Uzbekistan: One Witness’s Testimony Forces Courtroom Collision

by Nathan Hamm on 10/24/2005 · 22 comments

By Daniel Kimmage

Until 14 October, the Uzbek government had every reason to consider the trial of 15 alleged organizers of the 12-13 May violence in Andijon a ringing domestic success. The accused immediately pleaded guilty to charges carrying the death penalty, a parade of witnesses confirmed official allegations that religious extremists bore responsibility for the bloodshed, and no one suggested that government forces acted improperly when they quelled the unrest.

But on 14 October, witness Mahbuba Zokirova painted a radically different picture, testifying that soldiers had shot unarmed demonstrators. Her account contradicted the official version of events and buttressed reports by international organizations citing eyewitness testimony that government forces massacred civilians in Andijon on 13 May. RFE/RL has provided a transcript of Zokirova’s testimony. The following excerpts convey both the tenor of her remarks and the most explosive charges they contain.

Zokirova’s Testimony

Zokirova: My name is Mahbuba Zokirova, daughter of Ghofirjon. I was born in 1972 in the city of Andijon.

Judge: Do you have an education?

Zokirova: I finished the eighth grade.

Judge: Are you employed?

Zokirova: I’ve been employed in the past.

Judge: What is your place of residence?

Zokirova: The village of Hakan.

Judge: Andijon Province, village of Hakan, 304 Qumquma Street — is that correct?

Zokirova: Qum Street.

Judge: House 304?

Zokirova: Yes.

Judge: Zokirova, you’ve been called as a witness. You have to give accurate testimony on the things you witnessed. You will be held accountable for perjury. I’ve informed you of this. Please sign the list. (Long pause.) Without hurrying, please tell us about the things and events you have seen.

Zokirova: My daughter and I both have our birthdays on 12 May. Every year, we celebrate our birthday and go out with the kids’ dad. Since he was at work, he couldn’t come out. Later, I took my kids out to the city. There was a crowd in front of Navoiy Park in the city. There were a lot of people. I went over to find out what was going on. When I went over, there were a lot of women there like me with their kids. There were also one or two armed men there. It never occurred to me that they might be terrorists. There weren’t a lot of weapons, so they didn’t grab my attention. I don’t know, I thought they might be guards. We stood there.

Everyone was out and about and they were talking a lot. To be more precise, there were handicapped people, women. Everyone was talking about the events that had happened. They said that [President Islam] Karimov was on his way. They said he was really coming. They brought out an older man, and they told him some things. I don’t remember exactly what. After that a helicopter came. It flew low. It went over our heads twice. We thought that this was really Karimov. They were saying, “Now our president has really come to Andijon.” We believed it.

Later, Karimov hadn’t arrived and I was at the edge of the crowd. Soldiers in a vehicle at the edge of the road opened fire. Someone dropped to the ground next to me. A little girl said, “I’ve been shot in the leg.” Then I said (and I was lying down), “Have you really been shot?” She said, “No, it didn’t hit my leg. It hit the heel of my shoe.” I looked and there was a bullet hole. I said, “Yes, it’s a bullet hole.” I was scared. I have four little kids. They were all there. I was afraid for my kids, not for myself. I still can’t believe they were shooting at the people. After this, the armed people and men said, “Come through. Let the women inside. Don’t let them shoot them. Have the men shield them.” There weren’t a lot of armed men. Most of the men were unarmed. Then the women went to the inside and the guys [men] stayed at the edge. A lot of them died. That’s what it was like. At one point, I don’t know, three or four, maybe five or 10 people who had spoken a lot said, “We’ll put them in front. If we put the officials [in front], they won’t shoot the people. How can they shoot their own guys? Don’t be afraid.” I think they put them in front, but me and my kids were in the crowd and I didn’t see. When they put them in front, we moved a bit. There was terrible shooting.

Words can’t describe it. It’s wasn’t like that even during the war. It was horrible, bloody. When we were lying down, blood was flowing on the ground where we were lying. I was so scared that I didn’t know what was going on. We said, “They shot their own guys. What’s going to happen to us now?” Everyone ran in all directions to save their lives. There were about 10,000 people there and they went running away. Most of the people there fled. They got killed. In that situation, the crowd turned, wondering where to run and how to save themselves. They turned down this one street to get away from the shooting. My kid was in the crowd in the middle of the shooting. A guy who picked him up was shot. My 3-year-old and my 7- or 8-month-old were with me. But the guy who picked up my other kid was either shot or fell down on the ground. My kid stayed there. I took my kid and went ahead. “Oh, my child!” I said. People were dying. Shots were ringing out. A child went running and took my kid. My kids were crying. They were all terrified. When I remember it now, I’m scared. (Lowers her voice.) I’m not afraid of you. When I remember those events, I get scared.

Fleeing The Violence

After the violence in Andijon, Zokirova fled to the border with Kyrgyzstan. She described her experiences there in her subsequent testimony:

Zokirova: When we reached the town of Teshiktosh on the border, no one had any weapons. There were women, old women, pregnant women, and children. They took headscarves and made a white flag. The men said, “They won’t shoot. We’ll send you, the women, across [the border]. If they shoot anyone, they’ll shoot us.” When we went, they didn’t pay any attention to the white flag. The worst part is, even Hitler didn’t shoot people who raised the white flag. They fired. I saw it with my own eyes. I swear on my four children — they fired.

Zokirova said that one of the fleeing refugees saved her child and paid with his life:

Zokirova: Gunshots were ringing out. When the bullets hit the pavement, they burst into flame. It was awful. My child was crying. Even as my child was walking, I was afraid to bring him out from under fire. I was so scared I couldn’t move. When I cried out to my child, a short kid ran out, grabbed my child, and held him tight. But the kid was shot in the head and killed. I’m telling the truth for him.

After crossing into Kyrgyzstan, Zokirova and her children found themselves in a refugee camp. She told the court about the conditions there and the circumstances of her return to Uzbekistan.

Zokirova: There was sun. It was stifling. No place was cool. My children are frail, so they quickly got sick. I ended up in the hospital again. The mayor, district governor, neighborhood committee, my boss, and my older brother came to the hospital. “Get up and go,” they said. “Why did you run away?” I said, “You didn’t see what happened. I saw it. How can I go back to the place where they shot at my children? My trust is gone.” They said, “We’re not going to touch the women and children. Go back home.” I said, “No, I don’t believe it. I believe what I saw with my own eyes. How can I go back to where they shot at me? I’m not going to go.” They came back, and on the evening of the next day they dragged me, they forced me.

Now I have a chance to talk, so I’m going to speak. The thing is that I’m afraid to live here because now I’ve said things no one has talked about. I watched TV and I wondered, “Why are they lying? Why aren’t they telling the truth? Why aren’t they telling the truth about the people who opened fire on children, the ones who fired at the people?”

Near the end of Zokirova’s testimony, the judge asked her to be as specific as possible about the individuals she saw doing the shooting. Her response, and a brief exchange with the judge, brought her testimony to a close.

Zokirova: I saw it exactly. I saw it twice. In the vehicle at the side of the road men in soldiers’ uniforms wearing helmets did some terrible shooting. After that, when the people got to Teshiktosh, under the trees, guys wearing the same kind of helmets fired from the windows of houses. I didn’t see their lower half, but the helmets were visible. They were shooting. I saw them shooting.

Judge: Does the defense have any questions? The accused?

Zokirova: Are you going to put me in jail now?

Judge: No, no one is going to put you in jail.

Zokirova: I’ve told the truth. There’s nothing in it for me. I’m not getting anything from anyone. My conscience is clean…

Coverage Of Her Testimony…

Zokirova’s testimony caused a stir in Western media, which treated her allegations that government forces fired on unarmed demonstrators as an unexpectedly dissonant note in what has been widely viewed as a scripted trial with a predetermined outcome. Uzbek officials and government-controlled media also responded, arguing both that Zokirova’s discordant testimony pulled the rug out from under charges of a scripted show trial and that Zokirova’s ties to the alleged extremists the Uzbek Prosecutor-General’s Office has blamed for the violence in Andijon undermined her credibility as a witness.

Speaking on 17 October, Supreme Court spokesman Aziz Obidov said that Zokirova’s testimony put paid to charges of a biased trial, Interfax reported. He stated: “The testimony of Mahbuba Zokirova indicates that a spectrum of opinions is being gathered. This fact again gives the lie to assertions by many of our opponents that this trial is proceeding in accordance with a scenario drawn up in advance.” Obidov concluded: “It’s not surprising that some witnesses are trying to justify the defendants. Ultimately, only the court will assess all these accounts and pass a verdict.”

…Including Attacks On Her Credibility

Some newspaper coverage focused on Zokirova’s person. The nationwide daily “Xalq Sozi” wrote on 18 October that Zokirova’s testimony “unintentionally revealed…that her mind was completely poisoned by the teachings of Akramiya [the alleged extremist group that Uzbek authorities accuse of masterminding the violence].” “Ozbekiston Ovozi” quoted Zokirova’s mother-in-law, who reportedly said, “[Zokirova] does not understand the right path. I have heard what she said in court. I do not agree with her remarks.”

Other newspapers attacked the witness’s credibility. “Ishonch” wrote, “Covering up crimes committed by those behind the tragic events…Zokirova described them as innocent people. In doing so, she tried to mislead the court.” Official news agency UzA raised the prospect of perjury, citing a discrepancy in the number of relatives Zokirova said are currently residing in Romania. UzA commented, “Zokirova, who was warned about criminal liability…for knowingly providing false testimony and refusing to testify, consciously gave incorrect information about her relatives in Romania.”

Despite these insinuations of looming criminal liability for her testimony, Zokirova told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service in a subsequent interview that she had not suffered any repercussions in the wake of her court appearance. Queried about possible harassment, she said, “No, nobody said a bad word to me. They were guarding me, even praying for me. I haven’t heard any bad words.” RFE/RL also asked Zokirova about her alleged ties to Akramiya members.

RFE/RL: After your testimony, some government-controlled newspapers accused you of being a close relative to Akramiya members, being specially prepared by them, started hinting that you might have some mental problems and etc. How would you comment on these accusations?

Zokirova: (silence…) Everybody says what they want. How should I know? (Sighs.) People who know me personally know who I am.

RFE/RL: What would you say about being a close relative of Akramists?

Zokirova: There is no Akramiya, it’s just a label. They are obedient Muslims. In my testimony, I couldn’t say that, I was scared….

Given the guilty pleas the accused have already entered, and the Uzbek government’s demonstrated commitment to its version of events, it is virtually inconceivable that Zokirova’s testimony will affect the outcome of the trial. It is equally unlikely that critical observers will change their view of the trial under way in Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court on the basis of this single incident. What Zokirova’s court appearance, and the reactions it evoked, underscored was the unbridgeable gap between what the Uzbek government says took place in Andijon on 13 May — a judicious security response to a coup attempt by violent religious extremists — and what much of the international community believes occurred — a government-perpetrated massacre to smash an uprising and subsequent demonstration fueled by social, economic, and political frustrations.

This bitter dispute over Andijon has raged since the events occurred. Zokirova’s testimony threw it into sharp relief because the two competing leitmotifs — terrorism and massacre — collided for the first time in an official setting inside Uzbekistan. Mahbuba Zokirova reminded everyone that the court proceedings in Tashkent, in which the defendants admitted their guilt on the very first day, are not an adversarial trial with two sides offering competing truths, but rather a struggle for control over the public narrative of the violence in Andijon. And the real cause of the interest in Zokirova’s testimony, both inside and outside of Uzbekistan, is the knowledge that final judgment on the public narrative of Andijon — the shared sense of “what really happened” that informs popular consciousness — belongs not to foreign observers, nor to government officials, but to a potential actor that has yet to render its verdict: the people of Uzbekistan.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org


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This post was written by...

– 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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{ 22 comments }

Laurence October 24, 2005 at 12:27 pm

I don’t understand why Registan is reprinting RFE/RL articles, since Eurasianet already links to them. I don’t think it is appropriate for Registan to reprint US government funded propaganda.

Frankly, RFE/RL has been partisan in the Andijan affair, giving an outlet to people like Parpiev while not reporting on people like Shirin Akiner. That’s not objective, it’s taking sides. Registan has been pretty much the most non-partisan, at least until now. I’ve never seen anything like this before on our site, and wonder what is going on. It looks terrible for our credibility as an independent source.

Kimmage’s own quotes from the witness throws into doubt her credibility:

RFE/RL: What would you say about being a close relative of Akramists?

Zokirova: There is no Akramiya, it’s just a label. They are obedient Muslims. In my testimony, I couldn’t say that, I was scared….

Well, was she lying then, or is she lying now? Even the ICG representative who testified to CSCE in Washington said they worked with Akramists prior to the riot. If this woman claims that Akramists don’t exist, I can’t believe her about anything else. That RFE/RL repeats her statement without any attempt to determine whether or not Akramists exist–and presumably some RFE/RL reporters know, even if Kimmage doesn’t–is bad reporting and bad editing.

Nathan October 24, 2005 at 12:42 pm

1) Yes, I have reprinted their articles before.

2) They are under no obligation to report on the Akiner sideshow. In fact, their failure to do so does a service to the entire story as her report was little more than a long-form “my impressions” piece. They’ve reported on the reports that involved many more interviews and made clear what the government position was. And Parpiyev was involved. There’s nothing wrong with talking to him and doing so is not an endorsement of his views. But apparently you have a different notion of the role of the press than I do. I don’t think RFE/RL is feeding anyone’s line here. You do, but not that that’s bad, just that they should be feeding a different one.

3) I will republish a piece from RFE/RL or anyone else who allows reprints when I think it meets two conditions: a) it is sufficiently important as to make the front page and not the links page; and, b) when I have nothing to add.

4) Nice method of totally dismissing her testimony. There are shades of meaning to “Akramist.” Yes, it exists in one particular sense, but in another–the one to which I think she is referring–it is a government pejorative for what many Andijon residents apparently see as obedient Muslims. They don’t see themselves as the spawn of HT and violently seeking to build a caliphate. Is she wrong? Who knows, but I’d take her at her word that she is speaking from the viewpoint of what she understands.

5) If you think my decision to republish an article from RFE/RL is a blow to the site’s credibility, you are under no obligation to read.

Brian October 24, 2005 at 12:49 pm

Well, I suppose all this confusion is why an international investigation would be nice, eh Laurence?

In any case to respond to Laurence’s comment about Akramiya, maybe there is no “Akramiya” as a formal named group… it sounds like there was a religious collective group of people, but whether they called themselves Akramiya, how organized they were, and how many people were involved and knew about it seems rather unknown at the moment.

But you’ve got balls Laurence to write that RFE/RL is “government propaganda” while anyone but a moron would have to admit that pretty much this whole trial is a sham – an extrodinary exercise in government propaganda. Are you applying for a job with the Uzbek government or something?

Brian October 24, 2005 at 12:49 pm

Besides, if I’m not mistaken, VOA reported on Dr. Akriner’s schanegans.

David October 24, 2005 at 1:56 pm

What an unpleasant and immoral denunciation of an extremely brave woman… I presume Laurence would support any subsequent prosecution of the woman, given that he believes she has been lying to the court? All rather bizarre and repellent.

Laurence October 24, 2005 at 2:24 pm

Nathan, thank you for your response. It’s your site, but I think what made it better than Eurasianet was Registan’s distance from offical propaganda–no government funding, independent comment on other views, including that of the US government.

Playing wordgames about the meaning of “Akramist” is like playing wordgames about the meaning of “Jihad”. It doesn’t change the facts on the ground–either there was an Islamist guerilla attack in Andijan or there wasn’t.

That doesn’t excuse the killing of civilians, but it does place it in the context of a hostage-taking and shootout, which is most likelly what happened.

I don’t think Akiner’s report was a sideshow. I saw her speak and she answered my email questions–something that ICG did not do. So, I believe her and don’t believe Human Rights Watch, ICG or the NGOs. Let’s see how things develop before taking sides.

Yes, I think giving Parpiev a platform after Andijan and ignoring Akiner is taking sides. You don’t. We have different concepts of fairness.

As far as VOA covering her story, that’s nice, it was the Uzbek service. But RFE/RL has ignored her and continues to do so. That is a political and editorial decision. I say it shows a lack of objectivity and balance in covering the news. I actually believe it is against the law that created RFE/RL, because they are not allowed to take sides. And I think RFE/RL’s one-sided coverage is hurting American credibility.

What reasonable person would led Americans who openly side with Akramists conduct any investigation into an Akramist guerrilla attack and their government’s response? Especially when the US helped some of the suspects escape as refugees, flying them from Kyrygzstan to Romania? Face it: the US and European Union took sides with the guerrillas. Russia and China took Uzbekistan’s side.

Any “international investigation” sponsored by the West would not be credibile in these circumstances.

Of course, I agree the Uzbek government may be lying, that the trial may be concocted, that it may be a show trial.

But that doesn’t mean that RFE/RL is telling the truth. Nor that Zokirova is telling the truth. Zakirova might be brave, as well as foolhardy–even misguided, or dishonest.

Unfortunately, in this tragedy, there are no obvious heroes. All sides have something to hide.

Nathan October 24, 2005 at 3:23 pm

Laurence, I’m sorry, but I’m just going to have to call bullshit on that.

VOA is more arguably propoganda than RFE/RL. They, after all, play statements of US foreign policy in their broadcast schedule. Akiner was a sideshow. She never intended that report to be published. It’s strongest arguments are its critiques and questions directed at others rather than the argument it posits. I covered it not because I particularly cared about letting her be heard, but because there was a controversy. If someone wanted to just cover both sides of the argument–which RFE/RL is more or less doing–they can leave her out and go straight to the folks making her argument with more force.

And again, Akiner is nowhere near an important a player in the story as Parpiev. Nor as important as Human Rights Watch. Or Galima Bukharbaeva. I think they are making an editorial decision–a wise one at that if you saw how the discussion here came to be about Akiner rather than the issues. You say they are taking a side. Fine, but at least be honest that you’re upset they’re not taking yours.

Language is critically important for understanding the situation and making good policy choices. You seem to accept without question the official Uzbek definition of Akramiya and equate it with “group who initiated violence that day.” Residents of Andijon do not appear to recognize Akramiya as a formal group. When the Uzbek government makes the charge of being an Akramist, they quite clearly do not mean someone influenced by Akram Yuldashev’s ideas on Islam. They mean a member of an illegal terrorist group. Those who took up arms on May 13 very well may have been sympathetic to those views, but seem not at all to represent everyone influence by Yuldashev. To quibble about meaning is not to deny the attack or its ideological basis, but to understand how someone could be influence by Yuldashev but not identify as an Akramist.

As for the refugees, for God’s sake… You carp a lot on your blog about the US having to follow to a T international rules of conduct on prisoners. Here’s a case in which the US and EU followed rules on refugees. Oh, I’m sorry… terrorists. Why is it OK to ignore the rules for Uzbekistan’s sake? This isn’t a principled stand you are taking, but a nakedly pro-Uzbek, pro-Russian one.

Unfortunately, in this tragedy, there are no obvious heroes. All sides have something to hide.

But there are obvious villains, and you have a little more sympathy for at least one of the devils than the situation warrants.

Jonathan P October 24, 2005 at 4:00 pm

Thank you, Nathan

Alexander Morrison October 24, 2005 at 5:09 pm

Re: Akiner and her report – I’m not sure why we should give her views much credence, given that they are based upon a Government-organised tour two weeks after the Andijan violence, and that her conclusions contradict the testimony of almost every eyewitness. She also followed up her little jaunt with an interview on Uzbek TV, which most certainly is “government propaganda” (see http://www.registan.net/?p=5404 if you’ve forgotten), and her responses will have been carefully vetted and approved beforehand, something painfully obvious from the transcript. I write as someone who knows her slightly – I had dinner with her once in fact. Personally she is charming, but she has too many connections with the Karimov and Nazarbayev regimes to be considered an independent commentator.

Breed October 24, 2005 at 8:13 pm

Let’s just assume a malificient colleague (or perhaps an Akramist) stole into Laurence’s office and posted this. How else to explain the beautiful (though truncated) syllogism, “I saw her speak and she answered my email questions–something that ICG did not do. So, I believe her and don’t believe Human Rights Watch, ICG or the NGOs.” This would raise a red flag in any undergrad philosophy course taught at a university at which the language of instruction was English and not Uzbek.

And as for the mollifying “Let’s see how things develop before taking sides,” perhaps I’m the dull knife in the drawer, but it’s my distinct impression that the Akramist manning Laurence’s typewrite has already taken sides.

Denzil Uz October 24, 2005 at 9:12 pm

Let me just agree with Laurence that, imho, unfortunately Registan.net becomes more and more one-sided. I tried before to join discussions here, because it looked really non-partisan, de-emotional and academically cynic place to share views among PROFESSIONALS and EXPERTS – the only condition to find some constructive ways out from the most difficult problems in the region, not through propaganda wars. Hope, I’m wrong..

Nathan October 24, 2005 at 9:45 pm

Denzil,

Do you find me reprinting the RFE/RL story partisan? If so, I don’t know what you’re looking for. I far from agree with everything Dan Kimmage has to say, but this story is newsworthy. I reprinted it without comment. I don’t object to people having an opinion on what she’s saying so long as it’s a well thought out argument.

I do object to people telling me I’m suddenly biased for reprinting the story and then setting bizarre conditions for RFE/RL to meet (essentially trumpeting a particular political line that is different from the one they are perceived to have now). AFAIK, you haven’t been reading long (you certainly haven’t been commenting long unless it’s under a new name now). So, I don’t know why you’ve seen a change. Maybe it’s because I’m spending so much time in class and not putting as much of my opinion into the site as in the past. I’m not sure.

Maybe I should make this explicit: Registan.net is not now and never has been non-partisan. I have always had biases and not been hesitant about taking clear positions. I have, however, been strongly disinclined to suffer misinformation and bad arguments in all their forms. If this willingness to accept all well-made arguments and consider different sources of information and points of view has been interpreted as a fundamental commitment to non-partisanship, I apologize.

Bertrand October 25, 2005 at 1:55 am

I am reminded of the late Senator Stephen Young of Ohio who, upon receiving a particularly irrational letter from a constituent, would have a copy of the letter sent back to the constituent with a note attached that said, “I just thought you should know some nut is using your name to write to me.”

Bertrand October 25, 2005 at 7:16 am

Oh, I meant to add (referencing Stephen Young): To you Laurence: What you wrote is…well, I guess it’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it.

It does smack, however, of the Fred Starr School of International Karimov Worship.

Get real. Live here for a while – now, not yesterday – and talk to the people who were in Andijan. When it happened. How it happened. There are plenty of witnesses, but only one has had the courage to speak up during the “trial” itself, and she is now under attack by the government and the Uzbek press.

In your call for “balance,” think how it might feel to be prosecuted for perjury for telling the truth, and probably subjected to “psychiatric” treatment. Where the Hell (capitalized) are your “conservative” values of freedom and individual liberty? I suspect people like you make Ayn Rand turn over in her grave.

Frankly, Laurence, I sometimes agree with you, but you need to live in some of the worlds about which you comment, which often, on the ground, have absolutely nothing to do with “American” political philosphy. There are no “red” and “blue” states here. It’s clear, at least to me, you know nothing about contemporary Uzbekistan.

I truly hope that “some nut” has used your name to post your earlier comment. If not, you truly don’t understand what is going on here.

WLB October 25, 2005 at 8:24 am

I would argue that what RFE/RL says about control of the narrative is very true. Central Asian politics (if not all politics) runs on control of the narrative. The only way to give the public a chance to construct their own narrative is to give them information. Any and all information, as long as it is cited and meets some standards of credibility and relevance. Zokirova’s testimony may or may not be true. RFE/RL and may be horribly biased US democracy guerillas. But they are providing relevant and useful information, sources cited so we know they aren’t making it up. Registan.net also provides information–bias showing, but sources cited so you can form your own opinion.

Francois October 25, 2005 at 9:45 am

Nathan, Brian, Bertrand and others, thank you for a high quality exchange of opinions and arguments.

You guys took time to rebuff Laurence’s line of thinking. He/she obviously must study to become a lawyer or something close where one can twist completely the facts and leave everyone else bemuse by the arguments presented.

So please keep your energy and attention for other more constructive topics. Don’t let this smart and weird Laurence put you off balance. I have met quite a few times this kind of persons in the academic world.

Nobody can pretend to be faultless. We all have our limits intellectually, emotionally, physically… But so far I have been quite impress by the overall quality and consistency of your comments, Nathan, and of the few people who occasionally add bits of information or opinions on this site.

So keep up the good work !

Uzbek October 25, 2005 at 11:04 am

Nathan – THANK YOU!!!
Laurance – You were and are wrong and sorry for You if You will keep on disregarding the real facts and hold on to the views of Your Akiner and brutal dictator Karimov.
Denzil – I think that after all I was right about You, it seems that You have a lot to lose when the Karimov will be toppled, which is soon. If You as You say want to find constructive way out from the most difficult problems in Uzbekistan by consulting with PROFESSIONALS and EXPERTS – I would say consult with Bertrand, who it seems in Tashkent and although he is not Uzbek, knows a lot about the ordeal Uzbeks are going through, as opposed to You.

Nathan October 25, 2005 at 11:24 am

I must take a moment to defend Laurence. He has his own opinions and I’m entirely fine with that. He has made wonderful contributions to this site, and I don’t stand by in the least criticisms of him as ignorant. He knows quite well the arguments of both sides, and I much prefer that people take the time to criticize his case.

Where he and I differ is apparently on questions of the propriety of presenting certain viewpoints and what the proper balance is. I’m fine with that disagreement too because when it comes down to it, I pay the bills and everything on this site reflects on me whether I like it or not.

I utterly reject the entire premise of objectivity in reporting and discussing the news. In fact, I view my primary role on this site to “add value” to others’ reporting. A lot of that value reflects my biases–biases about what information is important in reporting, political biases, etc. I don’t want to trumpet a political line because I find that to be of little value to readers. (In spite of the fact that I know that being an ideologue drags in readers, I am more pleased to produce a product appreciated by those with significantly different politics from my own.) But yes, I’m biased, but like WLB says, I don’t want to hide it and I want to give you the opportunity to make up your own mind by putting the information out there.

Therefore, I’ll reprint information from political opposition groups, media outlets, and governments. It all has value.

Laurence October 25, 2005 at 1:37 pm

Nathan, thank you for explaining your principles. I appreciate it…

Denzil Uz October 25, 2005 at 9:24 pm

Dear Nathan,
Thanks for your reply. Be honest I didn’t mean exclusively RL/RFE reprint when wrote about “one-side tendency” here. You’re right that I’m fresh here and still not rotten-minded and thirsty for chaos like my scanty fella “Uzbek”. I do appreciate great interest of Brian, Bertrand and others to our land and eager to exchange views, not blows. What I meant is growing intolerance and temper for collective trample your opponents here. In my humble opinion, if the aim of Registan – a club of accomplices’ dominance – it wouldn’t make it different from bunch of other “sources” like Erk or Dugin’s clubs equivalently. No offence, just hope, because Registan still not likewise.

Brian October 25, 2005 at 9:34 pm

I do also appreciate Laurence, Denzil Uz and others contributing.

Denzil Uz, just remember that the one who started throwing blows this time was Laurence, with his accusations of bias and unfair reporting by RFE/RL and this website.

Nathan October 25, 2005 at 9:43 pm

Denzil, that sounds all well and good, but I honestly think your standard is whether or not I go after you and those who think likewise when I think you’re wrong. Sorry, but that’s how I see it.

And Brian’s right about who cast the first stone. I took that as an attack impugning my credibility. I tend to react quite strongly even if I perceive only the possibility that I’m being attacked. It’s incredible I only swore once.

Honestly, we wouldn’t be having this problem if it didn’t seem that the strongest argument coming from what I’ll lazily call your side was “Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” (Which is at least better than Starr calling those who disagree with him Stalinist.)

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