Appeal & Protest

by Nathan Hamm on 5/17/2005 · 13 comments

From my inbox, without comment:

Protest at Uzbek Embassy in Washington D.C.

Help Stop Human Rights Abuses in Uzbekistan

Dear Compatriots and Friends:

As many of you know, last weekend, May 13-15, thousands of peaceful residents of Andijan city in Uzbekistan called for an end to the poverty and injustice which have become a part of their daily lives. Uzbek government forces carried on an unprecedented act of cruelty by opening fire at more than 2000 unarmed residents of the city of Andijan. The peaceful demonstrators called for justice and economic reforms, instead, 700 of them were killed! The victims were mostly women and helpless children.

As the coalition of Uzbeks abroad we call on our compatriots and friends to protest against the crimes committed by the current Uzbek regime of President Karimov.

We call upon you to show your solidarity for those who bravely stood up for their rights and those of the citizens of the rest of Uzbekistan.

This Wednesday, May 18 please join us between 12:00 pm and 1:00 p.m. in a peaceful vigil in front of the Embassy of Uzbekistan at 1746 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC.
We need to show the international community that we are united and that the Uzbek nation speaks with one voice. We ask our friends to join us in this effort to fight for the respect of human rights.

And from Ben Paarmann, an appeal from the Uzbek community in Kyrgyzstan (also found at and on Ben’s blog.

We are deeply touched by the bloody events in Andijan and hereby express our deepest condolences to relatives and next of kin of those who have perished and suffered during these events in the Uzbek south.

We deem certain that the events on 13 May that left so many innocent civilians killed, were provoked exclusively by the authoritarian policy of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and those around him. Islam Karimov has been employing the policy of complete human rights violation, oppressing freedom, repressions, demolition of free mass media, restricting trade and businesses and exiling dissidents.

The power-wielding bodies of Uzbekistan have used firearms against peaceful and unarmed people who were merely speaking out against the oppressive policy of Karimov. He had had all the chances, opportunities and possibilities to regulate the latest events in a peaceful way. However, in spite of this fact, he has preferred to employ violence and bloodshed.

The community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan urges the international community and human rights organizations in Uzbekistan to force the Uzbek authorities to face the fact of shooting to death peaceful and unarmed civilians as a result of acts and orders from state authorities and not as a result of provocation from terrorist or radical Islamic groups that are being accused of organizing and fulfilling the seizure of the prison and all other events thence unfolding in Andijan.

Islam Karimov’s office has lost any type of legitimacy and moral right to rule over and represent the Uzbek nation. We find Islam Karimov personally guilty and responsible for bloodshed in Andijan on 13 and 14 May, 2005. We also find him guilty in sufferings of the overall Uzbek nation that it had undergone for 15 years of his dictatorship regime’s ruling. We think that Karimov is a criminal after what has occurred both throughout his reigning period and the recent events in Andijan, and that he will stand before just court sooner or later. We also think there is no any imaginable excuse for officials, officers and soldiers who opened fire at children, seniors and women. They had the choice to disobey orders in this case!

Along with other democratic forces both in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and beyond, we are urging the international community to immediately condemn Islam Karimov and his surrounding for using arms and violence against peaceful rally participants and innocent civilians, up to seizing diplomatic ties with official Tashkent.

We are urging all democracy-oriented groups within Uzbekistan to unite and adhere to non-violent means of fighting for democracy and freedom. The example of our country – Kyrgyzstan – suggests that democracy and freedom must be achieved via exclusively peaceful ways and methods with no violence or repression or whatsoever of this type being employed for doing so.


The community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan was established in autumn of 2004 by young Uzbek-speaking Kyrgyz nationals who now live, work and study in different parts of the world. In spite of the fact that the bigger part of our community is away from our motherland at the moment, we attentively follow all processes there and do not remain as idle observers. We are deeply affected by everything that has to do with Kyrgyzstan.

Our aim is involving the youth in Kyrgyzstan, especially its Uzbek-speaking component, into the life of our country via exchanging information on events both at home and abroad; stimulating and encouraging open discussion of problems in our country and the role of ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan in resolving those.

Our activities are also aimed at increasing the knowledge of visitors/tourists in history, culture, traditions, the linguistic heritage, values and hopes of Uzbek-speaking Kyrgyz citizens.

The community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan does not have narrow nationalistic or religious aims; it neither supports political parties and/or public unions nor vice versa; it is not financed by concealed and/or illegal sources.

Contacts for Uzbeks of KG:

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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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Andy May 17, 2005 at 5:15 pm

There were a bunch of Uzbek protesters outside the embassy in London today. From my very brief glimpse of the news it looks like they did some damage to the outside of the building – slogans in fake blood, and the like.

According to this report 37 demonstrators were arrested – all members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

david l May 17, 2005 at 5:28 pm

Press release in my inbox from the ubiquitous Dr Imran Waheed. Apart from improving the lives of 25 million Uzbeks, a change in government in Tashkent might get him off British radio for a while. Another protest tomorrow at 10.30 apparently.

Also a small protest in Tashkent today at US embassy – HR activist Elena Urlaeva put under house arrest.

37 Hizb ut-Tahrir Activists Arrested After London Protest Against Uzbek Regime

London, UK, May 17 – Earlier this afternoon, 37 activists of Hizb ut-Tahrir were arrested after they staged a protest against the tyranny of the Uzbek regime and the blatant hypocrisy of its western allies. The demonstration, outside the Embassy of Uzbekistan in London, was held in response to the recent massacre of over five hundred Uzbek Muslims in Andijan on the orders of Uzbek President, Islam Karimov.

Activists staged a sit-in protest in the embassy’s courtyard, chained themselves to the embassy railings and covered the embassy in red paint representing the blood of Uzbekistan’s Muslims. Slogans daubed on the embassy building branded Uzbek President Islam Karimov a “killer”. The protest had commenced at approximately 12.00 p.m. BST.

Prominent members of Hizb ut-Tahrir including Dr Abdul Wahid, Hamid Rana, Sidik Auckbar and Qasim Khawaja were amongst those arrested. … and so on…

sharifabad May 17, 2005 at 8:07 pm

“Andijan protestors were peaceful …”

Credible accounts have reported that the protestors had taken 10 policemen hostage and were using them as a shield to advance towards the security forces. The hostages were the first to be shot by the army.

There is nothing peaceful about such Muslim demonstrators and hostage takers. Not to subtract anything from Karimov the thug. But Islamists are violent people, and hence that does not help in an explosive situation as we have here.

Those who wish democracy for Uzbekistan should condemn the Islamists in the same breath that they condemn the ruling thugs. Let us not romanticize every movement, especially if it is an Islamic movement. Hostage takers do not become righteous because they protest a brutal regime.

Nathan May 17, 2005 at 8:41 pm

I can tell you’re not a regular reader. You won’t find romanticism coming from most authors here. I do try to refrain from commenting on what those with a greater stake than I have to say though.

The vast bulk of the people protesting in Andijon–who had been protesting most of the week–are not part of an Islamic movement. Some of the people amongst the protesters may have been, but the vast majority were not.

Jim Hoft May 17, 2005 at 9:00 pm

Nathan- I had the exact same comment on my site as the one you just answered to the letter. I had not heard that “bit of news” before it showed up in my comments but agree that all of the accounts I have read since the slaughter this past weekend did not mention this.

You are doing some amazing things here.

sharifabad May 17, 2005 at 9:10 pm

I hope you are right Nathan. But why attack a prison to free 23 well known Islamists? This by itself is a violent act. And then seize government offices.

After the attack, the protestors sat in the square and listened to speeches all afternoon into the evening. Then they should have packed and gone home organizing for another day with a larger demonstration – just like they did in Ukraine and Georgia and Kyrghyzestan. They probably could have brought 100,000 people the next day easily, instead of 5,000. With 100,000 people – 1/3 of the population in the streets, Karimov would have to flee.

But no, they attacked and ransacked government offices and pushed forward the policemen hostages (if this can be believed) and there are credible witnesses that some of the protestors were armed and shot at the army. Obviously they did shoot back as there were dead soldiers.

Obviously there was a mix of Islamists and peaceful pro-democracy protestors. This is the problem when non-violent freedom minded people seeking a democratic form of government cozy up with Islamists, because the Islamists sound oh so nice people talking about empowerment and respect for the downtrodden – and assume that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend. Well the Islamist has a different agenda in mind and has a different method in mind. Their agenda is to install the absolute rulership of the pious, and their method is jihad.

This should be a warning sign to all peace loving democrats not to go into bed with jihadists. This is a strategic mistake that the left and some liberals are committing. Now they see the result in Uzbakestan.

If Karimov is overthrown, you will have an Islamic Republic. If he remains, it will be double repression. Either way, the liberal democrat will be the first to get shafted and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Nathan May 17, 2005 at 9:36 pm

Well, we can cut to the quick and just agree my experience living in Uzbekistan is worth something…

Before I go into this, you have your timeline wrong, and some of the assumptions about what the protesters should have done on the 13th seems weird. Calling any of the protesters democratic is a stretch. Their main concern, like that of most dissatisfied Uzbeks, is how they will make ends meet.

However, there are as near as I can tell three competing accounts as to what happened that night.

1) Protesters, angry over the arrest of peaceful protesters on May 12 (not after the jailbreak), took the prison during the night, seized weapons from the military barracks (Uzbek conscripts would probably have run), and had to fight their way into the SNB to free the rest of the prisoners. No one’s left in town but them.

2) Islamic militants take advantage of the protests, attack the prison, kill all the guards, seize government buildings, and get the crowd to stick around and even grow.

3) Andijon clan wanted revenge. Why people would come out to hear those speeches escapes me.

It’s pretty obvious that I’m leaning towards number 1 but don’t discount number two. The problem with the eyewitness accounts is that there are multiple, and they all differ. Some do so pretty significantly. I’ve only seen one that mentions the prison guards all being executed (doesn’t mean I didn’t miss others that came out though).

Back to democracy. The democrats weren’t in bed with the Islamists here. There weren’t any real democrats around to speak of, and it’s important to remember that Uzbekistan’s democrats can’t even stay in bed with each other.

And in all likelihood, if Karimov is overthrown, his replacement will be another autocrat.

sharifabad May 17, 2005 at 10:26 pm

The events began Friday when protesters stormed a prison in Andijan, freed alleged Islamic militants and other inmates, and seized local government offices. Thousands of demonstrators filled the city’s central square and listened to speeches, mostly complaining about poverty and unemployment.

That’s when the government crackdown began.

This is from AP by Bert Herman, as published by Guardian. I saved the article. Title is “Uzbek Death Tolls Are Widely Divergent” dated 5/17. But guess what, Guardian has pulled the article. And Guardian does not have a Print button, neither does MS save the link. So there is no link.

The crackdown was at 5 pm. More from this article:

An Associated Press reporter and photographer saw trucks with troops drive by the square and open fire into the crowd after some protesters threw stones at them. Some protesters were armed.

Nathan May 17, 2005 at 10:35 pm

What I meant by timeline was to say that they didn’t take the buildings after everyone gathered in the square on the 13th. They were taken before. Maybe you just had a slip of the keys.

Regardless, I think that your Islamist/democrat alliance characterization doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

sharifabad May 17, 2005 at 10:54 pm

The link –,1280,-5013280,00.html

The demostrators appears to be a mixed brew of secular students and others (a minority perhaps), ordinary folks with Islamic background, and a minority of Islamist militant who were armed and probably lead the attack on the prison the night before and on the army/police.

And there will be many seculars (in Andijan and larger cities) that are now torn between the two camps.

IMO it would be a mistake for the seculars to join up with the Islamist militants under the premise of “the lesser of two evils” and “the enemy of my enemy is my friemd”.

There has to be a 3rd way and that is to push for a democratic alternative – a la Georgia and Khyrgyzestan. Maybe the 10% Russian minority would support this democratic alternative rather than Karimov.

But what is certain is that there will be a lot of leftists and selective outrage crowds abroad who will uncritically back the Islamists for ideological reasons.

Lyndon May 18, 2005 at 2:51 am

Nathan, for the sake of completeness, there seems to be yet another version of events out there. Ferghana.Ru has a transcript of a Radio German Wave (I believe that’s Deutsche Welle) show on the topic, probably done by Radio DW’s Russian-language service (though I couldn’t find it on DW’s website) since the anchor’s name is Volkov, here –,646,10840530

In it, several people are interviewed and the sourcing for the account I’m mentioning here is extremely convoluted. The transcript quotes one Michael Labouch (that’s a guess on the spelling, because it’s in Russian on Ferghana.Ru), “head of a German society for supporting democracy in Central Asia,” as saying the following:

“On Tuesday, the Eurasia Transition Group (ETG), an NGO headquartered in Vienna which specializes in Central Asian issues, released a rather detailed document about the course of the conflict in Andijan. […]

Their source reports that the authorities first opened targeted fire on the crowd, and only then did people decide to storm the prison where their relatives, who weren’t Islamic extremists at all, were being held […].

The prison management did not put up any resistance, and the inmates were released without any casualties among the prison guards. We can now see that Islam Karimov initiated the violence.”

It’s the bit about no resistance from the guards that I think is new, and to be honest it makes the story rather difficult to believe, since I think there are multiple confirmed (as much as anything here can be confirmed) reports of the guards being attacked.

Here’s the real problem with the story in my view – I can’t find the “Eurasia Transition Group,” or ANY mentions of it, anywhere on the internet. Does anyone know of a similarly named NGO based in Vienna? I am curious to see this “rather detailed report” that was released Tuesday, even if it does sound hard to believe at first.

Note that I’m calling attention to this not because I believe I think it’s necessarily a competing version of events (I would have to see the original source to say that), but just because it’s interesting that various versions of what unfolded continue to circulate. Also, I thought that if the Registan comments crew can’t identify this “NGO headquartered in Vienna which specializes in Central Asian issues,” then it is probably some bogus front or a non-existent organization.

Kisa May 18, 2005 at 8:02 am

Our peaceful vigil in front of the Uzbek embassy in Washington this afternoon will be mainly the minute of silence, to remember the innocent victims. There is no need to compare us with the London’s picket, because this is completely different.

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