Unrest in Uzbekistan

BBC reports May 12 on an unprecedented wave of protests against the authoritarian regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. Every day for the past four months, protesters in the eastern town of Andijan have gathered outside a courthouse where 23 local businessmen are on trial, accused of membership in a radical Islamic group, which they and their relatives strongly deny. A verdict is expected imminently, and the daily protests have swelled to up to 3,000, including former employees thrown out of work when their bosses were arrested. BBC also reported May 4 that an ongoing protest encampment in the capital, Tashkent, by an extended family whose farm had been seized by the government was violently broken by the police. Protesters were beaten and hauled off in buses as police tore down their bivouacs.

Karimov generally runs a pretty tight ship, but disaffection is clearly growing. In March, 500 angry farmers took over a police station and burned two police cars in a similar protest over land seizures. Last November, economic problems sparked unrest in a number of cities across the country. The BBC notes the obvious: that Karimov is worried that Uzbeksitan could follow Kyrgyzstan as the next Central Asian domino.

The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS also reports May 11 that Uzbekistan is withdrawing from the GUUAM group (for Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova), a regional pro-West alliance of ex-Soviet states. (With Uzbekistan’s withdrawal, the name will presumably revert to GUAM, as it was known before that country joined in 1999.) At the GUUAM summit in Chisinau, Moldova, where the announcement was made, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili made a call for “a third wave of revolutions” in the post-Soviet sphere. The first wave presumably refers to the 1991 revolutions against the Soviet system; the second wave is the recent “tulip,” “orange” and “rose” revolutions in Kyrgyzstan, Ukrainie and Georgia which further decoupled those countries from Moscow’s orbit. See WW4 REPORT #37

See also our in-depth report on the unsavory Karimov regime, which has played host to hundreds of U.S. troops since the aftermath of 9-11.