Returning to Andijon

by Nathan Hamm on 7/19/2006 · 4 comments

More details regarding the return of a handul of the Andijon refugees to Uzbekistan is emerging. In one of RFE/RL’s latest reports, they note that the Uzbek government is using their return to criticize those who assisted them after they’d left Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek Embassy in Washington assisted the Uzbeks in returning home. Russia’s Regnum news agency quoted an unnamed source at the Uzbek Foreign Ministry as saying on July 17 that Uzbek authorities considered the refugees’ request to return home and concluded that those people were not involved in “terrorist attacks in Andijon.” The statement said: “It was proved that they were deceived and taken outside the country.”

There is, understandably, some skepticism about the Uzbek government’s promises not prosecute those on their way back. I am inclined to believe that they will probably escape prosecution but be subject to surveillance and occasional “friendly visits” from the police.

Those who have returned are all from Arizona, and it would be interesting to know what agency was handling the refugees there. I have a hunch that they may not have been doing too superb a job. (But it is an enormously difficult job.) Andre Mahecic of the UNHCR says that his agency would have provided counsel to the refugees in order to provide them more information to make their decisions. The refugees certainly have the right to return both legally and as adults fully able to make their own decisions, and considering that many of them have close relatives still in Uzbekistan, it is fairly understandable why some would choose to do so.

Ferghana.ru has more on the returning refugees and the recent appeal of refugees in Germany to Islam Karimov.

Pleading innocent and claiming they had dreamed of going home ever since the first day of their exile, authors of the appeal pledged their readiness to return to Uzbekistan and continue working for the sake and in the name of their native country.

They also report that the wife of Akram Yuldashev, who is currently in the United States, is also interested in returning to Uzbekistan. (Meanwhile, Ferghana.ru also reports that one of Yuldashev’s daughter has been arrested in Kyrgyzstan.)

Sociologist Bahodyr Musayev from Tashkent was stunned to hear of the fugitives’ appeal to Karimov. He is convinced that making appeals to the very man who ordered the demonstration mowed down in the first place is a height of absurdity.

And in Andijon, EurasiaNet (which finally has an RSS feed!) reports that entrepreneurs are still under pressure in the city.

Authorities appear to believe that a good way to keep the lid on political activity in Andijan is through the strict regulation entrepreneurial activity. Private taxi drivers are the latest area residents to be targeted. Under a decree issued by regional governor Saydullo Begaliyev that went into force July 1, all persons involved in taxi operations are required to join a state-controlled enterprise. The entity has the authority to issue and revoke licenses, collect revenues and impose fines.

For those with cars — not only in Andijan, but throughout Uzbekistan — moonlighting as a taxi driver offers one of the easiest ways to supplement meager incomes. For some, it is the main source, or even the sole source of income. Thus, the government’s move to muscle in on the taxi trade stands to heighten discontent among a large segment of Uzbek society.

Also, those who read Russian might want to check this out.


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– 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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{ 4 comments }

Laurence July 20, 2006 at 10:09 am

Nathan, thank you for posting this. There are probably a number of reasons, ranging from worry about the fate of relatives left behind should they not return, to disappointment or dissatisfaction with the USA–and perhaps an Islamic factor, that Arizona might have seemed a more hostile environment for the practice of traditional Islam than the Ferghana valley. It would be interesting to see transcripts of “exit interviews” with refugees to see what they said about their reasons for returning to Uzbekistan. We don’t know enough details at this point–and unless UNCHR opens its records to public scrutiny (you can’t FOIA them, it seems), we may never know…

Azjon July 31, 2006 at 3:01 am

This is pure madness! I talked to refugees just a few days ago and they (some of them) also thinking about going back.
Being from Uzbekistan myself I don’t know what makes them think that “Karimovtsi” will leave them alone.I think that once more of them return athorities will come after them.I noticed that refugees that learned some English are less willing to go than their friend that don’t know any.

From Timisoara July 31, 2006 at 9:00 pm

I agree that going back to Uzbekistan isn’t smart, but never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.

1. The vast majority of refugees have no direct connection to the events that lead up to the Andijon shootings. They simply think they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They might not consider that they’re “fleeing” a repressive government, but that they “fled” a shoot-out. The danger has passed, and things are back to normal.

2. Most of them are shoemakers, confectioners, market traders, farmers, and so forth and so on. None of them like the Karimov regime, but most of them actively avoided politics in Uzbekistan, and don’t necessarily have a bad impression of the the government.

3. All of them have family back in Uzbekistan–sometimes close family, like spouses and children. We have no idea what the government is saying to the refugees or to those relatives (i.e. they may be threatening them).

Azjon August 1, 2006 at 2:13 am

to: Timisoara well you do have a point that we uzbeks have close families. Also, I agree that their relatives might have been threatened.My close friend was once arrested and
sentenced to 7 years and police made him “confess” by threatening to rape his little brother in front of him.
My best regards Azjon.

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