Muhammad Bekzhanov

Muhammad Bekzhanov was a prominent journalist and leading voice for democracy in Uzbekistan during the period immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Along with his brother, he ran the opposition publication Erk (Freedom). In 1999, President Karimov blamed a series of explosions in the capital on the the Erk party and ordered all members arrested. Bekzhanov was sentenced to 15 years in prison despite evidence that his implication was coerced through torture of an Islamist militant. Days before his release he was given an additional sentence for “disobeying prison officials.” Bekzhanov has suffered deafness, broken bones, lost teeth, and tuberculosis due to mistreatment and poor prison conditions. He remains jailed to this day.

Illustration by JP Chirdon


Uzbekistan has long been known for its skill in the art of tracery, where ornate and elaborate stonework is used to support patterns in glass windows. These detailed patterns, built from both geometric and organic forms, can also be found applied to gold embroidery, copper embossing, ceramic art, carpet weaving and lacquer painting throughout the country. In Bekzhanov’s portrait, the detailed linework is symbolic of his continued imprisonment.

Total Area
448,978 km2 (41st)


Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic

30,980,146 (41st)


$5,939 per capita