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Tuesday May 17, 2005

We are witnessing the Critical Phase in Uzbekistan's fight against Islamic Terrorism

It is remarkable that within 10 years after the dissolution of the USSR and emergence in the Central Asian Republics (CARs), the terrorist Islamist organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir HT could use the initial liberalization to make disquieting strides in the area, particularly in Uzbekistan.

Rebels surrender to Uzbek troops.

His Excellency President Karimov who is America's ally in the War on Terror, has waged an intense and relentless campaign against fundamentalist Muslims in Uzbekistan. Since 2003, the HT has organized a series of demonstrations by women in Andijan to protest against the continued detention of their relatives by the local authorities and since February, 2005, it had been organizing protests against the detention and trial of 23 Muslim businessmen. It was this protest movement, which triggered off the violent uprising of May 13, 2005.

Photo credits: US News

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There are two other organizations in Uzbekistan, which have come to notice for their jihadi activities---the so-called Akramia group to which a reference has already been made and the Hizb an-Nustra ( the Party of Victory ). Some Uzbek analysts describe them as dissident groups of the HT, consisting of members who left the HT because of its policy of not resorting to terrorism.

After independent Uzbekistan came into existence in 1991, the authorities followed a liberal policy towards Islam. They permitted the re-opening of many mosques, which had been closed down by the Soviet Government before 1991, and the construction of new mosques in Andijan and the local Muslims to go on pilgrimage to their holy land in Saudi Arabia. There was a mushrooming of new mosques funded by Saudi money. But after the emergence of the HT in 1995, the Uzbek government fearful of an Islamist revolt reversed this policy.

Since 1998, the anger of the Muslims of the Fergana Valley has been aggravated by the refusal of the authorities to give permission for the construction of new mosques in Andijan. The authorities even converted the main mosque in the town into an art museum and another into a centre for the welfare of women and children.

In 1998, the Government of President Karimov passed a new law requiring all existing mosques to re-register. Fresh registration was refused to a large number of mosques. Out of about 2,200 mosques in Andijan, only 42 were re-registered and the remaining were forced to close down on the ground that they had been started unauthorizedly. In Namangan, another town in the Fergana Valley, only 240 of the 1,000 mosques were re-registered and the remaining were forced to close down.

When the Muslims started praying in the streets in response to the call of the HT, the police arrested them and accused them of being Wahabis. Abduvali Mirzoev, a prominent imam who was Andijan's best- known Islamic leader, was arrested and allegedly sent to a labor camp. The HT followers alleged that he had been illegally kidnapped by the Uzbek security service while he was on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Moscow. Since then, the HT has been observing every year the anniversary of the day of his alleged abduction as a day of protest in Andijan.

In a recent pamphlet, the HT said: "Sheikh Abduvali Qori made a great contribution to the growth of Islam in Uzbekistan. Thanks to God, the number of Muslims unbelievably increased in Uzbekistan due to his efforts and lectures. He schooled a lot of students and educated the people on the teachings of Islam. His vast Islamic knowledge won him a reputation both at home and abroad as a great Muslim scholar. The Government of Uzbekistan, which is fiercely fighting against Islam, has become increasingly alarmed by this situation and therefore attempted several plots against Sheikh Abduvali Qori.

"One of the Government plots against the Sheikh Abduvali Qori involved a terrible arson. As a result, his house and property were completely destroyed. The people who witnessed this tragedy remember that the Sheikh cried about his books, which he had collected all his life and treasured a lot. It is a disgusting fact that Uzbekistan Government exercises ransom, abduction and other kinds of terror against Muslim scholars instead of honoring them. But, all of these inhuman acts of terror failed to stop and prevent him from continuing to educate the people on Islam.

"The incredibly increasing popularity of the Sheikh among the extremists both at home and abroad indeed frightened President Karimov and his entourage. After it failed to find a single reason to arrest him, the Government resorted to abducting the Sheikh Abduvali Qori. Afraid of causing unrest among the Muslims who loved the Sheikh Abduvali Qori more than their own fathers, the Government used its NSS (National Security Service) officers to commit this crime covertly.

"On August 29, 1995 the Government of Uzbekistan abducted the Sheikh Abduvali Qori and his accompanying student, Ramazon Matkarimov, in Tashkent Airport when they were boarding to fly to a World Islamic Symposium that was to be held in Moscow. "

.The repression of the followers of the HT and the IMU intensified after February 1999, when 16 people were killed in explosions in the capital Tashkent for which the authorities blamed Islamic extremists. Thousands of suspected members of these organisations were arrested. They continue to be in detention without trial.

The only Madrasa in Andijan founded in 1990 by Adiljon-Haji Abdusalamov, a fundamentalist religious leader, was ordered to be closed down in 1998 as its management had violated laws relating to public health. He was arrested and jailed for two years. Thereafter, the Government has not permitted the opening of any school for religious instruction.

"The campaign against fanatical Muslims continues with the blessing of the US Government last year Uzbekistan received $500 million in US aid and in a May 14 document the US State Department reported that Uzbekistan is making "substantial and continuing progress" in meeting human rights and democracy commitments.

His Excellency President Karimov who is America's ally in the War on Terror,, has waged an intense and relentless campaign against fundamentalist Muslims in Uzbekistan. Since 2003, the HT has organised a series of demonstrations by women in Andijan to protest against the continued detention of their relatives by the local authorities and since February, 2005, it had been organizing protests against the detention and trial of 23 Muslim businessmen. It was this protest movement, which triggered off the violent uprising of May 13, 2005.

The HT keeps up a virulent campaign not only against the Uzbek Government and the US, but also against the Jewish community and Israel. It often refers to President Karimov as a Jewish stooge. During the Second World War, more than 200,000 Jews escaped extermination in West Europe by fleeing to Central Asia. Anti- Semitism was not prevalent in the Central Asian Republics of the erstwhile USSR.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Islamic fundamentalism made its appearance in the region through Pakistani organisations such as the Tablighi Jamaat, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and through the HT, which came from the UK via Pakistan. This led to anti-Jewish feelings on the one side and anti-Slav (anti-Christian and anti-Western) feelings on the other. The Pakistani organisations spread the Wahabi ideology, which led to the CARs becoming a hotbed of jihadi extremist/terrorist activities in pursuit of the objective of an Islamic Caliphate.

The deterioration in the economic conditions consequent upon the collapse of the USSR also led to inter-ethnic tensions amongst the Muslims themselves. In 1989-1990 , there was a massacre of Meskhetin Turks in the Fergana Valley area of Uzbekistan. There were frequent instances of anti-Armenian and anti-Jewish violence in Andijan and there were violent clashes between Uzbeks and Kirghiz in the Osh region,

As a result of these developments, there was a decrease in the Jewish population from about 150,000 in 1989 to about 22,000, of whom about 12,000 were in Uzbekistan, 8,000 in Kazakhstan, 1,500 in Kyrgyzstan and the remaining 500 in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

It is in response to these destabilizing forces, that President Karimov launched a hard fisted Uzbek War on Terror. The present rebellion is trying to undo the initiative taken by the President and take Uzbekistan into a medieval Islamic Caliphate.

Story Credits: Saag

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