30 Jun How Has the Life of Deaf People Changed since the President’s Visit?
Exactly two years ago, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited the Culture Centre for the Deaf (the official name of the organisation is the Culture Centre of the Deaf-Mute) of the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan in Tashkent and instructed to improve the living conditions of deaf children and adults. Together with the author of the blog of the Society of the Deaf Mamur Akhliddinov (who covers the issues of education, science, sports and culture of deaf and hard of hearing people in Uzbekistan and a student at the University of Journalism and Mass Communications of Uzbekistan) we tried to find out what has changed after the visit of the president. The article appeared in both Russian and Uzbek at Gazeta.uz and hereby I am providing the translation of it into English.
The visit of the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the Centre for the Culture of the Deaf on 28 June 2018 inspired members of the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan (SDU) and gave them hope that from then on they would not be left out of the reforms which are being implemented in the country. The president said that ‘every person in Uzbekistan is dear to him’ and urged that special attention be paid to the training of teachers, sign language interpreters and the creation of decent jobs for the deaf.
In just 10 days large-scale construction and repair work was carried out on the territory of the SDU with a total area of 39,208 square meters, including the reconstruction of the building of the Center for the Culture of the Deaf, renovation of the premises for work and study rooms, equipping a concert hall for 450 people. In addition, a sewing enterprise consisting of three units was established on the territory of the Centre and each unit was designed for 100 jobs specifically for deaf and hard of hearing people.
Who got three sewing units for the deaf?
The opening of the three sewing units promised that at least some of the unemployed deaf and hard of hearing people would be adequately employed. But their joy did not last long. Since the launch of the enterprises, the deaf were hired only in the “A” sewing unit (in the photo this unit is located on the right, next to the football field), while the other two units remained closed to them. In block “A” there were delays in the salaries of deaf and hard-of-hearing workers and therefore the workers began to gradually leave the sewing enterprise.
Less than four days after the president’s visit, on 3 July 2018, by the Decree of the Presidium of the Central Board of the SDU No. 22, Protocol 6, the Culture Centre for the Deaf transfers free of charge 1.2 hectares of the adjoining land to the balance of the Tashkent city administration in order to ‘eliminate empty territorial areas on the balance of the structural units of the Society of the Deaf and reduce costs associated with their maintenance.’ It was on the donated territory that three sewing units were previously created.
Subsequently, it turned out that the new owner of the three units is an entrepreneur from Turkey, who launched the production of building materials in unit “A”. Given that the production is a few steps from the dormitory of the deaf, the authors of the article verbally suggested the entrepreneur hire deaf people, but the entrepreneur said he did not want to do this. The whole irony of this situation is that being in the former territory of the so-called ‘town of the deaf,’ the private company does not want to at least reserve the minimum number of job places for the deaf according to the law ‘On the social protection of disabled people’.
As a result, it turns out that the entire opening ceremony of the sewing workshop was nothing more than a window dressing dedicated to the president’s visit? But we all know well that for the president, ‘whitewash is treason.’ Instead of supporting the Society of the Deaf, the khokimiyat of the city of Tashkent gratuitously takes on its balance the territory belonging to the Society. Maybe someone thought that these actions would go unnoticed because the ‘deaf-mute’ members of the Society does not hear anything and will not be able to say anything about this …
The authors of the article asked the khokimiyat (city administration) of Tashkent to provide comments on this situation.
The situation with the employment of deaf and hard-of-hearing people remains extremely deplorable. The training and production enterprises (TPEs) of the Society of the Deaf provide only less than 250 deaf people with jobs throughout the country, and their employment mainly depends on the availability of orders for their products. Due to unemployment, most deaf people are forced to do informal work as parking attendants in the car parks of the capital, sell flags and trinkets at crossings, offer weighing services in underground passages, etc.
Unfortunately, the President’s decree ‘On organisational measures to stimulate the employment of socially vulnerable segments of the population’ of 11 June 2018 is not being implemented properly. The mandatory 3% quota for employing disabled people, as well as stimulating business with benefits, are not helping. So far, only less than 7% of disabled people have been employed in Uzbekistan due to discrimination in the open labour market and the inability of the TPEs under the Societies of the deaf, blind and disabled to provide everyone with decent jobs.
Have conditions for the development of deaf sports improved?
In addition to the sewing units, the local media noted that ‘gyms were updated and a modern football field with a total area of 1800 square meters was built.’ However, the sports complex for the Sports Federation of the Deaf of Uzbekistan (a separate NGO from the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan) was left without repair and could not be shown during the president’s visit. Representatives of the city and district khokimiyat promised that, at the second stage, in the summer of 2019, repair works will be carried out.
After a little more than a year, when the 90th anniversary of the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan was celebrated on September 17, 2019, a representative of the Almazar district khokimiyat, congratulating the members and the leadership of the SDU, noted that all buildings will be completely renovated. However, until now, due to unclear reasons, no changes have been observed in the sports complex for the deaf.
The deplorable state of the sports complex causes discontent among many deaf athletes because they could not train in the winter – the heating system of the sports complex is in disrepair, showers do not work. 2017 futsal world champions among the deaf U-18 teams are expressing discontent and disappointment. After all, they are still young and could continue to win victories in international competitions. But is it possible to seriously train in such conditions?
The inactivity of the leaders of the Society of the Deaf
On March 23, Mamur Akhliddinov made a written appeal to the central board of the SDU to get the necessary information on the organisational and financial activities of the Society and the TPEs of the deaf. Despite the confirmation of the receipt of the letter by the secretary of the chairman, no answers to the questions indicated in the appeal were received. Moreover, our request to get a copy of the Charter of the central board of the SDU remained unsatisfied.
If members of the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan, which is established to protect their rights and interests, cannot obtain the necessary information about the organisation’s activities, for whom the Society is working then? There is a split in the main public association of the deaf in Uzbekistan between the deaf community and the hearing chairman of the central board of the SDU, Javokhir Rykhsiev, who continues to ignore uncomfortable questions from deaf activists.
The true reasons why the Culture Centre of the Deaf donated free of charge 1.2 hectares of its territory to the city hokimiyat remain unclear. If according to the Central Board of the SDU, territorial areas were transferred to ‘reduce costs associated with their maintenance’, the reason also lies in part in the inability of the Society’s hearing leaders to effectively manage the property and specialised enterprises of the deaf.
As a result, the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan is not able to ‘save the material and technical base, property and financial resources created over the years,’ although this is confirmed by the hearing leadership of the SDU on the organisation’s only webpage of the Eastern Europe and Middle Asia Regional Secretariat of World Federation of the Deaf.
According to available data, as of 2019, more than 21,600 people with hearing impairments are officially registered in the country, including about 5700 students from specialised boarding schools. The central board of the SDU states that about 10,100 people over 16 years old, or almost 47% of all registered deaf people in the country, are members of the Society of the Deaf. However, the question of how effectively hearing chairman of the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan defends the rights and interests of deaf members of the association still remains open.
Official response from the city administration
The Press Service of the khokimiyat of Tashkent city made a public statement on its Telegram channel regarding our article:
Having studied the article ‘How has the life of deaf people changed since the president’s visit?’, published on June 29, 2020 at the newspaper Gazeta.uz the city administration of Tashkent created a working group to address issues that were raised in this article.
At the same time, the city administration is asking the author of the blog of the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan Mamur Akhliddinov and Gazeta.uz columnist Dilmurad Yusupov to participate as members of the working group.
The public will be fully informed about the results of the activities of the working group.