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.