Now a crisis in hand in
Islamic paradise -
With Islamization on the
rise, Uzbeks in eastern province clashed with the government force
Something unexpected had
happened on May 13, 2005 in the easternmost town of
. A casual reader may think
that what happened on May 13 in Andijan was simply an armed confrontation
between the dissidents and the government force.
This is not so. There
is more to the story than meets the eye.
In late March 2005, I wrote a
when a popular uprise there had forced the authoritarian president Askar
Akayev to flee the country and take a refuge in neighboring
. Hardly six weeks could pass
by since trouble brewed in
, now the central Asian nation of
is mired in internal dissension. More
on that later, but a brief review of how these republics which are near
Caspian Sea, Aral Sea came into existence in post dismantling days of the
Old Soviet Union in 1991.
In the summer of 1989, the
infamous Berlin Wall fell. Before
that, workers in
protested against their government, which was a puppet regime under
Kremlin. That successful
protest movement led to an unstoppable chain of events.
First, it was
, and then,
, and so on. In 1991, the Soviet dismantled their empire, which President
Reagan dubbed “The Evil Empire,” to give birth to a dozen or so new
republics. Thanks to Mikhail
Gorbachev and his perestroika and glasnost; without his resolve and
foresightedness, that implosion of ex-Soviet union would have been
impossible in early 1990s. Mr.
Gorbachev, however, did not realize at the time that these newly created
republics will be controlled by authoritarian regimes just as Joseph
Stalin or Leonid Brezhnev did before and after the World War 2,
is a central Asian nation, which
used to be known in the days of yore as part Of Toran or Turan to people
. The region of Ferghana is historically a very important place for
Central Asian kings, which includes Zahir Ud-Din Muhammad Babur, the
founder of Mughal Dynasty in
in 1526. The Ferghana valley
had lush agriculture from time immemorial.
However, the valley was divided among three nations in Central
in post World War II. As of
late, the Ferghana valley has become a hot bed of Islamic fundamentalist
movement. Many western
intelligence experts who now specialize on al-Qaeda think that Osama’s
disciples who have left
in the aftermath of American invasion of that country may have taken a
refuge in Ferghana valley where locals tolerate their presence.
An expert wrote of Ferghana as
follows: “Ferghana exhibits the most vivid example of the Islamic
evolution-taking place throughout the region and exposes
's ideological impact on
. This is a hard, rural place,
with cotton fields worked with sweat and picked by hand.
The people are desperately poor.
They see little that the new national governments have done to help
their lives. Dissatisfaction
is high, the lure of Islam as an answer to their dreary existence is
After the collapse of the Old
Soviet Union in the summer of 1991, lawlessness filled the void.
Assaults and robberies were common occurrence and rampant.
A Ferghana man by the name Juma Namangani and his companions became
vigilantes, collaring crooks and administering beatings as punishment (as
per Sunnah), according to local residents.
“I’m not saying I supported them,” said an old
teacher. “But when they were
here, they were disciplined, and they kept peace in the streets.”
This is very similar to what Mullah Omar did in the aftermath of
Soviet pullout of
. The man who headed the group
remains a mystery. According
to locals, there are only a few blurry photos of him; he did not give
Today, spies and cameras watch
his mother’s house. His old
mosque is closed to the public. People
in his hometown of
shift their eyes and mumble that they hardly knew Juma Namangani.
They have good reasons. The
considers this crony of Osama bin Laden to have been the country’s
number one terrorist threat, and any hint of association with him can land
a person in prison.
Juma Namangani was born
Jumaboy Hojiev. He studied in
a technical school in
. His service in the airborne
during the Soviet occupation gave him a tough-man image when he returned
home in 1989. Here he studied
with an Islamic scholar and took on radical Islam as his politics.
With a like-minded partner, Tahir Yuldash, Namangani began working
to replace the government’s rule in the Ferghana Valley with law based
on his political interpretation of the Koran, and eventually founded the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), considered by the government, and
now by Washington, to be a terrorist organization.
If my memory is not failing me at this time, Osama bin Laden
published his infamous fatwa against
from Ferghana in mid 1990s. With
this backdrop, let us see what has been happening in
as of late.
Most wire services have
reported on May 13, 2005 that in the eastern city of Andijan, which is
located in Ferghana valley, more than 50 people have been killed in
fighting in Uzbekistan’s fourth-largest city as government troops try to
dislodge armed gunmen who took law in their hands as they freed prisoners
including 23 men on trial for Islamic extremism.
The sketchy report coming from the eastern
, which is larger than
with nearly 27 million people. An
estimated over 88% of Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims; the rest are Eastern
Earlier, we read in the news
that at least 10 people died in the eastern city of
on Friday after insurgents stormed a jail and freed prisoners many of them
on trial for Islamic extremism. This
prompted a violent crackdown that saw government troops open fire on a
crowd of 5,000 demonstrating against President Islam Karimov’s
government. The fact that the
violent demonstration took place after midday Zumma prayer is a
reminder that the protest demonstration was the handiwork of Islamists.
President Bush is a staunch supporter of President Islam Karimov
notwithstanding the authoritarian rule imposed by Uzbek president.
Later, we read that after
dispersing the demonstrators, government troops moved in against the armed
anti-Karimov insurgents who had seized public buildings and freed about
2,000 prisoners from the local prison.
The government sent more soldiers to counter offense the putsch
from the Islamic militants. Sporadic
gunfire was heard in the city. This
is the first time an organized protest movement was launched by the
Due to authoritarian rule in
, there is hardly any opposition. The
government of Islam Karimov had jailed many Islamists to please Mr. Bush.
The oil-rich nation of
has drawn attention from
’s oil exploration companies. Mr.
Bush never did mind the autocratic Karomov regime as long as he keeps a
tight reign on Islamists, al-Qaeda sympathizers, etc., which are on the
rise in Central Asian nations. The
main Islamic movement in Ferghana valley is locally known as Akromiya.
The sudden and violent attack
by Karimov’s opposition in Andijan had surprised many experts.
From news reports, we learned that the protestors attacked an army
garrison to seize guns. Thus
far, Kremlin had denounced the attack against Islam Karimov’s
government. Incidentally, the
Putin Administration actively supports Karimov.
Mr. Bush does not mind his authoritarian rule as long as he could
maintain a tight leash on Islamists in troubled Ferghana valley.
To put in perspective, the
incident of May 13, 2005, is just a tip of the iceberg in turbulent
. All three nations in that
, had harbored Islamic extremists and that includes al-Qaeda men.
The repressive and authoritarian government from
will have no problem reinforcing the central government’s rule but once
a defiance movement had started there, it may gather steam.
Will there be other affront by the opposition that has many
Islamists? It is hardly a
rhetorical question. I expect
to see a flurry of activities by the State Department troubleshooters in
. The Bush Administration will
give all the intelligence it has on al-Qaeda men now living in Ferghana
valley and who roam at ease among three nations.
They pose a threat not only to Islam Karimov, the president of
, but also to the Bush Administration who is now locked into a fight to
efface global terrorism.
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from