Today, six prominent human rights activists from Central Asia visited Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Washington, DC office and gave a briefing about the challenges their societies face in overcoming authoritarianism.
The group, which included one person from Tajikistan and five from Uzbekistan, spoke to local policymakers and NGO officials as well as RFE/RL's Prague-based Central Asian journalists, who joined the briefing via videoconference.
"Having the chance to come to Washington and tell our stories is a wonderful opportunity to let the world know about the human rights abuses in my country, Uzbekistan, as well as across Central Asia," said Nosir Zokirov, the head of the Namangan Regional Human Rights Society. Zokirov is also a former contributor to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service who has been arrested, harassed and surveilled by police
since 2005, when he reported on the events in Andijon. In that incident, troops loyal to Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov opened fire on a crowd of protestors, killing around 700 people, including women and children.
Joining Zokirov from Uzbekistan were: Surat Ikramov, Chairman of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan; Sukhrobjon Ismoilov from the Uzbek Rapid Response Group for Prevention of Torture; Rukhiddin Kamilov, a human rights lawyer; and Elena Urlaeva from the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan.
To call attention to human rights abuses in Tajikistan, the group included Nuriddin Karshiboev, Chairman of the National Association of Independent Mass Media of Tajikistan.
The participants were part of the International Visitor Leadership program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and organized by the Meridian International Center.