference at the Human Rights Bureau in Kazakhstan with other Karakalpak activists. Following the protests on July 1-2, 2022, Ziuar Mirmanbetova was charged under Article Article 159(4) “Encroachments on the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, Article 244(3) “Mass riots” and Article 244¹(3) paras “a, g” “Production, storage, distribution or demonstration of materials containing a threat to public safety and public order”. Ziuar was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Ziuar remained in detention center-18 in Almaty for 12 months due to an extradition request from Uzbekistan, while her asylum application was under consideration. Although extradition was not carried out, on October 6, 2023, the Migration Service of Kazakhstan refused to grant her a refugee status. Attempts to leave Kazakhstan for a third country with Tleubike Yuldasheva were not successful since they were stopped due to an extradition request. On 1 December 2023 the Administrative court of Almaty city denied her appeal against the decision of Migration service of Kazakhstan on refugee status.

Raisa Khudaibergenova is a Karakalpak activist, who permanently resides in Kazakhstan and works as a cardiologist. On September 16, 2022, she was detained on an extradition request from Uzbekistan, facing charges under Article 159 for “Encroachments on the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan”. Raisa was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 3 years in penal colony. She was accused of allegedly being on the territory of Karakalpakstan during protests in Nukus on July 2 of this year and, and in a state of alcoholic intoxication, posting materials on YouTube calling for an unconstitutional change in the state system of Uzbekistan. In reality, she never left Kazakhstan and was at work – as a cardiologist she was receiving patients on that day. On 20.10.2022, she registered as an asylum seeker in Kazakhstan, but on 6.10.2023, her application was denied by the Migration Service of Kazakhstan.

Koshkarbai Toremuratov is a Karakalpak civil rights activist who permanently resided in Kazakhstan until 2023 and was vocal about the human rights abuses, discrimination, and Karakalpakstan’s independence from Uzbekistan for years. Toremuratov is an ethnic Karakalpak and a citizen of Uzbekistan. In 2013, after living in Kazakhstan for seven years, Koshkarbai Toremuratov, together with other Karakalpak migrants, started the website Karakalpak.info, advocating for Karakalpakstan independence from Uzbekistan. After Toremuratov began his activism, Uzbek authorities visited his family in Karakalpakstan, threatening and pressuring him through his relatives. In 2014, Toremuratov went home to his mother’s funeral and was immediately arrested by police under article 223 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan: “Illegal travel abroad or illegal entry into the Republic of Uzbekistan”. Uzbekistan had a law which was widely criticised by international human rights organizations according to which Uzbek citizens were obligated to apply for exit visas without which they could not leave the country. The court gave him a maximum sentence of 6 years in prison despite that there was proof that Toremuratov did not violate any rules. Toremuratov’s appeals to the court decision in higher instances were denied. He spent 3,5 years in prison and was released in 2018 on parole after the death of the first president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov. Koshkarbai stated that while in detention he was tortured and severely injured. However, his claims regarding torture were left without consideration. After release, he went back to Kazakhstan and started a YouTube channel, “PIKIR,” in 2020, where he discussed prison conditions, political repression, and oppression of Karakalpaks. His channel had 20,000 followers with an average of 150,000 views. In 2022 Toremuratov openly criticized the proposed amendments to Uzbekistan’s Constitution, in which Uzbek authorities removed the provision regarding the sovereignty of Karakalpakstan and the right to secede from Uzbekistan. The criminal case against him was initiated in 2022 after Karakalpakstan’s July protests because he reposted a video 8 posted in 2020 in which several people protested for independence in the main square of Nukus, Karakalpakstan’s capital city. The video does not contain any call to violence or mass riots. However, in August 2022, Uzbek authorities brought the following charges against Toremuratov, article 159 Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, “Encroachments on the constitutional system of the Republic Uzbekistan,” and Article 244¹ Criminal Code of Uzbekistan,“Production, distribution and demonstration of materials containing threats to public safety and public order”. Koshkarbai was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 5 years and one months in prison. On 13 September 2022, he was arrested by Kazakhstan’s police on an extradition request from Uzbekistan and spent 12 months in a detention center while the migration department considered his asylum request in Kazakhstan. On 27 July 2023, Toremuratov’s asylum request in Kazakhstan was denied without providing any grounds for refusal. Toremuratov was released and in October 2023, he came to Warsaw, Poland, to participate in the OSCE Human Dimension Conference. During the conference Toremuratov made a presentation about Uzbek authorities’ excessive use of force against the protesters in July 2022 in Karakalpakstan and violation of rights of political prisoners. During the event he was threatened by Uzbek authorities and decided to seek asylum in Europe.

Djaksymbetov Jangeldi is a Karakalpak activist. He is a prominent activist who advocates for human rights in Karakalpakstan and is actively involved as a member of the Karakalpak diaspora in Kazakhstan. Due to his advocacy, Djaksymbetov is facing charges by Uzbek authorities under Article 156(3) para “d” “Incitement of discord”, Article 159(4) for “Encroachments on the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, Article 244(2) “Public calls for mass riots” and Article 244/1 for “Production, distribution, and demonstration of materials containing threats to public safety and public order.” Jangeldi was convicted on the above charges in absentia and sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison. On September 13, 2022, he was detained on an extradition request from Uzbekistan, spending 12 months in the detention center before being released on September 13, 2022. His asylum application was denied. Dzhaksymbetov is currently appealing the decision of the migration service without success. His persistent pursuit of asylum underscores the challenges faced by activists in advocating for their cause.

Aqylbek Muratov, also known as Muratbai, is a Karakalpak blogger and activist dedicated to shedding light on the human rights abuses perpetrated by Uzbekistani authorities against the people of Karakalpakstan. Muratov committed his efforts to raise awareness about peaceful protests advocating for independence in Karakalpakstan in July 2022 which were met with military suppression by Uzbek forces. Facing increasing repression from Uzbek authorities, Muratov has been a vocal advocate for the Karakalpak diaspora in Kazakhstan (resided permanently in Kazakhstan) and has provided extensive support to activists and dissidents who have fled persecution in Uzbekistan. In response to plans to remove provisions on Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty from Uzbekistan’s constitution during the 2022 constitutional reform, Muratov and other Karakalpak activists initiated public discussions and peaceful gatherings to defend their rights. Operating within restrictive legal frameworks in both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Muratov has tirelessly advocated for the rights of persecuted Karakalpaks, including those unlawfully imprisoned or falsely accused of extremist activities. However, his activism has not gone unnoticed by authorities. Muratov faces charges for sharing a video of activist Koshkarbai Toremuratov’s (see above) speech at the October 2023 Warsaw Human Dimension Conference  and for promoting an online memorial event commemorating the five hundred days after the Nukus events of July 2022 in  by turning off the lights for 16 minutes, representing the number of years in prison given to Karakalpak HRD and lawyer Dauletmurat Tajimuratov  by an Uzbek court. Uzbekistan has labeled these actions as a “public call for mass unrest and violence,” leading to Muratov’s arrest. Aqylbek was detained on February 15th by a joint operation involving Uzbek and Kazakh security forces in Kazakhstan within the extradition request of Uzbekistan. At the moment, Aqylbek is in Almaty’s pre-trial detention center number 18. His detention was prolonged until 15 February 2025 while his asylum application is under consideration by Kazakh authorities. There is no available Uzbekistan’s court decision on Aqylbek but based on the Uzbekistan’s extradition request he is charged under Articles 244(2) “Mass riots”, and “Production, distribution and demonstration of materials containing threats to public safety and public order” under Article 244¹(2) para “g” of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code

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