On June 25, 2022, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev submitted a bill on amendments to the Constitution of the country for public discussion.

It was planned to change 66 articles of the Basic Law.

I think that the main purpose of these innovations was to “reset” the term of Mr. Mirziyoyev’s presidency and give him the opportunity to “rule” for another 14 years (two new terms of 7 years each).

The issue of the status of the Republic of Karakalpakstan within Uzbekistan was a side issue and was initiated out of fear of Karakalpakstan’s secession from Uzbekistan in the light of separatist movements in eastern Ukraine.

However, it was this issue that caused the greatest resonance and led to a mass demonstration in the capital of Karakalpakstan – Nukus and clashes with law enforcement agencies.

Does Karakalpakstan have the right to sovereignty?

Yes, according to the current Constitution of the Republic, adopted in 1993, it has the right of self-determination until secession from Uzbekistan by voting in a referendum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. I emphasize, not the referendum of Uzbekistan, but the referendum of Karakalpakstan.

Does Kazakhstan need to assist Karakalpakstan in seceding from Uzbekistan?

Many consider the Karakalpak people to be closer in language, history and mentality to the Kazakhs than to the Uzbeks.

But historically, this people turned out to be part of Uzbekistan. I think it is absolutely unacceptable to call on the Karakalpaks to leave Uzbekistan, and even more so to join Kazakhstan from our side. This will be an incitement to separatism and it equates us with Russia in its attitude to the Donbass, Transnistria, Abkhazia, North Ossetia, etc.

First of all, I believe that the sovereignty of Karakalpakstan should be preserved, and amendments to the Constitution of Uzbekistan should be withdrawn.

Since it has historically happened that during the collapse of the USSR, the republics gained independence and enshrined it in their Constitutions, then canceling this independence now is just as fraught with consequences as, conversely, activating separatism.

Secondly, I believe that the leadership of Uzbekistan needs to abandon the forceful suppression of popular demonstrations. The people have the right to express their opinion, even if it does not coincide with the opinion of the authorities. The country’s leadership needs to immediately negotiate with Protestant leaders and come to a compromise. I think the refusal to change the status of Karakalpakstan will be such a compromise.

If the Uzbek authorities do take tough measures to disperse the demonstrators, then here we, the Kazakhs, and the entire democratic world need to stand firmly on the side of the Karakalpaks and demand respect for their rights. Not because the Karakalpaks are “brothers” to the Kazakhs, but because they are people and have the right to freedom of speech.

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