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Revolt and repression in Uzbekistan
AT LEAST 700 people were brutally massacred by government troops in Uzbekistan over the weekend.
Accurate information is hard to come by, as even before the shooting Uzbekistan was one of the most dictatorial states in the world. Now there has been a further clampdown with foreign and local TV transmissions blocked.
Rob Jones, CWI Russia
This trouble started when a group of armed people who, after having demanded the release of thousands of prisoners, decided to storm the city prison in the town of Andizhan. Hundreds of prisoners were released and went on to protest outside the city mayor's office. Troops then opened fire killing hundreds in Andizhan itself and repeating the massacre in other cities as people joined the protests.
Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov claims that this was an uprising organised by Islamic fundamentalists. But for years he has used the threat of the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, and particularly in the Ferganna Valley, as an excuse to clamp down on any form of opposition to his dictatorial rule.
It is hardly surprising that in one of the poorest nations of the world, the patience of the masses would eventually run out and they would try and take things into their own hands. Unfortunately, having no organizations capable of leading the opposition to Karimov's rule, the uprising ended in this brutal bloodbath.
Initial reports indicate that the protesters demanded that Russia be asked to be an intermediary in negotiations. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry quickly expressed its wish that the dispute be solved by whatever means necessary, and calling the Uzbek regime "soft".
Britain and the US also share a large degree of the blame for what has happened. Islam Karimov has been an ally of the USA in the Iraq war coalition and in the 'fight against terrorism". They have therefore turned a blind eye to his dictatorial methods.
The Blair Government recently even sacked Craig Murray as British Ambassador to Tashkent for being too "outspoken" in his criticisms of Karimov. Murray explains that the western powers have accepted Karimov's repressive measures because he has allowed the US an airbase in the country and because they are interested in the country's energy resources. Now the US merely requests that the two sides work out their differences "peacefully".
It is undoubtedly true that Islamic fundamentalists are building a base in the region and many of those who have fought in neighbouring Afghanistan were Uzbeks. Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ferganna Valley, the most densely populated area in Central Asia was home to many fundamentalists. But it is the extreme poverty that has resulted from the restoration of capitalism in the region and the repressive policies of Karimov that have caused the despair that drives people to support the fundamentalists.
There are however also reports that a section of Karimov's own clique have been secretly encouraging the fundamentalists. They, it is argued, believe that sooner or later Karimov will be overthrown by Uzbekistan's own version of neighbouring Kyrghizia's revolution and are therefore preparing the ground so that they end up on the right side.
But for now it is inevitable that, until a class force that can lead the struggle for the genuine liberation of this region from capitalism emerges, there will be more such clashes and brutal repression.
In The Socialist 19 May 2005: