Neitbay Urazbayev, a Karakalpak activist based in Kazakhstan, appears to have had his Kazakhstani citizenship revoked.
Neither Kazakhstan nor Uzbekistan recognizes dual citizenship. In order to obtain Kazakh citizenship, an individual has to formally renounce their previous citizenship. Uzbek law, meanwhile, states that the acquisition of foreign citizenship triggers a loss of Uzbek citizenship, but obliges the individual to report that to the authorities and the loss of citizenship is documented in a presidential decree.
According to the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights (KIBHR), citing Vitaly Ponomarev, director of the Central Asian program of Human Rights Centre (HRC) Memorial, Urazbayev received a document from the Migration Service Department of the Mangistau Region Police Department last month. The document states that an inspection determined that the certificate which Urazbayev presented to Kazakh authorities in 2017 — which he had obtained from the Uzbek consulate after handing over his passport — was “invalid and counterfeit.” According to the notice, the Consul General of Uzbekistan in Aktau, responding to an October 2023 request for information, claimed that Urazbayev “did not apply in accordance with the procedure established by law on the issue of renunciation and loss of citizenship of the Republic of Uzbekistan.” The notice further stated that there was no information on a presidential decree on his loss of Uzbek citizenship.
Put simply: Uzbek authorities have told Kazakh authorities that Urazbayev never officially renounced his Uzbek citizenship, and therefore Kazakh authorities have revoked his Kazakh citizenship.
According to Vlast.kz, Urazbayev was told by local police on October 6 that he had been put on a wanted list in Karakalpakstan — to which he replied with a statement that as a Kazakh citizen the country’s authorities needed to protect his rights. On October 12, a request was sent to the Consul of Uzbekistan in Aktau, which appears to have led to the notice mentioned above depriving Urazbayev of Kazakh citizenship.
Urazbayev told HRC Memorial that the Uzbek consulate’s information was unreliable and a “tool of pressure.”
Urazbayev was born in Karakalpakstan but has lived in Kazakhstan since 2004. He heads the Karakalpak ethno-cultural center “Allayar Zholy” in Mangystau. In 2016, KIBHR says, he applied to renounce his Uzbek citizenship, and in 2017 he received approval, after which he applied for Kazakh citizenship.
Earlier this year, Urazbayev was convicted in absentia by an Uzbek court on charges of attempting to disrupt the constitutional order, organizing mass unrest, distributing materials, and posing a threat to public security in relation to last year’s massive summer protests in Nukus, the capital of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. Urazbayev was not physically present in Karakalpakstan during the protests, but he did speak out against the proposed controversial constitutional draft, which erased Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty. The proposal was swiftly shelved after the protests.
Urazbayev was sentenced to 12 years while another exiled Karakalpak, Aman Sagidullayev — who has political asylum in Norway — was given an 18 year sentence, also in absentia.
In May, he told The Diplomat, “I am worried I may be secretly sent to Uzbekistan. The Uzbekistan border is very close to where I live.”
The previous September, Kazakh authorities had detained five Karakalpak activists in Kazakhstan, all Uzbek citizens. While they have since been released, each after a full year in detention, the authorities have denied asylum requests from some — and can be expected to do so for the rest.
Urazbayev, KIBHR reported, says he and his lawyer intend to appeal the migration police decision. The deprivation of Kazakh citizenship poses the distinct risk that Urazbayev may be detained as the other Karakalpak activists were, but his fate may diverge as he has already been convicted in Uzbekistan.