Umida Niyazova is director and founder of Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF). She worked as a human rights advocate in Uzbekistan from 2000 – 2008 when she was forced to flee her country because of her work. She has worked in the Tashkent offices of organizations such as Internews Network, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch.
In 2007, Umida was arrested in Tashkent and sentenced to seven years imprisonment on charges of “illegally crossing a border”, “production or distribution of materials that threaten public safety and public order”, and for “smuggling extremist religious materials”. After widespread protests and with the support of international organizations, she was finally released after four months in prison.
In September 2008, Umida left Uzbekistan and sought political asylum in Berlin where she founded UGF and Eltuz, an Uzbek-language satirical news platform which reports on political and current events in Uzbekistan. Umida oversees UGF’s monitoring missions in Uzbekistan and represents UGF at human rights conferences where she is regularly invited to speak. She is the author of numerous articles on human rights in Uzbekistan and has given countless interviews in the international media.
In 2014, Uzbekistan’s authoritarian president, Islam Karimov, issued a decree depriving Umida and other exiled Uzbek human rights activists of their citizenship, leaving them de facto stateless.
Umida’s work has been widely recognized by her peers. In 2008, Human Rights Watch honored her with its prestigious Human Rights Defender Award and in 2018 she received the Reporter for Peace Award in recognition of her dedication to defending human rights.