Uzbekistan. According to Countryaah.com, Uzbekistan population in 2020 is estimated at 33,469,214. Uzbekistan was ranked as the third worst country in the world in freedom of the press. According to Freedom House, only North Korea and Turkmenistan were worse. Uzbekistan was believed to have thousands of political prisoners, and according to Human Rights Watch, they were subjected to fabricated indictments, kidnapping, torture, secret isolation detention and generally horrific prison conditions. Human Rights Watch urged the West to sanction the regime.
|Gross domestic product (GDP)||$ 223,000,000,000|
|GDP growth rate||5.30%|
|GDP per capita||$ 6,900|
|GDP by sector|
|Proportion of the population below the national poverty line||17%|
|Distribution of household income|
|Industrial production growth rate||4.50%|
|National debt||24.30% of GDP|
|Foreign exchange reserves||16,000,000,000 USD|
|Number of visitors||1,969,000|
TeliaSonera’s mutually suspected partner in Uzbekistan, Gayane Avakyan, was arrested at the beginning of the year accused of, among other things, tax violations. Avakyan was a co-worker of President Islam Karimov’s daughter Gulnara Karimova, who was believed to be behind the company Talikant, which made billion deals with TeliaSonera. Avakyan was later reportedly sentenced to six years in prison, and twelve other employees to multi-year prison sentences for fraud, tax violations, money laundering and illegal currency transactions.
The Swedish preliminary investigation into bribery suspicions against TeliaSonera in Uzbekistan was extended in time. Prosecutors, however, presented their suspicions that Telia had mutated the Uzbek political elite, ie. Karimova, to obtain licenses and frequencies in Uzbekistan. According to the report, the equivalent of more than SEK 2 billion had gone to Karimova from TeliaSonera. Karimova herself told foreign media that she had been placed under house arrest in Uzbekistan and that she had been threatened and beaten.
In March, opportunities for leading politicians and government officials to travel abroad were reduced. President Karimov himself would grant some such permits, the government and the presidential office would grant others. The intention was stated to be to protect state secrets.
During the year, the regime also tightened restrictions on Internet cafes in Uzbekistan. In June, journalist Said Abdurahimov was sentenced to high fines accused of spreading panic. He had reported corruption in connection with the demolition of apartment buildings in the capital Tashkent, where the country’s largest mosque was to be built. Three women were convicted during the year accused of spying for Tajikistan. The sentence was 15 and 14 years in prison respectively.
Uzbekistan’s security service was reported to threaten Uzbekistanis in exile in Sweden. After appearing in a TV interview, the son was threatened with the regime-critical imam who was subjected to attempted murder in Strömsund in 2012. The imam, who woke up from a coma during the year, lived under death threats himself and the family kept hidden.
In September, prosecutors made formal suspicions of corruption against Gulnara Karimova. She was accused of belonging to a criminal group that tricked the state into the equivalent of hundreds of millions of kronor.
State-owned TeliaSonera was accused of contributing to funding the disputed cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. Telia’s subsidiary Ucell has been required by the regime to participate in financing the cotton harvest by paying for meals. Many children are among the one million Uzbekistanis forced to participate in cotton harvesting, which is the regime’s most important export commodity.
Only four parties supported by President Karimov participated in the December parliamentary elections. According to the OSCE, there was no competition or open debate. The Liberal Democratic Party became the largest.