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central asia in focus: central asians targeted in russia

Central Asia in Focus: Central Asians Targeted in Russia

Author: Bruce Pannier

Apr 9, 2024

Image source: CNN

Copyright (c)2022 RFE/RL, Inc. Used with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036. Read here.


In the Region


Central Asians Targeted in Russia


Incidents of harassment and violence against Central Asians in Russia continue to increase in the wake of the March 22 terrorist attack at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall.

Russian authorities arrested four ethnic Tajiks and charged them with carrying out the attack that left more than 140 people dead.

At least 13 other people have been detained in connection with the terrorist act, 11 of whom are also ethnic Tajiks.

Human Rights Watch wrote on April 5 that, “Migrants from Central Asia and other people of non-Slavic appearance are facing a notable increase in ethnic harassment and attacks in Russia…”  

A week after the attack, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Ozodi, spoke with Tajik migrant laborers in Moscow who said police were detaining Central Asians “by the dozens.”

An Uzbek migrant laborer told Ozodi he was one of a group of people who were detained and spent 10 hours having their passports, documents, and phones checked by police.

The Uzbek said, “The Tajiks they caught… were beaten with batons. With us Uzbeks [the police] didn’t do that. They just spoke rudely and insulted us.”

Lawyer and well-known defender of Central Asian migrants’ rights Valentina Chupik told Ozodi her office has been receiving at least 1,000 appeals a day about illegal detentions and rights violations.

“If it’s possible, go back home,” she advised Central Asian laborers.

Russian authorities are already deporting large numbers of Central Asian migrant laborers after raids uncovered many without proper work documents. 

On April 3, elite police raided a Moscow dormitory where many Tajiks live, detaining more than 60 people, most of whom were deported.

There are reports that some Tajiks planning on going to work in Russia have instead canceled their tickets.

Russia’s Interior Ministry announced new rules for all foreigners that include mandatory fingerprinting and photographing upon entry and a reduction of the legal duration of stay from 180 days to 90.

Why It’s Important: Many Tajiks, and other Central Asians in Russia, are afraid to leave their homes.

Moscow city authorities advised Muslims not to attend Friday prayers on March 5.

Human Rights Watch wrote, “Rather than condemn the xenophobic violence and harassment, Russian authorities have carried out raids and checks against migrants from Central Asia, especially Tajiks.”

Millions of Central Asians work in Russia and their remittances to families back home are essential to millions more people.

A loss of billions of dollars from these Central Asian migrant workers will create huge economic problems for their families and homelands. 

Kyrgyzstan’s President Explains the Need for ‘Foreign Representatives’ Law

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov signed a controversial law on non-commercial organizations, also known as the “foreign representatives’” law on April 2.

Local and international rights organizations, as well as at least five Western governments expressed concerns about the law and called on President Japarov to veto it.

The law targets NGOs that carry out “political activities” and has been compared to similar legislation in Russia that was used to shutdown NGOs critical of Kremlin policies.

Japarov wrote on Facebook, “Non-governmental organizations working in our country for 30 years have not been registered anywhere.”

Japarov said these organizations “did not report to anyone” and that “they only opened bank accounts, took money from foreign donors and used it at their discretion, including for personal purposes.”

“From now on,” Japarov continued, “they will be registered with the Justice Ministry like everyone else.”

“Now they will start working openly. There will be no mess like before,” added the Kyrgyz president.

Japarov also claimed that these organizations “are spreading false information, saying, ‘We will be persecuted, we will be detained as agents of a foreign state.’ And the donors believed it.”

Kyrgyz independent media outlet Kaktus.media refuted many of Japarov’s claims.

A Kaktus.media article on April 2 noted that, according to current law, non-commercial organizations “like any other organization, are already accountable to the state: they submit reports to the National Statistics Committee and the tax service.”

Why it’s Important: Kaktus.media pointed out Japarov’s view on what NGOs have been doing in Kyrgyzstan is often inaccurate, but that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that Japarov’s remarks show he has already developed a negative opinion of at least some NGOs and these can expect their registration to be revoked soon after Japarov signs the law.

NGOs receiving foreign funding that have called out Japarov’s government for rights violations and media organizations receiving foreign funds that are critical of his policies could be closed soon. 

Majlis Podcast


The most recent Majlis podcast looks at how the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall has impacted the lives of Tajik migrant laborers in Russia.

We also discuss what people in Tajikistan are saying about the attack and Russia’s arrests of Tajik nationals, and how that is affecting Tajik-Russian relations.

The guests on this podcast are:

  • - Edward Lemon, professor at Texas A&M University, and the president of the Oxus Society for Central Asia; and
  • - Salimjon Aiuobov, director of RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Ozodi. 

What I’m Following


Anglo-Saxon Kazakhstan

Russian Duma Deputy and suspected assassin Andrei Logovoi said Kazakhstan is a “puppet of Anglo-Saxons.”

Logovoi made the comment during a two-part film posted on Ru.Tube entitled “Personal Enemy of the King. The Kazakh Twist.”

The film repeatedly claims that Britain is somehow behind an alleged surge in Russophobia in Kazakhstan.

Russian officials have been making critical remarks about Kazakhstan for several years, some going so far as to claim that part or all of Kazakhstan is historically Russian territory.

Kazakh officials usually do not respond to such remarks from Russian officials, and so far, have not responded to Lugovoi or his film.

Lugovoi is best known as the person Britain accuses of poisoning Russian defector and former member of the Russian security service Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in 2006. 

Two More Karakalpak Activists Arrested in Kazakhstan

Kazakh authorities have arrested Karakalpak activists Rasul Jumaniyazov and Rinat Utambetov for migration violations.

Both are citizens of Uzbekistan and face possible extradition.

Jumaniyazov was taken into custody in Astana on March 26.

He is a longtime critic of the Uzbek government’s policies in Karakalpakstan and accused Uzbek authorities of rights violations.

Utambetov was arrested in Almaty on April 3.

He was vocal in opposing proposed changes to Uzbekistan’s constitution that would have stripped the Karakalpak Sovereign Republic of its nominal sovereignty and right to secede.

Those proposed amendments sparked a large peaceful protest in the Karakalpak capital Nukus in July 2022 that resulted in at least 21 people being killed.  

Fact of the Week

As of April 8, more than 72,000 people had been evacuated from flooded areas across northern Kazakhstan. 

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading Central Asia in Focus! I appreciate you sharing it with other readers who may be interested.

Feel free to contact me on X, especially if you have any questions, comments, or just want to connect about topics concerning Central Asia.

Until next time,

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