A group of Uzbek journalists and human rights activists has sent an appeal letter to the German and U.S. ambassadors to attract attention on the case of Jamshid Karimov and call for his safe release. The Uzbek journalist Jamshid Karimov has been forcibly detained in a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand since 2012, being held in total isolation from the outside world, apart from rare visits from his daughter.
Jamshid Karimov is the son of Arslan Karimov, the elder brother of President Islam Karimov. He was born in the city of Jizzakh where he had been living since the early 2000s. As a journalist, he worked with the international media, in particular with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the news agency “Ferghana.ru”, and the independent Uzbek website “Arena”. He became known for his investigative reporting of local authorities’ illegal activities and actively opposed censorship and authoritarianism on all levels.
Since 2004, Jamshid Karimov had been repeatedly attacked and beaten by unknown persons and harassed by local authorities. He believes the harassment was in retaliation for his journalistic activities and criticism of the government. In mid-September 2006, Jamshid Karimov was placed under a compulsory treatment order in a psychiatric hospital for the first time. The decision was taken by the Jizzakh city court, but was issued in secret without the participation of Jamshid, his lawyers or his family members who received no notification of the decision.
After spending five years in the Samarkand psychiatric hospital, Jamshid was released in November 2011, presumably at the prompting of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Uzbekistan. Ulugbek Khaydarov, a friend and journalist of Karimov’s, who has since emigrated to Canada spoke to him by phone shortly after his release in November 2011. According to Khaydarov,
“His voice was the same, his conscience was clear and he had not changed at all. I advised him not to make harsh statements. He just needed to move on, relax, and gain strength. […] But he did not listen to me. He tried to find a way to tell his story to the international media and human rights activists. He wanted to publicize his own destiny. He had a story to tell.”
However, Karimov was again committed to hospital on the orders of the authorities in early 2012, just two months after being released. According to his 19-year-old daughter Eugenia, there was no trial at all:
“In the Samarkand psychiatric hospital, he was kept in a room with barred windows, like a prison cell. Different people are sent there, sometimes even murderers. There was no trial at all. He was summoned to the National Security Service to have a ‘talk’, but on his way there he was severely beaten by four men on the street. They knocked his tooth out, he was forced into a car and driven to the hospital. He was covered in bruises. He said that if he had been attacked by a single man, he would have been able to fight back, but there were four of them.”
A few months after her father was sent to the hospital for the second time, Jamshid’s health deteriorated dramatically and he almost died. His daughter cannot say exactly what happened to him, but suggests that it might have been a reaction to the drugs he was given. According to Jamshid’s daughter,
“Police officers are stationed in his room all the time. If I go to visit him, they sit and listen to our conversations. One cannot say anything private to him because there are always people listening – sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three. They also take my phone beforehand in order to stop me from photographing him. 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.”
Jamshid Karimov, who is now 49 years old, is a victim of punitive psychiatry, a retaliatory measure not uncommon in Uzbekistan to suppress dissent among critical voices of the regime. During his short release, he reported that doctors had diagnosed him with “slow progressive schizophrenia”, a diagnosis reminiscent of the Soviet practice of using psychiatry to justify the “insanity” of dissidents.
According to human rights activists, it is obvious that he is no danger to society and should not be confined for such a long period to a closed ward in a hospital. Jamshid’s friends and colleagues are convinced that he is being held against his will and that the “treatments” he undergoes bear all the hallmarks of punitive psychiatry.
Human rights activists and journalists therefore once again called for the immediate and safe release of Jamshid Karimov.