US-Backed Dictator Drowns Uprising In Blood
By Bill Van Auken
15 May 2005
hospitals reported that dozens of people were shot to death and scores
more wounded by Uzbekistan government forces in the eastern city of
Andijan Friday after protesters stormed government offices and a jail,
freeing thousands of prisoners.
According to reports
from the city, military units opened fire on a demonstration of several
thousand men, women and children in the citys central square.
The protesters had gathered chanting for justice and freedom
The uprising was
sparked by the jailing of 23 local men, many of them prominent business
owners, who were accused by the government of Islamic extremism. Underlying
the confrontation, however, was longstanding popular anger over mass
unemployment, poverty and the brutal methods of the autocratic regime
of President Islam Karimov, a key ally of the Bush administration in
the so-called global war on terrorism.
The country of 26
million people is the largest of the former Soviet republics in Central
The Karimov regime
branded the protesters as bandits, criminals
and extremists and refused any negotiations. The government-owned
media broadcast false reports that rebels were using women
and children as human shields, even as Uzbek soldiers were
gunning down women and children in the streets.
To prevent any independent
reporting of the repression, the Uzbek government blocked international
television signals from CNN, BBC and Russian networks.
The unrest began
Wednesday with peaceful protests outside the courtroom where the 23
men were being placed on trial. But then on Friday morning, a crowd
took over a local military camp, stealing dozens of weapons and marching
on the prison where the defendants were held.
The mostly youthful
demonstrators participating in the action denied that they had any connection
to the countrys Islamic fundamentalist movement.
They say they
are not Islamic extremists. They are just ordinary people who are tired
of unemployment, who are tired of injustice, and they just want better
living conditions, Galima Bukharbaeva, the country director in
Uzbekistan for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told CNN.
The Bush White House
issued a hypocritical statement urging restraint by both
the massacred demonstrators and their government killers.
of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government.
But that should come through peaceful means not through violence, and
thats what our message is, White House spokesman Scott McClellan
said. We have had concerns about human rights in Uzbekistan, but
we are concerned about the outbreak of violence, particularly by some
members of a terrorist organization that were freed from prison.
Karimov, a former
secretary of the Communist Party, has close relations with Washington.
He has banned opposition parties for more than a decade, carries out
strict press censorship and is holding an estimated 6,000 political
prisoners. His regime is infamous for its use of the most brutal means
The former British
ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray testified that he had seen photographic
evidence that interrogations include the use of drowning, suffocation,
rape and even boiling the victims to death.
In a confidential
memo to the British Foreign Office that was leaked to the Financial
Times last year, Murray wrote: Uzbek officials are torturing prisoners
to extract information [about reported terrorist operations], which
is supplied to the US and passed through its Central Intelligence Agency
to the UK.
While the US State
Department has issued formal reports criticizing the regime for human
rights violations, the Bush administration has authorized the CIA and
the military to render those it has detained in the war
on terrorism to Uzbekistan, precisely because the regime practices
receives hundred of million of dollars annually in aid from the US in
return for providing the Pentagon with a key military base at Qarshi
Hanabad, where approximately 1,500 US personnel are stationed. The base
serves as a major supply facility for the continuing war in neighboring
Afghanistan as well as a platform for projecting US military power in
the rest of Central Asia.
The Uzbek dictator
has been able to draw on Washingtons support, claiming that his
brutal methods against his own people are part of the worldwide struggle
There were reports
that Karimov flew from the capital of Tashkent to personally direct
the repression in Andijan.