Protests in Samarkand

by Nathan Hamm on 8/22/2005 · 7 comments

Two public protests broke out in Samarkand this weekend. The first took place in a village on the outskirts of the city and was over plans to demolish about 100 homes. Residents say they were given very short notice and were offered far below market value for their houses.

In response, the residents blocked the village’s main road for several hours on 20 August, holding placards reading: “Don’t demolish an old house before building a new one.” It is a phrase familiar to the country’s authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov. He uses the expression often during speeches, and has also used it as the title of one of his numerous books.

In a voice mail message left with RFE/RL’s Tashkent bureau, a protester described the scene: “Several people who suffered a lot and were fed up took to the streets to say their houses were to be demolished. We blocked the road and were holding placards.”

Local human rights activists like Jamol Mirsaidov were said to be among the protesters. Protesters claimed Mirsaidov and other demonstrators were hurt when police used force to disperse the crowd

RFE/RL also reports that the village is of historic significance. Though historic sections will not be destroyed, some locals say that the highway has no place so close to the Timurid treasures.

The other protest involved up to 300 merchants protesting the decision to close Chuqurbozor, the city’s biggest clothing market.

The story includes some interesting analysis as well from Kamron Aliyev. I entirely agree the protests and the decisions igniting them show that the Uzbek government’s insistence on a self-serving explanation for Andijon makes continued protests inevitable.

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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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Ben August 23, 2005 at 3:33 am

Uh! Well, I’ve been to Samarkand this weekend – but was busy discovering all the sights there rather than putting my feelers to the ground. What a shame!

Nathan August 23, 2005 at 9:32 am

Well, Samarkand does demand that you see its sites thoroughly before getting down to business! If I’d had my wits together, I would have sent you my Samarkand pointers (which may not be applicable still). Sneaking into Afrosiab is a must!

Where’d you stay?

Ben August 24, 2005 at 1:55 am

We stayed in a B&B called Bahodir, with loads of Lonely Planet scanning folks. Pretty reminiscent of Thailand and the backpacker-crowd. Well, I guess, it’s not a particularly bad sign if such people come to Uzbekistan. Damn, we did not sneak into the Afrosiab!

jonathan p August 24, 2005 at 6:07 am

Doesn’t really take much sneaking (or at least it didn’t when I was there). We just hired a guy to drive us to the site — through the dirt and all… he was mad cuz we got his car dirty. 😉

Didier September 14, 2005 at 11:00 pm

I have been twice to Uzbekistan, mostly in Samarkand.
Beautiful city, and most friendly people.
I recommend a visit to Urgut bazar.
How long Islam Karimov is going to stay in power?

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