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Uzbekistan: Wife Of Alleged Akramiya Founder Left To Wonder Over Husband's Fate

Uzbek soldiers during the mid-May crackdown Uzbek authorities have long accused Akram Yuldoshev, a former math teacher from the city of Andijon, of having helped found the banned Islamic group Akramiya. Tashkent claims Akramiya members have been behind a number of terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan and provoked the bloody government crackdown in mid-May. Yuldoshev himself has been in prison since 1999, serving a 17-year sentence on terrorism charges. But his wife, Yodgora Yuldosheva, says she has received no news about him since the Andijon unrest. RFE/RL recently visited the Suzaq refugee camp in Kyrgyzstan and met with Yuldosheva.

Prague, 27 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Yodgora Yuldosheva was at the Suzaq camp in Kyrgyzstan's southern Jalal-Abad Province ever since she fled the Andijon violence in May.

Human rights groups say the bloody clashes on 13-14 May between protesters and government troops left as many as 750 people dead. The government puts the figure at 187, and has refused requests for an independent inquiry into the events.

Yuldosheva last visited her imprisoned husband, Akram , in April, at the Sangorod prison near the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

Since then, she said, she has seen no trace of him.

"I don't know where my husband is now," Yuldosheva told RFE/RL. "He was in Sangorod before I came here; I knew he was there. I've heard so many different rumors from people who have come here from Andijon. They've said he was transferred to another prison, that he is being held separately from others, that he's been tortured. I don't know exactly. I am asking visitors [to the camp] for information."

Yodgora and Akram, now both 42, met in school, married, and had four children. Yuldosheva said she supported her husband when he began learning about Islam from a friend in the 1980s.

He soon went his own way in exploring his religion. He later wrote a pamphlet titled "Iymonga Yo'l," or "The Path to Faith." The work -- which focuses more on moral and religious issues than on political debate -- was widely read by like-minded Islamic followers interested in Yuldoshev's views.
"[President Islam] Karimov said [after the violence], 'How could I shoot my own people, who are my supporters, my life, and my joy?' But he did shoot. He shot using bullets that ripped people into small pieces. We saw that with our own eyes."

Yuldoshev's audience comprises what the government now considers an active Islamist movement with violent intent. But the group -- which acknowledges a common interest in Islamic religious theory and moral values -- denies they are members of an extremist movement, and that there is no such thing as the Akramiya organization.

Yuldoshev -- whose first name gave Akramiya its purported title -- was first imprisoned in 1998 but was released a few months later under an amnesty.

After a series of explosions in Tashkent left 16 people dead in 1999, he was arrested again and charged with Islamic extremism. He has been in jail ever since.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov launched a fierce crackdown on perceived government critics and extremists after the 1999 bombings.

Tashkent claims Akramiya was set up by disenchanted former members of the banned Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Hizb ut-Tahrir endorses the aim of establishing a regionwide Islamic state, or caliphate, but without the use of violence. The Uzbek government has alleged that Akramiya, by contrast, has the same goal but is willing to use terror to achieve its ends.

Akramiya has denied the claims. And Yuldosheva said her husband has never spoken out against Uzbekistan's political system or leadership.

"He used to say about Karimov: 'I am not interested in either the presidency or in creating a caliphate.' He used to say that it is up to Allah to choose a ruler, and that going against a ruler meant going against Allah's will," Yuldosheva said.

Life has been hard for Yuldosheva without her husband. Two of the couple's grown daughters married while their father was in prison. One has since begun a family of her own, and the other was pregnant at the time of the Andijon bloodshed.

Yuldosheva actively participated in the demonstrations that sparked the Andijon violence. Demonstrators were protesting the trial of 23 businessmen accused of belonging to Akramiya. She also appeared as a defense witness at the hearings, but said her testimony was ignored and that the process was "nothing but a farce."

Yuldosheva said she joined the 13 May demonstration at Andijon's central square because she was hoping for an opportunity to talk to Uzbek officials about her husband's plight. In the end, she said -- barely able to hold back her tears -- she was naive to hope that something good would come of the rally.

"We went to the meeting that day because we heard that Karimov was coming," Yuldosheva said. "We thought Karimov didn't know what the real situation was. We thought it was only the bureaucrats around him who were being so bad and unfair. We waited for him all day. He didn't come. Karimov said [afterward], 'How could I shoot my own people, who are my supporters, my life, and my joy?' But he did shoot. He shot using BTRs [military personnel carriers] and bullets that ripped people into small pieces. We saw that with our own eyes."

Yuldosheva's 15-year-old son was with her in Suzaq. But the whereabouts of her youngest child, a 13-year-old daughter, have been unknown since the Andijon clashes.

Yuldosheva said she lost many friends in the Andijon bloodshed. But the hardest thing, she said, was finding out that three of her husband's brothers, and one of his nephews, were arrested in the wake of the uprising.

But her biggest concern remained the fate of her husband. She said she needs only to know her husband is alive.

"I'm waiting for any news about my husband," Yuldosheva said. "I beg anyone who visits [the camp] to give me any information they have. They say they don't know anything. Maybe they do, but they're hiding the truth from me. The past seven, eight years [that he has been in prison] have been a serious test for me. I stay here because of the future. I can speak against Karimov while I am here. There, [in Uzbekistan], we can't speak against him."

Yuldosheva was presumably among the more than 400 Uzbek refugees being flown today from Kyrgyzstan to a third country that has not been disclosed.