Rioting in Kokand

by Nathan Hamm on 11/1/2004 · 5 comments

The BBC reports that new trade restrictions have led to rioting in Kokand.

Protesters set two police cars on fire and stoned the tax office nearby, smashing the windows.

One eyewitness reported that the city’s mayor climbed on a market stall to address the crowd but he was drowned out by furious protesters.

A column of marchers then set off towards the government office in the city centre.

Local police confirmed that a large protest was going on. They said their officers were standing by to contain the situation and had not been armed.

The demonstration was sparked by a law that puts new restrictions on trade, already very difficult in Uzbekistan.

From now on it will be illegal for traders to use intermediaries. If traders buy goods abroad, they must sell them personally without going through any other retailer. Each trader must also have a special government licence.

There are reportedly between 2,000 and 20,000 protesters.

(h/t Asror)

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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 November 1, 2004 at 9:34 am

Nathan, there have been a number of protests and riots about economic conditions before. Economic problems, not Islamic extremists, are the most powerful challenge to the Karmov regime. Someone with a good economic liberalization plan and well-organized support among ruling cadres, could provide a realistic alternative.

Nathan November 1, 2004 at 10:31 am

When people ask me to make predictions about Uzbeks rising up against their government, I always say there’s no way to tell. However, the odds go way up whenever new economic restrictions are put in place. Merchants are an underrated political class in Uzbekistan.

Laurence November 1, 2004 at 10:32 am

One more factor, it is election time in Uzbekistan. We had riots in 1992, in Los Angeles, which helped Bill Clinton show that Bush 41 was out of touch…

BDC November 1, 2004 at 1:52 pm

“Merchants are an underrated political class in Uzbekistan.”

Correct. Actually bazaar merchants were part of the vanguard of the anti-Shah revolts in Iran in 1978.

Asror November 2, 2004 at 6:30 pm

I got it from my friend in Tashkent. But I couldn’t to get it online. Here it is:

“Several thousand protest new trade restrictions in Uzbekistan, burn police cars”

from “Associated Press” (USA)
November 1, 2004

Thousands of people in eastern Uzbekistan protested new trade restrictions on Monday in a rare expression of public discontent in the tightly controlled Central Asian country, a rights activist said.

Up to 8,000 people marched from the central bazaar in the town of Kokand to the mayor’s office, burning at least two police cars, according to Ismoil Dadajonov, a rights activist who witnessed the protest.
The demonstrators in this town 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of the capital Tashkent were protesting new trade rules that ban the sale of imported goods through intermediaries and require all vendors to get a special license to bring goods from abroad.

The new rules – the latest in a series of restrictions that have stifled private business in the country _ were announced in August and came
into force on Monday.

Most consumer goods are imported, and many Uzbeks shop for clothes and household goods at bazaars, where prices are lower than in stores.
Monday’s protest was sparked by the confiscation by police of goods belonging to two traders, who did not have licenses required by the new rules.

Local police confirmed that a protest took place Monday morning but declined to give details. No arrests have been reported.

Trade restrictions imposed by the government in 2003 triggered protests across the country and forced authorities to temporarily close down all

Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who has ruled zbekistan since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, tolerates no dissent.

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