Uzbekistan’s new president closes Jaslyk prison camp

Aug 08, 2019

UZBEKISTAN’S “YOUTH” camp, Jaslyk in the vernacular, sounds like a children’s holiday camp, but it is a prison where enemies of what was until recently one of the world’s most repressive regimes were isolated and tortured. Now Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan’s reforming president, is shutting it down.

Jaslyk became synonymous with medieval-style barbarism when two inmates died after immersion in boiling water in 2002—in effect boiled alive. Other political and religious dissidents held there were beaten with iron rods, had their fingernails pulled out and were given electric shocks. Situated in a desert in the Karakalpakstan region, where the temperature ranges from 45°C to -35°C, some 1,400km from the capital, Tashkent, and 180km from the nearest town, Jaslyk—like the Soviet Siberian prison camps on which it was modelled—was impossible to escape from. The local railway station is Barsa Kelmes, which loosely translates as “place of no return”.

Jaslyk was opened in 1999 by the tyrannical Islam Karimov, who ruled the post-Soviet Central Asian country for a quarter of a century until his death in 2016, after bombings in Tashkent sparked a hunt for dissidents. His successor, Mr Mirziyoyev, has surprised the world by liberalising politically as well as economically: he has freed 50 political prisoners and removed 20,000...

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