Uzbekistan’s Good Crisis
Since taking power in 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has brought considerable positive change to his country, promoting regional cooperation, improving media freedom, and much more. But the government’s response to the recent violent upheaval in Karakalpakstan may be the most promising development yet.
BISHKEK – Earlier this summer, protests erupted in Uzbekistan’s autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan after the government announced plans to strip the region of its constitutional status. Viewing the move as a blow to their identity, the people of Karakalpakstan, especially ethnic Karakalpaks, took to the streets and clashed with the police and security forces, leaving 18 dead and 243 injured, including 38 law-enforcement officers.
The episode was both horrific and a notable improvement from 2005, when Uzbek government forces killed hundreds of unarmed protesters in the city of Andijan. (The official death toll was 189, but witnesses say the real figure is much higher.) Not only were there far fewer casualties this time around; Uzbek authorities were quick to share sensitive details of the event.
Moreover, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev swiftly agreed to the protesters’ demands, declaring that Karakalpakstan would retain its autonomous status. This brought the unrest to a rapid end. In fact, Mirziyoyev lifted the month-long state of emergency he declared on July 2 after less than three weeks.