Conflicts in high profile geopolitical hot spots such as Gaza, Hong Kong, and Eastern Ukraine have continued to dominate media headlines and cable television news cycles. As such, many other burgeoning insurrections have begun to languish far below the public’s radar.

Separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia of Georgia, Catalan of Spain, and Scotland of the United Kingdom have alternatively garnered temporary media focus only to recede back into relative anonymity as the public remains focused on the violent war in Syria and the ongoing civil strife in Ukraine. Among the more interesting regions beginning to reflect the possibility of breaking away from its national government is the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic of Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

Located in the northwestern region of the country, Karakalpakstan’s population is majority Uzbek and is estimated to be between 1.7 and 1.8 million per the latest census (conducted in 2013). Ethnic Karakalpaks comprise roughly one quarter of Karakalpakstan’s population with another 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks and 300,000 Kazakhs. The capital, Nukus, is home to the majority of the Karakalpaks and represents the highest concentration of the ethnic minority in all of Uzbekistan. Religiously, the majority of Karakalpaks are affiliated with Sunni Islam. Dervishes are especially notable in Karakalpakstan and are one of the more recognizable elements of the order in the world.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan’s national leaders established what would prove to be a firmly entrenched authoritarian regime for the next two decades. The current president of the country, Islam Karimov, has been the leader of the country since 1990 and has been notable first and foremost for his intolerance of political dissent, his heavy-handed response to insurrection, and his anti-Islamist policies. Delving into Karimov’s tyrannical control over Uzbekistan is an article unto itself. I will examine his rule as a single thesis in an article to come. Suffice it to say, Karimov’s policies have inspired a backlash of popular support for a more democratic governing authority. The illegitimacy of rule by ethnic Uzbek majority in Karakalpakstan’s government is a sensitive topic for many Karakalpaks.

Earlier this month, reports out of Karakalpakstan signaled an intensified effort by the government to control the content of anti-government personalities, especially on the internet:

Bloggers are now banned from using online platforms for a long list of activities, the Anhor website reported: from calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order to questioning Uzbekistan’s territorial integrity; and from promoting pornography and narcotics to disseminating information inciting ethnic or religious enmity.

Promoting war, violence, terrorism, extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism is also a no-no, under amendments to the law governing IT affairs which came into force on September 5. So is divulging state secrets, and publishing information that may harm someone’s reputation and violate their right to privacy (a provision likely to act as a deterrent to whistleblowers).

The ban on calling for the overthrow of the state and questioning territorial integrity come as Uzbekistan, like other states in the region, appears rattled by the conflict in Ukraine and by Russia’s aggressive expansionist rhetoric. This year has witnessed a spate of online calls for independence for Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region, and – while the credibility and motives of those posting them under pseudonyms is in question – the material has no doubt raised eyebrows in Tashkent. (, September 8)