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2 Jul, 2022 21:58

Deaths, injuries reported amid mass protests in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan declares a state of emergency as violence erupts in its northwest autonomous region over draft constitution amendments
Deaths, injuries reported amid mass protests in Uzbekistan

Massive protests engulfed northwest Uzbekistan on Friday over the Central Asian nation's plan to revoke key rights from its autonomous region, Karakalpakstan, amid constitutional changes.

The standoff between police and protesters turned violent, with videos on social media appearing to show people severely injured, and bodies lying on the streets.

“Horrible scenes; an entire street covered with blood,” reads a caption to one video published by a Telegram channel run from neighboring Kazakhstan. Footage apparently taken from the roof of a low-rise building showed red liquid covering parts of a road, with an armored police vehicle driving nearby.

A loose crowd of protesters can also be seen approaching a squad of police wearing protective gear and carrying shields. The officers do not appear to be taking any aggressive actions. 

Other videos showed protesters supposedly carrying the injured to safety, and several people covered in blood, lying on the streets of the city of Nukus in northwest Uzbekistan. According to posts on Telegram, they were injured by police during the unrest. Several photos also showed what appear to be dead bodies. RT has not so far been able to independently verify the authenticity of the videos and photos.

The Uzbek authorities have so far not commented on the casualties. Uzbekistan’s President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, imposed a state of emergency in the Uzbek autonomous region of Karakalpakstan on Saturday, due to the unrest. 

The emergency measures, which take effect on Sunday night, will remain in place until early August, the presidential administration said in a statement on Telegram. The restrictions will include a nighttime curfew between 21:00 and 07:00 local time, Uzbek media have reported.

Mirziyoyev arrived in Nukus on Saturday and suggested removing some of the most controversial constitutional amendments during a meeting with the regional lawmakers.

The Uzbek Interior Ministry reported arresting a “criminal group” they suspect of masterminding the protests and seeking to illegally seize power in Karakalpakstan. The authorities have also blamed the demonstrations on “malicious foreign interference attempts” provoked through a “targeted” disinformation campaign.

The wave of public anger stems from draft constitutional amendments that were made public in late June. The changes were expected to be reviewed by July 5 and later put to a nationwide referendum.

The draft changes involve 200 amendments, including a ban on the death penalty. The protests were sparked by two specific passages related to Karakalpakstan – a region covering around 40% of Uzbekistan’s territory that traditionally enjoyed broad autonomy. The draft amendments suggested the region would no longer be called “sovereign” and would be barred from gaining independence from Uzbekistan through a referendum.