Tone It Down: Leader of Karakalpak diaspora in Kazakhstan Spoke about Conversation at Consulate of Uzbekistan
Aqylbek Muratbai was called to have a "conversation" at Uzbekistan’s diplomatic mission in Almaty and asked to tone down his statements. He told an Orda correspondent about what had happened at the Consulate General and his personal concerns.
The conversation with the adviser to the Consul General in Almaty lasted for two hours. Muratbai was reportedly asked to "soften the tone of his speeches" a little so that journalists could not blow his words out of proportion, the diaspora leader wrote on "X" (formerly Twitter).
Muratbai replied that he could not influence editorial policy and suggested stopping the pressure exerted on Karakalpak activists.
In his post, Aqylbek recalls his previous visit to the consulate. On August 31, 2022, he was invited to there to discuss, among other things, the "tone" of activist Koshkarbay Toremuratov. 13 days later, Toremuratov was arrested in Kazakhstan at Tashkent's request.
The leader fears that something similar may be done to him. However, at the end of their conversation, the adviser to the Consul General "smiled and assured that he had nothing to worry about".
The autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan occupies 40% of the area of Uzbekistan and the Karakalpaks, a people close in language and culture to the Kazakhs, inhabit it. In the summer of 2022, the infringement of the rights of Karakalpakstan residents became a topic of discussion all over the world after mass protests there on July 1-2.
According to the Prosecutor General's Office of Uzbekistan, 21 people were killed during the protests, including four security forces' representatives. More than 200 were injured. The protests were eventually suppressed, and prominent activists from Karakalpakstan were detained and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Amendments to the Constitution of Uzbekistan, which would have ended the sovereignty of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, brought about the unrest.
Aqylbek Muratbai has been living in Kazakhstan for many years and helps his compatriots from Karakalpakstan moving to the Republic of Kazakhstan to settle in. He also provides assistance with paperwork. The Consulate’s diplomatic department assists him with this.
Muratbai's relatives living in Karakalpakstan still face consistent pressure. The first instance occurred in 2014.
Then they came to my parents and questioned them for two days from morning to evening, then they tried to put pressure on them via the authorities, they were threatened and demanded the return of their son from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, says the leader of the Karakalpak diaspora.
The reason: Muratov and Toremuratov’s efforts in creating a Karakalpak ethno-cultural center in Almaty. They launched an online music radio and a currently inactive Internet project karakalpak.info. It is dedicated to the language, history and culture of the Karakalpaks. Neither political nor socio-economic topics have been raised on the website or in their in-person activities. The activists have even placed a disclaimer on the website in the "About us" section.
We, the administrators www.karakalpak.info are not representatives of any international, foreign, Uzbek or Karakalpak, or political party, humanitarian organization or other movement belonging to any other country.
At the same time, at the OSCE conference on Karakalpakstan held in September 2023, representatives of Uzbekistan mentioned the site as a hotbed of separatist and extremist statements, Muratbai says.
The Uzbek authorities are currently trying to pressure the activist again. Two weeks ago, representatives of local executive bodies came to his uncle. They demanded him to convince his nephew to lessen his political activity. The messenger ended up being his relative living in Taraz. She came to Almaty to talk to Muratov and asked him to do so. Despite their close relationship, she was turned down.
Karakalpak Activists Detained in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, two months after the unrest in Karakalpakstan, a series of detentions of the Karakalpak diaspora’s representatives took place. Koshkarbay Toremuratov, Zhangeldi Dzhaksimbetov, Ziuar Mirmanbetov and cardiologist Raisa Khudaibergenova were detained.
The terms of arrest were extended from a month to a year. They were all recently released. We reported on this.
According to Aqylbek Muratbai, Dzhaksimbetov and Khudaibergenov were denied asylum in Kazakhstan. According to Dzhaksimbetov, the court of first instance confirmed the refusal. The Supreme Court of Kazakhstan will determine how to proceed further. Raisa Khudaibergenova has filed an appeal against the commission's decision and is waiting for the first trial.
Another representative, Tleubike Yuldasheva, is in the Aqtobe pre–trial detention center. Throughout the last month, there have been conflicting reports, including one from October 6, 2023. She was reportedly convicted in absentia in Uzbekistan. Later, the Russian human rights activist, Vitaly Ponomorev, from the Memorial center denied this information.
Yuldasheva is one of the three mentioned during high–profile trials in Uzbekistan. Karakalpak Nietbay Orazbayev from western Kazakhstan, a member of the Assembly of People of the Republic of Kazakhstan, was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison in Bukhara. Amanbay Sagidullayev, who lives in Norway, was sentenced to 18 years in a penal colony.
Kazakhstan does not intend to extradite Karakalpak activists. Koshkarbay Toremuratov has already left the republic and is now in Europe, says Aqylbek Muratbai. The rest also plan to leave Kazakhstan.
Aqylbek Muratbai reminds Uzbek diplomats of the need to respect the Karakalpak language, which is the main language in the autonomous region of Uzbekistan.
I keep asking the same question. The Republic of Karakalpakstan is part of Uzbekistan, and you, as its representatives, why don't you observe the Constitution? The Constitution of the Republic of Karakalpakstan says that the state language is Karakalpak, why can't we interact with it – submit statements, issue documents? says Muratbai.
At the last meeting, he was told for the first time that the consulate was preparing to introduce forms in the Karakalpak language. But Muratov is waiting for this to become reality. At the same time, there are no problems with the Consulate of Uzbekistan in other matters concerning documents. Diplomats cooperate completely.
At the last OSCE conference in Warsaw, no documents, including resolutions on Karakalpakstan, were adopted.
Original Author: Maksim Skopin
DISCLAIMER: This is a translated piece. The text has been modified, the content is the same. Please refer to the original piece in Russian for accuracy.
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