Rare protest in the authoritarian former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan – in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan there is anger about plans for constitutional reform. Now the President has responded.

After violent protests in Central Asian Uzbekistan, President Shawkat Mirsijoyev has shown that he is willing to negotiate to calm the situation. In the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan in the west, there have been riots since Friday because people were angry about plans for constitutional reforms that no longer explicitly mentioned Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty. It was a rare protest in the authoritarian ex-Soviet republic, which borders Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, among other places.

President Mirziyoyev then traveled to Karakalpakstan’s capital Nukus on Saturday. According to Uzbek media, he had his spokesman announce that the relevant clauses of the constitution should be retained. It later became known that Mirsiyoyev declared a month-long state of emergency in Karakalpakstan. Karakalpakstan is home to, among others, the Karakalpak ethnic minority.

After the death of dictator Islam Karimov in 2016, Mirsiyoev opened Uzbekistan internationally. After his re-election last autumn, he promised to promote a “free civil society. In the past, however, human rights activists have repeatedly complained that, despite reforms in Uzbekistan, fundamental freedom rights continue to be violated.