23 January 2006, Volume 7, Number 2
CENTRAL ASIAHIZB UT-TAHRIR'S CALLS FOR ISLAMIC STATE FIND SUPPORT
By Gulnoza Saidazimova
Tajik authorities announced on 16 January that 99 purported Hizb ut-Tahrir members were arrested last year. Many were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for "extremist activities." Experts say that despite crackdowns on Hizb ut-Tahrir by governments across the region, the number of the group's members and sympathizers has been on the rise in recent years.
It is hard to say how many members Hizb ut-Tahrir has in Central Asia. Some experts say there are thousands who share the group's main goal -- creating a caliphate, or an Islamic state. Hizb ut-Tahrir's members say they are as many as tens of thousand.
In Tajikistan, 99 purported Hizb ut-Tahrir members, including 16 women, were arrested in 2005 alone. As the country's authorities announced on 16 January, 38 of them have already been sentenced to lengthy jail terms for "extremist activities."
Security Ministry official Abdulqader Mohamadiev alleged that two of those arrested were Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders. "It has been established by the investigation that one of them is the deputy leader of this party's cell [in Tajikistan], and the prosecutor's office of the Sughd region [in northern Tajikistan] is investigating this case now," Mohamadiev said. "The other person, whose investigation is coming to an end, is a cell leader in the Sughd region. Both of them have been in detention and their cases are in the final stages."
Calling For A Caliphate
Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, was established in the 1950s in the Middle East. It has only been known in Central Asia since the mid-1990s.
Representatives of Hizb ut-Tahrir say their activities are peaceful and claim they do not engage in political violence, but only instruct and convince Muslims of the need to establish a caliphate.
But the governments of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia regard the group as an extremist organization. And hundreds of accused Hizb ut-Tahrir members are now in jails across Central Asia as "religious extremists" who pose a danger to law and order.
Uzbekistan blamed religious extremists for the deadly bombings in Tashkent in February 1999, as well as for the bombings in Tashkent and Bukhara in the spring and summer of 2004. The Uzbek authorities were also quick to accuse Hizb ut-Tahrir of involvement in violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon in May 2005.
But many human-rights groups are not convinced all those arrested are guilty of trying to overthrow the state. They charge the Uzbek government is cracking down on all forms of political dissent and say even peaceful Muslims practicing their faith outside state-controlled religious establishments risk persecution.
Support On The Rise
Still, despite the jailings, the number of members and sympathizers of Hizb ut-Tahrir seems to be on rise in all the countries of the region.
"Not only is the number of those who join the group growing, so is the number of those who support its ideas," one Uzbek woman who claims to be a member of the group and who has two sons serving jail terms for their involvement told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity. "Why? Because people want a just system. They want to live in a just and fair society with good governance. Nowadays, there is no justice. Corruption and bribery are everywhere. Unemployment is the people's biggest problem. That's why they read the word of God. Since the seventh century, when Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, lived, there was a caliphate for 14 centuries. It was a just system. I also believe that if people learn these things, they will become more just."
Observers say religious groups, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, sometimes become an avenue for expressing discontent with government policies in countries where human rights are often violated and economic conditions are hard.
Outlet For Dissent
Hizb ut-Tahrir has been most active and reportedly has the largest number of supporters in Uzbekistan � even though it is there the group has suffered the harshest crackdowns. Experts say the Hizb ut-Tahrir's success in Uzbekistan is partly due to the lack of a secular platform in the country for expressing dissent.
But the group has also been more active recently in Kyrgyzstan, where room for political opposition has grown after former President Askar Akaev was ousted from power in March 2005.
Michael Hall, the director of the International Crisis Group's (ICG) Central Asia Project, told RFE/RL about the reasons behind Hizb ut-Tahrir's support in more open societies like Kyrgyzstan. "Political expression," Hall said. "Yes, I think that's certainly part of it. But I think the key really is justice, accountability, and fairness. When people feel they don't have enough of these under the current system, it makes them, I think, susceptible to arguments which suggest that a caliphate would provide this kind of accountability, and justice, and fairness. In Kyrgyzstan, where state institutions are very weak, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future, I think this also plays very nicely into the hands of Hizb ut-Tahrir."
Last week, as Kyrgyzstan celebrated Eid Al-Adha, or the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, authorities detained several people in the southern city of Osh and accused them of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The arrests came as those detained where cooking pilaf, an Uzbek national dish, and attempting to distribute it among the needy and poor, an activity in line with Muslim practice during the holiday.
The detainees denied membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and outraged local people protested against the authorities' actions against what they said were charitable activities.
"The authorities did something that spoiled people's celebratory mood, outraged and insulted them," Rafiq Qori Kamoliddin, a Muslim cleric from Osh, told RFE/RL. "They did it so simply because they don't understand people. It was a serious political mistake. They violated Muslims' rights."
Kamoliddin said this kind of action on the government's part increases sympathy for Hizb ut-Tahrir among ordinary people.
The ICG's Michael Hall said that unless citizens' perceptions of unfair political systems across the region change, support for Hizb ut-Tahrir will continue to grow. He added that governments' lack of political will and resources for solving problems like unemployment among youth only risk making the problem worse.
[See also RFE/RL's four-part series on the resurgence of Islam in Central Asia:
"Central Asia Region Returns To Muslim Roots" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/08/771f522e-17ad-4851-90a7-a237f7e04413.html)
"Central Asian Leaders Try to Control Islam" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/08/9191638c-e8ee-46e0-a598-86fd5092226d.html)
"Radical Islamists Challenge Governments Efforts At Control" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/8/817628E3-81B1-4A55-B95D-C91854A4C4FA.html)
"Madrasahs Lead Religious Teaching Revival" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/8/5F51058A-C684-4110-85F3-5C8C54DC62A6.html)]
HRW HIGHLIGHTS UZBEKISTAN'S
By Gulnoza Saidazimova
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the United States for its response to a "disastrous" year for human rights in Uzbekistan. The year's only bright spot of the year in Central Asia, the New York-based human rights monitor says, was Kyrgyzstan's willingness to accept refugees from the Uzbek government's crackdown in Andijon.
In its annual survey of human rights records around the world, HRW this year highlights Uzbekistan for what it called a "disastrous" human-rights record.
The report, published on 18 January, ranks Uzbekistan as one of the greatest abusers of human rights in 2005 due mainly to its bloody crackdown on 13 May on demonstrators in the city of Andijon.
HRW says many countries -- Uzbekistan included -- used the "war on terror" to attack their political opponents, branding them as "Islamic terrorists."
HRW also has critical words for three of the other four Central Asian states. Turkmenistan is cited as a country where "severe repression continued" in 2005, while Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are judged to have flouted human rights. Other former Soviet republics listed alongside Tajikistan and Kazakhstan include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine.
A Bright Spot
Kyrgyzstan, though, is praised as a bright spot, thanks to the new government's willingness to withstand intense pressure from Uzbekistan to return refugees who fled across the border after the violence in Andijon. Kyrgyzstan rescued -- in HRW's words -- all but four of the 443 refugees from the Andijon violence. They were subsequently given temporary refuge by Romania.
The European Union, which imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan in the aftermath of the Andijon violence, is given a mixed assessment.
Kenneth Roth, HRW's executive director, welcomes Europe's decision to suspend its partnership and cooperation agreement with Uzbekistan after the slaughter in Andijon as "a very important step," but added that this was "also the first time this had ever been done on human rights grounds, which is an exception that, in a sense, proves the rule of general EU inaction when it comes to using these kinds of agreements and their traditional human rights clause as a way of promoting human rights."
HRW is critical of the United States for failing to take a firm stance on the deaths in Andijon. "In the case of Uzbekistan, where there was a horrendous massacre in May, hundreds of people slaughtered in Andijon, the United States sent mixed messages," Roth said. "The State Department did protest the massacre. It did help several hundred refugees who had escaped to Kyrgyzstan move on to freedom in Europe. But even the State Department would not list Uzbekistan as a country of particular concern under the Religious Freedom Act."
HRW also criticized Washington for insisting on continuing its military cooperation with the Uzbek government even after the events in Andijon and for maintaining an airbase in the south of the country until, eventually, it was forced out by Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
"The [U.S.] Defense Department undercut these [Andijon] protests, even the protests issued by the State Department, by refusing to withdraw from the Karshi-Khanabad military base until President Karimov kicked the United States out," says Roth. "And even after that, the Defense Department insisted on paying $23 million in back rent, as if the sanctity of a lease or the sanctity of a contract was more important than the sanctity of life."
No Central Asian government has yet reacted to the report.
The region's independent human-rights activists have supported the assessments contained in the HRW report.
Yevgeny Zhovtis, head of Kazakhstan's International Bureau for Human Rights, endorses HRW's praise for Kyrgyzstan's democratic progress since the ouster of President Askar Akaev last March. But, Zhovtis says, the country remains vulnerable. "Kyrgyzstan's democratic achievements may be lost quickly if no order is established, if the authorities fail to fight with criminal groups and to solve very complex socioeconomic problems," Zhovtis warns.
Uzbekistan En Route For A Turkmen-Style Dictatorship?
In countries other than Kyrgyzstan, the situation with human rights and civil liberties is "worrisome," Zhovtis says. "Recent trends in Uzbekistan, including the Andijon events in 2005, reflect a deeper process that started in the early 1990s, such as a cruel crackdown on dissent, on the political opposition and free media. External factors, such as Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan, undoubtedly also played a role."
"Uzbekistan is rapidly moving toward a Turkmen-type of dictatorship, not necessarily in terms of a personality cult, but in terms of control and of the violation of political and civil rights," Zhovtis said.
Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, echoes HRW's assessment of Turkmenistan as being "among the world's most repressive and dictatorial regimes. During 2005, in terms of human rights, constitutional rights of citizens continued to be violated as in previous years," she says. "Freedom of speech and movement was also violated, as too was, as in the past, the right to education."
Nurmuhammet Hanamov, the exiled leader of the Turkmen opposition Respublika party, agrees. "It's true that Turkmenistan is one of the world's most closed and most repressive countries," he says. "Why? Because someone willing to travel faces a lot of obstacles. Passports are required to travel abroad, and most people cannot get them. But even movement within the country is difficult. To travel from one town to another, one has to go through cordons of soldiers."
Observers say international rights groups like HRW have been cautious in taking a firm, critical stance on Tajikistan since the country is still going through a process of reconciliation following a long civil war, which lasted from 1992 to 1997.
But human-rights activists point out that the Tajik authorities continue to tighten their grip on power. Several opposition members and journalists were jailed in 2005 on what HRW said were spurious charges. The crackdown strengthened after the March revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the violence in Andijon.
(Guvanch Geraev of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service contributed to this report).
[For a complete archive of RFE/RL's coverage of the Andijon events, see "Aftermath Of Andijon" (http://www.rferl.org/specials/uzbek_unrest/).]
CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS FEEL THE PULL OF POETRY
By Bruce Pannier
Central Asia's presidents have been called many things by their critics -- strongmen, despots, enemies of the press, and violators of human rights. But every now and then they unclench their "iron fists," pick up a pen or pencil, and produce poems and books for their countrymen.
Some people lust after power. But for those who already reign supreme, it sometimes seems their lives are still not complete. And so they turn to the arts and write poems, books, and even multivolume tomes for their countrymen to read.
Such are the men leading the countries of Central Asia.
Some Central Asian specialists speculate that the penchant of today's leaders for producing books, poetry and songs is due to their desire to be seen as wise and cultured guides for their nations.
Their work can pop up in unexpected places. For example, when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was sworn in for another term on 11 January, the national anthem was played with some new words added.
The author of the new text: the president himself.
In fact, the song is some 50 years old and was written by Shamshi Kaldayakov. And Nazarbaev -- the new coauthor of the lyrics -- is modest about the achievement. He admits he only made some amendments to the text to make the anthem "more contemporary."
But Nazarbaev is not so retiring when it comes to writing books. He is the author of six books, ranging in titles from "In The Heart Of Eurasia" (parts 1 and 2), an essay -- one of many -- titled "My Homeland And My Support." All present his personal vision of Kazakhstan as a flourishing, modern, secular state.
The Kazakh government printing office pays special attention to his work. The official website, akorda.kz, lists the "creations of the president" as a special category.
'You Did Not Look My Way'
In Tajikistan, as any citizen can tell you, President Imomali Rakhmonov, is a singer.
"As I was sitting on the corner of the roof of your house you did not call me/I was thirsty to see your face, wanted so much to see your face/But you did not look my way."
The Tajik people could also tell you that Rakhmonov, a former salesman and the head of a state farm in communist times, has authored four volumes on Tajik history.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov is also a writer. Karimov has 12 tomes (some comprising as many as six volumes) to his credit, plus essays. Karimov is an economist by training and so most of his works deal with economics. But he also has written books such as "Uzbekistan On The Threshold Of The 21st Century" that present the Uzbek president's vision of his country's future.
And there are still more examples of poet presidents to consider -- past as well as present.
'Enemies Are All Around Us'
Askar Akaev is no longer the president of Kyrgyzstan, having been chased from office in March last year. But he, too, was a prolific writer.
Unlike his fellow Central Asian leaders, Akaev was a physicist by training and had already authored a number of scholarly works before he became president. However, books like "Economics Through The Eyes Of A Physicist" and those devoted to ancient Kyrgyz history seemed to some of his critics to test the limits of even a scientist's training.
So far, Akaev's successor, Kurmanbek Bakiev, has not authored any works in the short time he has been Kyrgyzstan's president.
But without a doubt, the most published author among Central Asia's leaders is Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov turns at times to poetry, as can be seen in this work "The Three Dangers." He is believed to have written it three years ago:
"I beseech [you] be careful/Be vigilant/When a state thrives happiness comes directly/And your throne is like the throne of Suleiman/But be careful/Enemies are all around us"
But Niyazov's true interest appears to be compiling his "Rukhnama," which so far has reached two full volumes in length. The effort seems to have begun in the late 1990s when Niyazov appealed to the people of his country to write to him and give their ideas about the virtues of the Turkmen people.
The first volume appeared on 19 September 2001. The date has since been declared a national public holiday to commemorate the event.
Today, the first and second volumes of "Rukhnama" are required reading for all Turkmen citizens. Even school children learn to recite verses from the work and it would be impossible to find a position in the government without extensive knowledge of its contents. Reports have surfaced that even traffic police demand a quotation from "Rukhnama" when they stop violators. Those who cannot recite a verse or two are fined.
There are more than a few observers who question whether the Central Asian presidents actually authored all their works. Nonetheless, their names grace an ever increasing number of works. And those works -- at least in their own countries -- must be taken seriously by the population.
Analysts say that as the Central Asia's heads of state engage in the arts, they are creating a new tradition for leaders in the region. Traditionally, Central Asian leaders have not felt compelled to engage in artistic pursuits though many, like the 10th century leader Mahmud of Ghazna, did support poets and writers. In Mahmud's case it was the famous writer Firdawsi.
Instead, today's Central Asian leaders may owe their need to write to the leaders of the Soviet Union. Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, of course, produced many works, and so did Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and others.
Some Central Asian specialists speculate that the penchant of today's leaders for producing books, poetry and songs is due to their desire to be seen as wise and cultured guides for their nations. These feelings may be stronger for today's leaders than for previous emirs and khans because the Central Asian strongmen of centuries past could claim to be authorities in religious affairs -- something today's presidents, all former Soviet communist leaders, cannot do.
(RFE/RL's Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek services contributed to this report.)
RUSSIARELATIVES, LAWYERS CONCERNED ABOUT KABARDINO-BALKARIA DETAINEES
By Jean-Christophe Peuch
Russian officials say more than 60 people have been arrested on suspicion of participating, directly or not, in the 13 October deadly militant raids on Nalchik, the capital of the southern republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. Human rights groups, in turn, claim the number of detainees is higher and that most of them have nothing to do with the unrest.
Among those who were apprehended in the aftermath of the attacks is former Guantanamo Bay inmate Rasul Kudayev, who recently disappeared from his Nalchik prison cell. Another man, civic campaigner Ruslan Nakhushev, has been missing since early November. Relatives, colleagues, and lawyers are demanding that regional and federal authorities shed light on both men's fate.
Nakhushev is the regional coordinator of the Russian Islamic Heritage (RIN), a Moscow-based civic movement that works toward promoting dialogue between religious communities.
He is also the head of the Institute of Islamic Studies, a Nalchik-based nongovernmental organization that has been striving to mediate between regional officials and young Muslim dissidents who do not recognize the authority of the government-controlled Spiritual Board of Muslims.
Nakhushev went missing on 4 November 2005, three weeks after the deadly Nalchik raids. Colleagues and relatives say he disappeared after meeting with investigators at the regional headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB.
Why Nakhushev -- himself a retired KGB officer -- was summoned to the FSB remains unclear. One thing is sure, though -- he disappeared without a trace.
RIN deputy regional coordinator Susanna Varitlova tells RFE/RL that friends and relatives have repeatedly called upon Kabardino-Balkaria's President Arsen Kanokov and other officials to provide information on Nakhushev's whereabouts, but to no avail.
"We know nothing about him," Varitlova said. "We don't know where he is. We know absolutely nothing. It is as when someone drowns."
Days after Nakhushev was reported missing, the regional prosecutor's office charged him with links to the Nalchik raids and issued a search warrant against him. At the same time, Prosecutor Yury Ketov ordered that an investigation into his disappearance be launched. The probes are being conducted by the regional FSB and the Nalchik prosecutor's office, respectively.
Some officials have told relatives and friends that they believe the civic campaigner is hiding outside Kabardino-Balkaria, possibly in Moscow, or Kazakhstan. But for Anuar Dikinov, who was hired as a lawyer by Nakhushev's family, these claims are baseless.
"This is rubbish. This is wrong. Those are just speculations that have nothing to do with reality. I wrote to the [Russian] Prosecutor-General's Office to demand that they reverse [Ketov's] illegal order to open a criminal investigation against Nakhushev," Dikinov said. "Yesterday [16 January], I lodged a complaint with the Nalchik city court to that same effect. I can't even get a copy of Ketov's order. I asked the prosecuting judge and the [regional] prosecutor's office for a copy. They both refused, although I have the right to obtain a copy as a lawyer [for Nakhushev's family]."
Fearing The Worst
Many in Nalchik fear Nakhushev may have been killed.
Aleksandra Zernova is a London-based lawyer who is helping Kudayev and other former Guantanamo Bay detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and returned to Russia for lack of evidence. She is helping them prepare a lawsuit against the U.S. administration. For some people, she says, Nakhushev's death is not just mere speculation.
"All the information I have is based on what people I am in touch with in Kabardino-Balkaria. They tell me unbelievable stories of people who sit in their car and who are found later in the forest with a bullet in them. Nakhushev is not the only one who has disappeared," Zernova said. "One person I know [in Nalchik] was told -- not officially, of course -- where Nakhushev was taken and how his body was disposed of. [Local] reporters have been unofficially warned that should they investigate Nakhushev's disappearance, they would meet a similar fate and that their bodies would be dissolved in acid."
Zernova's client Kudayev was arrested nearly two weeks after the 13 October raids and sent to a pretrial detention facility in Nalchik.
Kudayev is officially charged with participation in the unrest. Relatives claim the young man -- who, they say, because of a physical disability is not very mobile -- could not have possibly taken part in the attack.
But regional prosecutor Ketov told a 9 December press briefing he has no doubt that Kudayev is guilty: "Without going beyond what is authorized [by law] and without divulging any secret information, I can state that investigators have concrete facts showing that he was involved -- actively involved -- in the processes that took place [in Nalchik]."
On 2 December, Kudayev's relatives had released pictures they said showed the inmate was being tortured in custody. Authorities have denied the accusations.
Zernova says her client suddenly disappeared last month. On 16 January, a prison employee unofficially told her Kudayev had been transferred to a FSB detention facility in Pyatigorsk, a city in Russia's nearby Stavropol Krai.
"This woman [prison employee] told me, under condition of anonymity, that Kudayev had been sent there by order of [Aleksei] Sovrulin, the head of the investigating team. I called Sovrulin, but he told me he was not authorized to talk to me and comment on that topic," Zernova said.
On 19 January, officials at the prison in Pyatigorsk refused to speak to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. Calls to the Kabardino-Balkaria Interior Ministry remained similarly unanswered.
Kudayev's mother, Fatima Tekayeva, on 19 January went to Pyatigorsk in an attempt to obtain information about her son.
"I went to Pyatigorsk today to inquire about my son Rasul," she told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service upon her return to Nalchik. "I want to know where he is. But no one expressed willingness to talk to me. Other people there told me authorities are trying to isolate him. For what reasons, I can't say. No one wants to talk to me about [Rasul]. The only answer I got is: 'We're not authorized to talk to you.' That's it, short and clear."
Zernova tells RFE/RL she vainly tried to obtain confirmation from Kanokov's office and government structures. She also says Kudayev disappeared shortly after meeting with Kanokov.
"Arsen Bashirovich [Kanokov] visited him [in prison] on 14 December. Also present was [Dmitry] Kozak, the Russian presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District," Zernova says. "[Rasul] told them he was innocent, that he and his prison-mates had been tortured and that he was still being tortured. They listened to him and pledged to look into his case. After that he disappeared. He told his mother about this meeting in a letter. In it, he also says he was the only one to complain [to Kanokov and Kozak] and that the other detainees were afraid. He says he was the only one to complain and tell [them] all the truth."
Tekayeva says prison officials a few weeks ago stopped taking delivery of the drugs her son needs for medical treatment. She also says she fears for her son's life.
Meanwhile, Kabardino-Balkaria's Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court's decision to bar three Nalchik lawyers from representing detainees arrested in the wake of the October raids. In November, the Nalchik municipal court sidelined Irina Komissarova, Inna Golitsyna, and Larisa Dorogova after they complained their clients were being tortured in custody.
The three lawyers have said that they will appeal last week's ruling before the European Court of Human Rights.
(RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service correspondent Aminat Kardanova contributed to this report)