Staunton, March 8 – For the second time this year, residents of Karakalpakstan have taken to the streets to protest Tashkent’s economic policies which are leading to the introduction of more ethnic Uzbeks into their republic and to demand that their autonomy be respected or their demands for independence met.
Five days ago, in the Karakalpak city of Khodzheyli, residents assembled to protest Tashkent’s plans to privatize large swaths of agricultural land into the hands of a few owners and to allow them to bring in laborers from outside the republic to work it. Most of the migrants will be Uzbeks (asiaterra.info/news/v-karakalpakstane-snova-protesty-i-aresty).
The Karakalpaks believe that the economic reform is a cover for the forcible Uzbekization of their republic and are calling at a minimum for the restoration of the nationality line in their passports so that officials will be forced to take that into account (asiaterra.info/news/apparel-insider-zakhvat-zemel-novyj-serjoznaya-opasnost-dlya-khlopkovoj-otrasli-uzbekistana).
The protests last week occurred because of the arrival in Nukus of an Uzbek official overseeing the agricultural reforms. Republic officials said that residents would be able to ask him questions, but then when large numbers assembled, they shifted the time of his appearance in an effort to get them to disperse on their own.
The Karakalpaks did not disperse, and arrests of activists followed, not only in Nukus but in Khodzheyli, Chimbay, and Takhiatash as well, Videos show that the participants demanded the arrest of the Uzbek officials involved, greater respect for the Karakalpak people, and even independence for their republic.
This is the second Karakalpak protest so far this year. The first occurred on January 11 when Uzbek officials arrested two activists who were demanding independence for Karakalpakstan (asiaterra.info/news/v-karakalpakskom-gorode-khodzhejli-pokhishcheny-i-izbity-aktivisty-vystupayushchie-za-otdelenie-ot-uzbekistana).
Protest activity in Karakalpakstan has been growing as the republic has become more important economically not only because of agricultural development but the discovery of oil in what was once the bed of the Aral Sea, something that makes the republic far more important both to Tashkent and to Russia and Kazakhstan (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/will-new-oil-fields-in-aral-sea-basin.html).
In the face of this outside attention and the rising tide of Karakalpak activism, Tashkent has responded by installing an interior ministry general as head of the republic. Not surprisingly, he has adopted an even more repressive approach than his predecessor, raising the level of tension in Karakalpakstan (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/tashkent-installs-security-officer-as.html).For background on the Karakalpak movement and Uzbek repressions, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/crimean-anschluss-infectious-some.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/karakalpak-activists-charge-tashkent.html, 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