IWPR on Tashkent Protest

by Nathan Hamm on 5/5/2005 · 1 comment

IWPR has more details on the breakup of the protest in front of the US embassy.

Throughout the day, a group of up to 50 young men in plain clothes were standing by in readiness, and fire engines, ambulances, and police vans of the type use to transport detainees arrived one by one.

At 11.20 in the evening, when some of the adults and children were asleep inside the tents, two buses drew up and about 50 people armed with truncheons jumped out. Some were in police uniform and others in camouflage, but most were in plain clothes.

The demonstrators were so intimidated that they put their hands in the air and called out that they would stop their protest action and go home immediately.

Their pleas were ignored and the security forces waded in, beating people apparently indiscriminately.

Internet sites reporting on the incident said protestors suffered broken arms and legs, but at the time this story was published it was impossible to confirm reports of injuries as the protesters had been sent back to Kashkadarya.

Journalists reporting from the scene, some from IWPR and the Prague-based RFE/RL, and a German reporter were also dragged away towards the waiting buses. They were rescued by a Tashkent police officer who prevented physical attacks on them and got them away from the scene.

A spokesman for the Uzbek interior ministry, Vyacheslav Tutin, said the following day that all the participants in the protest had been put on buses and sent back home. The spokesman said 11 men, 13 women and 19 children were detained in all.

Tutin said it was the protesters’ own fault if security forces behaved in a heavy-handed way, because earlier in the day, police and National Security Service officers had been stoned by the crowd.

Speaking before the evening police assault, protestors said they had thrown stones that morning, but only when members of the security forces attempted to grab a nine-month-old baby from its mother’s arms. They said police retreated after this initial intervention.

The police really lucked out by having one of their own recognize and protect the reporters…

IWPR also reports that the US embassy has released a statement “regretting the authorities’ use of force against protesters who were exercising rights to freedom of expression and assembly accorded them in United Nations conventions.”

Interestingly, while the protesters said the reason for holding their action in front of the embassy was to draw US attention to their needs and because they have lost faith in their government, members of the Choriev family who owned the agricultural company at the center of the protest said that they want their property returned or they want asylum in the US. The oldest brother, Bahodir, received asylum last year.

It will certainly be interesting to see if protests centered on economic concerns continue to proliferate as they have been doing lately.

For other reporting, see the BBC and RFE/RL’s report.

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This post was written by...

– 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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