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IRIN Asia | Asia | UZBEKISTAN | UZBEKISTAN: Fear grips Andijan three months after killings | Democracy, Human Rights, Peace Security, Refugees IDPs | Breaking News
Tuesday 1 November 2005
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UZBEKISTAN: Fear grips Andijan three months after killings

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


Locals in Andijan eye strangers suspiciously, careless talk about the May killings can lead to arrest and torture, they say

ANDIJAN, 18 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Three months after a violent government crack down on protests in the southeastern Uzbek city of Andijan, there is a palpable sense of fear on and off the streets, despite less soldiers seen in public and shops and office open as usual. People who witnessed the killing of up to 1,000 mainly unarmed civilians on 13 May in and around the city say they are burning inside but giving up hope of obtaining justice for the dead and injured.

Most of the hundreds of witnesses to the killings that followed a protest against the trial of local businessmen, live in constant fear of arrest and interrogation. The regional offices of the Department of Internal Affairs, National Security Service (NSS) and Public Prosecutor continue to "interview" residents.

"I was called to the NSS because my classmate was one of the Akromiya followers and lived in the neighbourhood with me in the Bogishamol area," a local resident who did not want to be identified said. Andijan protests were sparked by a trial of 23 local entrepreneurs convicted by the Uzbek authorities of allegedly being members of the banned Akromiya religious group.

"I have been under interrogation for several weeks and was forced to sign a false statement because when I refused to do so, intelligence service officers said that they would bring my wife in and rape her in front of my eyes. I had no other way out," the resident maintained.

Despite an international outcry at the violence, that has been likened to the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, where 3,000 students were mown down by troops in June 1989, Tashkent has adamantly refused to allow or participate in any international independent inquiry into the episode.

Uzbek prosecutor said on 11 July that the Andijan death toll had risen to 187, and that half of those killed were armed militants. Bakhodyr Dehkanov, prosecutor for the Andijan region, told foreign diplomats invited to monitor the government's probe into the incident that "terrorists" who were in the crowd of demonstrators used hostages as human shields to fire weapons at police and civilians.

For those who have chosen to talk about the deadly events in Andijan, even with other residents of the city, the consequences can be dire.

In Soviet-era KGB style, Kanoat, a resident of Andijan, said that a local woman in her 50s had been detained by law-enforcement bodies for discussing the killings while using public transport.

"I was in a city minibus taxi, when one woman began talking how soldiers shot at unarmed people and her friends were killed. She spoke for about five minutes when suddenly a young man in civilian clothes on the bus stopped it, showed his identification and forced the woman to get off. He said that he would find out who shot whom and took the frightened woman with him," Kanoat said.

Many people are still afraid to search for their relatives who went missing after the killings, fearful they may be accused of taking part in the demonstration.

The security forces reportedly randomly arrested many local people, primarily men between 17 and 45. "Many of them have become cripples after being tortured. There are people who even died because of torture," claimed a 40-year-old local man on condition of anonymity.

A report by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, released in 2003 noted that torture was systematically practiced by Uzbekistan's law-enforcement bodies in prisons and detention facilities.

Today, there are almost no independent journalists, human rights or opposition activists left in Andijan. Many activists had been arrested, while some had to flee the country. Among those held in detention are Mukhiddinov Dilmurod, head of Andijan's Marhamat district branch of the 'Ezgulik' rights group. His deputy, Musajan Babajanov, along with Nurmuhammad Azizov and Akbar Oripov, activists from the Andijan branch of the unregistered Birlik opposition party, were also in custody.

Kuchkor Sotivoldiev, a local law specialists, said that all arrested activists were currently being held in the cellars of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), where they were interrogated by the NSS and police. Access to the men by lawyers or family has been denied.

Meanwhile, Vasila Inoyatova, head of Ezgulik, said the clampdown in and around Andijan was being felt across Uzbekistan. "Regional Ezgulik activists, including the Jizak, Andijan, Navoi, Kashkadarya, Ferghana and Tashkent city branches, are suffering persecution after the Andijan tragedy. Uzbek law-enforcement bodies threaten the above-mentioned regional branches and have warned them not to interfere in the work of the security forces," she said.


 Theme(s) Democracy
Other recent UZBEKISTAN reports:

UN rights experts question Andijan trial,  27/Oct/05

Arrest of moderate opposition leader politically motivated - rights groups,  25/Oct/05

Media development NGO folds,  13/Oct/05

Residents mute five months after mass killings,  13/Oct/05

Rights activists welcome EU sanctions,  4/Oct/05

Other recent Democracy & Governance reports:

SOMALIA: UN envoy commends Somaliland's stability, 1/Nov/05

ETHIOPIA: Opposition party calls for consumer boycott, 1/Nov/05

TANZANIA: Zanzibar polls end amid claims of irregularities, intimidation, 31/Oct/05

KENYA: Four killed in clashes at referendum campaign, 31/Oct/05

GUINEA: Opposition throws hat into ring for local elections, 31/Oct/05

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