All Manner of Updates

by Nathan Hamm on 5/16/2005 · 11 comments

As always, check Lyndon’s Scraps of Moscow for load and loads and loads of great posts.

The BBC has a timeline of events. Speaking of the BBC, I recorded an interview with this chap that I think is on this evening during Up All Night. Also, we got a mention in the Guardian blog, on the Liberation website, and on a Belgian news site whose link I’ve misplaced. I want to thank everyone who has been leaving comments. I don’t think the coverage would be nearly as good without all the reader involvement.

Just a reminder, DEBKA’s not worth the electrons its forged from.

The town tipped over into protest over the trial of 23 local men charged with belonging to an Islamic group called Akramia, named after Akram Tahir Yuldashev, leader of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was sentenced in absentia to 17 years in prison in 1999.

I don’t know what else to say than that many people in Uzbekistan share last names, and sometimes there are even two people of the same gender with the same last name that are Muslims. Crazy but true. It also occurs to me that if Akram is Tohir, did he found both Akramiya and Adolat? Also strange is the fact that protesters demanded that Akram be released from an Uzbek prison. I guess DEBKA should have told them he’s off in Waziristan. The story also talks about Tohir being in Tashkent. Sounds like crap to me.

The Guardian apparently has space to fill as well. It’d be rather tiresome to get into a blow-by-blow on this, and my critique has nothing to do with the author. After all, watered-down Marxist critiques of the West are a dime-a-dozen. Murray’s quick to draw conclusions that fit a caricature of the US as a mustachioed villain cackling in delight as he waits for the train to hit the damsel he’s tied to the tracks. It’s irresponsible to cast the protesters in Andijon as pro-anything at this point including “pro-democracy,” when their list of demands began with items that don’t necessarily include democracy and when we still don’t have all the facts about what happened. Very odd the paper would let him get away with it considering its recent history of giving space to columnists who heaped sneering contempt on protesters in other parts of the former USSR who more clearly were pro-democracy.

The very same paper had not one but two stories that if the “US backs Uzbek dictator to the hilt,” it does so in a very funny way. I would hope that it is glaringly obvious to observers that we have yet to completely understand what happened the night of May 12-13. While I wish the State Department had made a stronger statement earlier, I certainly am of the persuasion that the cautious course is usually the best one in diplomatic matters. As more has become clear about the situation in Andijon, it should come as no surprise that statements from US officials have changed in tone.

Condoleezza Rice, called for political reform. Speaking in Ireland as she flew home from Iraq, Ms Rice said: “We have been encouraging the Karimov government to make reforms, to make the system more open, to make it possible for people to have a political life.”

Ms Rice said Uzbekistan, where the autocratic President Islam Karimov has ruled since Soviet times, had a political system that was “too closed”.

And from another story,

Rice said the United States was “still trying to understand” what happened in the eastern city of Andijan, where clashes between protesters and security forces left several hundred people dead.

“The main preoccupations are now to encourage everybody to forgo any further violence, to help with the refugees that went into Kyrgystan out of Uzbekistan, and to try to deal with the consequences right now of this set of issues,” she said.

Not that I expect that Murray’s tone will change or anything….

Now that that is out of my system, back to plain old news.

The BBC has reaction from readers.

Larry in Osh has some posts related to the situation in Andijon. Unrelated, but worth noting is that he has been pulled from his job at a human rights NGO in Osh. He sent this letter to protest the decision. speculates on how the political situation in Uzbekistan may develop.

So will Mr Karimov be the next strongman in the region to fall? Certainly it is notable that protesters are increasingly focusing their discontent on the president himself, and demanding his resignation, instead of blaming local officials. Pressure within the regime for a change of leader is likely to grow, particularly if vested interests in the political hierarchy start doubting Mr Karimov’s ability to guarantee their privileges.

However, even if rising protests do eventually force him to step down, the outcome may not, in the first instance, be a more democratic, liberalising government. In the absence of a charismatic opposition leader, power may instead pass to a supporter of the current regime from among the country’s dominant clans. If so, there may be little hope of economic reform, just a redistribution among the elite of the spoils of power. This would do nothing to alleviate the growing economic and social concerns of a population that seems increasingly willing to challenge those in authority.

I hate to agree, but find myself doing just that.

IWPR’s excellent coverage continues and it is all collected on on page. This story excerpts a letter believed to be from one of the 23 men charged with membership in Akramiya (h/t praktike).

“We could tolerate it no longer,” the letter says. “We are unjustly accused of membership of Akramia. We were tormented for almost a year, but they could not prove us guilty in court. Then they started persecuting our nearest and dearest.

“If we don’t demand our rights, no one else will protect them for us. The problems that affect you trouble us as well. If you have a government job, your salary is not enough to live on. If you earn a living by yourself, they start envying you and putting obstacles in your way. If you talk about your pain, no one will listen. If you demand your rights, they will criminalise you.”

Then the letter makes a call to action, “Dear Andijanis! Let us defend our rights. Let the region’s governor come, and representatives of the president too, and hear our pain. When we make demands, the authorities should hear us. If we stick together, they will not do anything bad to us.”

And finally, check out these comments from one of the people behind

Again, please throw links in the comments. They’ve been a great help not just to me but to other readers who are looking for a wide variety of stories. Also, I’ll probably be swamped again tomorrow. I’ll update as I can and as the situation warrants.

Update: In my haste, I forgot to plug Dan Darling’s post on Uzbekistan at Winds of Change.

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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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Dan Darling May 17, 2005 at 12:04 am

Akram is not Tahir Yuldashev, just some bastard with the same surname. They’re both Islamists, but the last I heard Akram headed an HuT splinter while Tahir was the brains behind Adolat and later the IMU. If he was languishing in Uzbek jail, don’t you think somebody would tell the CIA, which still has him on the “kill” list.

Argghhh …

Wieland May 17, 2005 at 12:34 am

Absolutely right about DEBKA, they consistently take an alarmist view which in some way feeds their ideology and more often than not their facts are completely wrong.

david_walther May 17, 2005 at 7:04 am

I got forwarded the DEBKA article the other day, it was so full of ridiculous (and easy to check) errors that I assumed that no one actually read it… I’m a little surprised to find out their famous enough for that article to be bouncing around—I don’t know if it was just a will-to-believe thing or what, but fact checking really never hurt anybody.

Oh, and I thought that we announced we (US Forces) killed Yuldashev in a raid in Waziristan last year (and before the Tashkent attacks, I thought) is that thought not to be true by somebody besides DEBKA? (who relates to actual facts?)

Craig Murray May 17, 2005 at 7:49 am

Dan is right. On Tahir Yuldashev there were reports he got away as the net closed, through a tunnel, and I can’t remember if there is a definitive statement somewhere – the tunnel story sounds a bit mythic.

On Andizhan, from pictures these were MVD forces not regular army, but can anyone confirm regular army were not involved, and does anyone have info on the units used?


praktike May 17, 2005 at 8:17 am

david, that was namangani.

praktike May 17, 2005 at 8:57 am

btw, here’s one for you, Nathan, from guess who:

My visit coincided with the decision of the U.S. State Department to declare HuT an “extremist,” but not a terrorist, organization. Why were “we” doing this, I was asked aggressively and angrily? Why were “we” protecting terrorists? According to Uzbek security officials and ethnic Russians who work in their ranks, the U.S. and Britain have coddled HuT to maintain it as a weapon against Moscow.

Ha, ha.

Nathan May 17, 2005 at 9:58 am

Sadly, I think that’s one of Schwartz’s better articles on Uzbekistan. At least he’s not saying what a wonderfully Sufi country it is, bravely standing up to Wahabbism.

Actually prak, David’s guy was Yo’ldosh, but he did get away. Juma is believed to have bought the farm in northern Afghanistan in 2001.

praktike May 17, 2005 at 11:37 am

Oops, you’re right. TY was wounded in March ’04 in Waziristan.

As for Schwartz, yeah, it wasn’t one of his usual plaintive apologies for Karimov, but that graf just irked me because he was uncritically relaying Russian paranoia.

david l May 17, 2005 at 1:43 pm

Wow… first ever article by Schwartz not heaping praise on Karimov. Whatever next? Martin Spechler admits that Uzbek economic policy has always been a crock of shit?

On an entirely different note, can the tashkent embassy do something about their website? At least reflect the statements coming from the White House. The nearest thing they have to some thoughts on the Fergana valley is the fact that The Second Annual African Heritage Fair was held at the Parvoz Gymnasium in Ferghana City on Saturday, April 30. Nice, of course, but hardly what the population is calling out for. No wonder people prefer

Mark Hamm May 17, 2005 at 5:50 pm

Mr. Murray,

What are the MVD forces?

Also you mentioned lobbying your govt. to fund pro-democracy factions in Uzb. Was the group involved in the Andizhan trial mess? Or was it a more general pro-democratic program?

FYI, I’m Nathan Hamm’s father. I tend to be liberal and we have some pretty heated discussions. Strange how people can have similiar experiences but see things completely differently.

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