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Last Updated: 06/14/2005Uzbek Bloody Friday
When Uzbek soldiers fired on protestors this past May, it drew international attention from media groups, NGOs and governments around the globe. The incident, however, was only the latest of what has been a pattern of violence and oppression by Islam Karimov’s totalitarian regime. Meanwhile, as the incident has cooled relations with the US and Europe, China and Russia are approving of Karimov’s use of violence.
With the help of leading information agencies, as well as reports by human rights activists, the world has turned its attention to
The term "
The Andijan protestors are all well-spoken, dignified and orderly. They could perhaps be described as the town's middle class. They make a point of saying that they are not protesting against the government - they simply want justice for their relatives. And they are eager to mention other arrests in the town and of more trials they say are planned for the near future.
On the next day, Friday, May the 13th, most of the world media agencies, including the BBC, were reporting on the overnight clash between the supposed rebels and the Uzbek police and security services, which culminated in the troops firing on a non-violent protest in the afternoon of the same day. The immediate reaction of the Uzbek government was the total isolation of the state, restriction of the access to any type of media reporting on the crisis, and extradition of all journalists from the city. Furthermore, President Karimov rushed to claim that no civilians were killed by the Uzbek police and that Islamic radical movements with the link to
However, there is serious doubt that Islamists were behind the unrest. The preliminary analysis of the information (based on the testimonies and interviews made by those surviving from the shooting as well as on independent analysis) shows that Islam had nothing to do with the uprising. Rather, the guiding points of most of the public protests could be described as a search for the long-awaited respect for human rights and civil liberties, justice and economic reform, government accountability before the people and transparency of the decision-making process. As for the Andijan events, the information given by the protest's participants should suffice all they were looking for is justice and economic opportunities, not Islamic caliphate as the government has been portraying it.
Recent events in
Since January, tension had been steadily on the rise in Jizzakh, with regional Governor Ubaidullah Yamankulov reportedly organizing gangs of toughs, dubbed "black hundreds," to repress and intimidate protesting farmers. However, when confronted with the explosion of farmers anger on April 1, Yamankulov adopted a conciliatory course, hastily organizing a festival featuring the Uzbek national dish, plov, the Ferghana.ru website reported.
This protest staged by the farmers in the region was followed by one staged in front of the U.S. Embassy, where family-members of a farmer built tents to attract attention of the international community to the injustices brought by the current Uzbek regime. According to Daniel Kimmage, their chief demand was the return of a farm they alleged was illegally confiscated by Uzbek authorities in 2001.  Although the protest was peaceful, its participants were beaten and dispersed by the police, and those from outside of
According to the recent news reports the Russian Government rushed to back up President Karimov and both Russian Foreign and Defense Ministers claimed that there is evidence proving that Taliban remnants, as well as Chechen guerilla fighters, were involved in the Andijhan skirmish. Furthermore, participating at the recent NATO Defense Ministers meeting in
In addition to the support given by the Russian government, the Moscow-based Polity Foundation is working to create a positive image for the Uzbek President. The Uzbek National News Agency has recently reported that the president of the foundation has been welcomed by Islam Karimov. Interestingly enough, the U.S. senators that visited Uzbekistan before the Polity were denied audience, which leads one to assume that Karimov is ready to give up on his Western perspectives. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 events, the White House (and President Bush himself) has been praising President Karimov for his decision to become a part of the coalition of the willing and offering land for a
Meanwhile, the Uzbek public has been experiencing an information blockade imposed by the state, and the national mass media has been publishing articles and opinion papers in the best tradition of the Stalinist era. Depicting the human rights activists as enemies of the state and defaming the Uzbek independent journalists, national mass media either does not bother questioning the state or is being compelled to show loyalty. This is disappointing, coming from those who call themselves journalists. The Uzbek security forces have also been fulfilling their duty before the state, trying to restore the stability that President Karimov has been pointing at, the success of his reign. As in previous times, stability in
1. See for example International Crisis Group, Uzbekistan: The Andijon Uprising, Asia Briefing N 38, 25 May, 2005, available online at www.icg.org and Human Rights Watch, ‘Bullets were Falling Like Rain’: the Andijan Massacre, May 13, 2005 report, available online at www.hrw.org 2. Kimmage, Daniel, Uzbekistan: Bloody Friday In The Ferghana Valley, article available online at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/883DBAF0-985C-4DED-B40E-2C40747D4166.html; 3. Norton, Jenny, Uzbekistan’s Most Orderly Protest, article also available online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4540041.stm (accessed on May 12, 2005). 4. Ibid. 5. For the updates on the Andijan events see reports published by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (available online at http://www.rferl.org/specials/uzbek_unrest/), Institute for War and Peace Reporting (http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?centasia_uzbekunrest.html), and information available at www.eurasianet.org website. 6. Uzbek National News Agency, Islam Karimov: No One Can Turn Us from Our Chosen Path, article available online at http://www.uza.uz/eng/news/?id1=3723 (accessed on May 17, 2005) 7. Ibid. 8. Kimmage, Daniel, Uzbekistan: Economic Concerns Primary in Andijon, report available online at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/AD7F1448-B19A-47BF-B3FA-E7699AB652A8.html (accessed on May 14, 2005) 9. Kambarov, Kamron, Authorities Face Growing Discontent in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley, article available online at http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav040605a.shtml (accessed on April 28, 05) 9. Kimmage, Daniel, Uzbekistan: Police Crush Protest in Tashkent, article available online at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/1050411F-88D7-4331-AC72-27EBD8E17B9E.html (accessed on May 11, 2005) 10. Ibid. 11. See for example Russian News and Information Agency, Foreign Radicals Behind Uzbekistan Unrest: Foreign Ministry, May 16, 2005, article available online at http://en.rian.ru/russia/20050516/40356261.html (accessed on June 10, 2005) 12. Moscow News, Russia Rejects NATO’s Call For International Investigation In Uzbekistan, June 6, 2005, article also available online at http://www.mosnews.com/news/2005/06/09/uzbekinvestigation.shtml; see also Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russian Minister Against Probe Into Uzbek Violence, June 9, 2005, article available online at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/6/55723074-5D4C-464D-ABE1-45FB4FBFE08A.html (accessed on June 10, 2005) 13. Press Service of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, President Receives Russian Politika Members, June 13, 2005, article available online at http://www.press-service.uz/ (accessed on June 13, 2005) 14. AFP, Three US Senators Visit Uzbekistan, Push For International Probe, May 30, 2005, article available online at http://www.muslimuzbekistan.com/eng/ennews/2005/05/ennews30052005_5.html 15. Buckley, Chris, China ‘Honors’ Uzbekistan Crackdown, International Herald Tribune, May 27, 2005, article available online at http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/05/26/news/uzbek.php (accessed on June 13, 2005) 16. See www.polity.ru
Ali Said is the psuedonym of a Cental Asian journalist.