Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 297- (29/09/05)
Defendants express guilt in Uzbek uprising
The Karimov regime is predictably resorting to show-trials in the wake of the
May massacre in Andijan in the eastern Ferghana Valley. It is after all a
Stalinist set-up, with a KGB thug of the worst type in power, Islam Karimov,
former communist boss of the benighted republic.
Defendants accused of launching a revolt to bring Islamic rule to Uzbekistan
reiterated their guilty plea on September 22nd, at the same time denying claims
by human rights groups that their confessions had been coerced. On the third day
of what have appeared to be carefully rehearsed hearings in the trial of 15 men,
the defendants also echoed prosecutors' contentions that Western journalists and
rights activists had encouraged the rebellion.
One defendant emotionally denied rights groups' allegations that the defendants
were tortured to ensure they testified correctly. "Despite all the slander
of journalists and rights activists, I was stunned at how well they treated
me," businessman Azizbek Yusupov testified.
Yusupov and 14 others pleaded guilty to participating in an uprising, which
erupted when militants seized a prison and freed 23 businessmen who had been on
trial for alleged Islamic extremism.
The suppression of the demonstrations in the eastern city of Andijan in May
badly damaged Uzbekistan's relations with the West. President Islam Karimov
rejected calls for an international investigation after rights groups said more
than 700 people were killed. The Karimov regime, which has ruled for 16 years,
has put the death toll at 187.
Uzbek rights activist Surat Ikramov said that he believed the defendants were
forced to confess under torture. Western human rights groups also released
reports alleging that Uzbek police had coerced people to confess membership in
The authoritarian regime in the former Soviet republic hopes the trial will
refute accusations that government troops fired on protesters and support its
version of an extremist Islamic uprising encouraged from abroad.
Yusupov, like three other defendants before him, alleged that Western
journalists had urged the businessmen's associates to escalate protests against
their trial. They urged that "we had better rise as people in Ukraine and
Georgia did," said Yusupov, who was wounded by soldiers guarding the
Andijan airport on the day of the uprising.
Defendant Abdulkhafiz Gaziyev said he had undergone training with other
militants in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
Another defendant, Khusan Turobov, testified that the militants, not troops, had
fired first during the protests. Another of the accused, Alisher Khakimov, said
he opened fire at a police car, sending it smashing into a wall and killing a
Military exercises with Russia timely for Tashkent
Recent events suit Moscow down to the ground. It can hope to recuperate its
influence in the central republic of central Asia. It made no protest of course
about the May massacre at all. Tashkent's decision to ask the US to vacate the
Karsi-Khanabad base on the Uzbek-Afghan border must be extremely gratifying to
the Kremlin hard-liners.
The US had made the cardinal sin of flying Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan to
Romania. The big payoff for Moscow, indeed, is the departure of US troops from
Uzbekistan, which removes a strategic thorn from Russia's southern flank.
Russia and Uzbekistan were engaged in joint military exercises in late
September, the first the two countries have ever held. Such an event was
unthinkable just a few years ago, but ties between the two countries have been
warming. And though the exercises were already being planned last year, analysts
say they could not come at a better time for Russia and Uzbekistan have
participated in multinational exercises alongside troops from other nations, but
never had they engaged in military exercises involving just the two of them. The
current operations began on September 19 and ran through September 24.
Alex Vatanka, the Eurasia editor of the London-based Jane's Country Risk, told
RFE/RL the significance of the event is not the exercises themselves. "It's
pretty significant politically, but from a military point of view these
exercises are on a fairly limited scale," he said. "This is not
seriously going to improve the Uzbek capability or teach the Russians
particularly anything useful, but it is a very important political
Indeed, the two countries have not enjoyed the best of relations. But recently,
their ties have grown warmer, due in part to the international uproar over
alleged Uzbek human rights abuses and the presence of US troops in Central Asia
-- a fact Russia clearly has never welcomed.
Gregory Gleason of the University of New Mexico specializes in Central Asia. He
compares the warming relations with the early of days of Uzbek independence
after 1991, when Tashkent had both the opportunity and the incentive to part
ways with Russia.
"In the early years of the Boris Yeltsin administration, the first minister
of foreign affairs, Andrei Kozyrev, saw the region of Central Asia as a region
of minimal significance to the economic goals of Russia, but also saw the former
border of the Soviet Union as the line that defined the sphere of influence of
Moscow in the region," Gleason told RFE/RL. "And as a consequence,
Moscow continued to think of Central Asia as an area that was under the control,
basically, of Russian foreign policy."
Gleason said Tashkent quickly showed its resistance to Russian influence on its
soil, adding that one problem "was the emphasis that [President Islam]
Karimov had upon the reassertion of Uzbek national rights, and some of that
resulted very clearly in that early period in the elimination of Russian culture
from the region."
The situation grew so bad that then Foreign Minister Kozyrev said in 1995 that
Moscow was prepared to use force to protect ethnic Russians abroad. Though
Uzbekistan was not specifically mentioned, Tashkent bristled at the comment.
Russian media also hammered away at the situation in Uzbekistan. In response,
Tashkent cut off most Russian media to Uzbekistan. A journalist for Russia's
Interfax news agency in Uzbekistan turned up dead in a Tashkent canal. The media
war spilled over into other areas of bilateral relations.
"The gradual reduction of the availability of those materials [newspapers,
magazines, and television and radio broadcasts] was very apparent in Moscow and
much criticized by Moscow and the Russian media analysts and journalists,"
Gleason said. "And this resulted in a cooling of relations between the
Karimov government and the Russian government, and that was reflected as well in
a reduction of trade."
Karimov objected to Russia's military in neighbouring countries and criticized
their leaders, saying no nation whose security depended on foreign forces was
Moscow and Tashkent were alternately allies and competitors during the 1992-97
Tajik civil war. Each helped the Tajik government fight the mainly Islamic
opposition, but each had their own idea about how peacetime Tajikistan should
look. Any cooperation between Uzbekistan and Russia was gone months before the
Tajik peace accord was signed in June 1997.
Vatanka said by the end of the 1990s, Karimov saw Russia as a competitor in a
region he wanted Uzbekistan to dominate. "We know for a long time President
Karimov was, if anything, very suspicious of the Russians," he noted.
"Only a few years ago, if we go back to 1998 or 1999, there were Uzbek
accusations that the Russians were involved in incitement in Uzbekistan to get
rid of the regime of Karimov."
Vatanka and Gleason agree that Uzbek-Russian ties have improved since Vladimir
Putin became Russia's president. Putin's first foreign visit after being elected
in 2000 was to Uzbekistan. He has since been back twice on state visits. In
comparison, Yeltsin made one state visit and had to cut that short when he fell
ill in Tashkent.
The joint military exercises were announced last year, but for the Uzbek
government, holding them now has been fortunate timing. Violence in May in the
eastern city of Andijon, where hundreds were reportedly killed in clashes
between protesters and troops, and Tashkent's refusal to allow an international
investigation into the incident have strained Tashkent's relations with several
governments, including Washington.
In July, Tashkent told the US military to vacate the base in Khanabad that the
US-led coalition forces had used for operations in Afghanistan since 2001.
Throughout Tashkent's diplomatic crisis over Andijon, Russia has backed the
Uzbek government. Vatanka noted that support comes at little cost to Russia but
promises rewards. "As far as Russia's concerned, right now at least was
fairly convenient for the Russians to kind of help the Karimov regime out when
the hammer fell on Tashkent following Andijon," he told RFE/RL. "So it
was a desperate situation for Uzbekistan where Russia was willing to reach out.
The political, economic and military costs for Russia have been very limited,
and yet the prize that it [Russia] could reap was obviously fairly high."
But Vatanka said both Tashkent and Moscow share other concerns. Both are
worried, he said, about what they see as US-backed "coloured
revolutions" that have occurred in three nations -- Georgia, Ukraine, and
Kyrgyzstan -- of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). And both Russia
and Uzbekistan have suffered more acts of terrorism than any other CIS
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Iran, Uzbekistan sign economic MoU
Iran and Uzbekistan recently signed a memorandum of understanding on expansion
of economic cooperation in various fields, reported Interfax News Agency.
The MoU was signed by head of the chamber of commerce of this central province,
Saeed Gorgbandi, and visiting Uzbekistan's deputy chairman of the chamber of
commerce and industries, Nabijon Kasymov. Kasymov was on a three day visit to
Iran. Under the terms of the MoU, both sides expressed willingness to exchange
trade and executive delegations, promote joint venture, hold specialised
exhibitions of the potentials of Markazi province in Tashkent and support the
private sector to bolster trade and economic relations.
Kasymov said the province enjoys great potential in various areas of industry,
agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and electronic equipment. During the
visit, Uzbek tradesmen and industrialists inspected factories and industries in
the cities of Arak and Saveh.
Uzbekistan launches two textile JVs for 24m Euro
Uzbekistan has launched two textile joint ventures for a total cost of 23.7m
Euro, a source in the state-run joint stock company Uzbeklegprom said recently,
Interfax News Agency reported.
The two ventures are the Uzbek-Turkish AiDemir textile, in Tashkent, and the
Uzbek-US-Turkish Turtkultex, in Karakalpakistan. AiDemir Textile has a projected
capacity of five million knitwear products a year and the cost of the project is
8.5m Euro. Sock production is also planned to begin at the plant in the future
which is expected to have a capacity of approximately 9,500 million socks a
year. An additional eight million Euro in investments is needed for this.
Turtkultex will produce 3,500 tonnes of stockinet products and 10 million pieces
of knitwear a year. The cost of the project is 15.2m Euro. The source also said
that another four textile joint ventures will be launched in Tashkent and
Tashkent region for a total cost of 44.2m Euro.
China Mobile to buy stake in Uzbekistan Telecom
China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator, in terms of subscribers,
plans to acquire a stake in Uzbekistan Telecom, which is owned by the Uzbek
government, New Europe reported recently.
This decision reflects a growing desire of Chinese telecom operators to expand
business overseas following the success story of telecom equipment makers Huawei
Technologies and ZTE Corp in the overseas market.
China Mobile executives paid a visit to Uzbekistan recently and discussed the
possible acquisition with Uzbekistan and the country's regulators, according to
China's embassy in Uzbekistan. Last year Uzbekistan regulators announced plans
to sell a 49% to 64.2% stake of Uzbekistan Telecom to foreign investors. In
March, the Uzbek government began inviting global tenders, but have yet to make
a decision on tender offerings. China Mobile representatives were not available
for comment. Chen Jinqiao, a researcher of the China academy of
telecommunications research under the ministry of information industry, said
Chinese carriers are "starting to have a global view" of their
operations. In the past, Chinese operators, especially China Mobile have been
focusing on the home front due to their market dominance and the huge size of
the domestic market.