Civil Unrest In Uzbekistan

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Uzbekistan has seen mass civil unrest in its Western Karakalpakstan Province. Uzbekistan’s Prosecutor General, Abror Mamatov has said that “During the mass disturbances in Nukus, 18 people were killed, and 243 injured.”

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed an executive order introducing the state of emergency in Karakalpakstan, where riots emerged following proposed amendments to the Uzbek Constitution related to the status of Karakalpakstan.

The authorities said that people had been misled in a bid to seize local government agencies. Uzbek President has subsequently dropped plans to introduce constitutional amendments that would deprive Karakalpakstan of the status of a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan and the right to secede from the country through a referendum.

Karakalpakstan, officially the Republic of Karakalpakstan, is an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan and occupies the whole northwestern part of Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan has an area of 166,590 km2, and a population of about 2 million people. The capital is Nukus.

Karakalpakstan is now mostly desert and is located in western Uzbekistan near the Aral Sea, in the lowest part of the Amu Darya basin, and is surrounded by desert. The Kyzyl Kum Desert is located to the east and the Karakum Desert is located to the south. A rocky plateau extends west towards the Caspian Sea. It is however one of Uzbekistan’s poorest regions, although the people are fiercely proud. Livelihoods have been deteriorating in the region due to the drying up of the Aral Sea and increased desertification. Certain Islamic groups are clamoring for independence. Karakalpakstan borders Kazakhstan to the north and Turkmenistan to the south.

Russia has stated that it is unlikely to be required to assist in terms of military support, which it did do in Kazakhstan in January. Both Russia and China have warned this year about the potential for ‘foreign agents’ (typically a reference to the United States) creating unrest in Central Asia.

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Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email silkroad@dezshira.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com

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