Journalist Natalia Antelava was deported from Uzbekistan at the beginning of March, when officials revoked her passport and told her she could not enter the country. At the time, no one gave her a specific reason for barring her from entering the Republic of Uzbekistan. And no one has given her a direct explanation to date. Antelava feels that her deportation is directly related to the report she has recently been working on regarding the forced sterilization of women in Uzbekistan.
Antelava is a renowned BBC journalist who covers a wide range of global political and social issues, among which she has covered such issues as child abuse in the United States, as well as international tensions between such powers as NATO, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Her most recent story about the sterilization of women was substantiated by interviews she conducted with women and doctors who had crossed the border into Kazakhstan. As Antelava describes in her BBC report:
Evidence gathered by the BBC suggests that the Uzbek authorities have run a programme over the last two years to sterilise women across the country, often without their knowledge.
Foreign journalists are not welcome in Uzbekistan, and in late February of this year the authorities deported me from the country. I met Adolat and many other Uzbek women in the relative safety of neighbouring Kazakhstan. I also gathered testimony by telephone and email, and in recordings brought out of the country by courier.
None of the women wanted to give their real names but they come from different parts of Uzbekistan and their stories are consistent with those of doctors and medical professionals inside the country.
According to Antelava’s investigation, the government has been sterilizing women after they have had two or three children in an effort to control the population. The women are never informed of the decision, which often occurs in conjunction with the operation of a Caesarian section. Only later do the women discover that they have been barred from having children by state intervention.
Antelava suggests that many rural doctors are pressured by the government into performing a minimum number of operations each month. The reasoning behind such a measure? According to one doctor in Antelava’s coverage, the less women give birth, the less likely it is they will die.
Human Rights Watch has suggested that many human rights journalists who have opposed the central government, headed by Islam Karimov, are often “subject to physical attack, harassment, arbitrary arrest, and politically motivated prosecution and detention.”
Antelava’s sharp and outright critique of the Uzbek government provoked a strong reaction by its leaders. The government released a short response to the recent report arguing that the information is libelous and has nothing to do with reality.
In response, Antelava posted the government’s terse response on her Twitter account followed by a link to her BBC radio story regarding the violence and atrocities practiced on women’s bodies. Antelava’s recent report also suggests that global powers have not been critical enough of the treatment of women in Uzbekistan.
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