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Uzbekistan: Rallies Abroad Mark Andijon Anniversary

  • Gulnoza Saidazimova

Demonstrators outside UN headquarters in New York on May 12 (RFE/RL) Today is the first anniversary of the violent crackdown in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon. Demonstrations have been held in London; Moscow; and Calmar, Sweden, as well as Kyrgyzstan, today to commemorate victims of the violence. They followed May 12 demonstrations in New York, Istanbul, and Kyiv.


PRAGUE, May 13, 2006 (RFE/RL) - Today, a group of Uzbek activists organized a protest demonstration in London's Downing Street.


"London's event is one of the events devoted to the first anniversary of Andijon," said Shahida Yakub, a protest participant. "Several foreign-based Uzbek nongovernmental organizations started a joint project, which they called First Anniversary of Andijon Campaign. The day before yesterday [May 11], they started a series of actions that are to finish today."


More demonstrations are being held in Moscow, Brussels, and Calmar, Sweden.


They follow rallies on May 12 elsewhere in the world, including in New York, Brussels, Istanbul, and Kyiv.


Bahodir Choriev, the leader of the U.S.-based Birdamlik (Solidarity) organization, uniting Uzbek opposition members, was an organizer of a protest outside the UN headquarters in New York.


"The purpose of the gathering is to commemorate innocent people who died in the Andijon killings last year and to draw the whole community's attention to the massacre once again," Choriev said.


Protesters around the world are demanding an international independent inquiry into what the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called a massacre.


Continued Calls For An Investigation


Dilshod Tillahojaev, an Uzbek human rights activist, spoke to RFE/RL during the rally on May 12 outside the Uzbek Embassy building in Brussels.


"Our main demand is that independent investigation into the Andijon events be conducted, [Uzbek President] Islam Karimov be prevented from entering the European Union, [and] sanctions be introduced against Uzbekistan," Tillahojaev said. "We also demand reforms in Uzbekistan."


"The aim is to remind the public of what happened in Andijon a year ago," said Yelena Burtina, a human rights activist who attended an Andijon protest in Moscow today. "That was such a horrible and bloody event that people must not forget about. This is in memory of those who became the victims of those events."


EU And U.S. Reaction


On the eve of the anniversary, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana issued a statement on the Andijon tragedy. Solana said on May 12 he wanted to extend his sympathies "to the families and friends of those who died" on May 13, 2005. He also said he "greatly regrets" the refusal of Uzbek authorities to allow an independent inquiry.


The United States also joined calls for an independent probe into Andijon.


An Andijon demonstration outside the Uzbek Embassy in Brussels on May 12 (RFE/RL)

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Uzbekistan "still owes the victims and survivors a full accounting of what took place."


"Numerous eyewitness reports of security forces shooting and killing several hundred men, women and children have not been adequately addressed," McCormack said.


Uzbek authorities have so far rejected similar demands from the United States and the European Union.


The Andijon Events


Last May 13, thousands of Andijon residents gathered in the city's central square. Their demands varied from economic concessions to President Islam Karimov's resignation. The rally followed an attack on military garrison, a police station, and a prison and the seizure of the regional-administration building in Andijon. A few hours later, government troops opened fire on protesters.


The Uzbek government blamed Islamic militants for the unrest. Authorities say 187 people died, mostly "foreign terrorists."


The Uzbek opposition, eyewitnesses, and human rights groups accused the government of suppressing a peaceful demonstration. Human rights groups and eyewitnesses put the toll much higher, saying there were many unarmed women and children among the victims.


Uzbek rights activists also tried to organize a protest action in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on May 12. But plainclothes police broke up a small demonstration by activists demanding an independent probe.


Meanwhile, Uzbeks living in neighboring Kazakhstan also remember Andijon. Poet Bahrom Goyipov is one of them:
"Those events started because people were fed up," said Kazakh poet Bahrom Goyipov. "I believe it was an unorganized, spontaneous event. Since it started quickly without any preparation, it ended quickly because the Uzbek government oppressed it with brutality."


An Impoverished Region


There are many illegal Uzbeks migrants in Kazakhstan. Many fear to express opinions on the Andijon events. All those who decided to speak to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service correspondents in southern Kazakhstan, requested anonymity. They say poor economic conditions were the reason for the Andijon uprising.


"I am from Tashkent," said one man. "The [Uzbek] people live in hardship, therefore they started the uprising. Life is really hard. Difficulties are enormous. You can see a lot of people from Andijon here. I also came. Salaries are so low there."


(RFE/RL New York correspondent Nikola Krastev and RFE/RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report).

Andijon Anniversary Conference

Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan, on May 14, 2005 (epa)

TALKING ABOUT ANDIJON: On May 9, 2006, RFE/RL, the National Endowment for Democracy, and U.S.-based human rights organizations cohosted a conference on the May 2005 events in Andijon and their aftermath in Uzbekistan and throughout the region. The first panel featured Andijon eyewitness GALIMA BUKHARBAEVA, National Endowment for Democracy Fellow NOZIMA KAMALOVA, RFE/RL Central Asia analyst DANIEL KIMMAGE, and others. The second panel featured presentations by U.S. Senator JOHN MCCAIN and U.S. Congressman CHRISTOPHER SMITH, who used the forum to announce they had introduced legislation calling for sanctions and other measures against the government of President Islam Karimov.


LISTEN

Listen to the Andijon conference.
Part One (70 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media
Part Two (60 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media
The Uzbek government's response:
Real Audio Windows Media


THE COMPLETE STORY: A dedicated webpage bringing together all of RFE/RL's coverage of the events in Andijon, Uzbekistan, in May 2005 and their continuing repercussions.


CHRONOLOGY

For an annotated timeline of the Andijon events and their repercussions, click here.

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