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Uzbeks Tell Karimov 'I'm Not Afraid'


Former members of the Uzbek government, professors, students, and people from a range of professions have put their message of protest on Facebook.

Former members of the Uzbek government, professors, students, and people from a range of professions have put their message of protest on Facebook.

People from Uzbekistan have a message for President Islam Karimov: "Qorqmayman!" which is Uzbek for "I am not afraid!"

A Facebook page started little more than a week ago now has several thousand people posting photos with the words "I am not afraid" on them and often leaving additional comments.

They make clear their message is meant for President Karimov, though some use the term "dictator," and his government, the country's security forces, and police.

Akmal Nabiev says he "is not afraid to say the truth and demand my rights."

Izatullo Rahmatullo from Osh says he is "only afraid of Allah."

One former member of Uzbekistan's military who is now living in the United States warns, "If you are afraid, you will be destroyed."

Former members of the Uzbek government, professors, students, and people from a range of professions have put their message of protest on the site.

It is a bold display of defiance to a government known for imprisoning political opponents and critics.

It's true the majority of those who have posted images or comments live outside Uzbekistan, but about one-third are people still living inside the country international rights groups have regularly ranked as one of the worst violators of human rights and media freedom.

Messages on the site come from Nukus, the Ferghana Valley and other areas of Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek government views the Internet much the same way the Chinese government does. There are benefits to be had but a huge number of websites contain information the governments do not wish their publics to access. So Uzbek authorities do their best to monitor Internet usage and block worrisome sites.

Uzbekistan has followed China's lead in promoting domestic websites, including social-networking sites, such as Bamboo.uz, Uzbekistan's version of Twitter. At the same time Uzbek state media, which are nearly the only media available in Uzbekistan, constantly preach about the dangers present on the Internet, the bad foreign influences, hedonist values, or oppositely, the ultraconservatism of Islamic extremists

Since March this year, more and more provincial officials have prohibited state employees from accessing foreign social-networking sites, such as Facebook, from computers at the workplace.

What's interesting is that Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry just opened a site on Facebook earlier this month.

Even more interesting, a hacker calling himself Muzaffar Qosim managed to get the "Qorqmaymiz" ("We are not afraid") site registered at Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry (something not likely to last long).

The "Qorqmaymiz" website will not gain any supporters from the government. And it appears that message has started circulating also.

A group of university students in Uzbekistan, more than 100, voiced their support on the page, then withdrew it shortly afterward, posting a joint message that they had not fully understood the nature of the site.

How long the page might be available to view in Uzbekistan is hard to say. Probably not long. But with parliamentary elections due in December this year and a presidential election to follow several weeks later, critics and opponents of Uzbekistan's government can be expected to use the Internet in any way possible to ratchet up pressure on the Uzbek government in the coming months.

-- Bruce Pannier, with Shukrat Babajonov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change. Content will draw on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad. The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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