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    Unrest in Uzbekistan: 6 Month Outlook (JULY 2022)

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    Last week, violence protests erupted in Uzbekistans restive Karakalpakstan region. The central government attempted to amend provisions of the constitution which provide a right of secession to the autonomous region. Uzbek security forces moved to disperse the demonstrations, killing 18 and wounding several hundred [source]. The separatist government of Karakalpakstan claims that the true number of killed and injured is far higher than the official toll [source]. It also rejects the government’s accusation that protesters were violent and under the influence of narcotics [source]. Historical mistreatment by the central government and the ecological catastrophe left in the wake of the Aral Sea’s disappearance is aggravating tensions in Karakalpakstan [source].

    KJ-1: It is highly likely that Uzbek security forces will successfully suppress pro-secessionist forces in Karakalpakstan in the next 6 months. 

    • The demonstrations which erupted in the regional capital of Nukus compelled the central government to scrap the plans to curtail the regions autonomy [source]. 
    • The government accuses unspecified foreign elements of backing the protesters as well as providing them with narcotics [source].   
    • Even after President Mirziyoyev announced the suspension of the government’s plans, protests continued [source].
    • Troops were deployed to Nukus and are now patrolling the streets of the regional capital. Uzbek security forces arrested over 500 people [source]. 
    • President Mirziyoyev announced a month-long state of emergency. These military curfews have largely pacified the situation in Nukus [source].

    KJ-2: It is unlikely that the central government will reintroduce plans to curtail the region’s autonomy in the next 6 months. 

    • In an attempt to quell the unrest, authorities released a prominent Karakalpak journalist from detention. He was subsequently rearrested [source]. 
    • Russia is unwilling to deploy peacekeeping forces to Uzbekistan as it did in Kazakhstan in 2021 [source].
    • The Kremlin regards the unrest in Karakalpakstan as an internal issue of Uzbekistan [source]. 
    • Uzbekistan is not a member of the CSTO and consequently has to rely on its security services to maintain order [source]. 
    • President Mirziyoyev sacked key governments officials he deems responsible for sparking the unrest with unpredictable and aggressive policies at the regional level [source].
    • Moreover, Uzbekistan is mounting a sustained public relations campaign targeting US Republican Congressmen [source].

    KJ-3: It is unlikely that pro-secessionist forces in Karakalpakstan will carry out significant political activity in Karakalpakstan in the next 6 months.

    • As late as 2015, the leader of the Karakalpak ‘government in exile’, Aman Sagidullaev, was in Kyrgyzstan [source]. 
    • The separatist government largely relocated to Norway from Kyrgyzstan in 2019 [source]. 
    • This was due to the improvement of relationships between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan after the death of Islam Karimov [source]. 
    • Kyrgyzstan cooperates with Tashkent on arresting and deporting Uzbek political dissidents and journalists [source]. 
    • Karakalpaks were generally integrated into the regional and central political structures in the last decade [source], [source]. 
    • Moreover, intervention from the security services has minimized clashes between disparate ethnic groups [source], [source]. 
    • As such, separatism does not enjoy universal support in Karakalpakstan [source]. 
    • Support for separatism seems to be divided along generational lines [source].

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: July 21, 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University.

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