Uzbek Demolitions Spark Protests
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||30 June 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Uzbek Demolitions Spark Protests, 30 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e1c66742.html [accessed 25 April 2015]|
By News Briefing Central Asia
30 Jun 11
The Uzbek government's fondness for tearing down buildings has met with unexpected resistance, in a country where public protests are rare.
On June 23, around 2,000 market traders in the Urgut district near Samarkand in western Uzbekistan clashed with police trying to break up a demonstration about the destruction of a local bazaar.
Several people were injured as scuffles escalated into a mass brawl.
The protest began when the local authorities began destroying stalls and shops at the Risolat market. Local people say no advance notice was given.
An official on the scene said stallholders must clear out "before the bulldozer runs them over".
A new market is being built seven kilometres away, but traders say they cannot afford the price of pitches there.
Hadisa, who sells rice at the Risolat bazaar, was among the many traders who refused to shift from their stalls for two days and nights to prevent them being flattened. She said the authorities would have to bulldozers along with the market.
The current round of demolitions, which affects residential houses as well as markets and other buildings across Uzbekistan, stems from a government urban redevelopment plan issued in December.
All this year, demolition teams have moved into urban centres to create space for a modernisation programme intended to put a new face on Uzbek towns in time for the 20th anniversary of independence this September.
In the capital Tashkent, the Parkent, Alay, Farhad, Mirabad markets have been affected, the Museum of Geology has been torn down, while the main water sports centre and an electrical goods factory are about to be demolished.
Residential areas in the capital have also been targeted for destruction. (See Uzbekistan: Tashkent Residents Forced From Homes.)
Commentators in Uzbekistan say the high-handed way the authorities have set about flattening private property is generating a lot of anger.
"The authorities behave crassly, they present the demolition of people's homes as a fait accompli, they don't offer reasonable compensation, and they deploy paramilitary methods to deal with traders," a media-watcher said.
In Urgut, one resident predicted more trouble, saying, "I know many of the traders, and they are resolute. They say they are going to stand up for their rights as people do in other countries."
Kamil Ashurov, head of the Human Rights Initiatives Centre in Samarkand, said levels of public discontent and assertiveness had reached levels not seen for a long time.
"There's a palpable sense of tension," he said.
Other activists like Surat Ikramov, head of the Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders, believe the authorities will use intimidation and actual violence to deal with any protests.
Apart from the Andijan violence of 2005, when government forces mowed down hundreds of demonstrators, the last major confrontation took place in 2004, when some 5,000 market traders in Kokand clashed with police. In that instance, the authorities managed to persuade the crowd to disperse, and later jailed those it regarded as ringleaders.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.