Kyrgyzstan: Kurban Bairam celebration ended in battering and arrests
Moslems in Kyrgyzstan celebrated Kurban Bairam on December 19. As it turns out, however, the authorities dispersed the celebration in Osh and had 48 men detained. Initiators of the celebration claim that the faithful were manhandled by the police.
According to the PR Department of the Osh Police, celebration organized by the official authorities was to take place in front of the Theater of Uzbek Drama. City fathers had previously denied Hizb-ut-Tahrir the permission to organize the celebration and a lottery where an auto bought with the money raised by anonymous sponsors was the first prize. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an outlawed religious party, had applied for a celebration on the same site. In any case, about 60 persons did turn up there by 1 p.m.
Organizers representing Hizb-ut-Tahrir had given out several thousand invitations to the celebration regardless of the ban. Human rights activist Mahmujon Iminov filmed the proceedings. According to Iminov, those present behaved themselves waiting for the promised celebration. The police in the meantime kept telling the people that they had been deceived. Several thousand had assembled for the promised celebration by then.
When the police moved in to confiscate the auto and other prizes, the people became predictably agitated. "They swore and castigated the police but everyone behaved himself other than that," Iminov said. "The police got reinforcements then, and they started clubbing people and shoving them into coaches." Some plainclothesmen who introduced themselves as state security confiscated Iminov's ID and camera.
Mahmud Kuziyev and Izatullo Topchubayev were hospitalized with concussions and massive injuries (to quote Osh doctor Jenish Zulparov). "They claim to have been assaulted and battered by the police," Zulparov said. "Topchubayev's condition permitted him to go home when his injuries were attended to."
Senior Deputy Mayor of Osh Arfidin Alanov accused organizers of the unauthorized celebration of "neglect of sanitary regulations" and "organization of an illicit lottery". "Sanitary norms went down the drain for the third year in a row," the official said. "We also had pilau cooked for distribution, but we arranged for hot tea and disposable plates..."
"Seeing how much money they have at their possession, we suggested that they aid the poor," Alanov said. "They refused, because PR is all they care about. Sacrifices are made with no thought of personal gains or rewards. As for these people, they cannot even organize anything properly." According to Alanov, unofficial estimates put the Osh population at half a million people and "it is us who are responsible for their safety, order, and all that."
Topchubayev, a Hizb-ut-Tahrir member who does not bother to hide it, claims that the application to the city authorities was submitted ten days before the celebration. "They summoned our representatives but two days before the celebration and asked what our plans were. We said that the lottery we had planned was charity, that we did not expect to make money on it," he said. "They lottery was banned but we had already distributed tickets. Had the ban been made ten days before the celebration, we'd have transacted the money to orphanages."
The authorities in the meantime are suspicious of the origin of the lottery prizes. "Who finances it all and how do they account for it?" Alanov said. "Who can guarantee that these people do not make money on it?" Organizers claim in their turn that what aid they had was freely given by ordinary Moslems. "Some had only five sums to donate, others felt they could afford several thousand," Iminov, one of the organizers, said. "It is a a major Moslem celebration, after all."
Law enforcement agencies claim that the celebration was organized by activists of outlawed Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Only a handful of organizers in the meantime admit their membership in this organization. They maintain that the celebration was organized by "the faithful" who wanted nothing for themselves. Some sponsors of the celebration in the meantime refused to identify themselves for fear for their business careers.
The detention cell contained 11 arrestees on December 20 night. "Materials are being compiled at this point to decide whether or not charges should be pressed," Zamirbek Sydykov of the Osh Police said. The Osh court sentenced several arrestees to a fine. Organizers of the celebration are determined to "have those guilty of assault and battery prosecuted."