Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 294- (28/06/05)
Karimov the 'moderate'; extirpation of 'extremists'
Things are remaining sinister in Uzbekistan. President Islam Karimov is a
dictator who picked up a trick or two from Saddam Hussein. He believes in terror
and terror and terror, relentlessly re-applied. In his torture chambers, as in
Saddam's, relatives and work colleagues are roped in and obliged, under
gun-point to observe what goes on. If it is decided to kill someone, the
relatives at rifle-point are assigned to the job as the execution squad.
A torture chamber society no less!
But he is likely to survive - because he has Washington as his ally, not his
foe. Saddam in Iraq had the unusual distinction of the backing of both sides in
the Cold War - and then the effective support of the bien-pensant intellegentsia
afterwards, however aggressive he became. Karimov had the support of Washington
and Moscow in the campaign against terrorism; but the former is now flaking
away, alarmed at what has happened. In fact this is true of the State Department
but not of the Pentagon. Washington does not speak with one voice on this and
currently that of Donald Rumsfeld is in this ascendant.
The aftermath of May
The details of the violent unrest simmering in Uzbekistan in May are unclear.
But more than enough information has emerged now to show Karimov is determined
to retain power, by whatever means necessary. By permitting his troops to open
fire on demonstrators in the eastern city of Andizhan, Karimov has become the
first leader of a former Soviet republic in recent years to suppress public
protests with such ruthless use of lethal force. Human rights activists estimate
that 500 or more people may have been killed in the violence that erupted on May
13th when anti-government rebels stormed the town's jail and freed prisoners.
Those deaths show the authoritarian leader has no intention of becoming the
latest victim of the political protests that have swept the former Soviet Union
in the last 18 months. Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine
and Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan all lost power after deciding not to deploy
troops against demonstrators.
For Karimov, the ousting of Akayev in March was particularly ominous as it
proved a pattern of protests developed in Europe could spread to the less
sophisticated Central Asian nations. He accused the Andizhan rebels of wanting
to repeat the Kyrgyz revolt. He blamed Islamist militants for stirring up
trouble and vowed to defend Uzbekistan's "secular path of
The long haul
Karimov has long experience of ruling Uzbekistan, the most populous country
in central Asia with 26m people. Like most other ex-Soviet central Asian
leaders, he came to power as the regional Communist party chief before the
USSR's collapse. Unlike Akayev and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakstan,
who both allowed limited economic and political freedom, Karimov has preserved a
strong state backed by a ruthless secret service, the SNB.
With the secular opposition suppressed, Tashkent's main concern has long been
Islamism, which is more active in the large and settled population of Uzbekistan
than elsewhere in ex-Soviet Central Asia where large proportions of this
population are itinerant herdsmen. Even in Soviet times, Uzbeks were
considerably more religious than their neighbours. Today some politically active
Muslims simply refuse to cooperate with the authorities. Others support the
non-violent Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned extremist group that wants an Islamic
state, and a few back the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group allied to al-Qaeda.
Which in fact targets all the FSU states in Central Asia
The IMU, which had bases in Afghanistan, suffered heavy losses in the US-led
invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002, but splinter groups have since returned to
The Islamists have been particularly active in Andizhan and other towns in the
Ferghana valley, a frontier territory shared with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
For Karimov the Islamist presence is both a security threat and a political
blessing. By playing up the threat, he has allied himself with Russia and the US
in the global anti-terrorism war. Washington, which has an air base in
Uzbekistan, has given considerable economic aid. Yevgeny Kozhokin, director of
the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, says: "The fall
of Karimov is not in the interests of Russia, the US or Europe. If the Uzbek
regime fails, it is likely that another Islamic republic will appear."
However, Karimov's reluctance to liberalise his country has kept the economy in
shackles, with severe restrictions on trade, investment and access to foreign
Marta Brill Olcott, a central Asia specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for
International peace, the US think-tank, says poverty, not religion, is at the
root of the recent unrest.
James Nixey, an analyst at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, says
Karimov can probably survive the current unrest, especially as there are no
elections until a presidential poll in 2007. Ms Olcott says economic
dissatisfaction is widespread, so events in Andizhan could be repeated
elsewhere. She says Mr Karimov can probably suppress unrest "in one, two or
even three cities. But he won't be able to do so in 10 cities
A debate is developing in Uzbekistan over the impact of the Kyrgyz revolution on
domestic Uzbek developments. There is no disputing that the Askar Akayev's
ouster in Bishkek has been a hot topic of conversation among Uzbeks. In
addition, Ozod Dekhkonlar supporters and other anti-government activists have
expressed hope that Kyrgyzstan's experience will serve as a catalyst for a broad
popular effort to force Uzbek President Islam Karimov to step down. However,
some Uzbek political analysts contend that recent disturbances in Uzbekistan
have only a limited connection to Kyrgyz developments.
China, Uzbekistan sign cooperation treaty
A treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between China and Uzbekistan
was signed in Beijing on May 26th during a state visit by Uzbek President, Isla
Karimov, a source in the Uzbek presidential office said, Interfax News Agency
China and Uzbekistan also signed about a dozen cooperation documents. The source
said that Karimov and Chinese president, Hu Jintao, discussed bilateral
relations, regional and international problems.
"The interlocutors focused on cooperation in oil, gas, tourism, education,
high technologies, transport and the textile industry," the source said.
Bilateral trade increased by nearly 70% to almost 600m Euro last year.