The Islamic Republic of Korasuv

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

Stories on Bakhtiyor Rakhimov’s plans for an Islamic Republic of Korasuv (I hereby plan to spell it the Uzbek way from now on) are coming out with more details than before. In the AP’s coverage, he claims to have 5,000 fighters. What is exactly going on in Korasuv is hard to determine and the BBC acknowledges the situation as such. It’s unknown whether or not Rakhimov has connections to any Islamist groups, and it is quite possible that he’s a conservative, religious community leader who wants to reintroduce tradition into his community and is willing to to fight to do so. Which is to say, he may want a Koran-centered society, but he may understand it in uniquely Uzbek traditions that are quite different than those of say, Arabs or Pashtuns. No matter what he wants, I don’t expect him to get a chance to implement it.

Update: The Guardian has its own story on Rakhimov (which I found because Lyndon, Dee, and I are linked as “useful” down at the bottom).

The man is a loon. He appears to have plenty of supporters, but… Well, just read the story or the excerpts below.

He agreed to meet the Guardian after returning from a horseback patrol of the town’s fringe, beyond which government forces were rumoured to be manning road blocks.

“If the troops return, we will fight them,” said Mr Rakhimov, a stocky, tanned farmer with a neatly trimmed beard, who says he was chosen as the town’s leader in an impromptu popular vote over the weekend. The defenders’ lack of firearms would be offset by divine guidance, he claimed.

“Without guns, we can still use these,” he said, touching the hilt of his dagger.

“We will establish here a paradise, a Caliphate, in which Muslim cares for Muslim, taking what he needs and giving away what he can do without, as it says in the Qur’an.

“Allah will provide and lead us forward in our struggle,” he said, gesturing to the sky. “Down with slavery!”

“A caliphate does not mean the tyranny of men like Karimov, it means the mutual support and love of Islam,” he said.

He denied being a member of any group such as the Islamic sect Hizb ut Tahrir, saying he was guided by the “pure principles of the faith”.

Acolytes in immaculate starched tunics and embroidered skull caps listened intently as he stressed: “I reject war totally, but if it comes we are ready. We cannot live any more like this in the dirt. Look at my workers; downtrodden, and denied of their rights. We must rise up and take our future in our hands.”

Like I said, I don’t Rakhimov’s going to get the chance to build what he wants to see. One local expressed worry.

But Tahir Yunusev, 30, a taxi driver, looked less at ease. “They won’t send the soldiers who were stationed here back to the local people,’ he said.

“They’ll send some from a different town like Bukhara who won’t have any qualms about killing us. Just wait and see. They can’t leave it much longer.”

As tone-deaf as the Uzbek government is most of the time, I doubt they want another massacre (especially one the press will have access to from the Kyrgyz side of the border). Nevertheless, I don’t expect this situation to last.

On the plus side, business is supposed to be better than it’s been in ages.

Update II: As expected, Uzbek troops moved into town and arrested Rakhimov and a number of his aides. So far, it sounds as if all is calm, and RFE/RL says that residents are being allowed to pass back and forth over the border with Kyrgyzstan to trade.

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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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Matt W. May 18, 2005 at 11:57 pm

Interesting development. I believe the Uzbek spelling is Qorasuv (“black water”). Is this the name of the Uzbek side of town as well? Earlier posts (and people I know in Tashkent) had it as Ilichevsk.

Is the Kyrgyz side under the control of rebels as well?

Hulegu May 19, 2005 at 6:44 am

It’s just an itch, but … I’m wondering if Karimov’s decision not to attend the recent GUUAM conference (Uzbekistan’s suspended membership aside) wasn’t to do with the fact that he was aware that something might kick-off and that he should be around to deal with it. After all, it’s not like the Uzbek security apparatus is mickey-mouse or anything.

Anyway, congrats on the magnificent coverage – seems like Registan has reached its “tipping-point”.

david_walther May 19, 2005 at 7:41 am

The rest of you here in the side of the world where it is day now probably all already know this, but for those of you who are just waking up, Uzbek troops have retaken Qorasuv (kara su) (Ilichevsk) and arrested the “protest leader” though I am still trying to figure out when he became the protest leader.

See the BBC for coverage, they have limited information though because, following their previous protocal, the troops are not letting journalists into the town, even though so far there are no causualities reported on either side.

I think it was me who injected the Ilichevsk issue into the discussion, I have to apologize for that. RIA novisti, where I was translating the articles from was consistently calling the Uzbek side “Ilichevsk” but I think in actuality that was the Soviet name of the town, not vise versa. I guess they had some bad information on that—certainly the world press has agreed to call it Karu su or Kara Suv at this point.

I have never been there myself, my work keeps me in Tashkent so I’ve seen a good bit less of the country than Peace Corps workers and others here.

Bertrand May 19, 2005 at 8:56 am

Uzbek troops regained control of Karasuv today, ostensibly without bloodshed although Rahimov’s family says he was beaten, which is likely true given what he had been saying and his self-generated high profile.

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