Opposition movement member goes missing in Horezm

Valeriy Nazarov's whereabouts have not been known since 7 December
A human rights defender and the leader of the Birdamlik movement in Uzbek Horezm Region, Valeriy Nazarov, has gone missing since communication was lost with him a month ago.

Farmer in retirement Valeriy Nazarov went missing on 7 December when he was going to travel to the capital, Tashkent, to take part in a peaceful action entitled OSh (Ommaviy Shodlik, or Mass Joy as translated from Uzbek), which was timed with the 20th anniversary of the Uzbek constitution.

Birdamlik opposition movement members’ plan was to hold a quiz for the best knowledge of the constitution and to distribute free copies of the country’s basic law on this occasion on a square outside Tashkent’s Alay market.

According to the leader of the Birdamlik movement in Uzbekistan, Malohat Eshankulova, the Horezm-based human rights activist bought a ticket to Tashkent in advance after which he immediately faced pressure from local law-enforcement bodies, which demanded that he should not travel anywhere.

On 7 December, when Nazarov was supposed to travel to Tashkent, his house in the village of Ok Yog in Khiva District was surrounded by policemen and men in civil clothes.

Nazarov then managed to tell Eshankulova that he “was invited to the head of the Khiva District interior department”, but he refused to go without a court warrant or a summons.

Nazarov spoke of the idea to bypass the police by detour, but Eshankulova suggested he should come to policemen to ask what they wanted. Since then, there has been no contact with Nazarov.

Arrested or killed?

“Nazarov’s family has not yet received any information about his whereabouts,” a spokesperson for Birdamlik’s Horezm Region branch, Bahtiyor Mahmudov, has said.

Mahmudov’s assumes that Nazarov was kept under home arrest, but at somebody else’s home.

His colleague from Birdamlik, referring to “reliable sources”, has confirmed that Nazarov is being kept in a basement of the Horezm Region interior directorate.

At the same time, there is a third version, which is based on the fact that Nazarov could have at least “notified of himself”.

“Perhaps, he died after terrible beating or receiving an accidental heavy hit,” some suggested.

This assumption indirectly confirms the fact that Eshankulova also was detained in Samarkand when she was going to travel to Tashkent to attend the OSh action, but she was kept in a police department and under house arrest for five days only.

Human rights activists sounding the alarm

“The head of Birdamlik’s Horezm department, Valeriy Nazarov, has won respect of his colleagues with his sense of responsibility, honesty and accuracy at work, he has always been a model for like-minded people,” Eshankulova said.

In this connection, the leader of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, Elena Urlayeva, held a picket outside the Interior Ministry’s office in Tashkent on 8 December, demanding that Nazarov be found.