Protest Plans Fail in Uzbekistan
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||24 October 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Protest Plans Fail in Uzbekistan, 24 October 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea663a62.html [accessed 29 July 2015]|
Opposition protests planned in two towns in Uzbekistan came to nothing when no one turned up.
The Birdamlik opposition movement announced demonstrations in the capital Tashkent and in Shahrisabz in the west of the country between October 11 and 14. The watchword was "Mass Complaint", and the intention was to ask the judiciary to account for unlawful actions committed by the government.
Local analysts said the failure of the protests reflected the opposition-in-exile's lack of understanding of the public mood, which is fearful of unrest.
In an interview for NBCentralAsia, Birdamlik's leader Bahodir Choriev, who is now based in the United States, accepted that the appeal to action had not worked, but rejected claims that the opposition was out of touch. He stressed that his group would support only non-violent methods of resisting the Uzbek government.
NBCentralAsia: What were you anticipating when you urged people to take part in protests?
Bahodir Choriev: I was counting on the people of Uzbekistan to overcome the fear the authorities have instilled in them, just as the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans have done, and to stand up for their constitutional rights through legal, non-violent action. But we didn't manage to achieve that.
NBCentralAsia: You returned to Uzbekistan before the 2009 parliamentary election, but you were forced to leave. (See Uzbek Opposition Party Leader Makes Surprise Return.) Do you still believe it's possible to oppose the authorities by peaceful means?
Choriev: The current regime in Uzbekistan can only be overthrown by well-organised, non-violent struggle. I do not wish to spill blood of either my supporters or my enemies. Many [other] opposition figures do not believe in non-violent resistance. I, however, wanted to use this action to nudge people towards peaceful protest and show that our aims can be achieved by those means.
NBCentralAsia: Many of your critics say that since you're abroad, you have ceased to be politically relevant.
Choriev: That allegation is unfounded. Time will show that I was right, and these critics will realise that they were wrong.
NBCentralAsia: They also say you have western sponsors who are funding these appeals for popular protest.
Choriev: I can say in all honesty that the Birdamlik movement has not received a penny from any donor organisation. All of our activities in the last seven years have been funded out of money we have invested in them ourselves.
NBCentralAsia: How do you think events are going to unfold in Uzbekistan?
Choriev: The Arab Spring scenario just won't work in Uzbekistan. In 2005, President Islam Karimov's regime showed it was prepared to kill hundreds of people [in Andijan]. That isn't something we need.
We have learnt a great deal from past events in terms of mobilising our supporters. Now we are working on it and addressing our mistakes, and then we will start organising [protest] actions again.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.