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IRIN Asia | Asia | KYRGYZSTAN-UZBEKISTAN | KYRGYZSTAN-UZBEKISTAN: Focus on the impact of the Kyrgyz revolution in the Ferghana Valley | Democracy, Economy, Food Security, Human Rights, Peace Security | Focus
Tuesday 15 November 2005
 
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KYRGYZSTAN-UZBEKISTAN: Focus on the impact of the Kyrgyz revolution in the Ferghana Valley


[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



©  IRIN

Local people in the Uzbek part of the Ferghana Valley are concerned that recent events in Kyrgyzstan have led to higher prices, a tougher border regime and a clampdown on rights and opposition activists

FERGHANA, 14 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Recent protests that toppled the regime of former Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev on 24 March are echoing in neighbouring Uzbekistan, particularly in the densely populated and volatile Ferghana Valley region, shared by Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

RIGHTS GROUPS AND OPPOSITION INSPIRED

Mamurjan Aminov, head of the Ferghana department of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), a local independent rights group, said events next door had certainly been inspiring. "The Kyrgyz people demanded fair elections. We have to learn a lesson from that. The people here should also fight for their future."

Uzbekistan is one of the most authoritarian regimes in the region, where press freedom, opposition groups and criticism of the regime are barely tolerated. Sporadic expressions of dissent on the Uzbek side of the Ferghana Valley since 24 March had been quashed by the authorities, the activist maintained.

Mutabar Tajibaev, head of Uturaklar - a Ferghana-based rights group, told IRIN that planned protests had been banned. "We were going to hold a protest demonstration in the Rishtan district bordering Kyrgyzstan in order to support the Kyrgyz opposition and demand the resignation of the Uzbek president, [Islam Karimov], however the authorities did not allow us to do so," Tajibaev said.

"I visited Osh [where Kyrgyz protests began] and I can see that we can do the same here [in Uzbekistan], there is no difference between them [Kyrgyz] and us. Oh yes, there is a difference, our situation is worse," Abdukadyr Sattorov, head of the Mezon NGO, a local pro-democracy group, in Kokand city, said.

Local Uzbek opposition groups in the Ferghana Valley welcomed the change of regime in Bishkek. "We were not indifferent to the events that happened in Kyrgyzstan. I believe the experience of our Kyrgyz brothers should be applied here in Uzbekistan," Tukhtasyn Alijanov, a local leader of the non-registered opposition Erk party in Ferghana, told IRIN.

TIGHTENING OF BORDERS

But on a practical level, one of the most pressing issues for the local population in the Ferghana Valley area is restricted cross-border movement. This followed an Uzbek clampdown on border traffic ordered by a nervous Tashkent as Kyrgyzstan fell apart. It is now more complicated for local residents living in the border areas to visit their relatives living on the other side of the frontier, local people complained.

Gulbakhor Ermatova, a resident of the eastern Uzbek city of Ferghana, told IRIN that she had to cross the border illegally in order to visit her relatives in Kyrgyzstan. "Having heard about the uneasy situation in Osh and Jalal-Abad [the southern Kyrgyz cities where the protest movement was born], we began worrying about our relatives. My 17-year-old daughter and I illegally crossed the border. Walking along minor roads, we finally got to our relatives, who live in Osh, but it took a whole day instead of an hour [to make the journey]," Gulbakhor said.

Ravshan Khakimov, a resident of Shakhimardan village in the eastern Ferghana district, was also upset that travel in the region - already complicated by a myriad of international borders and enclaves - had become even more difficult. "Border control in the areas bordering Kyrgyzstan has been tightened on the territories of Ferghana, Rishtan district and Kuvasai town. But when we need to, we go to Kyrgyzstan via illegal paths and tracks, it takes longer and we have to risk our lives," he told IRIN.

Jumpy border guards have arrested, and in some cases shot, travellers crossing what are now international frontiers but used to be simply administrative borders during Soviet times. Being forced to cross the borders using illegal routes is very dangerous, local people say, as it often leaves them at the mercy of inexperienced, nervous, young border guards.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The change of regime in Kyrgyzstan has led to an increase in prices in local markets in the three provinces of Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan, forming the Uzbek part of the Ferghana Valley.

Many Uzbek traders used go to the southern Kyrgyz border town of Kara-Suu, which has one of the largest wholesale markets in Central Asia, to buy cheap Chinese-made goods in order to resell them at home.

Uzbekistan is one of the few double-land-locked countries in the world. For many traders in the area it is easier and cheaper to bring their goods in from neighbouring Kyrgyz markets, which are closer than those in the capital Tashkent - more than five hours’ drive via a mountain pass.

Munosib Kattabekova, a local trader, told IRIN that it was now very difficult to cross the border. "Many traders have to get to the market in [the southern Kyrgyz town of] Kara-Suu using illegitimate roads. In Kara-Suu itself it is not as crowded as it used to be. After the events in Osh and Jalal-Abad, shipment of goods from China have stopped. That's why prices increased in our markets," she explained.

Basic commodities are also growing more expensive, which could have an impact on food security in this impoverished part of Central Asia. "Now everything has become more expensive here. I do not know how long this will go on, soon I will not be able to feed my family," complained Gulchekhra Khusanbekova, a resident of the eastern town of Margilan.

Muyassar Yusupova from Andijan city, also expressed concern at rising prices triggered by events in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. "Now prices on the markets have doubled, traders sell the goods they had bought in Kyrgyzstan before the events. Common people are compelled to save on food products in order to buy clothes and footwear," she said.

PREVENTING THE REVOLUTION FROM SPREADING

Bakhrom Mazokirov, head of the Besharyk district police in Ferghana province, told IRIN that the situation in Kyrgyzstan could have a negative impact on Uzbekistan and therefore the authorities were maintaining tighter control of the border. "There is much in common between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. That is why all law enforcement bodies have taken all necessary measures in order to prevent an invasion of terrorist groups onto the territory of Uzbekistan," Mazokirov said.

Other officials at the Ferghana provincial police department said that the situation remained complicated and the police needed to be on the alert. "We are beefing up the border to prevent penetration of any alien ideas into the territory of Uzbekistan. The current situation is rather fragile," Sharofiddin Khudoyarov, head of the crime prevention department, told IRIN.

As for controls on the Kyrgyz side of the border, officials in southern Kyrgyzstan said that security, customs and immigration remained more or less similar to what they had been before the change of regime in Bishkek on 24 March. "Border control in the area is back to normal and border guards allow any Uzbek citizens into Kyrgyzstan without problems, though they carry out some precautionary checks," a local official, who did not want to be identified, told IRIN.

But other opposition activists said they were not put off by police attempts to prevent the Kyrgyz revolution taking hold in Uzbekistan.

"We should explain to people that we are not afraid, that our case is right and that our efforts are for the successful future of Uzbekistan. Only then we will be able to lead the people, like the Kyrgyz opposition did," Adkham Mukhiddinov, an activist from the non-registered opposition party, Birlik, told IRIN from the eastern city of Kokand.

[ENDS]


 Theme(s) Democracy
Other recent KYRGYZSTAN-UZBEKISTAN reports:

Court overturns denial of refugee status to Uzbeks,  18/Aug/05

Third country resettlement of Andijan 15 progresses,  10/Aug/05

Focus on Andijan asylum seekers,  5/Jul/05

UNHCR official urges Bishkek to honour refugee commitments,  27/Jun/05

More Uzbek asylum seekers may be deported,  23/Jun/05

Other recent Democracy & Governance reports:

ETHIOPIA: More protesters released from jail, 15/Nov/05

SUDAN: Political developments raise concern, analysts say, 15/Nov/05

AFGHANISTAN: Election results finalised, 14/Nov/05

EGYPT: European Parliament reports violations in parliamentary race, 14/Nov/05

UGANDA: Key opposition leader arrrested, 14/Nov/05

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