Staunton, September 30 – Ten days ago at a meeting of the OSCE on the human dimension, Bakkhtiyar Nietullayev, a Karakalpak activist, said that Tashkent officials are forcibly and sometimes secretly sterilizing Karakalpak women, including his wife, in order to suppress the population of the autonomous republic (idelreal.org/a/30178922.html).
He called for international condemnation of the Uzbek authorities for genocide and the independence of Karakalpakistan from Uzbekistan, renewing a cause that has ebbed and flowed since the late 1980s. (For background on this movement, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/11/karakalpaks-appeal-to-putin-to-back.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/06/karakalpak-separatists-in-uzbekistan.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/11/window-on-eurasia-moscow-again-focusing.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/06/window-on-eurasia-tashkent-cracks-down.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/05/window-on-eurasia-some-karakalpaks-now.html, and windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2010/12/window-on-eurasia-karakalpak-separatism.html.)
Several years ago, there were widespread reports in the Western media that the Uzbek regime of Islam Karimov had been using forcible sterilization to cut the birthrate not only among the Karakalpaks but also among the Uzbeks (bbc.com/news/magazine-17612550 and theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/05/uzbek-separatist-movement-threatens-ancient-culture).
But with the passing of Karimov, most observers appeared to have decided that the new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev had ended this despicable practice in favor of “softer” methods of promoting assimilation. The new charges, however, raise questions about that and will certainly inflame opinion among the Karakalpaks and lead them to renew demands for independence.
According to the 1993 Uzbek constitution and related laws, the Karakalpaks had the right to conduct a referendum on independence within 20 years of that date. But Tashkent has refused to allow one and has used forcible methods to block the independence movement there given the economic importance of the western third of Uzbekistan.
For the last few years, the Karakalpak movement has been contained by the Tashkent authorities, but this new charge of genocide by sterilization seems certain to raise the political temperature in Nukus and create new problems for Tashkent.