Uzbekistan opens up with reforms
Reforms continue in Uzbekistan as President Shavkat Mirziyoyev tries to reduce the former Soviet state’s isolation through a diplomatic charm offensive and by relaxing his predecessor’s repressive state apparatus.
The Supreme Court of Uzbekistan has unveiled surprising reforms with the help of the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It launched a website last month allowing the public to view live feeds from court trials across the country. The project involves 12 courts and is due to extend across Uzbekistan.
Several reforms have followed the coronation of Mirziyoyev in December 2016, after the death of strongman Islam Karimov, who ruled the country since independence from Moscow in 1991.
When he took power, the economy was collapsing, the country was heavily isolation and youth unemployment was growing.
This week Uzbekistan and Qatar said they intended to expand trade.
Tashkent said deputy trade minister Sahib Saifnazarov held talks with Qatari business chief Sheikh Mohammed Hamad Al-Thani on logistics, transport, textiles and food.
Foreigners based in Uzbekistan say they have noticed significant changes under Mirziyoyev.
Helena Fraser, the UNDP representative, said: “[The relaxation] includes the reform of the judiciary, reform of public administration, liberalisation of the economy, education, health and social protection reforms, and then interestingly, the fifth pillar is about security, tolerance and constructive foreign policy.”
Reforms include the possibility of complaining about corrupt officials, which has made government staff more accountable and responsive to Uzbeks.
Akhmed Rahmanov, an Uzbek business consultant, said: “There is a new confidence in politics, which was not there before. People used to say that nothing changes because no one thinks about us and we can say and do nothing, so let’s live our simple life and forget about politics.
“Now, if something goes wrong, they can write to the president.”
Uzbek social media is suddenly seeing more outspoken activists, bloggers, journalists and citizens discuss key issues where in the past discussion was heavily monitored and muted.
The Tashkent authorities have also taken around 17,000 people off its blacklist, which included anyone with suspected ties to Islamist groups.
At least five members of the security services have also been prosecuted for using torture during under Karimov’s heavy-handed rule.
The US Department of Labour last month removed Uzbekistan from its list of states that use forced child labour, largely to bring in its vital cotton crop.
Uzbekistan’s architectural wonders are attracting increasing numbers of tourists. Picture credit: Eurasia Times