Twenty-five years ago, the Soviet Union fell apart. Its practice of persecuting dissidents and placing them in mental institutions is, however, alive and well in some former Soviet countries.
For almost ten years now, Jamshid Karimov, a freelance journalist, has been a victim of this treatment; he has been been held in a psychiatric hospital since 2012. Karimov, who is the nephew of Uzbekistan’s late president, Islam Karimov, has worked with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), among other international media outlets, and is known for his independent and critical coverage of Uzbek authorities.
Though this type of punishment is not frequently used in Uzbekistan, this is Karimov’s second banishment to a psychiatric facility. The first time around, Karimov was arrested and sentenced on September 22, 2006 to a six-months term in the Samarkand psychiatric hospital. In 2011, after five years in detention, Karimov was released.
Ulugbek Khaydarov, Karimov’s friend and colleague who spoke with the journalist by phone following his release, noted that Karimov was eager to speak out about his imprisonment and the ill-treatment he had been subjected to.
Less than two months after his release, however, Karimov was back in the psychiatric ward. According to his daughter, Yevgenia, he was asked to come to the National Security Service office, where four policemen brutally beat him, put him in a car, and drove him to the same psychiatric hospital. He was provided with no court hearing or allowed to speak with a lawyer.
On November 22, 2016, media outlet AsiaTerra published an appeal signed by a number of human rights groups and individuals stating that Karimov’s health was deteriorating and demanding his release from the hospital.
According to Yevgenia, her forty-nine-year old father’s deteriorating health might be a reaction to the drugs he is receiving at the hospital, as well as the overall conditions in the ward. During her visits to the hospital, Yevgenia said policemen are always present, listening to their conversations. “They have hidden from him the fact that the president is dead, perhaps because they believe that he will demand to be released. And the police prohibit anyone from telling him about it. He still hopes to be released. He says, ‘They won’t let me out before [Karimov’s] death’. And he often repeats that he will probably not live to see the day,” Yevgenia said.
As his illegal detention continues, international human rights organizations must stand up and call for Karimov’s immediate release.