the Disillusioned kid: Bye Bye Karimov?
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Monday, March 28, 2005

Bye Bye Karimov?

The uprising against and succesful overthrow of the Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev is a further demonstration of the potential of people power. That message hasn't been lost on opposition groups in neighbouring Uzbekistan, nor apparently on the ruling kleptocracy of Islam Karimov.

On Friday, the Erk (Freedom) and Ozod Dehqonlar (Free Peasants) Parties held a joint meeting with local human right groups at which they welcomed Askayev's ousting. In a joint statement they asserted, "We are sure that the process of democratic reforms that started in Kyrgyzstan will highly influence all parts of Central Asia." Nigora Khidoyatova, a leader of the Ozod Dehqonlar Party told an interviewer, "The Kyrgyz example has shown everyone how easily and quickly it can be done."

I haven't yet been able to find any articles on Karimov's response to events in Kyrgyzstan. IRIN News report that Uzbekistan's foreign ministry appealed to both sides to resolve the conflict in "a peaceful way, without any outside interference". Uzbek media is heavily censored and said nothing about events in its neighbour until the foreign ministry statement on Tuesday. This censorship was apparently so effective that even Uzbeks living near the border were unaware of the turmoil in cities only a few miles away, although the Uzbek government has tightened the country's borders and is apparently particulaly concerned about the densly populated city of Andijan which lies near the border and has been the site of protests by female traders angry about new rules restricting their trade.

It is highly unlikely that Karimov is particulalry keen on developments in Kyrgyzstan. He was vocally dismissive of the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine which swept the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from power. He warned dissidents in Uzbekistan and those abroad who might seek to support them "that everything should be on the basis of law and we will rein in those who move outside the framework of law," noting further, "We have the necessary force for that." At this juncture you'll excuse my laziness as I quote my comments from the time: "In case anybody hasn't been paying attention, necessary force goes quite a bit further than a slap across the wrist as Samandar Umarov discovered to his cost."

His brutal, kleptocratic regime is deeply unpopular throughout Uzbekistan and he knows it. We can only hope that his time is almost at an end. Nobody's going to miss him.

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