Andijon Updates

by Nathan Hamm on 5/18/2005 · 8 comments

To begin, does anyone have a source besides Nigora Khidoyatova’s party for the total number killed? I’m no expert, but making phone calls doesn’t seem like the most precise way to get a count (though I did read one story–just one, but it’s a pretty solid source of info–that said they went door-to-door). Still, it does lend some credibility to the count of over 500 from doctors over the weekend.

Gateway Pundit has a big round up.

RFE/RL’s Daniel Kimmage tries to piece together what happened on May 13th (which I tried to briefly do here).

Lyndon has words you can’t say on the phone in some parts of the Ferghana Valley.

Ben & Olesya have new posts at Ben’s blog and there is a new article at Thinking-East by a Jalalabad resident.

Chirol makes some interesting comparisons.

RFE/RL’s Valentinas Mite asks if Karimov is stronger or weaker after Andijon.

Alex Vatanka, a regional expert and the editor of Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessments, also told RFE/RL that what happened in Andijon is not a sign of the regime’s strength but an indication of its weakness.

“I could not say it is a sign of strength, I mean. I know the Russian press often refers to this as the Asian way of dealing with opposition. However you want to classify it, this is a sign of desperation and he [Karimov] probably anticipated this,” Vatanka said.

I too think it is a sign of weakness. There have been small cracks appearing in Karimov’s rule for a while now. Andijon was a big and sudden one. Sadly, I think that the weakness is caused by a weakness of imagination and a fear of loss of total control over the development of the country. The country has been experiencing positive economic growth, but the government is making it nearly impossible for most people to experience the benefits of that growth. Karimov has options, but he has apparently convinced himself he has none but to fight his own people.

Craig Murray is also quoted in the story as saying that Karimov will convince the world Islamic extremists are to blame because it is in the US’s interest to believe so. We’ll see, but I have a hard time buying purely theoretical arguments. I’ve always found his narrative about US-Uzbek relations horribly simplistic, but even if it is as he says, interests do change. And they tend to change in situations like these.

RFE/RL also looks at Central Asian governments’ quickness to blame Islamists.

I’m not sure what to make of it, but someone claming to be in charge of Kara-Su said that he and his supporters will build an Islamic state.

“We will be building an Islamic state here in accordance with the Quran,” Bakhtiyor Rakhimov told The Associated Press while leaning down from the back of a horse.

Rakhimov may very well not be running the town at all. I’ve heard reports that suggest there’s not Islamic statelet being planned for the town at all. But, as with so much surrounding this story, we’ll have to wait for more information to become available.

Diplomatic Front

Diplomats have been taken on a tour of Andijon by the Uzbek government.

Jack Straw condemned the “inadequacy” of the trip and is calling for an independent inquiry and full access for diplomats.

The US is also looking for an accurate accounting of the massacre. Condoleeza Rice defended the US record in Uzbekistan (She’s right by the way, the US has been pretty consistently critical of Uzbekistan. If the country was reported on much, most would probably be more aware of that.) and said that the Uzbek government needs to open up.

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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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david l May 18, 2005 at 1:34 pm

Ummmm, consistently critical? First, the US embassy doesn’t get enough credit for its behind the scenes human rights work, but consistently critical implies some kind of public stance. Further down you point out the mixed messages that come from having State and DOD doing different things, which is pretty symptomatic. But more than that, I really haven’t seen serious criticism of the Uzbek government from this administration except in formal kinds of way – the annual human rights report, which has no weight behind it at all, or statements through the OSCE. Was there a critical government statement on the 2002 referendum or the 2004 elections? As one more cynical US diplomat once said to a disillusioned journalist, ‘If you want some good news, don’t talk to Uzbeks, come to the embassy’.

I may have missed it, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen a single critical statement from Amb. Purnell during his entire term in office. I’m afraid its a pretty mixed picture, and will be a case-study in how not to do public diplomacy in Muslim countries for future diplomacy students.

Nathan May 18, 2005 at 1:44 pm

Well, it has been public, but no one pays attention. Is it loud enough or coming from the right people often enough? Perhaps not, but there has been criticism. Since late 2003 the message has been “Liberalize or dig your own grave.” It’s been delivered in person, in press conferences in Uzbekistan, in testimony by State Department officials, and by Secretary Powell last summer.

I agree, there are mixed messages, and I certain wish Uzbekistan was more of a priority than it’s apparently been. There is a record of criticism though.

(As an aside, I think there’s something to be said for not having the ambassador being the one to deliver public criticism.)

david l May 18, 2005 at 2:07 pm

well, there’s lots of nuance here, and I rather liked the story of Donald Rumsfeld lecturing Karimov on running a market economy, but I think there is a good case for saying that people in Andijan need to hear something, not just officials. And only an ambassador can do that. And we all know how those meetings with Uzbek officials go. Once they’ve spread those nuts and raisons on the table, and the tea is going round, its really hard to get down to the real tough stuff. And of course they know just how to play it, a little trip to Moscow here, a Chinese delegation there. But there’s a timidity among diplomats that is sometimes just counterproductive – the sound of breaking crockery in Uzbekistan is occasionally just what you need.

Nathan May 18, 2005 at 2:13 pm

I certainly agree. We need something much more right now. The situation demands not just a clear and strong statement, but a rethinking and strengthening of our policy.

I don’t know what it is exactly, but I can’t help but think that the west is afflicted with some deep insecurity about power. Uzbeks know exactly how to play us, and it seems painfully obvious to me that we can play them right back. Why we’re not escapes me.

david l May 18, 2005 at 2:39 pm

well, its easier to say what not to do, than suggest a coherent policy. But I think there has to be more of a risk-taking attitude, and that also means being prepared to lose the base if necessary. And so there needs to be a strategic plan B. But really KArimov doesn’t want to be Putin’s lap-dog, as you rightly point out, and there has always to my mind been more room for manouvre in US policy than diplomats have claimed. But the time for that was probably two years ago, now its much more difficult. My own feeling is that this regime is sooner or later finished, and the clever thing is to position correctly so as not to lose out in any impending changes. That means a strong critical public position now (with some real threats involved, at least privately, up to selective sanctions) and behind the scenes a creative attempt to manage change to avoid state collapse and widespread violence. Its not easy though…2002/03 there was still a chance, now it may be too late.

david l May 18, 2005 at 2:46 pm

May not mean much without more research, but one quote for those looking to see if this will spread, from HR activist Surat Ikramov in Tashkent. His press release today says in part ‘The bloody events in Andijan are causing anger among people living in Kashkadarya province’.

Apparently there has been more harassment of religious people on the local ‘black list’ in the last few days by SNB officers.

The message ends with

‘[We] do not exclude the possibility of uprisings of citizens in Kashkadarya province against the Karimov regime.’

Matt W. May 19, 2005 at 7:15 am

Just because liberalizing Uzbekistan isn’t the U.S.’s highest priority here doesn’t mean the Uzbeks are “playing us”. We have the base, our military trucks get through some of the toughest border points in Uzbekistan with relative ease.

Now, you can argue with that prioritization, but I don’t think this is a situation in which a naive America is being manipulated by Uzbek master diplomats. They’re pretty incompetent if you ask me. They know how to make life difficult for people and stop events from taking place, yes, but they’re piss poor at creating positive results.

Nathan May 19, 2005 at 8:08 am

I say “playing us” because for the most parts, Americans are very trusting and easily taken advantage of. I think it’s a plus that we give people the benefit of the doubt, but…

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