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– This is the title of the conference to be held in Geneva on 26-27 November. An organiser of the conference is the Centre for Civil and Political Rights based in Geneva.
It will bring together civil society activists from different countries. On behalf of the Uzbek community Nadejda Atayeva, President of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia will make a speech. The delegation is also represented by Farhodhon Mukhtarov, a representative of the "Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan", and Umida Niyazova, the head of "Uzbek-German Forum".
On the eve of the conference, I would like to share my observations about who in Uzbekistan has become a source of corruption and the place the civil society should take in this process.
* * *
A citizen of Uzbekistan is in the custody of a prison in Dubai. In the Uzbek business elite circles, until recently, his name, Aleksey Yaitsky, was whispered enthusiastically. This is a major businessman, close to the powerful Tatyana Karimova, the wife of the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov. He was paid this high respect for the fact that he was able to win her confidence. According to some reports, he was able to become a leading figure in a successful company "Abusahiy." This is a private enterprise, a monopoly in the field of freight transport with a profit of up to 20 million USD per month. Abusahiy’s cash flow is under a full control of Kamal Tillaev, a brother of Timur Tillaev who is the husband of Lola Karimova, the youngest daughter of Islam Karimov.
Yaitsky is accused of an attempt to bribe an official. According to information from his inner circle, his bank account in the UAE revealed 10 million USD. The origin of this amount will have to be explained. Typically, these offenders serve their sentences in the UAE; they are not handed over to the authorities of the country of origin. Uzbekistan did not request him. But the Attorney General's Office of Uzbekistan has to ask how such amount of funds was formed abroad in the account of an Uzbek citizen.
Yaitsky’s magical opportunities ended unexpectedly for himself and his inner circle, not in London, where his family had settled in the neighbourhood with Lola Karimova, but in Dubai, where there is a representative office of Abusahy is located and where he has extensive links and long-time business experience.
It is proving not possible to bail Aleksey Yaitsky out of the Dubai jail even with surety. It turned out, Tatyana Karimova, Lola Karimova and a criminal authority, Yaitsky’s tennis partner Salimbay Abduvaliev can not influence the Prosecutor of UAE.
They only managed to hide the fact of Yaitsky’s arrest for a little longer than a month. The silence was broken by the Radio "Ozodlik" [Freedom]. Now in Uzbekistan the questions being discussed are: how will this affect the activity of Abusahy and what will become of Yaitsky after he returns to Uzbekistan. First, his case was discussed only "in the kitchens" and in social networks, but it has already received the media’s attention. Discussions of this type of cases are signals of civil society that Islam Karimov and his entourage will have to answer for the widespread abuse of power that gives rise to a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens.
Exceptional opportunities enjoyed by the Karimov family, including their close relatives and inner circle is a very hot topic. For example, the arrest of Yaitsky concerns all who need transportation services, and this is a huge army of entrepreneurs specialising in the retail trade, export and import.
A significant part of the business in Uzbekistan depended on Gulnara Karimova, on cooperation with her and companies directly or indirectly controlled by her. Therefore, the scandal surrounding her operations turned out so loud. Thousands of people were out of work. Layoffs in the Swedish company TeliaSonera still continue. Some aides of Gulnara Karimova are in jail in Uzbekistan and others in exile and are trying to present themselves as dissidents.
In Uzbekistan, a group of very powerful oligarchs, nurtured by family members of Islam Karimov came to existence. At this stage of the Karimov regime it is clearly visible as they compete with each other, interacting with the National Security Service and senior officials. They are allowed to patronise other entrepreneurs and investors, to be mediators between Tatyana Karimova and her youngest daughter Lola Karimova. These two ladies are quite influential. These days one can survive in the Uzbek market only on their terms. These conditions are detrimental to private entrepreneurs who settled in Uzbekistan and abroad. In its activities, the Karimov family uses the weaknesses of the tax and customs legislation and it is dependent on the executive judicial system. Anyone can be robbed by the ruling clan. Defending their personal interests, the oligarchs close to the family of Islam Karimov violate human rights. By the will of the Karimov family members people are kidnapped, entrepreneurs are ruined, they are charged on fabricate cases and on behalf of public authorities sent to jail.
In the entre history, Uzbek officials were never as rich as they are now. No one asks about the origin of the funds they spend on construction and purchase of expensive real estate in Uzbekistan and abroad. They control the supply of goods and services to the domestic market in exchange for a considerable percentage of income in the form of bribes and money sent offshore.
The country where the authorities keep prices for basic foods fixed and hinder the competition, there will always be corruption.
Uzbek citizens have the right to know all the details of activity of the "Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan" foundation, which has been under the patronage of Gulnara Karimova for over 10 years. And every citizen has the right to know what taxes Abusahy pays, because many companies were affected by the systematic abuse of power by the brothers Sharifhodzhaevs, the National Security Service of Uzbekistan. Why Khayot Sharifhodzhaev still holds the post of first deputy chairman of the National Security Service of Uzbekistan? Did they not find evidence of his crimes? Or is it the case that the corrupt elite do not touch Sharifhodzhaev fearing revelations on his part?
If the government is not accountable to the public and the decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers contain secret items on benefits for businesses which serve as trough for senior officials, corruption will not disappear.
The scandal surrounding the illegal proceeds of Gulnara Karimova is remarkable. On the one hand, it revealed the collusion of senior officials and the first family of the country. And on the other hand, it gives the Uzbek civil society the chance to direct the funds Gulnara concentrated abroad to pay for compensation for victims of human rights violations. And this process depends largely on the position of civil society in Uzbekistan.
Nadezhda Atayeva