Uzbekistan government jailed thousands of peaceful Muslims who practice their faith outside government-approved mosques for alleged “religious extremism”.
An Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders on Thursday claimed that at least 12,800 Mulsims including human rights defenders, independent journalists, and activists have been jailed since 2002. “At least 300 Muslims have been arrested and convicted in 2015 alone”, the annual report claimed.
The report is based on thousands of documents, first-hand reports from the group’s activists throughout Uzbekistan, and interviews with families and former inmates collected since 2002, the groups head Surat Ikramov said.
It was the biggest and bloodiest crackdown on a popular revolt in the former Soviet Union since its 1991 dissolution. In some prisons, the jailed Muslims are prohibited from praying and reading the Quran and are forced to sing Uzbekistan’s national anthem instead, said Ikramov.
According to Aljazeera report, the former Soviet nation of 31 million is ruled by President Islam Karimov, a former communist official who is known for his repressive and dictatorial policies.
The 77-year-old leader, who has been at the helm since before Uzbekistan broke away from Soviet Union in 1991, considers Muslim groups and political parties a major threat to his iron-fisted rule.
Most of the jailed people are abused, tortured, and have their prison terms extended for the slightest violation of rules, the report said.
Suspected Islamists are routinely extradited or kidnapped by Uzbek security agents from Russia and other ex-Soviet states – even though some changed their citizenship and asked for asylum, rights groups say.
Karimov’s government tolerates no political opposition and cracks down on civil and human rights groups and independent media, the report said.