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Uzbekistan: Protests Said To Erupt In Ferghana Valley

Ferghana Valley region (RFE/RL) September 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Residents of the Oltiaryq district in Uzbekistan's Ferghana Valley reportedly took to the streets on September 3 to protest rising prices.

The rally follows similar demonstrations in other cities in the country's vulnerable eastern region.

Some reports say security measures have been tightened in parts of the Ferghana Valley with police, army, and security forces put on high alert.

The demonstrators in Oltiaryq were said to be angry primarily over price hikes for basic necessities -- particularly meat, flour, and vegetable oil.

Meeting With Officials

Dozens of residents marched from the Yangi-arab village to the Oltiaryq district administration building and proceeded to the Ferghana regional government building.

Abdusalom Ergashev, a human rights activist from Ferghana, says that local officials met with the demonstrators.

"Residents of Oltiaryq organized a protest demonstration," Ergashev said. "Some of them went to the Ferghana regional administration. Officials from the administration met with [demonstrators], spoke to them, calmed them down, and sent them back to Oltiaryq."

Rumors Abound

Similar incidents were reported in other parts of eastern Uzbekistan.

The independent website reported on September 3 that larger demonstrations have taken place in the cities of Andijon, Namangan, and Ferghana in the Ferghana Valley.

A kilogram of flour now costs about 15 percent of the official minimum monthly salary.

Rumors of mass unrest in Andijon -- with serious clashes between the local population and security forces -- have spread recently in the capital, Tashkent.

But such reports could not be verified. RFE/RL has tried unsuccessfully to contact several Andijon residents.

No reports have appeared in local media about any unrest. But in mid-August, when the first rumors of problems in Andijon appeared, state television channels broadcast a documentary about Andijon that pictured life there as happy and peaceful.

Margilan Tense

Another independent website,, reported today that authorities will impose a curfew in the Ferghana Valley city of Margilan, effective from September 5. quotes local rights activists as saying there has been instability in Margilan in recent weeks.

It also claims the public discontent stems from authorities' decision to limit the use of old automobiles, like the Russian-made "Zhiguli" and "Zaporozhets." Authorities reasoned that the old cars do not meet technical standards.

But local activists and residents allege that the real motive behind the new regulation is to boost the sale of cars produced in Ferghana Valley.

Cars produced by an Uzbek-Korean joint venture, UzDaewoo, are out of reach for most Uzbeks. A new "Nexia" costs $15,000 in a country where the minimum monthly salary is $12.

The website suggested in a report today that a September 7-8 visit by President Islam Karimov is behind the tight security measures in Margilan. Karimov will reportedly attend celebrations of Margilan's bimillennium.

Widespread Displeasure

Sergey Ezhkov, an independent journalist who runs website, said people all over the country are unhappy with prices for staple goods and low wages.

"The situation in other cities is the same," Ezhkov said. "But people in Oltiaryq have apparently more solidarity with each other."

A kilogram of flour now costs around 1,200 Uzbek sums, or a little less than $1 -- or about 15 percent of the official minimum monthly salary.

(Shukhrat Babajanov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report)

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