A month after suffering a brutal beating for championing LGBT rights, Uzbek blogger Miraziz Bazarov was released from the hospital on April 29. He was, according to his lawyer, immediately taken by local authorities to the Tashkent City Main Directorate of Interior Affairs and interrogated. He was then sent home on house arrest and ordered not to communicate with anyone.
His current predicament, officially, isn’t related to his LGBT activism. Instead, he’s facing charges over a video posted in October 2020. Various human rights organizations, such as IPHR and Human Rights Watch, have called on the Uzbek authorities to protect Bazarov’s right to freedom of expression and stop efforts to prosecute him.
A criminal case was opened in late April against Bazarov after complaints from 28 citizens and a group of teachers at Tashkent school No. 110, according to the Tashkent City Police Department. The charge is “libel via mass media for selfish or other base motives” under Article 139 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of up to three years of “restricted liberty” if he’s convicted.
According to IPHR the video in question was posted to TikTok in October 2020. In it, as IPHR summarized, Bazarov “called on parents not to send their children to [school No. 110] in Tashkent, remembering his own attendance at the school, and stating that the ‘school is the place were elderly female slaves and losers teach children to be slaves and losers.’” IPHR notes that “The video does not mention any teacher by name and is clearly an expression of Bazarov’s personal opinion.”
The complaints, according to the authorities, are that Bazarov “insults citizens and their families, accuses them of aiding terrorist organizations, hurts women’s self-esteem with his slanderous statements, ridiculing national traditions, and also sows interethnic strife.”
School No. 110 made news earlier in April with a strange report from the Ministry of Education that it was investigating an allegation, made by an adviser to the Uzbek Justice Minister, that school officials at No. 110, where her son attends, were measuring the length of students’ socks. Those with short socks, she said on her Telegram channel, according to a report from RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Ozodlik, were photographed. The exercise was apparently explained as actions in the fight against LGBT people. Ministry officials later denied issuing any such orders to inspect socks. The previous August, Ozodlik reported, commentators on an Uzbekistan TV program decried the way young people dress, suggesting that short socks were how gay people in Europe mark themselves. They also complained about torn trousers.
The incident, as absurd as it was, illustrated the level of hysteria surrounding the LGBT issue in Uzbekistan.
Uzbek authorities have also pursued investigations against a group of people who attacked a pair of teenagers and some of the crowd that disrupted a gathering in Amir Timur square on March 28. It was reportedly a gathering of K-pop and anime fans, organized by Bazarov though he was reportedly not in attendance, which some mistook for an LGBT gathering. A crowd of men formed chanting “Allahu Akbar” and accosting people. But while a criminal case has been initiated against Bazarov for his alleged criminal insults, the authorities have only so far stated that the case regarding the four men accused of attacking the teenagers has only been referred to a court for a decision.