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Kyrgyzstan: Hizb Ut-Tahrir Rallies In South, Urges Election Boycott

Relatives of Hizb ut-Tahrir member Ulugbek Ruziev and other members of that banned religious organization have been protesting this week in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, demanding that Ruziev -- who was arrested for possessing leaflets calling for a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections -- be released. Members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir religious organization say they will not vote in the 27 February parliamentary elections.

Prague, 9 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A group of Hizb ut-Tahrir members protested in front of the Osh city administration and Prosecutor-General’s Office in southern Kyrgyzstan against Ruziev's arrest.

Dilyor Jumaboev, also a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, has also participated in the protests. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL from the Osh region, he said that Ruziev and some 25 people were detained on 4 February in Ruziev’s house when police found 2,000 leaflets that they said qualified as extremist and anticonstitutional. Jumaboev said Ruziev’s guests were released the next day but that Ruziev was arrested and is still being held. Some 60 Hizb ut-Tahrir members have held protest meetings since 7 February.

Leaflets titled “A Ruling on Participation in Parliamentary Elections According to Shari’a [Islamic law]" were first released in April 2003 by the Yemen branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir before parliamentary elections there and call on Muslims to boycott elections if candidates do not meet seven requirements.
Despite being called a “party,” the Hizb ut-Tahrir never attempted to register before it was officially banned in Central Asia.

“A candidate must, first of all, openly disavow the Western capitalist system and all other kufr [disbelievers in Allah] systems," Jumaboev said, describing the requirement. "Second, [a candidate] must openly announce his intention to change 'kufr' systems and create Islamic ones instead. Third, they must take their programs from Allah’s book [The Koran] and his messenger’s Sunnah [the second major source of jurisprudence in Islam after the Koran]. Fourth, they must announce that the parliament will be used as a pulpit to propagate Islam. Fifth, they must separate themselves from other candidates who support 'kufr' systems. The sixth requirement is not to collaborate with or bow down before official authorities. The seventh requirement is that the [secular] candidate’s program must propagate the aforementioned ideas among the people.”

Kyrgyz Public Educational Radio and TV broadcast official state reaction to the leaflets and to Hizb ut-Tahrir. On 7 February, the head of the National Security Service's department in the Osh Region, Bolot Dzheyenbaev, gave a statement saying: “The Hizb ut-Tahrir's publications propagate politically motivated Islam, call for civil disobedience, promote extreme religion, contain anticonstitutional meanings and ideas rejecting the democratic system. They are aimed at promoting religious hatred and claiming the superiority of Islam over other religions.”

Vitalii Ponomaryov heads the Central Asia project of the Moscow-based Memorial human rights center that works mainly with Hizb ut-Tahrir members. It released a report on the Hizb ut-Tahrir in Russia on 7 ebruary. He told RFE/RL that the Hizb ut-Tahrir has called for a boycott of the Kyrgyz elections before and it is a common position of the group on elections.

Ponomaryov was asked by RFE/RL how many people he thinks will abide by the call for a boycott: “If we speak only about [Hizb ut-Tahrir] members, estimates are around 3,000-7,000 people who are actual members or are being instructed in [Hizb ut-Tahrir] groups. But taking into account that leaflets have a wider audience, the number of people who will not vote may be larger. However, I don’t think this will have a serious affect on the voting process even in southern Kyrgyzstan [where Hizb ut-Tahrir is most active].”

Hizb ut-Tahrir -- or Party of Liberation -- has been well known in Central Asia for its goal of establishing an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the Ferghana Valley, a region that extends across Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. It claims to disavow violence. It is outlawed in most Central Asian countries and Russia. The Kyrgyz Supreme Court banned the group in 2003.

Despite being called a “party,” the Hizb ut-Tahrir never attempted to register before it was officially banned in Central Asia. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s methods and activities also differ greatly from that of a political party in the West and what has become standard in post-Soviet countries. The Hizb ut-Tahrir functions as a network of cells in which one member is acquainted with a few others. When detained, arrested, or imprisoned, they do not disclose the names of other Hizb ut-Tahrir members whom they know.

Jumaboev, who talked about the gathering of some 25 Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Ruziev’s house and the holding of the protests, said later in the interview that he knows only five other members and said: “Even if I knew the others I wouldn’t disclose their names for it would be haraam [unlawful].”

Jumaboev was asked if the Hizb ut-Tahrir has plans to participate and nominate candidates in future elections. He said that it does have such plans: “Inshallah [God willing], we will live to see that day. Repression has been very strong against us therefore know little about us. But lately we have been active, especially during the [Islamic holiday] Eid al-Adha and other events. The people trust us and want Hizb ut-Tahrir to lead them. Inshallah, we will definitely nominate [our candidates] in the next elections.”

Ponomaryov of Memorial said that Hizb ut-Tahrir membership has been decreasing lately in all the countries of Central Asia.

“The period of a rapid increase in the number of Hizb ut-Tahrir members, which peaked in 1999-2001, has ended in Central Asia. Nowadays, there is a stabilization of the number. It’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the future because the Hizb ut-Tahrir does not seek a violent overthrow of the government. The only thing I am confident about is that [the governments’] repression [of Hizb ut-Tahrir members] will continue and many new people will be repressed.”

There are many reasons why people join the Hizb ut-Tahrir. They vary from mere interest in Islam to seeking a way out of poverty and despair. Human rights activists like Ponomaryov say that in places like Uzbekistan, where Hizb ut-Tahrir has been the most active in Central Asia, it is the government’s repression against dissent that forces many people to join banned groups, including the Hizb ut-Tahrir. In Kyrgyzstan, repression against the Hizb ut-Tahrir has been strengthening lately, too, Ponomaryov said.

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