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Central Asia news

Mass arrests of Moslems are under way in Uzbekistan. Arrestees include a cafe owner and a TV producer

14.04.2006 10:31 msk

Igor Rotar

Religious life

NEW ARRESTS OD MOSLEMS IN UZBEKISTAN

Internet sources report 22 arrests but Andrea Berg who represents Human Rights Watch in Tashkent claims to have verified information on 18. All arrestees are charged under Article 242-2 of the Criminal Code (organization of, leadership in, involvement with religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist and other banned organizations). Gazeta knows of 8 arrests. The arrestees are Donijer Magdaazimov (student of the University of International Economics and Diplomacy), Zoir Khusanov (vendor from Urikzor wholesale market), Anvar Maksudov (parking lot attendant), Abdugofir Toirov (furniture store clerk), cafe owner Surat Sukhurov (known as Surat-aka the barbecue-maker throughout Old Tashkent), Rakhimberdi Rakhmonberdiyev (Sport program producer from Channel 4). As for two other arrestees only their names, addresses, and marital status are known. They are Nosir Ibragimov and Ilhom Makhkamov. One is single and the other has a family and two children.

"Seven arrestees are accused of being the so called Wahhabi, and the remaining eleven as activists of the radical Hizb-ut-Takhrir," Berg said. She refused to speculate on validity of arrests on the basis of insufficient information. "All I know is that the manner of the arrests violates every rule in the book," she said. "Arrestees' families were notified several days after the arrest."

Surat Ikramov of the Initiative Group of Human Rights Activists says that "all arrestees are ardent believers who faithfully performed the namaz." Secret services accuse them of contacts with Imam Obidkhon-kori Nazarov who fled to Europe not long ago.

Nazarov is one of the most popular theologians in Uzbekistan. Over 1,000 believers regularly attended Tukhtaboi, the mosque Nazarov was the imam of. Nazarov had a lot of disciples who also taught believers. According to what information this newspaper has compiled, all arrestees are Nazarov's aides. Nazarov's sermons are available on tape (audio and video) throughout the country - which is against the law. The imam criticized the authorities for the ban on beards and hidjabs in 1998 and eventually departed Uzbekistan for fear of arrest. Vengeful authorities arrested his family. Nazarov's son disappeared without a trace. The imam himself was branded as an encroacher on the constitutional regime and leader of the Wahhabi.

Nazarov's views do concur with the Wahhabi's on some matters. For example, he objects to lavish and expensive weddings and funerals. He is convinced that Moslem women must wear the paranja. In the meantime, the imam always calls himself a supporter of the Khanaphit Mazkhab traditional for Central Asia which means that he does not have anything to do with the Saudi Wahhabi. "There are some Wahhabi in Uzbekistan indeed," Muhamad Sadyk Muhamad Yusuf, ex-mufty of Uzbekistan and a prominent theologian, said. "The Wahhabi smashed several opulent headstones in the middle of the 1990's, but these were isolated episodes. Whenever two imams quarrel, they always call each other Wahhabi. It's just a curse..."

Ikramov agrees with Yusuf. "The term "Wahhabi" is but a label denoting the believers who would not have anything to do with officially appointed imams whom they regard as civil servants. The authorities do not treat these believers kindly. Law enforcement agencies plant drugs or weapons and these believers are sentenced to imprisonment."

Gazeta, April 13, 2006, p. 12

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru