Abuses by Mahalla Comittees
Uzbekistan’s neighborhood committees violate fundamental human rights, carrying the government's repressive policies to the local level. This 38-page report documents the role neighborhood, or mahalla, committees have played in three critical areas of government abuse: the government's six-year campaign against so-called Islamic fundamentalists, its response to domestic violence, and the 2000-2001 forced resettlement in southern Uzbekistan. For centuries, the mahalla was an autonomous institution organized around Islamic rituals and social events, but the current government transformed it into a national system for surveillance and control. Uzbekistan is divided up into approximately 12,000 mahallas, each containing between 150 and 1,500 households. The mahalla committees are local government authorities with the power to administer a range of activities. Human Rights Watch called on the government to ensure that mahalla committees stop discrimination and surveillance of independent Muslims; provide in-depth training of mahalla officials on the provision of protection to complainants in domestic violence cases; and facilitate, rather than block, access for international organizations and the media to resettlement villages. Human Rights Watch further called on international donors to require reform of mahalla committees as a condition for funding projects involving the committees.