This briefing paper by International Partnership for Human Rights together with Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA, based in exile), Restoration of Justice (based in Uzbekistan), Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR, based in exile), Legal Prosperity Foundation (based in Kyrgyzstan) and Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) provides an overview of the current challenges facing civil society in Central Asia. Over two and a half decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, the space for civil society remains seriously limited in this region with governments imposing far-reaching restrictions on free speech, association and assembly. Recently, the economic downturn, elections and high-profile international events taking place in the region appear to have made the Central Asian governments increasingly wary of criticism and to have contributed to growing intolerance of those who scrutinize and draw attention to human rights violations and the shortcomings of state policies, in particular on social media and other online platforms.
The government in Turkmenistan continues to tightly control the dissemination of information, suppress dissent and view any independent civil society activity as a threat. Uzbekistan’s current President has taken some important steps to break with the repressive practice of his predecessor, but has yet to initiate systematic human rights reform and take meaningful steps to allow a functioning and free civil society to develop. In Kyrgyzstan, the situation for civil society space has improved slightly under the new President, it is still too early to assess whether these improvements are part of a sustainable trend.The situation in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan has deteriorated significantly in the last year, with those in power exploiting concerns about national stability and security to justify measures that curtail fundamental freedoms and civil society activities.
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