Uzbek dissident's mother jailed for six years
[..] Fatima Mukadyrova, 62, had accused prison authorities of torturing her son to death and had shown diplomats and foreign journalists post-mortem photographs of his heavily scalded and disfigured body.
A court in the capital Tashkent found her guilty of fomenting racial hatred and "infringement of the constitutional order" over banned Muslim pamphlets police said they had found in her apartment.
Human rights activists said her sentence was an attempt to silence her protests. Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, described it as "simply appalling".
[..] Last year, Mukadyrova showed photographs of her son's body. His teeth were smashed, his nails had been ripped out and his body had been cut, bruised and scalded. Prison officials said he died in a fight with other inmates who threw hot tea on him.
"The reason they gave her six years is as a lesson to those who dare to speak out," said Vasilya Inoyatova, the head of an unofficial Uzbek human rights group, Ezgulik.
was found with scald marks, and a report by the U.N. special envoy for torture said an expert found the wounds were consistent with someone being immersed in a tub of boiling water.
Mukadirova had met with numerous journalists and displayed pictures of her son's body, also appealing to authorities to punish those involved.
Uzbekistan: UN Rapporteur Says Use Of Torture 'Systematic'
By Zamira Eshanova
[Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, December 2002]
Theo van Boven, the United Nations human rights rapporteur on torture, last week concluded his two-week fact-finding mission in Uzbekistan with the declaration that torture is "systematic" in the country's prisons and detention camps. RFE/RL reports that van Boven's report only upholds what Uzbek rights activists and former political prisoners have been saying for years.
[..] Tolib Yoqubov, chairman of the nongovernmental Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, said Tashkent was pressured into allowing van Boven's visit, a claim he said is substantiated by the fact that the Uzbek press was largely silent during the course of his visit.
[..] Yoqubov attended a special UN session on torture in Uzbekistan held in Geneva in 1999. He said the situation has not changed since then. "During the three years since the first [UN] session, hundreds of detainees and prisoners have been killed during interrogation. There are thousands of documents that show that barbaric torture has been continuously used in Uzbekistan," Yoqubov said.
Safar Bekjon is an Uzbek political dissident currently living in exile in Switzerland. Jailed as a member of the opposition Erk Party, Bekjon spent three years in Uzbek prisons between 1993 and 1996. He was reportedly near death when he was released under pressure from the international human rights community.
Bekjon offered a detailed look at life in the Uzbek prison system in his well-known book, "At the Threshold of Hell." He said letters and other documents he has received since his own release from prison appear to show that torture in Uzbek prisons and detention camps has not slowed and is in fact on the rise. "Even I am horrified by the documents and pictures I've received from Uzbek prisons. They show dead bodies. They show people whose ears and noses have been cut off, whose eyes have been put out, whose bodies have been burned with boiling water or fire," Bekjon said.
Bekjon and other Uzbek dissidents say they believe the use of torture in prisons and detention centers is highly organized and used as much to terrorize the general public as to extract confessions from those being interrogated. "In the first detention center, the detainee is beaten, verbally humiliated, punched, hung upside down, given electric-shock treatment, forced to wear a gas mask, and then made to inhale chemical gases. If a detainee doesn't sign the necessary document, a false confession fabricated by interrogators, then different torture methods are used. This includes cutting off fingernails, punching needles under people's nails, putting sticks or other objects into the anus, and raping women. These are mass-scale, special torture techniques. Authorities don't mind if the general public knows about this torture. It keeps them in constant terror," Bekjon said.
One of the most notorious prisons in Uzbekistan is Jasliq, a center built especially for religious prisoners in the middle of the country's vast Karakalpak steppe and often referred to as a place from which no one returns. The mother of one Jasliq prisoner described what she knew of the conditions there" "Every single morning, the first thing prisoners have to do is sing the national anthem of Uzbekistan and then of Karakalpakstan. If there is the slightest mistake, they are beaten severely. Every single mistake, like making a bed improperly, is punished by beatings. A prisoner has to keep saying, 'Thank you, Mr. Chief' while they are being beaten. Otherwise, more punishment follows."
Jasliq was one of the prisons where van Boven was not permitted to observe conditions firsthand. The UN official had asked permission for a six-hour visit but in the end spent just two hours at Jasliq, where he met only with officials and was not permitted to visit the prisoners.
A series of bombings and shootings March 29 left at least 19 people dead and dozens more wounded in Uzbekistan, according to official reports. Authorities confirmed two suicide bombings at the main bazaar in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, but the full extent of the violence remained difficult to determine, in large measure due to the government's tight control over mass media and information gathering. [..]
Uzbek officials quickly sought to link confirmed attacks in Tashkent and Bukhara to international terrorism. Prosecutor Rashid Kadyrov noted that the use of suicide bombers in the attacks "indicated foreign involvement." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sadiq Safayev said that the "hands of international terror" were behind the violence "Attempts are being made to split the international anti-terror coalition," he said.
Tashkent residents interviewed by EurasiaNet appeared to treat the government assertions skeptically. Many believed the attacks to be connected to pent-up popular frustration generated the government's ongoing crackdown on individual liberty, along with officials' reluctance to take action to improve a deteriorating economy. "Why are we all so poor?" asked one man interviewed near the Chorsu bazaar, scene of the suicide bombings. [..]
No organization has claimed responsibility for the March 29 attacks. [Prosecutor] Kadyrov said a leading suspect was Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an underground organization that has advocated the peaceful ouster of Karimov's government and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Uzbekistan. [..] If a Hizb link is proved, it would mark a drastic break with the past for the movement. Up to now, Hizb has operated clandestinely, its activities largely limited to the distribution of anti-government leaflets and posters.
In recent weeks, the Uzbek government has mounted an intense information campaign against Hizb. Uzbek Youth Radio has led the charge, airing a series of scathing commentaries aimed at discouraging Uzbeks from joining the underground movement. "The wicked Hizb-ut-Tahrir, after entering our country, has been brainwashing our young people and hatching various plots to seize power by force," said a March 8 commentary. [..]
Regardless of who was behind the March 29 attacks, it appears that the primary target was Uzbekistan's security apparatus. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the Chorsu market bombings were specifically designed to inflict significant police casualties. The first suicide bomber detonated at approximately 8:20 am not far from the bazaar's bus terminal. It came at a time when two police shifts were overlapping. Approximately 50 minutes elapsed between the first and second suicide blasts, indicating that the bombers wanted to give police time to sweep the area of bystanders, thus presenting a clearer, more concentrated target. Both suicide bombers were believed to be women. [..]
A palpable hostility for the police could be felt among onlookers at the Chorsu bazaar following the blasts. Many complained about arbitrary behavior by law-enforcement officers. Some mentioned an incident the day before the blasts occurred, in which a vendor had been beaten to death by police. [..]
The March 29 attacks were the most violent incidents to hit Uzbekistan since a series of bombings in Tashkent in February 1999. Karimov blamed those attacks on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, but a definitive link to Islamic radicals was never produced. The 1999 bombings sparked a far-reaching government crackdown on civil rights, in which thousands of Muslims were arrested for engaging in non state-sanctioned forms of religious expression.
[..] Gun battles and bombings continued for a third straight day in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. The broad scope of the violence, the full extent of which is difficult to determine due to government press restrictions, suggests that the episode may be a home-grown insurgency, rather than a strike by international terrorists. Casualty figures for the clashes on March 30 were not immediately available, but it is clear that there are significant casualties among both insurgents and state security forces, along with civilians caught in the crossfire.
[..] Prolonged exchanges of gunfire could be heard throughout the day in Tashkent. Some of the fiercest fighting was reported around the TTZ tractor plant, in the general vicinity of one of President Islam Karimov's residences. [..] The sound of gunfire filled the neighborhood, with local residents estimating that the fighting occurred over an approximately a two-kilometer radius around the TTZ plant. In all, approximately 20 explosions were heard during the clash, which continued until about 2 pm.
This EurasiaNet correspondent monitored communications among police, utilizing the same type of Motorola walkie-talkie that is commonly used by security officials. Judging by the overheard comments, security forces struggled to contain the insurgents. One overheard comment - "We need black bags" - indicates that at least several security troops were killed. [..]
Fighting was reported in a wide variety of other locations in the capital. On the outer edge of northeastern Tashkent, a suicide car bomber detonated at a police checkpoint at about 9 am. Insurgents also attacked a nearby police station. Witnesses reported seeing at least three bodies, including one police officer. About 15 kilometers outside Tashkent, two Interior Ministry troops were reported killed in a clash with insurgents. There was also an unconfirmed report of a car bombing in the Bostanlik District, in the vicinity of the Chorvak Reservoir. [..]
The international community has generally accepted the Karimov government's contention that the attacks are the work of international terrorists. In particular, the US officials indicated that the attacks would serve to strengthen the US-Uzbek strategic alliance. The Bush administration has emerged as Karimov's primary backer in recent years [..]
While the insurgents have utilized some terrorist techniques, in particular suicide bombings, some observers in Tashkent believe the attacks may not be connected to known Islamic radical groups [..]. Instead, it may be the work of a new group, with its origins rooted in the despair generated by the Karimov government's stranglehold over the country's political and economic life.
Karimov in a televised address March 29 claimed that Islamic radicals, in concert with international terrorist groups, had been planning the attacks for up to eight months. However, some eyewitness accounts raise doubts about assertions of an international connection. First, some reports indicate that the insurgents were poorly armed. The account that some insurgents took pistols from police officers would appear to substantiate these reports. At the same time, the bombs employed by the insurgents appear to be crudely fashioned, with limited explosive force, assembled with locally available components. [..]
There is a growing belief among Uzbeks that the attacks constitute a reprisal against a rapacious police force. Fueling this view is the fact that most of the attacks to date have targeted police officers, while avoiding strikes at government buildings and other strategic installations. The car-bombing at the Chorvak reservoir, if confirmed, would undermine this theory, however.
Many Uzbeks seethe over the arbitrary and corrupt action of agents of the state's security apparatus. At bazaars across Uzbekistan, police brutality is on display every day. This EurasiaNet correspondent was at the Chorsu bazaar in Tashkent recently, observing numerous police shakedowns of vendors [..] In one particularly troubling incident, a police officer viciously kicked an elderly woman who did not move out of the way fast enough.
The Chorsu bazaar was the scene of two suicide bombings on March 29. [..] Following the explosions, law-enforcement authorities evacuated all employees of Detskii Mir, a large children's store near where the bombings occurred, according to an employee interviewed by EurasiaNet. When employees were allowed back into the building they noticed that the store had effectively been looted, with many high-priced items missing from display cases. Since the area had been sealed, employees believe police officers absconded with the goods.
Virtually everyone interviewed over the past two days expressed little sympathy for the police, and said government policies were driving people to revolt. A man interviewed near the TTZ tractor plant vented about the complete lack of civil rights and economic opportunity in Uzbekistan. The attacks, the man asserted, are a "serious expression of popular anger."
"There may be more incidents tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and into the future because people are desperate," said the man, who like all those interviewed refused to give his name, citing concern about government retribution. "Until the situation concerning human rights and the economy is resolved, the source of terrorism will not be rooted out."
Editor's Note: Esmer Islamov is the pseudonym of a freelance journalist specializing in Uzbek political affairs.
Some intriguing details emerged about the events of 30 March. AP quoted at least one local resident as saying that the women in one of the cars wore veils and spoke a Central Asian language she could not understand. [..]
State-controlled Uzbek television did not begin covering the events until the evening of 29 March, when a special broadcast featured an address by President Islam Karimov, tribune.uz reported on 30 March. Before the emergency broadcast, state television had aired a documentary about Jacques Cousteau while other stations merely displayed a blank screen, fergana.ru reported.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov announced [..] that extremists with backing from abroad had spent six to eight months preparing the terror attacks. [..] Prosecutor-General Rashid Qodirov was more specific in a news conference the same day, blaming Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
A spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir denied the charge. Imran Waheed in London stressed that the group eschews violence and suggested that the Uzbek government itself could be behind the attacks.
Muhammad Solih, leader of the opposition Erk (Freedom) Party, condemned the terror attacks while noting that "the political regime of Uzbekistan, with its emphasis on repression against dissidents, has created good conditions for terror." Other opposition figures and groups also mixed condemnation for the attacks with criticism of the government in their statements. [..]
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Uzbek Foreign Minister Sodiq Safoyev that the United States is ready to assist Uzbekistan in the wake of the terror attacks
Aleksei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center told "The New York Times" on 30 March that the attack was similar to the recent bombings in Spain in that it targeted a U.S. ally. In separate comments quoted on polit.ru, Malashenko noted: "In addition to the goals set by Al-Qaeda and other international Islamist organizations, there was another goal here -- to show Karimov and the entire Uzbek establishment that they're not the sole rulers of the country. [..]"
Sergei Yezhkov, a journalist from Uzbekistan who was recently dismissed from a state-controlled newspaper for being too outspoken [..] suggested that the organizers had hoped to spark a general uprising. "Knowing the true attitude of most people toward the police," he wrote, "those who prepared the acts of terror probably hoped to be met with understanding and support." But Yezhkov noted that the vast majority of Uzbeks, however much they might dislike a police force viewed as corrupt and often brutal, chose to uphold the law in the face of instability. Still, he warned, "[..] these suicidal individuals' plan misfired. This was no 'shot from the Aurora.' But we should not forget it, for it is important to remember its causes."
Only one conclusion emerges clearly from the events in Uzbekistan at this early stage. The above-noted similarity between the attacks in Madrid and Uzbekistan -- both are U.S. allies -- is offset by a glaring difference: the attack in Madrid was intended to kill a large number of ordinary people; the attacks in Uzbekistan primarily targeted policemen and do not appear to have been designed to cause significant civilian casualties. The pattern of such presumed Al-Qaeda attacks as Madrid, Bali, and even Casablanca does not hold in Uzbekistan. Even if a subsequent link to a radical Islamist group emerges -- for now, the only evidence is the piety of the Razzoqov family and the participation of veiled women -- the attacks appear to have been regime-focused, and not just murderous mayhem. [..]
If its initial reactions are any guide, the Uzbek government is likely to try to demonstrate as much similarity as possible between the attacks in Bukhara and Tashkent and such strikes as Madrid, Bali, and Casablanca -- stressing foreign ties and underscoring an Islamist presence in the form of such organizations as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Barring a convincing claim of responsibility, only a thorough and professional investigation can show whether these elements were indeed present. At the same time, the Uzbek government will probably say as little as possible about another possible scenario that it would very much like to avoid -- a violent, Islamic-inflected domestic resistance movement that feeds on popular resentment and strikes at regime targets.
Interesting item on page 9 [of Dutch newspaper Trouw]: "Uzbekistan refuses visit by British deputy minister of foreign affairs". Bill Ramell had announced he would talk about the human rights situation in the country on his visit, and was promptly refused entry. Last year the British ambassador in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, had openly spoken about the torture of political prisoners and persecution of opponents of President Karimov, and was thereupon immediately recalled by the British government, which apparently at the time still considered such open criticism inopportune. According to Amnesty International there are at least 6,000 political prisoners in Uzbekistan, in wretched cicrumstances, many of whom are tortured.
Oh - damn. More crap between Islamists and the state.
Unrest in Uzbekistan, army shoots at demonstrators
ANDIJAN - In the Uzbek city of Andijan a rebellion broke out on Friday, during which ten people have been killed. Dozens of insurgents Friday morning stormed a prison and released inmates. Soldiers have opened fire in the city centre, where thousands of demonstrators have gathered to demand the departure of the authoritarian government.
Zoom in: A cinema is on fire in the Uzbek city of Andijan, where an uprising broke out on Friday. <picture>
Zoom in: A crowd of people in the Uzbek city Adijan listens to speeches. Armed demonstrators freed prisoners and skirmishes with the police took place. <picture>
During the shooting at least one person is said to have been killed. During the riots that broke out in Andijan after the storming of the prison earlier on Friday already nine people were killed and 34 injured. Buildings are on fire and bodies are lying in the street.
Rebels have occupied a government building. They are said to hold ten policemen in hostage there. According to the Uzbek government, the rebels have refused to come to a compromise during negotiations.
Earlier on Friday the rebels announced that they demand Russian mediation. 'We want President Putin himself to mediate in order to avoid bloodshed', said a representative. The insurgents have also got a city council buildings in their hands.
The police has stormed an empty schoolbuilding in Andijan, in which armed insurgents had also settled. According to a local spokesperson of the human rights organisation Appelatsia it is unclear who currently is in power in the eastern city. President Islam Karimov is on his way to the city.
The revolution in Uzbekistan's Andijan turns out to be narcotic
The USA is trying to set up the sanitary cordon around Russia and start doing the same with China
China, Uzbekistan vow to push forward bilateral ties
Security forces shoot demonstrators in Uzbekistan insurrection
May 13, 2005, 16:48 gmt
ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan (AFP) - Troops loyal to Uzbekistan's hardline President Islam Karimov opened fire on demonstrators in Andijan after insurgents seized control of much of the centre of the ex-Soviet republic's fourth largest city.
People wait to enter Uzbekistan from southern Kyrgyzstan
© AFP Pavel Gromsky
Troops loyal to Uzbekistan's hardline President Islam Karimov opened fire on demonstrators in Andijan after insurgents seized control of much of the centre of the ex-Soviet republic's fourth largest city.
An AFP correspondent saw one person killed and five wounded Friday when soldiers fired on the main square where about 5,000 people were demonstrating against Karimov's government.
Soldiers fired in all directions, both in the air and at the crowd, as they drove several times through the centre in a lorry. The crowd fled in panic.
Half an hour after the first shots, more shooting could be heard and smoke was visible from the square. A helicopter flew overhead.
The brutal dispersal of the crowd followed the lightening seizure Thursday night by rebels of public buildings and a prison in fighting that left at least nine dead and 34 wounded, according to the government.
The insurgents had first raided a military garrison for its weapons, then stormed the city administration building before breaking into a prison where the authorities were holding 23 men on Islamic extremism charges, which their supporters said were trumped up.
More than 2,000 prisoners were released in the raid, Saidjahon Zainobidinov, spokesman of the Appelatsia rights group in Andijan, told AFP.
Witnesses described their terror as the violence broke out in the dead of the night.
"The shooting started at 11:45 at night," a kindergarten teacher, who asked not to be named, told AFP. "It was very close. I was afraid a bullet could hit my children. We didn't sleep at all and everyone's afraid."
It was one of the most serious crises to shake the energy-rich ex-Soviet republic, which is run by an authoritarian government and hosts a major US air base used for operations in Afghanistan.
Andijan is near the border of Kyrgyzstan in the densely populated and impoverished Ferghana valley.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Tashkent told AFP that security forces had brought the situation under control, but an AFP correspondent said the rebels still held the administration building.
After the night's fighting died down, thousands of demonstrators had gathered in the city centre, calling on Karimov to resign and protesting the country's lack of democracy.
Initially the Uzbek authorities showed signs of being prepared to find a peaceful resolution.
Karimov himself was heading to the city, his spokesman said. Russia's Interfax news agency reported that talks with the rebel gunmen -- initially reported to number between 60 and 100 -- were starting.
The authorities blocked broadcasts of BBC and CNN television. State television showed films and entertainment programmes. The country's border with Kyrgyzstan was shut.
The unrest in Andijan, which has a population of 300,000 and is the fourth largest city in Uzbekistan, started with protests against a trial of 23 men charged with forming a cell of the outlawed Islamic group Akromiya.
For days a crowd of some 2,000 people had demonstrated in support of the men, saying they were victims of repression.
A journalist for the local Ferghana news agency told AFP that a man describing himself as one of the rebel leaders denied being connected to Islamic extremism. He also said he had been one of those freed from the prison.
"We are believers, nothing more," he said, adding that he wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene.
The man described himself as a businessman of 35, but would not give his name.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to rule out intervention, saying the disturbance was "an internal affair" of Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile in the capital Tashkent, the US embassy initially reported that a would-be suicide bomber had been shot outside the Israeli embassy. However, Uzbek officials later said the man turned out to be unarmed.
Bombings at the US and Israeli embassies last year killed two people and were claimed by a group calling itself the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
However, independent analysts say Karimov's autocratic government has used the fear of Islamic rebellion as cover for the suppression of any opposition to his rule.
The Akromiya group, to which the men on trial in Andijan allegedly belong, is an off-shoot of the better known Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks to create an Islamic state throughout the Central Asian former Soviet republics.
The protest in Andijan had been growing in size daily as the trial, started in February, approached its conclusion.
Most of the defendants are owners of small and medium-sized businesses and provide badly needed employment in the impoverished area.
Karimov is a key ally in Washington's anti-terror campaign, having provided US forces with a major air base near the Afghan border since 2001.
Protests -- long virtually unheard of in Uzbekistan -- have become more common in the last year.