Karakalpakstan Two Months on: Karakalpak and Independent Voices Speak

Friday, September 9, 2022

10:30AM - 11:30AM (EST)


Click Here to Join Zoom Session

Facebook  Twitter  Youtube  Linkedin  Instagram  

Photo by Alexander Zykov. The Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art (Svitsky Museum), Nukus. 

More than two months have passed since mass protests erupted in Uzbekistan’s northwestern region of Karakalpakstan over proposed constitutional amendments that aimed to strip the subnational republic of its autonomy. The protests led to serious violence by security forces, including at least 21 killed, 243 injured, and 516 detained, according to official sources. Recent reports by human rights groups point to even higher casualty figures. While Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has taken some appropriate measures such as withdrawing the proposed amendments, acknowledging possible abuses by law enforcement, and authorizing a parliamentary commission to investigate the events, other moves have raised serious human rights concerns, such as the decision to forge ahead with stifling restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

This panel discussion, featuring Karakalpak and independent voices, will take stock of the crisis in Karakalpakstan two months since the largest protests in Uzbekistan’s modern history. Speakers will focus on political and human rights developments in relation to Karakalpakstan, but also examine topics much more rarely discussed, such as Uzbekistan’s multiethnic character.


Palsanem Karakalpakova is an international development professional, well travelled throughout Central Asia. She’s an activist for justice and fair treatment of the Karakalpak people.

Bruce Pannier is a Central Asia analyst and has served as a longtime journalist and correspondent covering Central Asia at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Prior to joining RFE/RL in 1997, Bruce worked at the Open Media Research Institute in Prague. In 1992, he led a sociological project in Central Asia sponsored by the University of Manchester and the Soros Cultural Initiative Foundation. During that time, he lived in villages in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Bruce studied at Tashkent State University in the summer of 1990 and studied at Columbia University under Professor Edward Allworth. Bruce has also written for The EconomistJane’s Intelligence Review, Oxford Analytica, Freedom House, The Cairo Review, the FSU Oil & Gas Monitor, and Energo Weekly. 

Steve Swerdlow, Esq., is a human rights lawyer and Associate Professor of the Practice of Human Rights in the Department of Political and International Relations at the University of Southern California (USC). A human rights lawyer and expert on the former Soviet region, Swerdlow teaches international human rights law, human rights research and advocacy, and on human rights in Eurasia. In 2021 and 2022, working with the PeaceNexus Foundation, Swerdlow assisted Uzbek human rights defenders, Uzbekistan-based cotton manufacturers, and relevant Uzbek authorities in the implementation of a methodology to help ensure that Uzbekistan’s cotton "clusters" are adhering to the ban on forced and child labor in cotton harvesting. In October 2021, Swerdlow authored a major report for Congress on religious freedom in Uzbekistan. Swerdlow was Senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch from 2010–2019, founding its Kyrgyzstan field office, and he was earlier based in Kazakhstan. Swerdlow received his JD (Juris Doctor) from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and his MA in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, with a certificate in Post-Soviet Studies from the Harriman Institute. 

Moderator, Sebastien Peyrouse

Research Professor, Central Asia Program, IERES, George Washington University  and a Senior Fellow with the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China relations. His main areas of expertise are political systems in Central Asia, economic and social issues, Islam and religious minorities, and Central Asia’s geopolitical positioning toward China, India and South Asia.

Join us in bringing Central Asia to the world
As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we reflect on our achievements and look to the future as we lift the voices of Central Asians and highlight the region’s developments for a global audience. To accomplish our goals, we are launching our first public fundraising effort #CAPraising. Learn more
Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES)
Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
1957 E Street, NW | Suite 412 | Washington, DC | 20052

The Central Asia Program at George Washington University advances high-quality research on contemporary Central Asia through empowering local voices and international experts alike and serves as an interface for the policy, academic, diplomatic, and business communities.

Facebook  Twitter  Youtube  Linkedin  Instagram