The Uzbek Revolutionary of St. Louis

by Nathan Hamm on 5/10/2006 · 3 comments

In his summary of the CEIP conference on Andijon, James mentions an Uzbek activist questioning John McCain regarding an unaired interview he did with RFE/RL.

During Q&A, an Uzbek dissident devoted to nonviolent civil disobedience (whose name I did not catch) was repeatedly asking why Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty would not air his program. McCain responded that airing such information is a “balancing act,” and it is important to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, implying that the man’s show could result in the persecution of his group. Smith more pointedly responded that unlike some governments, the US government does not control its media, and RFE/RL is not controlled by Congress, only funded by it.

The dissident in question is certainly Bakhodir Choriev, who received asylum last year in the wake of protests over the seizure of his family’s farms and businesses. [For background see especially this post, but also the following posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.]

The Kansas City Star wrote about Choriev’s efforts to be heard the other day. He staged a hunger strike in Washington DC in order to secure interviews with VOA and Radio Liberty. Only the latter recorded an interview, but it has yet to air. The reason he is so upset the interview has yet to air is that it was crucial to a protest in Uzbekistan he was planning for May 13.

Choriyev spent the better part of this year organizing a nonconfrontational protest he dubbed “Defiance Day.”

He planned to have demonstrators in Uzbekistan stay inside their homes all day. They also would show their opposition by wearing white – white caps, white shirts, white pants, white shoes – a uniform that Choriyev figured even the poorest Uzbek protester could afford.

He scheduled the demonstration for May 13, the first anniversary of an uprising in the Uzbek city of Andijan, where government troops fired on unarmed demonstrators protesting the country’s poverty and unemployment. But Choriyev canceled his Defiance Day plans, mainly because he couldn’t tell anybody about them.

Choriyev tried to spread the word by e-mail, but few Uzbeks have access to computers. He said radio, a staple in nearly every Uzbek household, would have been the most effective way to broadcast his message without government interference.

When Choriev was in Washington trying to secure interviews, blogger Clay Kaminsky met with him and wrote a bit about his discussion with him.

Choriev’s organization is called Birdamlik (Solidarity), which has a website here.

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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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James May 11, 2006 at 8:25 am

Wow, that expalins his very odd behavior. He actually stood and asked the same question twice, once to the panel with Daniel Kimmage on it, and once to the panel with McCain and Smith. A few people in the crowd groaned the second time.

It sounds like RFE/RL is planning on using it, but doesn’t want to be responsible for any violence so is waiting until after May 13. Very interesting.

jonathan p May 11, 2006 at 12:35 pm

This is an interesting issue that looks like it involves some hard feelings between various factions of the Uzbek opposition.

On his Web site, Choriev seems to hold RFE/RL’s Shukrat Bobojonov responsible for sitting on the interview. It appears Choriev’s issue with Radio Liberty is an apparent reluctance to broadcast his interview despite a willingness to broadcast (on Apr. 16) the comments of an ERK supporter (Ismat Khushev, resident of Canada) who said he anticipated the break out of war in Uzbekistan.

Choriev (and apparently the Congress of Democratic Uzbekistan, judging by their Web site) feels that broadcasting these types of comments is irresponsible because it only leads to more suppression and makes it more difficult for opposition movements to do any real work.

What follows is an excerpt from CDU’s Web site about the broadcast decision by Bobojonov. The broadcast concerned the upcoming 2007 elections in Uzbekistan. It sounds like the only views voiced were those of this ERK supporter. Hmm.(

“Radio Liberty’s Abdulla Iskandar (Shuhrat Bobojonov) must be just before airing such issues. Especially, he should be vigilant about these issues since Bobojonovs were the trusted representatives of Muhammad Salih in Khorazm in 1991 elections. Because “Birlik” also announced of its plans to participate with its candidate a bit before. Why didn’t he speak of it? How about “Ozod Dehqonlar”? Furthermore what about the “ERK” fraction led by Samad Murad? One more instance, Bahadir Chariev who strongly opposes Muhammad Salih is deprived of giving an interview on Radio Liberty. It is not democracy where as Shuhrat Bobojon describes himself as an independent democratic journalist.”

As a side note, I believe this Khushev guy was the editor-in-chief of the short-lived newspaper Natzionalnoye Obrazovaniye (published in Russian, Uzbek and English) before it was closed down by Uzbek authorities in 2003 after just a few editions. If you spend any time on the CDU site, you’ll notice that CDU claims Khushev’s membership has expired. He was listed as a member in June of 2005.

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