Bakhtiyor Bobojonov of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent addressed an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday and discussed Andijon and Akromiya, calling the group a threat to Uzbekistan. Bobojonov’s conclusions are based on a short interview with Akrom Yuldoshev, review of some of his works, and videos from Andijon. Bobojonov served on the expert group the prosecutor’s office assembled to investigate events in Andijon. The event summary provides a history of the organization and its activities.
One of the more important points Bobojonov raises is that Yuldoshev had called for jihad against the Uzbek state shortly before Andijon.
Leaders of Yuldashev’s group often hid the religious basis for their activities, claiming to be reporters or human rights advocates. Their motives were always religious, however. Yuldashev’s commentary to the 61st Surah, written just six weeks before the Andijan violence, contains a call for jihad. I considered the possibility that the commentary could be a fabrication. But when I spoke with Yuldashev he confirmed his authorship. He also said he had overestimated the split in society and called too soon for jihad.
In the beginning only a few Akramia members knew of the group’s political activities. They talked about politics mostly in hints and allegories. While they wanted a caliphate, it was an abstraction for them. There were no plans for an uprising, though they considered it a “delayed duty.” “The Path to True Faith,” written in 1992, does contain hints about fighting.
Considering the sum of Yuldoshev’s statements on Akromiya, one runs the risk of becoming only more confused about the organization. (Background on Akromiya can be found here.) It seems that, at the very least, Yuldoshev himself does not have an altogether too well thought out idea of what he stands for. According to the RFE/RL report on Bobojonov’s talk, Yuldoshev has now determined that his calls for an uprising were premature.
The RFE/RL report is interesting though because it only mentions Bobojonov as having presented Andijon as an uprising planned by a well-trained Islamist organization hoping to spark wider attacks on the government. Julie Corwin does point out that the list of caveats on Bobojonov’s conclusions is a mile long. (It seems that there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of every last person commenting on Andijon.) But for some reason, Marina Barnett’s comments on videos of Andijon are not mentioned in the story. In the CEIP summary, Barnett says,
From these videos it is clear that the Andijan protests were not a spontaneous outburst. Akramia provided meals for people in the crowd and had spokesmen on hand in Western suits. The group had its own security team, which pretended to be a government security force.
The protest was not meant to be peaceful. The video shows the Akramia members were well armed and trained in the proper use of their weapons. One group of youths is shown making tens of Molotov cocktails.
Akramia attracted people to the square in Andijan by setting several buildings on fire, then took the firefighters hostage and would not let the crowd leave.
I really do find it curious that Corwin presented the story as a baggage-laden Bobojonov making these claims alone. I am not entirely convinced that what he claims is 100% true, but from the CEIP summary, he comes off as both serious and not entirely alone in his claims.