Forum 18 on Akramiya

by Nathan Hamm on 6/16/2005 · 4 comments

Forum 18 has a very informative article on Akramiya, the religious organization at the center of the Andijon uprising. There is very little out there about the group, and all that I know about them has come from past Forum 18 articles. This piece collects that past information and adds to it.

Akramiya seems to be best understood as a form of Islamic socialism that teaches that certain elements of traditional Islam (praying five times a day and fasting during Ramadan for example) are not important. More a set of ideas than a formal organization. What sympathy exists for it seems largely to be because of its fusion of Islam and socialist economics. The evidence for it having always been violent is inconclusive but laid out in the article. Regardless, the adherents involved in the violence were grade-a thugs who abused their hostages and used them as human shields (they were the first to die in the violence).

Update–edited for clarity.

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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_walther June 16, 2005 at 3:14 pm

Nathan—I have not seen any independant evidence, or any statements from those actually involved that provide a solid link between Akramiya and the men in Andijon. While it may well be true, I noticed within a day or two of things beginning a lot of the press reported that “these men are members of Akramiya” but I never saw anything aside from the -charges- brought against them by the Uzbek government that indicated this.

So, my comment is two-fold–is there any information or were there any interviews with some of these men or women involved in the “events” in Andijon that indicates they are actual members of Akramiya? or, on the other hand, isn’t this a string that we should be watching?

Unless there was an interview out there where these guys claim to be members of Akramiya, I think the key word to keep reporting accurate (and analysis) would be “allegedly”. These men were charged by the Uzbek government with membership in that organization—and any of us who follow Uzbek trials knows that they don’t necessarily have any relation to reality, or in fact attempt to have one.

I specifically remember reading an interview with two of the 23 escaped defendants on RFE/RL where they both catagorically denied being members of Akramiya and claimed that the whole thing was a setup in order to take their businesses away from them.

Granted, they had some things at stake and maybe lots of reasons not to admit to being members of this group, but I’m interested to know if you had seen stuff linking them apart from what the Uzbek government claims.

Nathan June 16, 2005 at 3:34 pm

As I understand it, there’s technically no organization the way there is with Hizb ut-Tahrir. But, Forum 18 and others seem to be operating under the presumption (for good reason I would think) that people were and are attracted to some set of religious and economic concepts originally laid out by Akram Yuldashev.

The businessmen have connections to him if I recall correctly. Technically the group may not exist and no one linked to it may have ever actually called for violence, but the ideas have followers.

jonathan p June 16, 2005 at 5:41 pm

If your last paragraph in the comments section is true, Nathan, (as I suspect it is) then why your phrasing in the original post that assumes the existence of an organized group that can be labelled “Akramiyya”?? I think it a bit misleading.

Also, why your use of the phrase “Islamic socialism” in relation to a set of teachings that is avowedly non-political? Granted, the Forum 18 writer said it first, but a better phrase might be “Islamic charity,” unless we are prepared to call much American religious charitable activity “socialism.”

You seem to contend that any sympathy that exists for the followers of Akram Yuldashev seems largely to be the result of their fusion of Islam and “socialist economics.” How is giving people jobs at a livable wage socialism? is it fair to say that having an excellent healthcare policy for your employees is socialist?

I also have reservations about calling the people who acted violently “grade-A thugs.” Weak-minded thugs, maybe. But you seem to imply that they were organized and had planned all their activities far in advance. I rather think they were more likely a group of men associated somehow with the followers of Akram Yuldashev who, while not particularly bright, reacted violently and wildly in a situation where they at last had an opportunity to vent their frustrations.

But that’s just me. Call me the fool, I guess. 😉

Nathan June 16, 2005 at 7:40 pm

Well, “political” can be understood different ways. When people say these people aren’t political–certainly when I’ve said it–it seems to mean that they don’t have designs on taking power and forcing their views on others with the power of the state. I do think that their activities were political but not directed at the state or at seizing power.

And yes, I do think I’m right about why people would be drawn to Yuldashev. There’s nothing wrong with that appeal at all in my book. The way the employees were treated is extremely commendable, and the employers deserved a good reputation for that.

I think “socialism” is a better term than charity because it’s more than just charity. Granted, the state doesn’t run it, but it seems to aspire to play the same protective role of a socialist system. Again, that’s value-neutral as far as I’m concerned.

As for the planning in advance, I am not convinced either way. It’s not the violence itself or attacking the SNB that’s thuggish, it’s the treatment of their prisoners, one of whom was a human rights activist.

It is hard to talk about the group and capture that “Akramians” aren’t really members so much as they are just people who like the idea. It’s kind of like how we might talk about nihilists despite there not being a membership process to become a nihilist. 🙂

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