The annual UN Forum on Minority Issues: ADC Memorial raised the issues of minorities in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The 16th UN Forum on Minority Issues was held in Geneva on November 30 – December 1, 2023. This year, the theme of the Forum was «Minorities and Cohesive Societies: Equality, Social Inclusion, and Socio-economic Participation». Recommendations on the outcome of the 16th session of the Forum will be presented at the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2024.

During the interactive dialogue between representatives of NGOs and the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, ADC Memorial made a statement about the situation in the region: on the difficult situation of minorities in Central Asia, anti-Semitic demonstrations in Dagestan, Russia’s war aggression against Ukraine. There were also some other statements on the situation in Central Asia: on the violation of the rights of the Pamiri peoples in Tajikistan, the Karakalpak people in Uzbekistan, and the Dungan minority in Kazakhstan.

Statement by the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial Brussels at the 16th UN Forum on Minority Issues, 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2023

The region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been experiencing significant cataclysms in recent years. In the shadow of Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine, negative political processes in Central Asia have been left without proper international attention. Meanwhile, in this region we see strengthening of authoritarian tendencies reacted with mass protests, attempts of state coup. The anti-Dungan pogrom in Kazakhstan in 2020 became a kind of repetition for the coup attempt in January 2022. Repressions against Pamiri peoples in Tajikistan and restriction of the political and cultural autonomy of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, attempts to deprive the Karakalpak people of their sovereignty as part of Uzbekistan – all these events have led to significant casualties and demonstrate how vulnerable minorities are during political cataclysms and crises.

In Russia, over the past decade, state propaganda has shaped the discourse about Russia’s exclusivity, its “special historical path” and “traditional values.” At the same time, hatred and discrimination against various minorities were escalated – meaning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, migrantophobia, anti-Gypsism. All this legitimized direct violence and became a prerequisite for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In its turn, the war intensified hatred and xenophobia, and minorities were again particularly vulnerable. In the occupied territories of Ukraine, the Crimean Tatar people are being persecuted, and the Roma population is suffering.

After the terrorist aggression of HAMAS against Israel, anti-Semitic demonstrations and pogroms took place in the North Caucasus region of Russia, in the Republic of Dagestan, where the population traditionally practices Islam. The Russian authorities did not take proper response measures, the rioters were not brought to justice. At the same time, in other regions of Russia racism towards people from the North Caucasian republics also takes place. This is happening against the general background of the discrimination of migrant workers from Central Asia, mostly from traditionally Muslim countries – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. Thus, the state support for xenophobia leads to a new escalation of hatred and open aggression.

The mandatory conditions for equal participation of minorities in social and economic life are promotion of the ideas of democracy and human rights; zero tolerance to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, ethnic hatred.

The Forum on Minority Issues was established as a platform for the development of dialogue and cooperation on the issue of respect for the rights of national (or ethnic), religious and linguistic minorities. The Forum is attended by official representatives of States, intergovernmental and regional organizations and mechanisms in the field of human rights, scientists and experts on minority issues, representatives of minorities and NGOs. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues guides the work of the Forum, prepares its annual meetings and reports to the Human Rights Council on the thematic recommendations of the Forum.