Police detained human rights activist Elena Urlaeva, photographer Timur Karpov and two French men in Buka district of Tashkent region on October 6, 2016. They were brought to the local district police station. They were detained there for several hours. According to Elena Urlaeva, she was beaten and assaulted.
Elena describes the situation:
“Timur Karpov, our French friends and myself went to Buka in the morning. Initially, we visited school No.35 in Buka district. We met with teachers there. The headquarters and sleeping area of their cotton-picking unit was based on the 3rdfloor of the school building. There was a big wok where staff were cooking some lunch. We saw where and how foodstuffs, including bread, are stored. The room where it was all stored looked very poor, worse than a toilet, so to speak. Teachers from many different schools were grouped in this unit and eventually mobilized to school No.35. Teachers told us that they were mobilized for 10 days, which means that they were mobilized for a “shift change”. When we were approaching the school by car, the people standing at the entrance noticed us and quickly ran inside the school building. It seems to me that while we walked through the school, they had to remove all the beds out of the gym area, where they normally sleep.
We went to a distant farm named “Bakhmal”, which is situated close to the mountains. There were two units of doctors picking cotton, composed of 200 people and 167 doctors and nurses from the city of Angren. We went to their headquarters, and we saw where they actually sleep – a cement floor with beds all around. However, doctors informed us that they were placed in the homes of local residents after our last visit.
They showed us the field where they actually pick cotton. So, we went there to interview them and take photos. At some point we noticed a man in civilian clothes who was standing and ringing someone by phone at the side of the field. We started to worry and thus returned to our car. At that moment, he tried to grab my camera, but Timur intervened and prevented him from doing so.
Eventually, we got into the car and started driving away. However, we were blocked by car with some civilians in it. They stopped us and began insulting us and taking photos of us. Slightly later police and traffic police arrived. We were completely surrounded. They were accusing us of traveling without proper documentation and so on. They took away the documents of our driver and ordered him to drive to the police station of Buka district. He was really shocked and was trying to tell them that he had not done anything wrong. The police menacingly asked him if he knew whom he has been driving.
Timur Karpov refused to enter the police department, but then police just dragged him forcefully inside. The two French men also followed him inside. I do not know what was happening as I was still held in the car. I got a chance to make a call to inform that we were detained. Then, police seized my phone and bag. They forced me into the police station, and some women were carrying my bag behind me. There were four women, but only two of them followed us upstairs. The name of one of those ladies was Zukhra, as far as I remember.
When we entered the room on the second floor, which was a crime investigation office as I remember, those women started groping and searching me. There were also some police officers in uniform. They looked like senior officers. They started threatening me by saying: “We will kill you. You are a traitor and spy. Who did you bring here?”
One of those ladies named Guljahon Yungurova was pulling my hair and punching me. I was trying to avoid punches and kicks. I was begging for help, but nobody helped me. Instead, a man in a uniform kicked me three times. Later when they were questioning me and I refused to say anything, the police officer told me that he would kick me in a way that would make me want to talk with them.
Simply speaking, they treated me horribly. They emptied my bag and seized everything. They were also insulting me. As a result, I felt bad. Probably, my blood pressure has increased because of the assaults and shock that they caused me. I was begging for medical assistance. No one cared, and the abuse lasted for five or six hours.
There were approximately seven people in the room. Naturally, none of them introduced or identified themselves. They asked why we traveled here, who we were taking photos of, where else we went and why we went to the school. All the time they were just shouting and threatening me by saying that Khokim was dismissed because of me (the head of the administration of Buka district Sultan Davronov was dismissed on October 4, 2016 – AsiaTerra). They were asking me why I was so interested in their district and saying that they could not live calmly as Buka was being discussed a lot on the Internet.
When I was finally allowed access to the bathroom, I saw one of our French friends and Timur in two separate rooms. I do not know if they released the driver and gave him his documents.
I was released after some time. I did not know where Timur was (he did not answer his phone). I found out that he was still inside with police at that moment. The two French men were released two hours prior to me. They let me go at around 6 pm, but they erased all the documents and contacts that I had in my phone.
I found the surname of the woman who was beating me. I asked them where my documentation is after I was told that I am free to go. “There was nothing”, – they told me. I found out that there were 200 US dollars missing when I opened my bag to check. My son Denis sent that money to me from Moscow. I asked them to give me back my money. The police officer called someone and ordered them to bring those two women who assaulted me in the afternoon. I could hear that one of them was Yungurova and the name of other was Zukhra.
“Guljahon was beating you. I did not beat you. I was just dragging you”, – said Zukhra when she was brought into the room.
Thereby, I know their names now. They were still in the police station when I left. They did not give me back my 200 US dollars or the documentation. The flash drive that I gave to Timur was taken away from him. Later on, it popped up in my mind that Guljahon Yungurova is a chief editor of Buka’s newspaper “Voice of Nation” (“Xalq Ovozi”). Teachers told me once that she was a part of the women’s agitation squad. They visit teachers that are in the cottonfield to make them pick more by shouting and insulting them. They drive around and threaten and intimidate teachers I would say.
And finally, I understood why all these propaganda banners and “help lines” do not work. Here I am, a human rights activist who was beaten, and to tell you the truth, the only thing I wanted was to get home away from all the horror that I was exposed to. Of course, no one will ever contact any of those “help lines”. It is completely under control”.
October 8th, 2016