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Saturday, May 14, 2005

The hidden Islamist roots of Uzbek Uprising

Granted that the rule of His Excellency Islam Karimov is ruthless towards dissidents, especially towards the Islamist ones. But then most of the dissidents are from the HUT (Hizb-Ut-Tahrir), an extermist Islamist organisation that is from the Al Qaeda stable, and wants Islamist rule in Uzbekistan which would be a part of the Khilafa (Global Islamic Caliphate) that would then strangle all other non-Muslim peoples.

His Excellency Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan

We know that Uzbekistan has had economic problems, there is corruption too, and the regime might have to be replaced by a better one. But then that can be no reason to support an Islamist insurgency.

If the rioters are not islamists, can they come out in the open and declare that theirs is a non-religious secular organization?

Can they denounce Islamists, the HUT and the Al Qaeda? Well if they do, we can revise our assessment of the uprising.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

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It is such people that President Islam Karimov has been utterly ruthless towards. And our question to those who are trying to push under the carpet, the Islamist overtones of this uprising is that:

Why did the Uprising start on a Friday - the Muslim Sabbath?

Why did the rioters move out of mosques, after being egged on by the Muftis?

Why did they attack prisons and set prisoners free, when we know that most of the prisoners are from the HUT?

Can those who are trying to say that the rioters only want economic progress, answer these questions please?

We know that Uzbekistan has had economic problems, there is corruption too, and the regime might have to be replaced by a better one. But then that can be no reason to support an Islamist insurgency.

If the rioters are not islamists, can they come out in the open and declare that theirs is a non-religious secular organization?

Can they denounce Islamists, the HUT and the Al Qaeda? Well if they do, we can revise our assessment of the uprising.

The status today (May 14, 2005):

Uzbek President Islam Karimov said 10 government troops and "many more" protesters were killed but refused to be more specific. He spoke at a news conference in the capital Tashkent a day after the unprecedented clashes in his tightly controlled country, which he has led since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

In the eastern city of Andijan, hundreds of protesters gathered at the square, displaying the bodies of six people killed in Friday's bloodshed and tearfully denouncing the government.

"Our women and children are dying," said Daniyar Akbarov, 24, who claimed to have seen at least 300 people killed in the violence.

Big military trucks loaded with soldiers cruised the streets and troops backed by armored vehicles surrounded the heavily fortified police headquarters.

Earlier, soldiers loaded scores of bodies of those killed onto four trucks and a bus after blocking friends and relatives from collecting them, witnesses said.

Lutfulo Shamsutdinov, the head of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, said he saw about 200 victims being loaded onto trucks near the square in Andijan, the fourth-largest city with a population of 350,000.

Another witness who declined to be named said "many, many dead bodies" were stacked up by a school near the square. The city's hospital was cordoned off and officials could not be reached for casualty figures.

An AP reporter said she saw at least 30 bodies. All had been shot, and at least one had his skull smashed. She said there were large pools of blood and hundreds of spent cartridges on the streets.

A group of foreign journalists was detained early Saturday and told to leave the city immediately.

Some 4,000 Uzbeks fled to the border with neighboring Kyrgyzstan, seeking asylum. Kyrgyz border guards were awaiting a government decision on whether to allow them in, said Gulmira Borubayeva, a spokeswoman for Kyrgyzstan's border guard service.

A move to shelter the refugees could badly strain Kyrgyzstan's relations with Karimov's government.

Friday's uprising began when armed men freed 2,000 inmates from a prison, including suspects on trial for alleged Islamic extremism.

Later, thousands of people swarmed into the streets of Andijan, seizing control of the administration building and taking city officials hostage, including the prosecutor and the police chief. Nine people were killed in those clashes and 34 wounded, the government said. Cars and nearby theaters were set ablaze.

In the afternoon, about 4,000 protesters massed in front of the building on the central square and set up a podium under a monument to an Uzbek prince, where speakers complained of unemployment and living in poverty.

But shortly before dusk, the soldiers moved in and opened fire, sending the terrified demonstrators fleeing. One man wailed, "Oh, my son! He's dead!"

Karimov and other officials flew to Andijan during the day but returned to the capital of Tashkent on Friday night. On Saturday, the president said authorities tried to negotiate an end to the protests before firing on the crowd.

But a protest leader, Kabuljon Parpiyev, said Interior Minister Zakir Almatov called him Friday morning and heard the protesters' demands. He initially agreed to negotiations but later said the offer of talks was off, Parpiyev said.

"He said, 'We don't care if 200, 300 or 400 people die. We have force and we will chuck you out of there anyway,'" Parpiyev quoted Almatov as saying.

The prison raid and the soldiers' fusillades were in sharp contrast to the largely peaceful uprisings that sparked regime changes in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the past 18 months. Karimov is regarded as one of the harshest leaders in the former Soviet Union and apparently favors quick and decisive action against any threats to his government.

Uzbekistan is a minor oil exporter and hosts a U.S. air base to support military operations in neighboring Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. But it also is frequently denounced by human rights groups for torture and repression of opposition.

The White House urged restraint by both the government and the demonstrators.

"The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government. But that should come through peaceful means, not through violence," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The focus of the jailbreak was 23 men on trial on charges of being members of a group allegedly allied with the outlawed radical Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which seeks to create a worldwide Islamic state and has been forced underground throughout most of Central Asia and Russia.

Supporters of the 23 men say they were victims of religious repression by Karimov's secular government.

The 23 are members of Akramia a group named for their founder, Akram Yuldashev, an Islamic dissident sentenced in 1999 to 17 years in prison for allegedly urging the overthrow of Karimov. He has proclaimed his innocence.

Akramis are considered the backbone of Andijan's small business community, running a medical clinic and pharmacy, as well as working as furniture craftsmen, and providing employment to thousands in the impoverished Fergana Valley, where Islamist sentiment runs high.

There are concerns that the valley could become a flashpoint for destabilizing wide swaths of ex-Soviet Central Asia.

Their trial has inspired one of the largest public shows of anger at the government. In recent weeks, Uzbeks have shown increasing willingness to challenge the leadership in protests, apparently bolstered by the March uprising in Kyrgyzstan that drove out President Askar Akayev and the similar ones in Ukraine and Georgia.

One of the 23 defendants, Abduvosid Egomov, sought refuge with protesters in the adminstrative building on Friday.

Story Credits:Washington Times

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