A handful of Uzbekistan updates

by Nathan Hamm on 5/19/2005 · 10 comments

Some collected yesterday, some this morning.

First, an exclusive account of May 13 sent to me by a reader from someone in Andijon.

Fighters on the night of the 12th attacked, first the militia’s local department, took weapons, then with partial success attacked the army outpost, also taking weapons there. They rammed the gate of the prison with a truck and attacked the prison, savagely killing all the guards.

All prisoners were FORCED to leave the jail those that refused to leave were threatened with summary execution.

Later, closer to morning, the provincial hokimiyat was attacked and taken, after which they began to search for addresses of province heads and tried to bring them to the hokimiyat (to organize an independent tribunal). Thus the Andijon City Prosecutor, the head of the City Tax Inspectorate and someone else were executed right in front of the crowd.

There were naturally some social problems in the Province, so the crowd somewhat sympathetically reacted to the rebels. But most Andijonis were in shock! Especially because they let all the recidivists out of prison and gave them weapons. It was very stressful.

When the real combat began, there were a lot of idlers and onlookers, a lot of people went to take a look, watch the combat, as if the circus had come to town. And a lot of them were hit by stray bullets.

Both militia and army forces participated in the fight with the rebels.

By the way, a lot of rumors are going around the City that the fighters were financed by America.

Wonderful… Just wonderful. I honestly have to wonder why they would think that.

The Globe and Mail interviewed to one of the 23 men at the center of trial who is currently in Kyrgyzstan attempting to get asylum.

Before he was sentenced early last Friday, he heard shouting outside his cell.

Eight strangers stormed into the prison with guns, he said. They broke the door to his cell and told everyone to get out. He was hustled into a waiting line of getaway cars with the other jailed businessmen. He saw two guards on the ground, bloody and apparently dead.

The gunmen took the businessmen to a government building in the centre of town, which had been taken over by protesters. The rebels persuaded the businessmen to stay and lend their support to a rally the next morning.

The insurgents weren’t religious fanatics, he said. He said they seemed like ordinary people driven to take up arms; most of their rhetoric was about the economy.

Mr. Maksataliev said he stayed at the government building because he hoped to explain the situation to President Karimov. But he felt a sense of foreboding. “I knew it would end badly.”

(Update: The WaPo’s story on this guy is worth a read too)

More updates below.

Gateway Pundit has a roundup of news as well. Robert Mayer has some thoughts also.

The UN is now also calling for an inquiry into the Andijon massacre. Unsurprisingly, the Uzbek government says there is no need for an international inquiry.

Diplomats who were taken through Andijon were not shown the scene of the killing. Sounds like one of them got a little feisty.

“Write down in your story that they never took us to the school,” one diplomat shouted to reporters from a bus taking the envoys and foreign journalists back to the airport.

Lyndon has more on the inspection trip.

RFE/RL takes a look at calls for improving US policy. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is one of those calling for an improvement to US policy–a small shift from balancing criticism and support towards criticism.

Last year, for example, the State Department, under a mandate from Congress, suspended $18 million in aid to Tashkent, citing this poor record. But only a few weeks later, the Pentagon gave even more money, $21 million, to Karimov’s government to help neutralize its Soviet-era biological weapons.

On a visit to Uzbekistan at the time, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of staff, criticized the suspension of aid and praised Karimov’s government for its cooperation with the Pentagon.

According to Ernsberger, Rohrabacher believes this double standard has to stop. Ernsberger says the U.S. policy on Uzbekistan so far has been at the midpoint of a continuum — he calls it a “line” — at whose ends lie the need for an ally and the need to criticize an authoritarian government.

Ernsberger says Rohrabacher believes it’s time for the Bush administration to take at least a small step toward criticism.

“Dana’s view is that we ought to shift a little bit more toward the personal and the democracy end of that line,” Ernsberger said. “And therefore we ought to be more critical of the kinds of behaviors we see going on there, even though we understand that both ends of the line represent important values in our foreign affairs.”

When I talk about better coordination of policy across departments, this is what I mean.

Also at RFE/RL, Amin Tarzi looks at Russia’s allegation that Taliban fighters were involved in the violence in Andijon. I was happy to just call it plain old dumb, but Tarzi lists all the reasons why it is.

T-Moor in Tashkent said that his family awoke to a loud noise–something between thunder and an explosion. Everyone is so on edge that it wasn’t until the rain started that they were convinced it was not a bomb. He goes on to say,

I arrived to the office and told them about this. We watched the latest news and sat discussing what’ll happen next and what to expect. Olya told that some uprisings were taking place in Gulistan, a town near Tashkent, however she might be wrong. I hope she’s wrong!!! Anyway, I did all my translations and at the same time watched the news and read news and articles on the latest situation in Andijan. On one of the websites I found lots of pcitures of dead bodies, that were laying scattered on the ground and I also saw that some of them were taken to the central square of the city and laid on the foot of the monument to Babur [one of the greatest conquerors of India]. I couldn’t watch this pics easily, you know it’s different to watch pictures of dead people in some distant country, but when you see pics of your dead fellowmen, of your compatriots, it’s really hard. Because, you know these people and you feel their pain piercing through your soul…

Do read the rest of the post because it again highlights some points that Laurence and I try to get across about what Uzbeks think about what their president has to say and about Islamic groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.

One of the issues mentioned in T-Moor’s post is Karimov’s criticism of Kyrgyzstan’s claim that up to 1,000,000 refugees may flee Uzbekistan. Karimov said that the Kyrgyz are only saying that to get money from the west. I think he’s probably right about that.

Feghana.ru is beginning to have a lot more news in English that you probably won’t find elsewhere. Stories such as one about a serial murderer was among those freed from prison. Almost immediately, he and an accomplice murdered his son.

Or, this one about a protest in front of the Russian embassy calling for Russia to stop supporting Karimov.

Or this one about My Sunny Uzbekistan’s (which is the Free Peasants Party plus a few other organizations) calling for a presidential election. I urge caution about these guys. I’m getting the impression that Nigora Khidoyatova is trying to take advantage of the situation and convince the press that her party is the vanguard of democracy in Uzbekistan.

Finally, it may be a sign of how far EurasiaNet has fallen compared to RFE/RL and IWPR, but I just realized I haven’t checked it once in the past week. They still do great work (just less of it, it seems) and there are plenty of articles worth checking out in their Uzbekistan archive.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2992 posts on Registan.net.

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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{ 9 comments }

Hulegu May 19, 2005 at 10:14 am

There was a not particularly complementary piece about Karimov in the Times of London yesterday (18 May). Interestingly, it was written by a Central Asian expert who wished to remain anonymous. I know of at least one academic already who has denied it was them – who could it be?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,172-1616712,00.html

Tatyana May 19, 2005 at 10:41 am

Nathan, here’s a site for condolences – and look what people are writing….
http://www.uzland.info/book.htm

Andy May 19, 2005 at 11:39 am

Nathan, do you have any opinion as to the accuracy of the witness account you’ve just posted? I know it more or less tallies with the account I posted a few days back, but this is the only other piece I’ve seen that also says that all the prison guards were killed.

If (and I really have no idea whether this was the case) the guards were actually killed, I wonder whether this had something to do with the severity of the Uzbek government response…?

Nathan May 19, 2005 at 11:54 am

What I know about the guy is that he was not a first-hand witness. However, I am told that “he is generally well-informed.”

Bertrand May 20, 2005 at 5:32 am

Registan.net is a great site and very useful service. Most of the time, I even agree with much of your commentary.

I did think your comment about Sunny Uzbekistan was a bit curious. What do you expect the opposition to do in the wake of a government massacre and subsequent coverup? Be quiet? Stay out of the limelight? So what’s the point of being opposition?

I would urge caution about ascribing motives to people you don’t know and without being here. I think it is a bit more curious that some of the other opposition leaders haven’t been more vocal.

There is no great reward for being known as a leading opposition leader in Uzbekistan. Ms. Khidoyatova is clearly putting herself at some personal risk here. I think if ANY opposition leaders become known as a vanguard of democracy in Uzbekistan that is a good thing.

Nathan May 20, 2005 at 5:56 am

You could be right, but I do have my reasons for saying so. One is comments an Uzbek national made about her and the party. Another is my skepticism about opposition politicians in general in the former Soviet Union. And finally, I just find it odd that she’s showing up so much. Reminds me of Kazakhstan where the opposition’s support may not be huge or enthusiastic, but where it does a great job of convincing the western press and NGOs that it’s something more than it really is.

I wish her all the best, but I’m not ready to get on board.

Bertrand May 20, 2005 at 6:08 am

Neither is President Karimov ready to get on board. One of the state televison networks has today started running news reports on what a bad person Ms. Khidoyatova is. Of course that will only serve to further elevate her profile.

Matt W. May 20, 2005 at 10:51 am

Ms. Khidoyatova is from a fairly rich Tashkent family– both she and her family members have a lot to lose. I agree that the Uzbek opposition in general is uninspiring, and perhaps Ms. Khidoyatova has yet to prove herself, but it’s a hard environment and she has been involved and courageous. She’s a very smart and well-informed woman, which is more than can be said for many opposition leaders.

In my experience, Uzbek nationals don’t generally like opposition parties, no matter what– they think these people are “crazy” or “mentally ill” for standing up for their or others’ rights in a fight they probably won’t win. And opposition leaders tend to bicker amongst themselves more than anything else (this is what turns me off to most of them here)– so I try not to take what they have to say about each other at face value.

Word was that she had a “list” of the dead which she used to produce her much-cited numbers. I don’t know if she made it public or if anyone’s seen this list, but if her party really did their homework and came up with something open and verifiable, that would give them some degree of credibility in my eyes.

There are “professional opposition leaders” in Uzbekistan who try to live off grants and draw attention to themselves, but I agree with Bertrand that it’s unfair to categorize all opposition leaders this way.

Nathan May 20, 2005 at 10:52 am

It certainly is unfair. But I’m just a skeptic.

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