a grain of salt…

by Nathan Hamm on 8/26/2004 · 2 comments

And a small one at that.

Laurence mentioned below that the US is warning of terror attacks in Uzbekistan on Mustaqillik Kuni (Independence Day). [Side note: for those familiar with the Tashkent Metro, I do an excellent impression of the intonation and pronunciation of the announcer for Mustaqillik Maidoni Bekati].

I am certainly inclined to say that the warning should be taken seriously, but…

When I was in Uzbekistan we were under that warning at pretty much all times. In fact, the only differences are “especially vigilant” as opposed to “vigilant” and the warning to stay away from the haunts of Westerners. These guidelines are almost part and parcel of being an American living outside of the developed world now.

The Uzbek government too was especially vigilant around Independence Day, and I’m assuming that didn’t change in 2002 or 2003 when I was not there. In 2001, the line of cars stopped for inspection seemed to start around Yangi-Yo’l (a fair distance south of Tashkent) and the machine-gun nests on the road north to Chirchik were manned.

The recent attacks against foreign targets show that there is more reason to take the warnings to heart, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

UPDATE: Here is the official announcement from the State Department. I clarify a tad in the comments.

UPDATE II: From Ferghana.Ru::

Karimov was quite skeptical yesterday with regard to the warning issued by the US Department of State on possibility of “new attacks on Uzbekistan during the Independence Day celebration in early September.” Washington urged American citizen in Uzbekistan to take care and avoid masses. Karimov said that if the US Department of State had any information on terrorist acts, it should have warned the authorities of Uzbekistan. “We do not have any such information,” Karimov said. It should be noted that unprecedented security measures are taken in Uzbekistan on the eve of the Independence Day even without the American warning. Karimov’s words merely indicate his wish to avoid panic in the country.

Yep, I’d agree with their last sentence there.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Laurence August 26, 2004 at 11:19 am

Well, Nathan, I was just clipping a BBC news iterm… As far as terrorist attacks go, before I left Tashkents, some of my students came to me and said, “Why don’t you stay in Tashkent, keep teaching at UWED, where you will be safe? Don’t you know that Washington is Osama’s main target?”

So perhaps one’s sense of danger is connected more to familiarity with a place than the actual number of terrorists around.

Nathan August 26, 2004 at 11:37 am

My comment on the warning in general (which is here) is that it is not anomalous at all, but that it’s just being reported this time because of recent events.

I certainly think the warning is much more warranted now than when I was there. There’s a certain element of “don’t be a dumbass” to these warnings that unfortunately needs to be said due to the common practice of tourists (especially tourists!) being dumbasses. The American mountain climbers who were captured by the IMU in Kyrgyzstan come to mind…

As an aside, I certainly felt that Uzbekistan after 9/11 was a safer place than the US. At the very least, when you’re part of a very small community of Americans whose location is closely-followed by the State Department, it’s easy for the troops to protect and evacuate you should the need arise.

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