EU hopes for renewed Uzbek ties
The EU and Uzbekistan are to hold the highest-level political meeting in Brussels since the death of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov in 2016.
EU negotiators are set to raise political issues, including human rights with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
EU representatives told the media it was looking for a “renewed engagement” with Uzbekistan from the first meeting since 2015.
Brussels has been encouraged by some liberal steps taken by President Shavkat Mirziyaev since he came to power after Karimov’s death last September.
Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser will chair the meeting and is expected to ask about democratic reforms, human rights and the rule of law. Estonia holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
NGOs, including Amnesty International, urged the EU “to emphasise the need for concrete changes in the human rights situation in Uzbekistan”.
It said Tashkent must end the persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and dissident voices while also ensuring media freedom.
The lobbyist said Uzbekistan must allow an independent international inquiry into events in the eastern city of Andijon in 2005, where security forces shot dead numerous protesters.
Domestically, a crackdown on polygamy has led to an intense online debate after Dilbahor Yoqubova of Uzbekistan’s justice ministry accused “illiterate mullahs” of carrying out unofficial Muslim marriage rites.
Yoqubova made the comments on a popular television talk show, which also featured an academic called Professor Dilfuza Rahmatullayeva claiming that increasing “religious freedom” had resulted in polygamy.
A bill is being drafted to bring mullahs and imams to account if they lead a nikah, or a religious marriage ceremony, for a man who is already married. Conservative elements in Uzbekistan have, however, argued that the law would increase divorce and prostitution.
Someone posted on the BBC Uzbek Facebook site: “In many rural districts of Tashkent region, those illiterate mullahs are causing young men to marry second wives. Since their marriages are not registered, they freely divorce and get married to another one under Sharia law.”
The comment said there were hundreds of thousands of unregistered marriages in Uzbekistan.
Some users insisted that Sharia, or Islamic religious law, allowed multiple marriages. One YouTube user asked: “Is there any brave imam who will say that Sharia allows polygamy?”
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said last month that polygamy was leading to “undesirable consequences” and state-run media launched a campaign against it.
While polygamy is illegal in Uzbekistan. Women’s rights groups and other activists call it an outdated practice and that supporters are simply using religion to defend men who take more than one wife.
The EU hopes Uzbekistan might relax its grip on its 32 million inhabitants. Source: Eurasia Times