28 November 2005, Volume 5, Number 44
NOTE TO READERS:
This issue of "RFE/RL Central Asia Report" was scheduled to be issued on 17 November. We apologize for the delay.
WEEK AT A GLANCE (7-13 November). The death of Zamanbek Nurkadilov, former head of Kazakhstan's Emergency Situations Agency, set the country's political class abuzz. Nurkadilov, a longtime ally of President Nursultan Nazarbaev who broke with the president to join the opposition in 2004, was found dead in his home with three gunshot wounds. With little information available about the apparent killing of a prominent opposition figure in the lead-up to the 4 December presidential election, rumors raged. For his part, the president called for a thorough investigation. Elsewhere, parliament passed the 2006 budget, with projected revenues of $1.492 trillion tenges ($11.1 billion), or 18.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), expenditures of 1.606 trillion tenges, or 19.9 percent of GDP, and a deficit of 113.8 billion tenges, or 1.4 percent of GDP. On the diplomatic front, President Nazarbaev met with Jordan's King Abdullah II. The two agreed that their countries need to improve bilateral trade before Abdullah was forced to return home ahead of schedule after three terrorist attacks occurred in the Jordanian capital.
Kyrgyzstan's parliament confirmed Kambaraly Kongantiev as prosecutor-general but rejected the candidacy of Daniyar Usenov for the post of deputy prime minister. A court in Bishkek acquitted Sulaiman Imanbaev, former head of the Central Election Commission, on charges that he abused and exceeded his authority to help Bermet Akaeva, daughter of former President Askar Akaev, gain a seat in parliament earlier this year. The trial of Ryspek Akmatbaev, reputed crime boss and brother of slain parliamentary deputy Tynychbek Akmatbaev, was postponed for a second time. Rear Admiral Robert T. Moeller, director of plans and policy at U.S. Central Command, met with Foreign Minister Alibek Jekshenkulov, to discuss revisions to the agreement on the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan is seeking higher payments for the use of the facility.
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov held separate meetings with the president of the Asian Development Bank, which plans to allocate $150 million for projects in Tajikistan over the next three years, and top officials from the World Bank, which is considering assistance for the reconstruction of the Sangtuda-1 hydropower plant. The Justice Ministry registered a new political party, the Economic Reform Party, bringing the number of officially registered parties to seven. And France removed six Mirage fighters from Tajikistan, leaving 150 servicemen and two transport aircraft in the country.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov received Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who invited Niyazov to visit Iran. Roger Haynes, the head of Canada's Buried Hill Energy, met with Niyazov to discuss a possible production-sharing agreement to develop energy resources in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian. Previous negotiations between the Canadian company and Turkmenistan on an oil field claimed by both Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan strained ties between the two littoral states. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien accompanied Haynes to Ashgabat on both occasions. Finally, Atamurat Berdiev, deputy prime minister and minister of oil and gas, said that Turkmenistan intends to raise the price of the natural gas it sells to Russia and Ukraine.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov presided over a meeting of Tashkent Province's Assembly of People's Deputies that removed Governor Kozim Tolaganov. The president charged that Tolaganov had failed to boost production in the province. Mirzamashrap Kuchchiev was named to replace Tolaganov. Independent journalist Aleksei Volosevich was beaten by unidentified assailants while vandals spray-painted anti-Semitic slogans on the door of his apartment. Volosevich linked the attack to his critical coverage of government actions, while a spokesman for the National Security Service dismissed such allegations as "absurd." Elsewhere, the Agency for Telecommunications and Information Technology held a ceremony as the number of cell phone users in Uzbekistan topped one million.
HOLDING ON TO POWER IN CENTRAL ASIA. While the upheavals that ushered in new heads of state in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan in recent years resist easy definitions, they share a characteristic that has sent shockwaves rippling across the post-Soviet world. Amid varying levels of commitment to democratic reform, post-Soviet ruling elites have developed a number of mechanisms for maintaining, extending, and transferring power. Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan were cases in which those mechanisms did not function as their inventors intended. In their aftermath, ruling elites elsewhere are nervously wondering whether the next plans to go awry may be their own.
The possibility of a widening pattern of regime change raises particularly intriguing questions in Central Asia. Four of five current leaders in the region have been in power for well over a decade. All five countries have witnessed a contradictory period since gaining independence, with remarkable degrees of domestic political continuity, but records on democratic and market reforms that range from ambiguous to atrocious. The past 15 years have not been devoid of accomplishments, but a firm foundation for regional stability and prosperity is not yet among them.
The prospect of political upheaval adds a volatile element to the mix. What, then, are the chances of "unplanned" regime change in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan?
Kazakhstan holds a presidential election on 4 December. Elections were the flashpoint for unrest in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, and the obvious question for Kazakhstan is whether a botched ballot could have a similarly devastating outcome for long-time President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
Such a turn of events seems unlikely at present, however. As Brookings Institution scholar Fiona Hill noted in the 20 October issue of "In The National Interest," a combination of skyrocketing oil revenues, sensible reforms guided by a long-term vision, and solid statecraft has put the president of oil-rich Kazakhstan in a position that is only minimally comparable to that of former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma, and former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev.
The president's achievements may not be quite as great as he likes to claim -- particularly in the area of democratic reforms and the equitable distribution of oil profits -- but he has a record to run on and clearly intends to do so. As Nazarbaev told the Kazakh Trade Union Federation on 31 October: "By 2012 [when his third term will end, should he win reelection in December], per capita GDP should increase to $8,000-$9,000...and we should double personal incomes," "Kazakhstan Today" reported.
The president made no bones about the source of this coming windfall, as RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. "By 2012, Kazakhstan should become one of the world's top 10 exporters of oil and gas," he said. "Overall industrial production should double, and the oil-and-gas sector and the entire extractive industry will be the main contributor to the accomplishment of this task."
Other factors work in Nazarbaev's favor as well. Elite cleavages played an important role in the political tumult in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. While the Kazakh president has seen a number of political allies defect to the opposition over the past year -- including former speaker Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who split with Nazarbaev after September 2004 parliamentary elections and is now challenging him for the presidency as the leader of the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan -- much of the country's elite is comfortably integrated into the current climate.
Critics point to the perils of a patronage system, and have considerable justification for doing so, but patronage in Kazakhstan has not yet produced the discontents that were evident in neighboring Kyrgyzstan toward the end of Akaev's tenure, where the presidential family had come to be viewed as a predatory force unwilling to tolerate contenders at the trough.
Nevertheless, observers should not conclude that the 4 December presidential election will be a cakewalk for the incumbent. Many in the West saw political changes in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan in 2003-05 as victories for democracy, while CIS elites, particularly in Russia, interpreted the events as externally funded and supported plots to install pro-Western client regimes. The events themselves, however, bespoke a failure of managed democracy. The lead-up to the December presidential ballot in Kazakhstan has exhibited several classic features of managed democracy, with state-controlled media pushing the president's agenda and opposition candidates and media experiencing harassment.
Given Kazakhstan's stated desire to chair the OSCE in 2009, and the attendant investment of official prestige in the bid for the chairmanship, there may be a high-level commitment to conduct a "cleaner" election free from the shortcomings chronicled in the OSCE report on the September 2004 parliamentary election (which concluded that "the election process fell short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections in many respects"). But mid- and low-level officials are likely to fall back on tried-and-true administrative methods of ensuring an impressive win for the home team.
Moreover, the factors noted above in Nazarbaev's favor may not be quite as significant as they seem. Relative prosperity, reform-minded technocrats, and favorable comparisons to economically and politically stunted neighbors like Uzbekistan often mean more to foreign observers than to ordinary citizens on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. And recent experience shows that once managed democracy begins to fail and ordinary people become energized, the failure rapidly becomes catastrophic for the ruling elite.
Still, the risks to the president should not be overstated. If, as seems likely, Nazarbaev is reelected on 4 December, other difficulties loom on the horizon. The president's long-term program consists of soft-authoritarian modernization, economic diversification, and political reform, with implementation to be fueled by the fruits of a resource-based economy.
Although alluring in theory, the program is studded with pitfalls in practice. The outsized profits from natural resources in a not-quite reformed, diversified, and modernized political and economic system create disincentives for the elite to pursue those aspects of the program -- namely, political reforms and economic diversification -- that would force them to give up some of the enormous benefits of their prosperous present for the sake of a more equitably flourishing future. And if the program stalls, it could face inevitable crises, from falling oil prices to succession.
In sum, Kazakhstan faces limited, but not entirely nonexistent, short-term chances of unplanned regime change. But the long-term picture is more ambiguous, with the issue of succession looming larger and larger with each year of Nazarbaev's rule.
Kyrgyzstan differs fundamentally from its Central Asian neighbors in that the 24 March collapse of the government and the flight of then President Askar Akaev have already made it an example of unplanned regime change. In the intervening six months, the country has elected a new president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, and formed a new government led by Prime Minister Feliks Kulov. But full stabilization remains elusive.
During a two-week visit to Bishkek and Osh in October, I spoke with a broad array of politicians, civil-society activists, and journalists, as well as people whose professions have no direct tie to politics. Kulov and other political figures were consistent in identifying corruption and poverty as the two gravest problems facing the nation. But virtually everyone, including politicians, expressed varying degrees of frustration at the slow pace of government action on these two fronts.
The murders of three members of parliament since 24 March have underscored threats to stability in Kyrgyzstan. Particularly worrisome to many was the 20 October killing of Tynychbek Akmatbaev, who died under unclear circumstances while visiting a prison. Akmatbaev's brother, a reputed crime boss named Ryspek Akmatbaev, led a series of demonstrations in Bishkek calling for removal of Kulov, whom Ryspek charges with involvement in his brother's death. The murky backdrop to Tynychbek Akmatbaev's death, compounded by his brother's subsequent emergence as a vocal public figure, seemed to confirm a fear I heard expressed often during my visit to Kyrgyzstan -- that the criminal underworld may be making a play to exert influence on high-level politics under conditions of atrophied state power.
A narrowing window of opportunity and a shrinking backlog of trust confront the so-called tandem of Bakiev and Kulov as they attempt to get down to work, win back some of the support that has ebbed away amid the political maneuvering of the past six months, and begin solving the country's problems. Those problems include not only corruption and poverty, but strained relations with neighboring Uzbekistan in the wake of the Kyrgyz government's decision to allow the airlift of more than 400 Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan to Romania in late July.
If the government fails to meet these challenges, political opportunists could rush in to fill the gap, exploiting the new era of protest politics inaugurated by the March events and raising the frightening prospect of a rent-a-mob free-for-all. The slogan of a "revolution betrayed" could serve as the prelude to various programs, including an authoritarian drive to reestablish order.
The short-term chances of destabilization in Kyrgyzstan remain significant. But the long-term prospects, though clouded by current uncertainties, hold promise as well as peril. Akaev's fall, the sudden injection of long-held popular concerns into the political process, and the new leadership's stated commitment to badly needed reforms could provide the impetus needed to smash through the various logjams that have prevented the country from moving forward.
On the face of things, Tajikistan would seem to exhibit the necessary preconditions for political upheaval in the model of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. The economy is experiencing a protracted malaise that has sent hundreds of thousands of workers abroad in search of higher wages, President Imomali Rakhmonov's efforts to tighten his hold on power have constricted the political sphere, recent elections have displayed telltale symptoms of managed democracy, and a presidential election looms in November 2006.
Historical factors suggest, however, that Tajikistan may be different. Just as Kazakhstan's oil wealth sets it apart from its neighbors, so does Tajikistan's bloody 1992-97 civil war, the only instance of a prolonged violent conflict in post-Soviet Central Asia. The war left behind not only a ruined economy, but innumerable memories of the savagery and suffering it unleashed. These cast a long shadow, providing a stark warning that not all political confrontations end peacefully.
Still, the upcoming presidential election could prove tricky for Rakhmonov if it fails to break with the traditions of managed democracy amid unresolved economic problems. Moreover, Tajikistan's increasingly entrenched status as a conduit for Afghanistan's burgeoning opium and heroin production to reach European markets bodes ill for the country's political development. Drug money provides little impetus for greater transparency and better governance, but it can fund shadowy centers of informal power that may eventually seek to formalize their growing influence.
The short-term chances of unplanned regime change in Tajikistan are not great. But the long-term prospects for stability are poor if current trends continue.
While a catastrophic failure of managed democracy is hardly possible in a country where there is no democracy to manage, that does not mean that Turkmenistan under President Saparmurat Niyazov is safe from unplanned regime change. A political system that concentrates all power in the hands of a president-for-life whose cult of personality engulfs the public sphere is still vulnerable to a coup or to a succession struggle in the event of the leader's untimely death.
The main political event in Turkmenistan in 2005 has been an ongoing shakeup in the country's lucrative energy sector. Yolly Gurbanmuradov, deputy prime minister in charge of the oil-and-gas sector and a longtime associate of the president, was removed in May and charged with embezzlement and treason. Other high-ranking officials soon followed, their dismissals usually accompanied by corruption charges: Saparmemed Valiev, head of the national oil company; Orazmukhammet Atageldiev, minister in charge of state-run geology firm Turkmengeologiya; Guichmurad Esenov, head of the Turkmenbashi refinery; and Guichnazar Tachnazarov, deputy prime minister in charge of the oil-and-gas industry.
Cyclical reshuffles are one of Niyazov's favorite pastimes, but the scope of the most recent purge and its focus on a sector of the economy that provides easy access to considerable sums suggest that the president may be increasingly sensitive to the possibility that he could face a well-funded threat from the upper echelons of his own entourage.
Whatever the real or imagined chances of regime change from within, biology decrees that change must come eventually, and systemic factors render the problem of succession starker in Turkmenistan than in any other Central Asian country. Niyazov's insistence on eliminating any and all prospective rivals, his refusal thus far to anoint a successor, and the concentration of all real power not merely in the presidency, but in the person of the president himself, have laid the groundwork for a potentially dangerous succession struggle that the country's enfeebled institutions may not be able to withstand.
The impenetrable opacity of politics under Niyazov precludes short-term and long-term prognoses. The regime will be perfectly stable until it is not, and then all bets are off. What can be said is that when change comes, destabilizing scenarios abound. The chances of a smooth transition to a reformist future seem remote.
Regime change brought on by a breakdown of managed democracy is the remotest of possibilities in Uzbekistan, where parliamentary and presidential elections have had virtually no perceptible influence on real politics. The violence that rocked Andijon on 12-13 May, however, raises troubling questions about the prospects for short-term and long-term stability.
The armed attack on government facilities in Andijon, and the security forces' subsequent actions to quell the unrest, brought to light factors that have important implications for the paths political change may take in Uzbekistan.
First, violent opposition to the current regime is a fact. All reports state that on the night of 12 May, armed men attacked a prison and police post, seized hostages, and took over a large government building in the center of Andijon.
Second, socioeconomic complaints can galvanize popular unrest. The Uzbek government has depicted the demonstration that took place in Andijon on 13 May as a relatively small protest consisting of the relatives and supporters of religious extremists, but independent reports indicate that thousands of ordinary citizens gathered to voice their frustration at economic hardship and a dysfunctional justice system. Previously, economic complaints triggered protests in Andijon in September 2004, a large demonstration in Kokand in November 2004, a riot in Jizzakh Province in late March 2005, and a hunger strike by 400 workers in Ferghana Province.
Third, the government is willing and able to use force. The official version of events portrays a measured police response to an outbreak of violent extremism, blaming nearly 200 deaths on the actions of terrorists. Numerous eyewitness accounts suggest that the government responded to a legitimate security threat with grossly excessive force, massacring several hundred people.
The result is a dangerous impasse. Objective evaluations of social and economic conditions point to significant grounds for discontent, while President Islam Karimov and his government insist that all is well, blame unrest on conspiracies involving religious extremists and foreign backers, and are committed to the use of force to crush dissent.
These factors suggest grim possibilities. One is an uprising, though the security services are surely on a heightened state of alert in the wake of Andijon. Another is a coup, with an ambitious rival, or rivals, seeking to capitalize on popular dissatisfaction. A third is a purge, for Karimov is no doubt alert to the dangers his own entourage may hold, and regime consolidation around an even harder line. The prognosis is a high short-term risk of instability, with murky long-term prospects no matter what course events may take.
One For All
The preceding survey reveals a paradox that could have serious implications for Central Asia as the region moves toward its next round of political turning points. Despite a great deal of historical and cultural common ground, the five independent countries' political and economic development has been anything but uniform. Central Asia is not a large grouping by world standards, but it is an increasingly disparate one.
Nevertheless, common ground is precisely what all five countries occupy. This overview has treated Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as discrete entities, but geography eventually enforces what political analysis must sometimes hold in abeyance. For all the differences within Central Asia, the various outcomes discussed here in isolation will in reality have broader consequences. In light of the wide range of possibilities the future holds, the international community should take note. Even as each Central Asian country follows its own path, it will nudge its neighbors, and together they will determine the course of the region as a whole. (By Daniel Kimmage. Originally published on 14 November.)
UZBEKISTAN: ANDIJON DEFENDANTS SENTENCED AFTER BEING CONVICTED... On 14 November, Uzbekistan's Supreme Court passed the verdict in the trial of 15 alleged Islamic extremists accused of leading last May's bloody uprising in the eastern city of Andijon. The defendants were found guilty of terrorism, religious extremism, and anticonstitutional activity and sentenced to between 14 and 20 years in prison. Human rights groups have dismissed the trial as a show, saying much of the testimony may have been coerced.
The court found the 15 defendants guilty under several articles of Uzbekistan's Criminal Code. Twelve Uzbek citizens were sentenced to between 16 and 20 years in prison, while three Kyrgyz citizens were given 14 years each.
Judge Bakhtiyor Jamolov, the chairman of the three-judge panel, read the verdict over the course of five hours today amid a heavy police presence both inside the Supreme Court building itself and on nearby streets
"In accordance with Article 59 of the Criminal Code, Farhod Umarovich Hamidov is sentenced to 20 years in prison," Jamolov said. "According to Article 34 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Farhod Umarovich Hamidov is defined as a very serious recidivist. He will serve a prison term in a special [high security] prison colony. His term started on 26 May 2005."
He continued: "As active members of Akramiya religious extremist organization, [they] aimed to overthrow the current constitutional order of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and create an Islamic state -- a caliphate -- and [therefore they] formed an armed criminal group that conducted many very serious crimes."
Those "serious crimes" include the alleged freeing of 23 local businessmen accused of membership in a religious Islamic group called Akramiya, the seizure of government buildings, and the death of police, soldiers, and civilians in an ensuing gun battle.
The defendants -- who all pled guilty under unclear circumstances -- said they "deserve to be killed twice" for their actions. But the prosecution had asked for the 15 men to be jailed for 15 to 20 years, something that surprised many observers since some crimes allow the death penalty under the country's current legislation. Similar religious trials have ended with much harsher verdicts.
'Hyenas And Jackals'
Independent observers and human rights groups have called the proceedings a show trial, and some Western media outlets have reported on accusations that Uzbek authorities are repressing peaceful Muslims. Deputy Prosecutor-General Anvar Nabiev previously compared these Western correspondents to "hyenas and jackals searching for carrion."
Indeed, the verdict included references to the alleged role that foreign media have been accused of playing in spreading the "lies" told by the defendants. Chief Judge Jamolov: "They didn't write about real events, but disseminated biased information from those who they claimed were peaceful citizens demanding improved living conditions by protesting in the central square [of Andijon]. They also said that those people didn't have ties with religious extremists, and that the government troops opened fire on them. Thus, they distracted the attention of the world community."
The government says 187 people, including government troops and terrorists, died in May's uprising. Rights groups and Western governments believe hundreds of others were killed, including many civilians, and women and children.
The trial began on 20 September and had proceeding relatively smoothly, with the defendants endorsing the government's version of events.
A Woman's Conflicting Testimony
But the trial was stopped in its tracks on 14 October by the riveting testimony of Mahbuba Zokirova, a 33-year-old housewife from Andijon.
Zokirova took the stand and publicly contradicted the official version of events. She said that she and her children had gone for a walk when, out of curiosity, she decided to join those who had gathered in the city square. She said she was hoping to see Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who was believed to be on his way to talk to the protesters. That's when troops who had encircled the crowd started shooting at random.
She fled Andijon with her family to Kyrgyzstan. She compared the actions of Uzbek government troops at the border to those of the Nazis: "When we reached the town of Teshiktosh on the [Uzbek-Kyrgyz] border, no one had any weapons. There were women, old women, pregnant women, and children. They took headscarves and made white flags. The men said: 'They won't shoot. We'll send you, the women, across [the border]. If they shoot anyone, they'll shoot us.' When we went, they didn't pay any attention to the white flags. The worst part is, even Hitler didn't shoot people who raised the white flag. They fired. I saw it with my own eyes. I swear on my four children -- they fired. They did. It was a nightmare."
Harassment of independent media and opposition and rights activists has intensified in Uzbekistan during the course of the trial. The BBC closed its Uzbek office in Tashkent for at least six months due to security concerns. RFE/RL journalists have also been harassed. And last week, Aleksei Volosevich, a reporter for a pro-opposition website who had reported from Andijon on 13 May, said he was attacked outside his apartment in Tashkent. In late October, the government jailed Sanjar Umarov, a leader of the Sunshine Uzbekistan secular opposition group.
Umarov had demanded an independent probe into the Andijon events, as have the United States and the European Union. The EU last month introduced an arms embargo against Uzbekistan similar to the one imposed on China following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The move came after Uzbek President Islam Karimov ruled out allegations of indiscriminate use of force in Andijon and refused to permit an independent investigation.
While the Uzbek court began reading its verdict, Karimov was visiting Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously expressed his support of Karimov's actions against "terrorists." Russia's daily "Kommersant" reported today that Karimov is expected to secure a pledge of military help from Putin to quell further unrest in Uzbekistan. (By Gulnoza Saidazimova. Originally published on 15 November 2005.)
...WHILE ANDIJON REFUGEES IN ROMANIA HAVE ESCAPED VIOLENCE, BUT NOT HEARTACHE. Six months have passed since the bloody events in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon. The use of force by Uzbek security forces to quell a 13 May antigovernment uprising is believed to have left hundreds dead, including many civilians. Hundreds of others fled the country out of fear; most sought refuge in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. In July, 439 Uzbeks who had escaped to Kyrgyzstan were transferred to Romania. Their transfer followed a diplomatic battle between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz authorities that also involved the United Nations and some Western governments. RFE/RL reports on the lives of some of these refugees, who are living in a temporary camp in the Romanian city of Timisoara.
Ismoiljon's birth on 23 October in a refugee camp in the western Romanian city of Timisoara was a moment of joy for his mother, Roziya, and the other Uzbek refugees in Romania.
Nineteen-year-old Roziya was pregnant when the shooting started on Andijon's central square on 13 May. She fled to Kyrgyzstan with her mother and mother-in-law and many other Andijon residents. She and 438 other refugees were transferred to Romania in late July, where most are still awaiting a UN decision on their final destination.
Roziya says the whole camp celebrated the baby's birth: "When I delivered my baby, they took very good care of me in a hospital. When I was leaving, all the people from the camp came and stood in rows. I can recall everything very well because it was unforgettable. They were holding presents and flowers and also video cameras in their hands. I didn't expect anything like that. People from the UN office and also Romanians were there, too."
The baby's grandmother says they named the boy Ismoiljon in memory of Roziya's brother-in-law, who died in the Andijon violence. "While we were in Kyrgyzstan, a relative of Roziya's husband visited us and said her husband's younger brother Abdulhafiz and elder brother Ismoiljon were shot dead on 13 May," says Ismoiljon's grandmother. "In Ismoiljon's memory, we gave the same name to the baby. Ismoiljon was a very kind and intelligent person. We want the baby to be like him."
Roziya and the other Andijon refugees live in three, one-story buildings used by the country's immigration service on the outskirts of Timisoara. Women and children live separately from the men. The UNHCR's office in Romania provides them with food and clothing.
Thirty-three-year-old Dilshod says conditions are good in the camp. "We built stoves and cook there every day. We use beef, sometimes we kill a sheep," Dilshod says. "We don't have any problems. We are very grateful to the Romanian people for accepting us."
The refugees speak often of their gratitude to the Romanian people, as well as to the United Nations. Only after numerous questions do they start to speak about some of their concerns -- mostly about the family members they left behind in Uzbekistan.
No Word On Loved Ones
Dilshod's wife and three children are still in Andijon. He and 37-year-old Bahrom long to hear from their loved ones.
"It's been five months. We haven't heard from our families yet," Bahrom says. "I have five children. The youngest is 5 years old, the eldest is 15. How do they live these days? Do they go to school? Are they fed? I have no information about them."
The men in the camp say being idle gives them more time to worry about their futures and to be sad about their pasts, so they try to stay busy. They say it's easier for the women, who have the kids to look after. Two women with teaching experience work with school-age children in the camp.
The men in the group -- in an effort to express their gratitude to the Romanian people -- came up with an idea. "Some [Romanian] villages were flooded," Dilshod explains. "We sent a letter to the government expressing our intention to help in reconstruction works. The authorities said they would consider the issue. If we get permission, we could help women, the elderly, and children who need help to rebuild their houses. We want to help. We don't want to be idle. We don't feel well when people are suffering."
State Of Limbo
Dilshod, a construction worker, and Bahrom, a carpenter, say their experience and skills could be useful. But it looks like they will have to wait for their final resettlement before they can find jobs. UN officials say they won't have to wait much longer.
Twenty-five Uzbeks from the Timisoara camp have already been transferred to other European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands. Cristina Bunea, an assistant public-information officer with the UNHCR in Romania, tells RFE/RL that the goal is to have all refugees resettled in their countries of final destination by February, at the latest.
"This resettlement process is quite complicated, and each of the cases is assessed individually," Bunea says. "The proposed countries of resettlement are chosen according to [each] individual. So, basically, all of these kinds of things are taken care of."
In the meantime, Roziya tells RFE/RL, she wants to send the good news about her baby boy to her husband. He was in Andijon's central square on 13 May. They lost each other in the panicking crowd when the shooting started. Roziya has neither seen nor heard from him since. "I hope he is alive," she says. (By Gulnoza Saidazimova, with contributions from RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent Gofur Yuldoshev. Originally published on 10 November.)