Exactly a year ago, on May 13, government troops of Uzbekistan with heavy indiscriminate fire shot hundreds of Andijan residents who had left for Bobur Square. The prehistory of this massacre is known: in June 2004, 23 local businessmen were arrested in Andijan, accused of “religious extremism” in connection with their alleged participation in the underground Islamic group Akromiya.
There is still no definite concept of this organization, the name of which appeared on behalf of Akrom Yuldashev. It is this person who is called the founder of the Akromia movement, allegedly founded in 1994. The main goal of this organization is to get rid of the old ideological ideals and create a new progressive program for reforming the country's economy. These ideas of reform were set forth in Yuldashev’s book, The Path of Truth, for which in February 1999, after a series of explosions in Tashkent, he was charged with terrorism for 17 years, and Akromia was recognized as an extremist religious organization. Local human rights advocates question the very existence of such an organization, believing that it was invented in the depths of the Uzbek special services. Against the background of the growing mistrust of power, it was necessary to create another enemy in order to show that certain extremist forces were hindering the prosperity of the nation. No one saw the statute or other documents confirming the existence of this organization. In some trials, the detainees spoke about the structure of the organization and admitted to participating in a conspiracy against the state, but the Uzbek law enforcement system is well known for using illegal methods of inquiry, so the testimony of the defendants is dubious and not very similar to the truth.
The facts say the following: On February 10, 2005, the trial of another 23 “akromists” began. According to some observers, the criminal case was a reaction of the authorities to the growing prestige of entrepreneurs among the local population, since they provided their employees with relatively high salaries and social benefits. The defendants were accused of crimes under several criminal articles, including the “organization of the criminal community” and “opposition to the authorities”. As the legal process developed, supporters of entrepreneurs began to organize protests. The situation heated up and, according to eyewitnesses, already on May 10, 700 to a thousand people gathered near the Altynkulk District Court on May 10.
After the pronouncement of the sentence scheduled for that day did not take place on May 12, the relatives and supporters of the arrested entrepreneurs turned to decisive action. At about midnight on the night of May 13, from 50 to 100 people captured the battalion of the patrol and inspection service, a military unit, broke into the prison where the defendants were located, and freed them and hundreds more prisoners. Then the armed men proceeded to the center, where they seized the building of the regional hokimiyat (administration), which became the main stronghold of the rebels.
In the morning of May 13, the armed attackers called on people to come to the hokimiyat. The crowd was replenished with simple curious residents of Andijan and those who wanted to declare their discontent with the stagnation in the economy and the growth of state repression. As a result, several thousand unarmed people gathered on Babur Square. Towards evening, the square was blocked by troops, who, without warning, began firing to kill.
At the trial of the 15 main defendants in the Andijan rebellion, which, according to the plan of the authorities, the defendants would be revealing and the witnesses told the exact opposite. All defendants pleaded guilty; lawyers, although they were admitted to the process, did not show activity in defending the interests of the defendants. Participants in that process were echoed by the public prosecutor, who placed the entire responsibility on the terrorists. According to these “eyewitnesses,” no one saw the military shooting, on the contrary, it was armed “militant acromists” who took civilians as hostages and, having covered with a human shield, organized a firefight with soldiers, who in turn provided the “green corridor” to the outgoing militants. As a result, according to official estimates, 187 people died. The real death toll is not known. It is only known that many people have not yet found missing relatives. It remains to assume that their remains now rest in one of the mass graves near Andijan.
Only one witness, Makhbuba Zokirova told about the real massacre. “I watched this process on TV and I do not understand why all these people are deceiving,” began her testimony by Makhbub Zokirov. “When they began to shoot, we lay down on the ground, before our eyes blood flowed like a river. We fled, and the soldiers shot at us from trees and from the windows of houses. ” These testimonies were not taken into consideration, the court read that the witness was telling a lie in the view of her sympathy for the terrorists.
Several journalists and human rights activists became witnesses of the massacre. Many of them later were removed by national security officers from video films and camera memory cards, but they could not be erased from their memory with their own eyes - their stories and few photographs were heard and seen by millions of people on the Internet via the Internet.
One of the stray bullets pierced the backpack of Galima Bukharbayeva, the editor of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), after which she was forced to leave her country and is unlikely to return home under her current leadership. Andijan human rights activist Saidjahon Zainabitdinov, who actively commented on the telephone for the international media about these bloody events, and then kept in the hands of the cartridge case from large-caliber machine guns, which were not found among the rebels, was later hidden behind bars for defamation for 7 long years. Another human rights activist from the Fergana Valley, Mutabar Tadzhiboeva, was also sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this year. At the trial, the human rights activist stated that the authorities are responsible for what happened in Andijan. “Only the blind could not see the despair and indignation of people over the unfair trial of entrepreneurs,” said Tajibayeva.
The international community demanded an independent investigation. No one denied that the seizure of state facilities, the release of prisoners, the killing of officials, and the seizure of hostages are serious crimes. Their instigators and participants were to be punished. However, at the same time, those who gave the order to shoot unarmed people without warning should be punished.
“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a statement that only an independent investigation would establish a true picture of the May events in the city of Andijan. The European Union imposed sanctions, including an arms embargo on Uzbekistan and a ban on entry for the highest Uzbek officials in Europe who are directly responsible for the Andijan massacre.
In response to this, the official Tashkent categorically refused to allow an international investigation on its territory, accused the American and European countries of complicity with the terrorists. More than four hundred Andijan residents who fled have found shelter in a number of European countries. Islam Karimov did not forgive them for this, accusing them all of the enemies of the people, and at the same time he turned against the countries that accepted them. As a result, the United States and Europe turned from friends into almost obvious enemies. The other day, the United Kingdom granted political asylum to the well-known Imam Obidhon Nazarov, one of Karimov’s most ardent opponents, hiding until recently in Kazakhstan. This “unfriendly” step further widened the gap between the west and Uzbekistan.
The general human rights situation in Uzbekistan, which has already remained glaringly unsatisfactory, has become even more complicated. According to local lawyers, the Andijan events have regressed throughout the country's judicial and law enforcement system. Lawyers consider it useless to make any acquittal arguments on the processes related to membership in religious organizations, the conviction is predetermined. In addition, judges without any reasons or explanations do not allow observers to such processes. The reforms announced by the authorities, including in the area of the abolition of the death penalty and the introduction of judicial review of the legality of the detention, remained only loud declarations. The Andijan events served as another reason for activating the company against religious citizens. Over the past year, human rights activists recorded convictions against 194 believers, and at least 69 people were awaiting trial. It is believed that the actual number of repressed citizens far exceeds these figures.
Repressions did not bypass the secular opposition. At the beginning of the year, the leaders of the opposition coalition “Sunny Uzbekistan”, entrepreneurs Sanjar Umarov and Nodira Khidoyatova, were convicted of economic crimes for long years of imprisonment. Shortly before his arrest, Sanjar Umarov appealed to members of parliament to begin a political dialogue.
Over the past year, almost all Western media have been expelled from Uzbekistan, including IWPR, BBC, Internews and Radio Liberty. The Russian Interfax and RIA Novosti do not count - henceforth the friendship “forever and ever” again with Russia. President Vladimir Putin, who supported Karimov, claimed that Russian special services had information about militant groups secretly leaked from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan shortly before the May events. It remains only to wonder why these data were not transferred to friendly Uzbekistan before the known events.
Despite the information vacuum created in the republic by local authorities, almost everyone knows the truth about May 13, including the elderly who are not familiar with computers and the Internet. Rumors about the mass execution of the rally spread very quickly. And people are more likely to trust these rumors rather than reports of censored local media.
Uzbek soldiers who swear allegiance to the president know the truth, and therefore those who shot hundreds of peaceful Andijan residents know the truth from relatives and relatives of the dead, Andijan residents themselves, eyewitnesses to the death know the truth. Surely, these people will forget the smell of blood that has fallen into the walls of this city and the smell of hundreds of decaying bodies, brought to the ill-fated high school No. 15.
President Karimov continues to assert that his government does not shoot at women and children. “But he also knows the truth and that’s why he objects to an independent international investigation,” local activists believe.
Until now, the Uzbek authorities have not published lists of the dead. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross were not admitted to hospitals and pre-trial detention centers. The Andijan trials were officially declared closed. The government is doing everything to prevent the information about the incident from leaking out.
The propaganda of the authorities has reached its apogee. It became known about a secret directive establishing a strengthening of propaganda activities in connection with the anniversary of the Andijan events. Today, mass youth festivals, concerts, and sports competitions are organized throughout the country. All this is happening under the auspices of patriotism, selfless love for their country and the same, selfless hatred of ephemeral enemies. On a day when hundreds of Andijan commemorate the anniversary of the death of loved ones, the authorities cynically arrange holidays at the funerals of their citizens.
In parallel with the unfolding history rewriting company, the country is becoming increasingly isolated from the Western international community. By denying accreditation, the authorities expel unreliable Americans and Europeans from the country, and embassies refuse to issue Uzbek visas to journalists and representatives of humanitarian organizations.
Repressions against human rights defenders, opposition activists and independent journalists have increased. In February, the government issued a decree regulating the professional activities of foreign media correspondents. From now on, citizens of Uzbekistan are prohibited from engaging in journalistic activities without having accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, Uzbek journalists are forced to publish their materials, hiding their names under pseudonyms.
Human rights activists urge the Western powers to continue to insist on conducting a thorough and independent international investigation of the events in Andijan, as well as to express to the government of Uzbekistan their concerns about the human rights situation in the country. Meanwhile, Uzbek dissidents announced a general protest rally on May 13 near Uzbek embassies in dozens of countries.
However, President Karimov made it clear that he did not intend to listen to his ideological enemies. He clearly showed that he made a choice not in favor of an open society, democracy and human rights. The unchallenged leader can no longer boast of popular support, since the many thousands rally of protest showed that the people no longer believe the words of Islam Karimov.