12 Rights Group Calls Uzbekistan Crackdown a Massacre 6/05 (non-gay background story)
29 May 2003 – Gay.com U.K.
Uzbek journalists face homosexuality charges
Three human rights journalists in Uzbekistan may be charged with the the "criminal offence" of homosexuality for what a leading international rights watchdog has claimed are politically motivated reasons.
The three men were detained on Monday, reports the Associated Press.
Ruslan Sharipov, a journalist who leads an independent civil rights group focusing on protecting media freedom, has already been charged with sex abuse and homosexuality. His colleagues Oleg Sarapulov and Azamat Mamankulov have been threatened with similar charges, but have not been formally charged. US organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that Sharipov’s history of writing critically about the Uzbek government’s policies and part harassment against him and his colleagues raised "strong suspicions" that the charges were politically motivated.
Elizabeth Andersen, the groups’ Europe and Central Asian division director, said: "That the authorities would charge him with committing homosexual acts, violating his fundamental rights to nondiscrimination and privacy, makes it doubly egregious." Sharipov had told an HRW representative, who had been allowed to visit him in custody, that police had threatened to rape him with a bottle and put a gas mask on him Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters without Borders, has written to Uzbek President Islam Karimov expressing their deep concerns about the arrests. The group’s secretary-general, Robert Menard, called the arrests "a new, sordid way to harass or get rid of critical journalists who have upset the authorities."
Homosexuality is not uncommon in Uzbekistan, but is still regarded as a social taboo. While it is a criminal offence, cases of criminal prosecution are rare.
August 1, 2003 – Advocate.com (glbt)
Uzbek journalist charged with sodomy demands new judge
An independent Uzbek journalist charged with sodomy has demanded that the judges at his closed trial be replaced, but the plea was rejected, gay rights activists said Thursday. Ruslan Sharipov demanded at a hearing Wednesday that the panel of judges considering his case be replaced because he said they had ignored complaints about alleged violations of legal proceedings, Sharipov’s public defender Surat Ikramov said in a statement.
The trial, which Sharipov says is politically motivated, began last week. Judge Ganisher Makhmudov also rejected defense lawyers’ plea Wednesday that the case be transferred to another court in the capital, Tashkent. Lawyers had argued that the Mirzo Ulugbek district court couldn’t provide a fair trial because Sharipov had criticized the district’s police and judicial agencies in news articles. Ikramov also protested that Sharipov’s alleged victims were being escorted by police to every hearing, saying it meant that they were under pressure from authorities.
Sharipov, 25, a journalist who leads an independent civil rights group that focuses on protecting media freedom, was arrested May 26 and accused of engaging in sex with another man, having sex with minors, and running a brothel. Sharipov, who is openly gay, could face up to three years in prison under a Soviet-era law banning sodomy that is still part of the Uzbek criminal code. If found guilty on the other charges, Sharipov could face another five years in jail.
August 11, 2003 – Advocate.com (glbt)
Uzbek journalist pleads guilty to sodomy charges
An Uzbek journalist charged with sodomy has pleaded guilty at his closed trial and dismissed his lawyers, according to rights activists who alleged Monday that his actions were the result of pressure from the authorities. Ruslan Sharipov said at a hearing Friday he was ready to admit his guilt on all charges and apologize to President Islam Karimov and other officials for criticizing them in his articles, according to Surat Ikramov, an activist who has been helping defend Sharipov in court.
Sharipov dismissed Ikramov and his lawyer, Ravil Gayazov, and also requested that his mother not be allowed to attend hearings. Sharipov earlier maintained his innocence and said the case against him was fabricated. The trial began July 16. Sharipov, 25, a journalist who leads an independent civil rights group that focuses on protecting media freedom, was arrested May 26 and accused of having sex with another man, having sex with minors, and running a brothel.
Sharipov, who is openly gay, faces up to three years in prison if convicted under a Soviet-era law banning sodomy that is still part of the Uzbek criminal code. If found guilty on the other charges, Sharipov could face another five years. International human rights groups have strongly protested Sharipov’s arrest, calling it politically motivated persecution.
A Human Rights Watch researcher in Uzbekistan, Matilda Bogner, said Monday that she believes authorities either tortured Sharipov or threatened him with torture to make him plead guilty. Sharipov said in earlier letters from prison that he had been under heavy psychological pressure. Ikramov said that Sharipov told his lawyers after Friday’s hearing that he had been forced to give up attempts to defend himself out of consideration for his own security and the security of his mother and lawyers.
August 13, 2003 – Associated Press
Gay Uzbek Journalist Convicted of Sodomy
Gay Journalist in Uzbekistan Convicted of Sodomy, Bringing Scorn From International Groups
Tashkent, Uzbekistan – An openly gay Uzbek journalist was found guilty of sodomy Wednesday in a trial that highlighted concerns about media freedoms and pressure against homosexuals in this tightly controlled Central Asian country. International human rights and press groups immediately condemned the conviction as politically motivated. A Tashkent district court convicted Ruslan Sharipov, 25, of having homosexual sex, having sex with minors and running a brothel and sentenced him to 5 1/2 years in jail, said Matilda Bogner, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, quoting Sharipov’s mother, Aza Sharipova.
Sharipov pleaded guilty and dismissed his lawyers at a hearing last week, after earlier maintaining that he was innocent and the case fabricated. His mother was the only outside observer allowed in the courtroom Wednesday when the judge announced the punishment. Court officials were not immediately reachable for further details. Uzbekistan’s human rights record has attracted more international attention since the country allowed U.S. troops to use a military base here.
The Uzbek government tolerates no dissent, and politically motivated prosecution of journalists is common. Sharipov, who leads an independent group that focuses on media freedom, has repeatedly been detained, beaten and questioned by police. His case has also brought to light the lesser-publicized issue of the rights of homosexuals. Bogner said the conviction showed that "justice isn’t served in Uzbekistan and the judiciary isn’t independent." The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission called for Sharipov’s immediate release and the dismissal of all charges against him. It said there was a serious danger that he was being mistreated in custody.
The group, based in San Francisco, said Sharipov had told those who had visited him in jail that he had been subjected to "continued and escalating beatings, threats of sexual violence and verbal abuse." The Paris-based media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, expressed deep concern over Sharipov’s case and demanded that the charges be dropped.
"Everything indicates that Sharipov was arrested on false and sordid pretenses designed to rid the authorities of a bothersome, dissident voice," the group’s secretary general, Robert Menard, said in a letter to Uzbek President Islam Karimov. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has also urged Sharipov’s release and raised concerns that he was tortured to confess. A U.N. envoy who visited Uzbekistan last year concluded that torture was systematic in the nation’s jails.
1 September 2003 – Gay.com U.K.
Four men beat Uzbek journalist’s lawyer
An Uzbek human rights activist trying to help jailed gay journalist Ruslan Sharipov was abducted and beaten after discussing Sharipov’s appeal with a judge on Thursday morning, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Surat Ikramov, of the Independent Group for Human Rights Defenders, was pulled from his car by four men in black masks who tied his arms and legs and put a plastic bag over his head.
The men beat Ikramov in the back of their car and tightened the plastic bag to restrict his air supply. They reportedly left him on the outskirts of Tashkent near the bank of the Chirchik River. He suffered two broken ribs and a concussion. Ikramov told HRW that he had received several threatening phone calls in the days preceding the attack. Ikramov has been working as a public defender for Sharipov, who was sentenced earlier this month to five-and-a-half years in prison for homosexuality and sex with minors.
Ikramov argued that the charges were trumped up and unfair, and he had organised a protest, which had been scheduled for Friday, HRW said. "The Uzbek government has a duty to investigate this brutal attack," said Rachel Denber, deputy director of HRW’s Europe and Central Asia division. "The international community should press the Uzbek government to ensure that the investigation is thorough and impartial, and should assess carefully the results of the investigation."
September 23, 2003 – Associated Press
Uzbek appeals court rejects plea for release on bail of gay journalist
by Burt Herman
Tashkent, Uzbekistan – An Uzbek appeals court rejected Tuesday a plea by a gay journalist to be freed on bail while his case is reconsidered, after his defense claimed pressure by authorities made it impossible to freely discuss the case in prison with their client. Ruslan Sharipov was sentenced last month to 5 1/2 years in jail for having homosexual sex, having sex with minors and running a brothel. He pleaded guilty and dismissed his lawyers at the trial after earlier maintaining that he was innocent and the case fabricated.
In a letter earlier this month to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sharipov wrote that he had been tortured in jail and coerced to plead guilty, and also was forced to write a suicide note declaring he had killed himself by his own choice. "I was clearly told that if I would write any further appeals or complaints, I would commit suicide, that is, I would ‘kill myself,"’ Sharipov wrote in the letter released by human rights activists.
Sharipov wrote that police chose forms of torture that wouldn’t leave marks on his body, such as placing a gas mask on his head and spraying an unknown substance inside that hindered breathing. He also said he was threatened he would be injected with the virus that causes AIDS. During a visit last year, the U.N. special envoy for torture found evidence of "systematic" torture in this Central Asian nation.
The Uzbek government has acknowledged individual cases but denied that torture is as widespread as the U.N. report claimed. On Tuesday, journalists and diplomats from the British, French, German and Dutch embassies were asked to leave the courtroom by Judge Shagiaz Sharakhmetov, who said the hearing at the Tashkent City Court was closed. Surat Ikramov, a human rights activist on Sharipov’s defense team, said they made the bail request because
Sharipov is suffering from tuberculosis and heart problems, as well as difficulties for lawyers to communicate with Sharipov because of pressure by prison authorities. After judges rejected the motion, the court heard testimony from three of Sharipov’s alleged underage victims, Ikramov said. Sharipov’s appeal continues Thursday.
September 25, 2003 – Associated Press
Uzbek Court Reduces Sentence in Gay Case
by Burt Herman
Tashkent, Uzbekistan – An Uzbek appeals court reduced the sentence Thursday of a gay journalist convicted of having homosexual sex to four years from 5 1/2 years in a case that has drawn international criticism from human rights groups. Ruslan Sharipov was convicted last month of having homosexual sex–illegal in Uzbekistan under laws still on the books from Soviet times –and also of having sex with minors and attracting minors to anti-social activity.
In a closed hearing, the Uzbek City Court removed the last charge against Sharipov and reduced his sentence, said Surat Ikramov, a human rights activist who is on Sharipov’s defense team. The journalist still plans to appeal his case to Uzbekistan’s high court, Ikramov said. At his trial, Sharipov maintained his innocence, but then abruptly pleaded guilty and dismissed his lawyers.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he alleged that he had been tortured into confessing his guilt and that police forced him to write a suicide note and threatened to kill him if he fought the charges. The U.N. torture envoy visited Uzbekistan last year after strong international pressure led by the United States, which has become a strategic partner of the Central Asian nation in the war in neighboring Afghanistan. The envoy found "systematic” evidence of torture in Uzbek prisons.
The Uzbek government is working on a response to the U.N. envoy and has acknowledged some cases of torture, but denied the problem is as widespread as the report claimed. The Sharipov case has drawn the attention of international media and human rights groups who say authorities brought the charges because of the journalist’s criticism of the government.
Ikramov, the human rights activist, was taken from his car last month and beaten by four masked men in an assault supporters say was linked to his activities. Matilda Bogner, who runs the Uzbekistan chapter of Human Rights Watch, said the lesser sentence could help Sharipov eventually be granted freedom under the country’s annual amnesties for prisoners. Still, she criticized the court for not overturning the verdict and said the case was characterized by "lack of evidence and breaches of international law.”
November 11, 2003 – Advocate.com (glbt)
U.S. diplomat urges Uzbek authorities to release gay journalist
A senior U.S. official urged Uzbek authorities on Monday to grant amnesty to Ruslan Sharipov, a gay journalist jailed on sodomy charges in a case that has drawn international criticism.
"We do believe…that he should be amnestied," Lorne Craner, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, told journalists in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, during a visit with the U.S. assistant secretary of state A. Elizabeth Jones. Sharipov, who is openly gay, was convicted in August of sodomy and having sex with minors and is serving a four-year prison term.
His case has drawn much attention from international media and human rights groups who have demanded his immediate release, saying he was persecuted for his criticism of the government. In an interview from prison this month, Sharipov said had been forced to confess through torture and threats.
November 27, 2003 – Advocate.com (glbt)
Jailed Uzbek journalist gets award
The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers has awarded jailed Uzbek journalist Ruslan Sharipov with the 2004 Golden Pen of Freedom and urged officials to release him.
"The award…recognizes Mr. Sharipov’s outstanding defense and promotion of press freedom in the face of constant physical danger, prison, and censorship," the group said in a statement released Tuesday. "His refusal to censor himself, even in the face of intimidation, prison, and torture, is a courageous act that is an inspiration to journalists and human rights everywhere."
Sharipov, 25, who is openly gay, is serving a four-year prison term for having homosexual sex – illegal in Uzbekistan under laws still on the books from Soviet times – and also of having sex with minors. He was sentenced in August. Sharipov leads an independent group that focuses on media freedom.
His conviction has drawn much attention from international media and human rights groups who have demanded his immediate release, saying he is being persecuted for his criticism of the government. Independent journalists in Uzbekistan often face fabricated legal charges and harassment, and the media remains restrained by heavy self-censorship. The former Soviet republic in Central Asia has long drawn international criticism for widespread human rights abuses and lack of freedom.
But as Afghanistan’s neighbor, Uzbekistan is a key U.S. regional ally in the war on terrorism and hosts hundreds of U.S. troops.
December 22, 2003 – Associated Press
Uzbek Govt Says Jailed Gay Journalist Won’t Be Amnestied
Tashkent, Uzbekistan – Uzbek authorities said Monday a gay journalist jailed in a case that drew international criticism was ineligible for a wide-ranging amnesty declared by President Islam Karimov this month. The chief of staff of the prisons system, Mikhail Gurevich, said Ruslan Sharipov could not be pardoned because his crime was grave. The amnesty covers those convicted of minor crimes, women sentenced for the first time and elderly, minor and foreign convicts.
Surat Ikramov, a human rights activist and one of Sharipov’s defenders, said the decision was "unacceptable" and that the amnesty should apply because an appeals court had cleared Sharipov of the most serious of the three charges on which he was convicted in August. Sharipov, who is openly gay , was convicted of sodomy, having sex with minors and involving minors into anti-social behavior and sentenced to 5 1/2 years.
An appeals court overturned the last charge and reduced the jail term to four years. His case has drawn much attention from international media and human rights groups who say he was persecuted for his criticism of the government. In an interview from prison last month Sharipov said had been forced to confess through torture and threats.
A pardon for Sharipov also has been sought by the U.S., which has dramatically increased its engagement with this former Soviet republic after deploying troops in Uzbekistan to back up military operations in neighboring Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has long been internationally criticized for its poor human rights record, including putting more than 6,000 political prisoners in jails where dozens of people have reportedly died of torture over the past half-decade.
June 12, 2004 – Associated Press
Gay Uzbek Journalist Waiting for Release
by Burt Herman
Tashkent, Uzbekistan – A gay journalist whose conviction for sodomy and having sex with minors has been internationally condemned as politically motivated may have to wait up to a month before his early release, a prison official said Saturday.
Demonstrators and human rights activists had gathered outside a Tashkent minimum-security prison where Ruslan Sharipov is being held, expecting him to be freed. Their protest was broken up by a plainclothes security officer, who pulled banners from their hands and broke them over his knee, shouting homosexual epithets as other police looked on.
Sharipov was convicted in August 2003 of sodomy, sex with minors and involving minors in anti-social behavior and sentenced to 5 1/2 years. An appeals court overturned the last charge in September and reduced the jail term to four years. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said in March that Sharipov could be freed June 11, or Friday, under a presidential amnesty that would further reduce his sentence, but the decision was apparently put off a day.
However, Col. Ludmila Nam of the prison administration agency said outside the prison Saturday that authorities had up to a month to assemble a commission to review Sharipov’s case. They will refer their findings to a court for a decision, but it wasn’t clear when that would happen.
Sharipov’s case has attracted widespread international criticism, and last month he was awarded the 2004 Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. Rights groups have called for his release, saying the charges were motivated by his critical articles.
There are no independent media in Uzbekistan. Although official censorship was abolished in 2002, media rights groups say self-censorship is widespread.
Before he was sentenced, Sharipov had abruptly dismissed his lawyers and pleaded guilty despite earlier maintaining his innocence. Later, in an open letter to the United Nations, Sharipov wrote he had been tortured and forced to write a suicide note declaring he had killed himself by his own choice.
Surat Ikramov, a leading Uzbek human rights activist, called Saturday for Sharipov’s immediate release for health reasons, saying he had been treated last month for heart problems that have plagued him since birth. Ikramov also expressed concern Sharipov would still have to pay a portion of his salary in fines after his release and wouldn’t have complete freedom of movement.
After about 10 demonstrators unfurled banners outside the prison with Sharipov’s picture, a larger group of plainclothes security agents arrived. One man, who gave his name only as Karim, started shouting at the group, asking them if they were "waiting for their orders from the West" and saying they "didn’t need to protect terrorists."
Karim also shouted epithets, and told the group "I wish your children would fall under the influence of people like him (Sharipov)."
Ikramov said Sharipov, reached on a mobile phone inside the prison, said the prison director demanded the group outside disperse and threatened him. The demonstrators left after about an hour.
June 7, 2005 – Associated Press
Rights Group Calls Uzbekistan Crackdown a Massacre (non-gay background story)
Moscow – The Uzbek government’s crackdown on protesters can only be described as a massacre, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, appealing to the United States to suspend cooperation with the Central Asian country until it permits an independent international investigation.
The New York-based group said it interviewed 50 victims and witnesses who testified that government troops fired repeatedly on protesters gathered in a square, killing many as they fled into surrounding streets. It did not attempt to estimate the number killed, but the accounts were in line with estimates in the high hundreds.
”The scale of this killing was so extensive, and its nature was so indiscriminate and disproportionate, that it can best be described as a massacre,” the group said in its report on the May 13 unrest in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan, presented at a news conference in Moscow.
The international Red Cross said Tuesday that Uzbekistan’s government is denying it access to people injured or arrested in the unrest. The agency also has been unable to establish contact with regional authorities in the eastern city of Andijan, the Red Cross said in a statement.
”We now feel that a clear response from Tashkent has become urgent,” said Reto Meister, Red Cross chief for Asia and the Pacific, referring to the Uzbek capital.
Human Rights Watch said that if the Uzbek government continues to resist calls for an international investigation, Washington should withdraw its military base from Uzbekistan and ”bring to an end its post-Sept. 11 strategic partnership” with the country. It said the European Union should also suspend its cooperation.
”Our aim is not to conduct an investigation into the events,” Meister said, ”but to assess and respond to needs and to monitor the conditions and treatment of those arrested.”
ICRC delegates have been able to travel without restriction to Andijan and other nearby places but have been unable to access the injured and detained or regional authorities.
The bloody day began with a jailbreak in which 23 businessmen who had been on trial for alleged Islamic extremism were freed, along with hundreds of other prisoners. The government says four police officers and two soldiers were killed in attacks on police and military barracks.
Human Rights Watch said the attackers appear to have met minimal resistance. A bigger gun fight ensued at a National Security Service building, on the way to Babur Square, where the attackers overcame the single guard at the local administration and took over the building.
The crowd quickly grew to thousands, who took hostages after government forces fired on them. Witnesses said between 25 to 40 hostages were taken. The government refused protesters’ demands for negotiations. Human Rights Watch said soldiers sealed off the square and moved in, shooting from armored vehicles and the tops of nearby buildings. Hundreds of protesters were cut down as they sought to escape, the group said.
There was another ambush at the Kyrgyz border, when about 600 protesters showed up after walking for about 12 hours. Eight people were killed, the group said. The report said the government denied medical aid to the wounded in Andijan — leaving many in the streets overnight — and quoted witnesses as saying soldiers shot and killed wounded persons in the morning.
It also accused the government of trying to cover up the carnage by removing all bodies except those of young men fitting the profile of the militants it would blame for the violence, by arresting some witnesses and intimidating others and trying to seal off Andijan to journalists.
March 2, 2007 – Southern Voice
Uzbek authorities accuse U.S.-based aid group of supporting gays, Homosexuality is punishable by up to 3 years in ex-Soviet republic
Tashkent, Uzbekistan – Uzbek authorities accused a U.S.-based health care aid group on Wednesday of legal violations and supporting the "interests of homosexuals" in the tightly controlled ex-Soviet republic, where homosexuality is outlawed. The medical nonprofit Population Services International, or PSI, failed to submit required legal paperwork from its headquarters in Washington and did not register its office rental contract, the Justice Ministry said in a statement posted on the internet.
"PSI is especially famous for its projects universally asserting interests of persons with unorthodox sexual orientation," the statement said, adding that homosexuality is punishable by up to three years in prison in Uzbekistan. The statement also alleges that PSI, founded in 1970, was created by U.S. entrepreneur Philip Harvey to promote the use of contraceptives produced by his sex products company, Adam & Eve. The PSI director in Uzbekistan, Robert Grey, said the organization would not comment.
According to PSI’s website, the group has operations in more than 60 developing countries with programs focused on malaria, reproductive health, child survival and HIV. In Uzbekistan, it runs a project aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Uzbekistan and neighboring Turkmenistan are the only former Soviet republics where anti-homosexual legislation dating back to the rule of dictator Josef Stalin is still enforced.
Human rights advocates say Uzbek gays are harassed by law enforcement officers who tap phones and use dating Web sites to identify gays and extort money from them. Dozens of Western-funded aid groups have been shut down and expelled from Uzbekistan since a wave of international criticism followed a brutal crackdown on popular unrest in May 2005 in the eastern city of Andijan. Rights groups and witnesses say government troops killed at least 700 mostly peaceful protesters, while the government put the death toll at 187 and blamed Islamic militants for instigating the violence.
President Islam Karimov has ruled the predominantly Muslim nation of 26 million since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.
February 24, 2010 – RFE/RF Watchdog
Anti-AIDS Campaigner Serving 7-Year Sentence In Uzbekistan
Evidence has emerged that an anti-AIDS campaigner in Uzbekistan was sentenced to seven years in prison after authorities deemed his brochure incompatible with local traditions. Twenty-eight-year-old Maksim Popov, who heads anti-AIDS nonprofit Izis, was arrested in January 2009 and sentenced in September. But details of the sentencing, in a country where information is tightly controlled, have come to light only recently.
RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reports that Popov is currently serving his jail term in Uzbekistan’s Navoi prison. Izis is funded by a number of foreign donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Britain’s Department for International Development. The Russian-language booklet at issue, "HIV and AIDS Today," gives detailed information about preventive measures to avoid the deadly disease, including the importance of sterile syringes for drug users and ways to practice safe sex. It explains, for example, how to use condom.
In a society where discussing sex is taboo, the court found the brochure amounted to a how-to guide for young people to have sex and use drugs. The court declared the booklet’s contents "illegal" and ordered all copies seized by police and immediately destroyed. Strongman President Islam Karimov, who has ruled for more than 20 years, takes a dim view of dissent and authorities are highly suspicious of even apolitical NGOs.
12 May 2010 – Rain.org
Uzbekistan’s Aids shame – HIV infections are on the rise, yet activist Maxim Popov has been given a seven-year jail sentence for his prevention work
by Paul Canning – guardian.co.uk
In Uzbekistan it seems that promoting condoms and sterile needles to stop the spread of HIV is “immoral” and deserving of imprisonment in its notorious jails. The country, ruled by dictator Islam Karimov – and recently lambasted by the UN Human Rights Committee – has given one of its leading Aids workers a seven-year sentence. Maxim Popov is the founder of the now-closed non-governmental Aids organisation, Izis. The group had support from international donors including USAid and the British government’s Department for International Development (DfID).
Publications used worldwide in sexual health promotion got him into trouble with the dictatorship. They included HIV and Aids Today, a brochure that discusses the use of condoms in HIV prevention, the need for sterile needles for injecting drug users, and education on HIV prevention within same-sex relations; a UNAids brochure, HIV and Men who have Sex with Men in Asia and the Pacific and a textbook, Healthy Lifestyles, the Guidance for Teachers, published in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan with international funding.
“The Uzbek government said that the book constituted an ‘assault on minors without violence’ and ordered the book incinerated and barred from circulation,” said Robin Gorna, executive director of the International Aids Society. Popov’s indictment actually says that the content of the Healthy Lifestyles book “does not meet the requirements of didactics, literature, art, journalism, and psychology, as it does not take into account national traditions, culture, and customs of peoples living in Uzbekistan; on the contrary, the book promotes erotica and pornography”.
Imprisoning Popov is not only a violation of human rights, but has damaged public health efforts in Uzbekistan, Gorna said. “In most countries around the world the work done by Maxim Popov would be drawing praise and support.” Uzbekistan has one of the world’s fastest-rising HIV infection rates. About 16,000 cases of HIV were reported in 2009 – more than an 11-fold increase from 1,400 cases in 2001.
In April in emerged that about 150 Uzbek children were infected with HIV in the hospitals of Namangan, the third-largest city of Uzbekistan, in 2007-08. It was covered up and became public only in March 2010, when the opposition Ferghana.ru website (blocked in Uzbekistan) leaked a documentary shot by Uzbek TV following the order of the prosecutor’s office. Twelve doctors and nurses were tried in court, found guilty of mistreatment of the children and sentenced to between five and nine years in jail.
Russian news agency Regnum reported that more than a fifth of infections in the country are due to either the negligence of healthcare workers or the poverty of their hospitals. Al-Jazeera English aired a documentary, Aids on the Heroin Road, in April, which blames endemic corruption in the state bureaucracy and police forces as the biggest factor behind the spread of HIV in Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan. The International Committee for the Release of Maksim Popov has produced an open letter signed by a long list of smaller agencies accusing Hillary Clinton, the Department for International Development and other international agencies of abandoning him. The letter calls for “concerted diplomatic efforts to secure his immediate release”.
June 18, 2010 – 365 Gay
Gay Uzbekistan native granted asylum, escapes persecution
By Shamecca Harris,365gay.com
The Columbia University School of Law issued a statement announcing a grant of asylum to a gay Uzbekistan native supported by the university’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic. The United States Department of Homeland Security issued asylum to the man in the midst of widespread persecution of gay men in Uzbekistan. According to Uzbekistan criminal code, “homosexual conduct” is a crime warranting up to three years in prison.
“In Uzbekistan, I lived with terror everyday,” the man, who remains anonymous, testified. “I was arrested and abused by the police for having an intimate relationship with another man. Even after I escaped the country, the police have tried to track me down at my parent’s home, and I know if I had to return, my life would be in danger.”
The case was submitted to the Sexuality and Gender Clinic by Immigration Equality, an advocacy group for LGBT immigrants, in January. Four students from the clinic have since prepared the application for asylum. “We are thrilled to have been able to help this young man obtain safety in the U.S.” said Larra Morris, a student who worked on the case. “No one should have top live in fear or hide due to his sexual orientation.”