New Equal Rights Trust reports expose widespread ethnic and religious discrimination in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

On 20 and 21 December, the Equal Rights Trust launched three new comprehensive reports examining discrimination and inequality in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Published as these three countries mark the 25th year of their independence, the reports provide unprecedented insights into discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, political opinion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other grounds in states where little has previously been reported on such issues.

Speaking following the launch of the reports in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Astana, Kazakhstan, respectively, Equal Rights Trust Co-Director, Jim Fitzgerald said:

Jim Fitzgerald Co-Director of the Trust with activists, academics and others in Kazakhstan for the launch of the reportsAs Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan mark the 25th anniversary of their independence, these reports expose the reality of discrimination in these countries. We find that – for all the many differences between them – issues of religion and ethnicity are shared concerns. In all three countries, the state imposes restrictive registration requirements for religious groups, discriminating against religious minorities. There are common challenges with the integration of ethnic minorities originating from Russia or their neighbouring states; in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, for example, we find that language policies indirectly discriminate against ethnic minorities.

We conclude that all three states must do more, repealing discriminatory laws and adopting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, if they are to address these and other patterns of discrimination. If our discussions in Bishkek and Astana are indicative, these reports will be an essential tool for engaging authorities on the need for such legal reforms on equality.

In addition to highlighting common patterns of ethnic and religious discrimination, these reports expose country-specific patterns of discrimination affecting women, political dissidents, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and people living with HIV.  Using a combination of first hand testimony, literature review and statistical analysis, the reports provide a unique insight into experiences of discrimination in the state in question:

  • Looking for Harmony finds that while Kyrgyzstan has enjoyed a brief period of greater democracy since a revolution in 2010, there has been no equality dividend. Since 2010, the state has not only failed to tackle long-standing inequalities affecting women and ethnic Uzbeks, but has taken measures which have further marginalised religious, sexual and other minorities
  • In the Name of Unity concludes that the vision of a unified Kazakhstan promoted by President Nazarbayev since independence is narrow, excluding those whose religion, ethnicity or political opinion challenge his vision, and denying an equal role to women, persons with disabilities and LGBT persons.
  • After the Padishah published just months after the death of Islam Karimov, the “Padishah” who ruled Uzbekistan uncontested for 25 years, finds that his regime has been the key driver of discrimination, as Islam and ethnicity were co-opted, and the state suppressed all forms of dissent.

The reports conclude that if these three states are to fulfil the promises of unity, harmony and democracy made by political leaders at the point of their independence, more must be done. The reports make wide-ranging, evidence-based recommendations to the countries’ governments, calling for the amendment or repeal of discriminatory laws, the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and the improved enforcement of existing non-discrimination provisions.

For further information, including interview with the Trust’s Co-Director, Jim Fitzgerald, please contact  


Add new comment