More Uzbek Refugees Head Home

by Nathan Hamm on 8/24/2006 · 3 comments

A group of 41 Andijon refugees is returning to Uzbekistan, RFE/RL reports.

The returnees were due to board an Uzbekistan Airways (Ozbekiston Havo Yollari) flight today at New York’s JFK Airport. They are expected back in the Uzbek capital on August 25.

Bahadir Fayiz, a Pennsylvania-based Uzbek emigre who is in close contact with many of the 150 Andijon refugees resettled in the United States by the United Nations in 2005, told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that four of them have refused to return home after relatives warned them they would not be safe in Uzbekistan.

Ferghana.ru’s report says that unlike with the group of 12 who returned earlier, this group had to pay their own way home despite promises from the Uzbek embassy to cover half of the cost. They also report that 35 of the refugees were living in Pennsylvania, 3 were in Ohio, and 3 more in Maryland.

For background on why the refugees are interested in returning home, see the letter regarding their situation published here ealier.

UPDATE: RFE/RL has a more detailed story on the latest departure. They spoke to one of the returnees, who said that the experience of the 12 who returned earlier encouraged them to decide to go home.

Sanjarbek said officials from the Uzbek Embassy in Washington have been closely involved in preparing their return — mostly from Pennsylvania, but also from Ohio and Maryland. He said Uzbek officials guaranteed their safety on their return.

“Of course, Uzbekistan has guaranteed that there will be no persecution. We have trusted them. We trust them 100 percent,” Sanjarbek said. “We are returning with hopes that there will be no persecution and that we will be received very warmly. God willing,… a bus will come here and take us to New York. From New York, we will fly to Tashkent; and on [August 25], at around 6 p.m., we will arrive there. Most of the returnees are Andijanis; there is one person from Tashkent region and two people from Kokand.”

They also spoke to one of those who decided against returning, Abdumannob, who said, “I want to study, to get an education. I’ve seen so much here. America is good. There are many good things.” Bahodir Fayz is quoted as saying that Abdumannob’s brother in Kyrgyzstan spoke to him and encouraged him not to return.

Actually, Fayz is quoted at great length, saying, among other things, that the Uzbek government blackmailed the refugees into returning. It seems fair to say that he has an axe to grind (and perhaps not is not an entirely accurate source of information, judging from Bertrand’s comment regarding the Uzbek embassy not paying for flights — a claim that Fayz is the source of). It would be interesting to know a bit more about him and his history. And given that Fayz is being quite public, I do not feel it is inappropriate for me to say that I am fairly confident that he is the author of the refugee letter . I am not certain, but given some of the omitted details and these latest reports on the returning Uzbeks, it would seem to fit. So, does anyone


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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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{ 3 comments }

Bertrand August 23, 2006 at 10:12 pm

According to a report by Galima Burkabaeva (former IWPR reporter who was forced to leave Uzbekistan after having witnessed the May, 2005 events) the UNHCR is saying their investigation of the return of this newest group yielded information that the Uzbek government did, in fact, pay for their tickets.

Brian August 24, 2006 at 10:16 am

Is is just the refugees resettled in America that are leaving? What about the ones resettled in the rest of Europe?

Djana August 28, 2006 at 9:14 am

I wish them luck, and will hope that they will not get jailed once they arrive back (which may not happen immediately, but will happen eventually)
Unfortunately, the Uzbek mentality took over them, and instead of trying to adjust, they will go back to face their punishment.

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