dust may be settling in Andijan after the recent uprising against
Uzbekistan's brutal, corrupt dictatorship, but the implications of this
heroic and tragic episode will haunt the regime until it falls. The
blocking of all foreign TV news and internet news sites for already more
than a week will not stop the word of the hundreds of deaths of innocents,
the firing on peaceful demonstrators from a helicopter, the truck full of
trigger-happy soldiers which ploughed into the crowd not once but three
times, the murdering of people who could no longer tolerate the vileness
of their government and who had no other option, from getting out.
Possibly 600 Muslims were killed, murdered by their secular
US puppet dictator, who stashes his gold in the Bank of England, whose
daughter was caught with a plane full of gold in Moscow, our man who
approves of boiling people alive. The writing is on the wall, Mr. Karimov.
The uprising was sparked by the imprisonment and show trials of 23 local
businessmen accused of adhering to a nonexistent “terrorist” Islamic
movement, Akramiya, but who were simply putting into practice the social
justice inherent in Islam -- giving to the poor, living modestly, praying,
etc. A math teacher, Akramjon Yuldashev, the eponymous inspiration of the
nonexistent terrorist group (his friends call themselves Birodar
[Brotherhood]), was imprisoned seven years ago for doing this and writing
a 1992 pamphlet, Yimonga Yul (Path of Faith), which is not
political, but moral, arguing for Islamic practices of charity and
brotherhood. Yuldashev's brochure contains no call to seize power
violently; a Russian translation by the Andijan-based human rights
activist Saidjakhon Zaynabiddinov was posted
on 25 August 2004. While they are accused of being a terrorist cell, their
real crime is acting outside of President Karimov's authority and showing
people that there is an alternative to the cutthroat robber baron
“capitalism” of post-Soviet Uzbekistan. Local rivals resented their
success and authorities decided to confiscate their businesses and
property for themselves.
Yuldashev has found a way to provide human dignity to the local population
through his homegrown application of Islamic principles of sharing,
charity and the embedding of moral principles in all aspects of life,
including economic (and, one can only hope, political). This requires no
foreign consultants earning $100,000 tax-free salaries, no NGOs pushing
neoclassical economic textbooks and managing skills courses, no foreign
loans or control of the economy, no importing of crass, commercial,
violent, erotic western culture. It promotes trust and collective well
being, reducing the need for cutthroat competition, mass unemployment,
mass corruption, a huge bureaucracy taking bribes and taxes at every turn,
not to mention the swarms of underpaid, crude and cocky militia always on
the lookout for baksheesh.
Like Chavez's Bolivarism, or Castro's socialism, where charismatic leaders
have adopted socialism to their own countries, Yuldashev’s modest adoption
of Islamic economics could point the way to a truly “independent” path for
Uzbekistan, unlike the so-called independent path which Karimov
claims the Uzbek people “chose” since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This path has been a wreck -- impoverishing 80% of the people, creating a
vicious westernized elite that acts completely without morals or concern
for the people:
* there are no longer any quality controls on food or products;
* even health care is being privatized under the guiding hand of the US;
* contracts or the license to open a business are obtained only through
bribes to high officials;
* willful action like the cutting of trees (the country is 90% desert),
seizing of public territory, entrapment and blackmailing are everyday
* Uzbekistan stands at 114 out of 144 in a popular western index of
corruption. Everything is solved through bribery and blackmail.
Fighting the beast
I am convinced this morally based self-help system could help
peacefully dispose of Karimov’s system -- the sclerotic remnants of
the Soviet past, which in retrospect actually looks pretty good, but was
devoid of spirituality and succumbed to fantasies of western
commercialism. Karimov’s Uzbekistan is living off exports of gold and
cotton and handouts from the US and Europe. Karimov is not stupid and no
doubt realizes he could easily become yesterday's puppet dictator, and
counts on terrorizing the population more and more until. . . . that’s the
strange thing about these cruel dictators -- they don’t look to the
endgame. Like Stalin, Hitler or Franco, they think they are immortal, and
they just can’t bring themselves to prepare a successor or concentrate on
leaving a positive legacy. But this latest massacre and the lies that
Karimov is propagating to try and cover it up (“no women and children were
killed; all those killed had rifles in their hands”) will not be
forgotten. K has gone too far and there is finally a resolve in the air to
get rid of him.
One “weapon” is to propagate the ideas of Yuldashev (is he even alive?)
and continue to press for the lifting of the persecution of ordinary
Muslims. Karimov is a cynical secularist, calling the religious prisoners
“addled by the narcotic of religion,” a blasphemous thing to say to his
Another deadly weapon -- humor -- has been used: last year, some brave
prankster managed to erect a huge billboard showing Karimov with women’s
breasts and his two daughters sucking at his teats. It came down by dawn,
but the word spread like wildfire and provided a wonderful moment of
catharsis to all. His daughters’ high life style and arbitrary seizing of
prosperous businesses have become notorious.
There are also efforts being made on the “militant Islamic” front. It
seems, Mr. Karimov, your latest courageous and brilliant show of love for
your people inspired some of them to issue a fatwah calling for your death
(I’ll bet it’s not the first such). But all the rerouting of traffic and
tearing down of buildings to
and the additional arrests of thousands of citizens who loathe you
wouldn't help in the end. It just increases the hatred of the people and
steels their resolve to support all means to rid Uzbekistan of its misery.
How ironic this all is. By jumping on this meek math teacher's initiative
to try to improve his community's welfare and making him a martyr, and
then going after his friends too, and finally by ordering a massacre that
belongs right up there with Katyn just days after celebrating the 60th
anniversary of victory over fascism, Karimov has unwittingly elevated
Yuldashev and his social program The Path of Faith to iconic
status. At this very minute, someone is reading or passing on his ideas
and vowing to eradicate the foul legacy of Karimov. The scale of the
tragedy demands that we read and study Yuldashev’s ideas, both to judge
for ourselves as free people and to honor the hundreds of people murdered
while trying to defend him.
But this tragedy is much more than this: it is also a call to Uzbek’s
Muslims to honor their religion and embrace the social justice of Islam.
In the face of devastating poverty and abandoned by the US and Russia, its
supposed “friends”, there is nowhere else to turn. But it is not such a
bad place to find strength.
Could it be that you've unwittingly put us on the road to genuine
democracy with this tragedy, Mr. Karimov? But one that is steeped in the
principles of Islam? Bismillahi rahmani rahim.
is a North American freelance journalist living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Other Articles by Simon
Central Asia: Freedom's Shining Hour?
Uzbekistan's Terrorism: Who to Blame?
The Protocols: a Neocon Manifesto
Who's Whose Proxy? Or K - Last of the
Just What Does Kissinger Think of the
Tashkent Through Gold-Tinted Lenses
We are All Jews Now