Tribune.Uz: Eyewitness to Andijan

by Laurence on 6/9/2005

In TRIBUNE-uz (Russian only), Anastasia Yarushina’s shares eyewitness accounts of the Andijan killings. Here’s a translation:

The Andijan events generated a bulk of information not only on local E-press, but also in the mass-media of near and far abroad. The information blockade declared by the Uzbek authorities pushed to idle talks and, even, to a panic among the population. The most importantly, considerable number of residents of our republic, without knowing the real situation, voiced opinions like: «it is a pity, they [insurgents] didn’t succeed in anything».

Certainly, nobody wants bloodshed. Everyone has someone to worry about, to be afraid of, and economic situation of the general population of Uzbekistan which is getting more and more complicated makes them to sympathize more often with those who, perhaps, do not care for their problems and pursue own mercenary purposes. As a matter of fact, nobody among us knows who the guys with submachines were. The fact, that desperate criminals were released from the Andijan prison along with «prisoners of faith» does not speak in favour of the insurgents.

Shooting at peaceful residents is, in general, a negative factor. The only thing is that it is a question who shot, as information comming varies. Human rights defenders repeatedly speak of cruelty of power-wielding agencies, the authorities – about atrocities of the insurgents. And this is what the participant of the Andijan events – chairman of the Andijan section of the Frnkfurt-based International society of Human Rights – Kodir Ergashev tells:

«At the night of 13 to 14 May at about 12 o’clock in the night I was called by a defendant accused under article 168 (3), Uzbek Criminal Code, Urman Ismailov, whom our society is protecting during the preliminary investigation. He was in a prison of city of Andijan UYa 64/1. Ismailov informed, that about 23.30 p.m., people armed with sub-machine guns and called “Akramists”, took chief warden Odiljon Rahmonov hostage, and with his help opened all prison cells and released about 1000 people under investigation. During the capture of prison, all officers on duty and few convicts working in prison services were shot down.

Having opened doors of cells, the attackers announced that freedom came and threatened prisoners saying that anyone who will try will return to prison would be shot immediately. An eyewitness told that he saw killed security guards and prisoners laying on the ground, the main gate was rammed by truck KAMAZ. At the exit, “free citizens» were awaited by strong well dressed “black-tie” guys, many of them spoke with “maan-saan” [Tashkent] accent.

They demanded to take the weapon – sub-machine guns with two magazines and spare cartridges. Ismailov and two of his inmates managed to refuse, referring to poor health. Having come home, they called me asking what to do now? I immediately contacted a duty officer of Andijan municipal police and, having received relevant instructions, hand the detainees back.

With desire to have independent opinion of how serious the true situation is, at some 6.00 a.m. in the morning, I went to the prison building and saw that the situation was described precisely. The demolished gates, the bodies, two APC, and shooting in the neighbouring houses. I went to the building of the Andijan NSS dept., but they [the militants] didn’t let me closer than 500-600 meters. Further, I had to walk and the picture was sad. On the right side of the street some bodies were lying, next to the NSS building there were two armored troop-carriers. Under one of them, there was a killed soldier in bullet-proof jacket and a helmet. There was also fire machine with shot window and without a driver. At the gates of NSS, there were submachine guns scattered. Having talked with people, I found out that the building of NSS is occupied by “Akramists” and sympathizers who fled from the prison. Near to the regional hakimiyat a cinema was burning. A theater was also burnt.

After 11.00 a.m. I was called from embassies, in particular, of the Great Britain and Russia, they wanted to know about the events. And asked to keep them posted. Then, to get exact information about the events, my assistant lawyer – expert Artigali Rohatov – and me drove around the city to those places where there a shooting was. Then approached the NSS building. The shooting there still did not stop. Next to the regional hakimiyat there were eight burned down cars. On the roadseide bodies were, among them there were children – teenagers.

Next to the building, a meeting of Akramiya supporters who were former prisoners was going … They had loudspeakers. They were teling about bad conditions in the prisons, about food which can be given to pigs. They called people for active actions against the incumbent authority. The building of the regional hakimiyat was surrounded by a threefold ring, each second meter was occupied by a [govt] soldier with submachine gun and grenades.

Having shown identification card of MOPCH, we requested [insurgents] to let us pass through to leaders of insurgents. We were met by some Sharifjon Shakirov [one of the leaders]. Having learnt about the purpose of our visit, he took away our IDs, mobile phones, belts and keys of the car and tied our hands behind and put us against the wall, having informed that wants to check if we are real human rights defenders. In the same place, we saw officers of Interior, of Ministry of Emergency, of Public Prosecutor, of courts, of tax inspection, firemen and soldiers of urgent service – who were tied.

Approximately in half an hour, I demanded that they either talk to us or release us. Shakirov answered that check is not over yet, and then he would answer all questions. While waiting for an answer, “Akramists” were bringing new people, who were, in their opinion, suspicious and hand them over to the group of insurgents.. In the next room they were strongly humiliating the captives. They found a pistol and radio at local policeman and he was severely beaten. And then they hand him over to other insurgent that used the poor as a live target. To our question «who are you?» we received an answer “Akramists, and we seek justice». They said that the Uzbek authorities unfairly condemned them and terrorized their families. We tried to explain that there are too many bodies of innocent people, of children, and that contradicts their ideas. They answered that they do the same as the authorities do to them.

Then we were allowed to leave the hakimiyat building but while searching for our belongings they had taken away, a stranger with submachine gun approached told to Shakirov that he should not to release those who, in case of assault, could be used as hostage. Nobody listened to our protests. Eventually, somebody who refused to tell his name, apprached and put a pistol to my temple and said: «why you are showing off? ».

We informed, that we are representatives of MOPCH and till today we had better opinion about “Akramists”, even worked for their protection. After that, the militant calmed down a little and left, having advised us not to show off. We were taken to a separate room where there were two soldiers of conscription service who were stained with blood and bruises, and they left us with the guard called Azimjon who treated the captives well. He did not refuse in the most urgent things such as “bring water”, or “leave on need”.

About 18.00 p.m. a shooting with power-wielding forces began. All of us was brought in a lobby and made lie on a floor. In total, there were some 20 people, among them eight persons in uniform of police, the of Ministry of Emergency, firemen. When shooting began, “Akramists” forced those in uniform to stand at windows like a live shield, and warned, that if anyone sits down they will shoot without warning. In few minutes, all hostages were brought downwards, including officers of Prosecutor Office, of courts, of tax service. In total, they gathered some 40-45 people in one place, and tied to each other necks and ringed everyone with a wire.

Then they brought us to the public and said these are the citizens guilty in all their problems. Having heard that, the crowd attacked hostages, a beating started – they pulled out epaulet of police officers. They started checking pockets of the captives. They pulled out all valuable things, money. Out of my pocket they took some 20 thousand soums. Then they moved us to the Andijan machine-building factory, having used as an live shield. They led us in the middle of road, on each side there were insurgents “Akramists” with submachine guns, and with Molotov cocktails prepared in the Hakimiyat building.

On the side, a crowd of sympathizers was walking. Humiliation of the captives continued. One of us had his leg shot by pistol, he could not walk as everyone and the rope on our neck was tense up to a limit. To avoid being shot down as some of hostages had been, we dragged the wounded on our backs. When we reached the old building of technical school, they stopped us. I want to mention, that in front of this live shield there were policemen, behind them there were firemen, then officers of Ministry of Emergency and soldiers, behind us there were prosecutor officers, judiciary and other services. The column was met with armored troop-carriers. Soldiers shouted that we did not move further and “Akramists” forced to move forward. We refused and they started shooting from at our backs . Then we lied on asphalt, hoping to rescue our lives…».

This is where the message of Kodir Eshonov, sent to vice-president of the International Society of Human Rights with HQ in Frankfurt – Mr. Marat Zahidov, stops. Thanks God, he managed to escape from this hell alive. How true is what described here? Is it possible to invent such things? And who is responsible that people trust rebels and do not trust officers of the law enforcement bodies and government officials.

Information blockade covered the event with abundancy of new details, it is difficult to differentiate where the truth is, where the lie is. It is far from being the best step of our government. To tell the truth, the last information from Alaysky market says, that a number of decisions are being prepared to reduce taxes, payment for municipal services, etc. For now, our happy and independent people needs to bear, hope and wait.

06.06.2005 15:19


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