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What The Uzbek President Won't Say On Independence Day


Uzbek President Islam Karimov on a visit to Bukhara in August 2010.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov on a visit to Bukhara in August 2010.

The five Central Asian states are marking 20 years of independence this year. The leaders of the five will use their independence days to speak of the great accomplishments they've made since the collapse of the Soviet Union, some genuine and some exaggerated.

But there are some events and names the presidents won't be mentioning in the speeches. For the sake of balance, I'll recall some for the Uzbek president, who leads celebrations of Independence Day on September 1. (Since Kyrgyzstan has a new government, it doesn't seem fair to dredge up the past for them, as they celebrate Independence Day today.)

Uzbek President Islam Karimov probably will not mention in his speech that, according to "Izvestiya" of September 29, 1992, under Uzbekistan's constitution, "the president cannot be subjected to impeachment even in the event of his committing anti-constitutional actions."

Karimov is unlikely to remind Uzbekistan's citizens that in the 2000 presidential elections his sole opponent, Abdul Khafiz Jalolov, emerged from the polling station on election day to tell the media "I make no secret of the fact that I voted for Karimov."

Or Andijon in May 2005.

The Uzbek president probably won't recall this Independence Day that on May 1, 1998, he addressed parliament, warning of the threat of Wahhabis. Karimov told the deputies that "such people must be shot in the head. If necessary, I'll shoot them myself, if you lack the resolve."

There will be no mention of Muzafar Avazov in Karimov's address.

Nor will the man people in Uzbekistan call "Big Papa" wish to speak about the time his security services kidnapped Abdumannob Pulat, Uzbek rights activist and Birlik movement leader, and Uktam Bekmukhammedov, the head of the Tajik national cultural center from a conference on human rights in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in December 1992.

Uzbekistan's president will avoid mentioning dissident poet Yusuf Juma, currently in jail for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. In December 2002, Juma had just been released from jail after being convicted of unconstitutional activities only to be charged with stealing and selling a dog.

Karimov will talk about foreign policy and the influence Uzbekistan has in Central Asia and the world in general today.

But he is unlikely to repeat the words he sent to the World Forum of Tajiks in Dushanbe in September 1992. That's when he said, "the close ties between Uzbeks and Tajiks based on common customs and traditions and cultural similarities are an indisputable fact." He wished for both Uzbeks and Tajiks that "the ghosts of our ancestors, such great scientists as Abdurrahman Jami and Alisher Navoi, protect us from the dirty games and intrigues of some political groups abroad."

Karimov might mention Tajik hydropower projects that could cut water supplies to Uzbekistan. He already accused members of Tajikistan's government of involvement in narcotics trafficking a few years back.

He won't bring up the name Mahmud Khudaiberdiyev...

...or Alisher Saipov.

Uzbekistan has better relations with Turkmenistan since Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov became president. But when Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov was alive, Karimov couldn't help but take pot shots at his bizarre neighbor. As Turkmenistan was just starting to erect statues and huge portraits and to renames cities, streets, and factories after Niyazov, Karimov pushed parliament in June 1993 to ban monuments to living people. Karimov probably won't recall in his speech on September 1 that he chose Turkmenistan's Independence Day in October 1995 to say on Uzbek TV that Niyazov was a "fool" for allowing Russian border guards onto Turkmen soil. "Nobody will guard you for nothing," Karimov warned.

Karimov is certain to avoid talking about the raid on the Uzbek Embassy in Ashgabat in December 2002, just a few weeks after a reported assassination attempt on Niyazov. The affair was hushed up by both sides, but the Uzbek ambassador was expelled amid speculation that Uzbekistan had played a role in the plot.

The Uzbek leader won't quote his words from "Narodnoye slovo" on April 2, 1994, when he said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's call for creating a Eurasian Union was an idea for "simpletons."

He won't mention former British Ambassador Craig Murray.

Or GUUAM.

And Karimov absolutely will not be reading the article from "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on July 6, 1993, that quotes "S. Igogamov," head of the Foreign Ministry's press service. Igogamov was asked about the diplomatic row between Tashkent and Washington at that time that centered on U.S. Embassy employee and Uzbek national Dilbor Yusupova.

Yusupova was roughed up and injured by security and customs officials at the Tashkent airport. In response, a furious Washington turned back an Uzbek diplomatic mission to the U.S.

Igogamov said Yusupova's complaints that "chekists" beat her were exaggerated. He said if Yusupova were really beaten up by "professional chekists, she would have certainly have been knocked out whereas all that happened was they split her lip, broke her arm, and dragged her 15 meters along the ground."

Look for a blog on Tajikistan before that country marks 20 years of independence on September 9.

-- Bruce Pannier
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