First Tunisia, Then Egypt: Who is next?

by Traveler on 2/2/2011 · 18 comments

Editor’s note: This was originally written by Traveler, a native of Central Asia who will be writing occasional posts, several days ago. Anything that does not entirely fit in with the most recent developments in Egypt is due entirely to the editor’s (hey, that’s me!) failure to post this right after it was sent to me. –Nathan

The other day, I noticed that someone called @uzbekrevolution was following to my tweets. Immediately, it occurred to me that this name must have something to do with the recent events happening in Tunisia and Egypt.

I was right. @uzbekrevolution was calling for change in Uzbekistan. He was expecting Uzbeks to do the same as Tunisians did in their country: revolution and regime change.

The shift of a similar massive uprising to another authoritarian country, Egypt, to overthrow the dictatorship is definitely an inspiring news for people like @uzbekrevolution who want to see the same change in their respective countries.

Is it likely that the same kinds of massive protests could spread to Uzbekistan in near future? Could the Internet inflict the fast-spreading virus of revolution on the people of Uzbekistan too?

In my opinion, the simple answer is NO. Let’s analyze this answer in more detail.

Egypt and Uzbekistan have many similarities to share in common, which might be taken as a reason to expect that the same uprising could spread to latter too.

First, both countries are notorious for their repressive and authoritarian regimes. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, and in Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, is ruling the country for decades without willing to share the power with anyone else.

Second, both countries are developing, Asian nations, where human rights violations, prison abuses and torture are common.

However, within the scope of the same similarities, there is a degree of differences, based on which, I think people in Uzbekistan could hardly go on the streets to protest against their government.

First, Hosni Mubarak seems less repressive than his counterpart Islam Karimov. Karimov is the 11th worst dictator on the Earth, while Mubarak is listed on the 20th, according to the ranking of the world’s worst dictators.

In recent years, Mubarak has been more favorable to democratic changes in his country. In his address to the nation several days ago, Mubarak claimed that it was due to his efforts to democratize the country that Egyptians could go to the streets to demonstrate and demand the president’s resignation.

Meanwhile, democracy has already been killed and buried in Uzbekistan. Any attempt to revive the democratic values in this country will be crushed immediately before it gets a chance to breathe.

Also, in Egypt, the media relatively enjoy more freedom than they are in many other authoritarian regimes. The Internet is increasingly playing a crucial role in political life of Egyptians. Especially, the role of social media like Facebook, blogs and Twitter has been very important in the development of current uprising.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan is probably the worst place to be a journalist. While the world media are busy with airing every minute of developments of this uprising, the Uzbek national media are amazingly silent about what is happening in Egypt. The Internet, which is the only place to find independent information sources, is highly censored, and all websites that cover political news critical of the government are totally blocked. According to one Uzbek journalist, now every webpage that contains the word “Egypt” is added to this block list.

Lastly, but most importantly, people in Egypt look politically more knowledgable and more active than Uzbeks do. We often hear Egyptians demanding their rights and calling for reform in the government.

People in Uzbekistan are terribly afraid of their government. They understand very well that the current government is capable of setting the scene of the second Andijan tragedy again if they go on the streets to demonstrate against the government. Within the country, there are currently no political groups or leaders that are capable of mobilizing the masses against the government.

Based on these factors, it does not seem possible that the “Jasmine revolution” of Tunisia or violent mass protests of Egypt could be imported to Uzbekistan any time soon.

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Jangak February 3, 2011 at 2:10 am

Well…it did happen. And I think we all know how that went down.

FromNowOnAntiEurasianet February 3, 2011 at 4:42 am

Are you serious when talking of “importing violent mass protests” to Uzbekistan? This sounds very cynical to say the least. You are aware that combination of “violent” and “mass” means loss of human lives, anarchy and suffering of the most vulnerable, right? Yet this “masterpiece” gives an impression that this should be a better option for Uzbekistan. We know that it is not for a great number of reasons.
We have seen all sorts of flower revolutions around us. I praise my nation’s prudence and wisdom that did not allow this to happen in Uzbekistan.
So here is the message to all fcukheads who are speculating about “importing violent protests” to Uzbekistan: Get a life.

Whatever fcukheads like Eurasianet and co might think or speculate

Traveler February 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I agree with you. The wording of the last sentence may be wrong because violence is not the way for regime change.
However, the reality is that if such uprising erupts, there are certain elements in the society who definitely want the massive violence to arise for different purposes and interests.
We are witnessing this today in Egypt.

Ali February 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Protests in Egypt only turned violent when the police tried to harass its own population that it is supposed to protect, and later, because government-paid thugs (Futuwwa) were openly attacking PEACEFUL protesters in Tahrir Square and all over Cairo.
In order for a peaceful protest to happen in Tashkent, it needs to build a critical mass. This is only possible if large, de-centralized group of peaceful activists are able to mobilize and agree quickly. This is why facebook/twitter/mosques are so powerful: they allow information to be distributed quickly and through networks of mutual trust. This is what made the recent peaceful protests against moronic governments possible.
It’s inevitable. It’s coming to every country with a moronic dictator. Uzbekistan is on the short list.

Turgai February 4, 2011 at 11:23 am

“The Internet is increasingly playing a crucial role in political life of Egyptians. Especially, the role of social media like Facebook, blogs and Twitter has been very important in the development of current uprising.”

Accoridng to the latest (2010), internet penetration in Egypt stood at 21.2% whereas in Uzbekistan it was 16,8%, yet that says very little about the providers lanscape and who controls it. I would not over-rate the importance of Facebook, YouTube etc… Yes they are important for bringing events on the mental map internationally. But the mobilisation on the grounds is more the work of ‘analogue networks’ and, especially, text messages pretty much as it was in Kyrgyzstan last year.

Brian February 3, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Here’s another key difference between Egypt and Uzbekistan: Uzbekistan doesn’t have a powerful patron such as America helping support much of it’s government and military.

While many are angry and cynical at America for having supported the Mubarak regime for 30 years, I think there’s a good argument that says that it has restrained the Army from shooting the protestors over the past week. In Iran they opened fire. In Uzbekistan, as we know from Andijan, the military is willing to open fire on demonstrators. In Egypt the military has held back (so far). I think at least part of that can be credited to American threats to reduce military aid (and I think these are credible threats – there would be massive calls to review aid in the event that the military opened fire).

Nisa February 4, 2011 at 12:36 am

After the echo of Egyptian protest started spreading to Yemen, Algeria and Syria, I at least hope, Prezident Karimov will become more cautious from now on, not by tightening the threads in his hands, but by softening them slightly.

upyernoz February 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm

i think it will have to spread outside of the arab world for non-arab leaders to be seriously worried.

metin February 4, 2011 at 8:44 am

Let’s wait and see if demonstrations and anticipated ‘regime change’ in Egypt will make this country better. Not to be excluded that current autocratic regime will be changed by another, this time by islamists from Moslem Brotherhood.
While some commonalities exist between Egypt and Uzbekistan, these two are very different. Egyptians are arabs. They might be ‘more politically knowledgeable’ than most of their neighbors, but can’t be compared with Uzbekistan. Egypt is a country where every third adult is illiterate, so it would make more sense to compare Egypt to similar countries.

Turgai February 4, 2011 at 11:13 am

Also, Egypt is more urbanized (43% in 2008, with a strong concentration in Cairo and the Nile delta) than Uzbekistan (37%, more scattered over several micro-regions) and its people are more dynamic.

For the rest it has little to do with literacy rates really (in Uzbekistan with its moribund and corrupt education system, much more people are de facto illiterate that the regime and its EBRD poodles want to admit).

In some ways, the political and security apparatus and the state of what we could call civil society in Karimov’s Uzbekistan have more in common with Ceaucescu’s Romania that with Mubarak’s Egypt or Ben Ali’s Tunisia. This is why I believe that if he does not dies naturally, Karimov will go along similar lines than the Conducator at the time: an internal regime coup combined with localised social unrest.

metin February 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

An interesting analysis about regime changes and events in Egypt from Reuters:
The article says revolutions happen in countries where heads of state are perceived as puppets of foreign countries.

Turgai February 5, 2011 at 3:12 am

Well that might make sense although there are exceptions, e.g. Romania’s Ceaucescu was pretty much the odd man out in the Eastern Bloc and a pain for Moscow at the time, but was eventually overthrown. I would say that leaders who are not really a puppet but savvily play out everyone against each other face more risk of a coup than of a popular revolution.

Turgai February 5, 2011 at 8:28 am

Maybe Karimov HAS become a puppet: of his daughter(s). 🙂

Nisa February 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Uzbekistan Online Forum at (most liberal and democratic forum of young Uzbek people, who mostly reside outside of the country) was shut down today, as the owner of it was forced to do so after several members of the forum were jailed and the government started to watch on close the owner’s family. This is also deemed that the government of Karimov is utterly scared of what is going on in the Arab countries and took steps further on shutting the mouths of people.

Nathan February 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Nisa, have you noticed any other Uzbek discussion sites being shut down recently? Is anyone talking about the arbuz shutdown on any other sites?

Nisa February 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I don’t know any other websites that are also shut down. was probably the only online platform where youth of Uzbekistan could freely express their views on every matter related to Uzbekistan. It is indeed a big event because the forum was working without closure for more than a decade even though there was continuous government efforts to shut it down.
I am sure it is related to the government’s fear for mass uprising that is spreading to authoritarian regimes these days.

Dilshod February 6, 2011 at 1:28 am

I’ve been watching Uzbek TV and it IS giving a coverage of the situation. I don’t know if Traveler can follow Uzbek TV. And some Inernet forums are discussing it too.
Admit Traveler, when you get too obsessed with personal ideas, let’s put it this way, it does not serve the best interests of journalism.

lone wolf February 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Comrade Karimov bi bi soon ?
Goo Goosha swan song bi a long rope?
Mazzive demonstrations in Toshkent ?
cheaper visa and discounted bribes!
We can only hope ??

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