Andijan: Five years of pain and fear
On May 12, 2010 round table on "Uzbekistan: Five years after Andijan" took place in Moscow. It was attended by international observer of Vremya Novostei newspaper and the expert on Central Asia Arkadiy Dubnov, the Director of Central Asian program of Memorial human rights center Vitaliy Ponomarev, the President of "Russia-Islamic world" Strategic research center Shamil Sultanov, the Director of Russian human rights institute Valentin Gefter, head of "Right for asylum" program under human rights Institute Elena Ryabinina, human rights defender Bakhrom Khamroev, the President of "Vatandosh" interregional Uzbek community Usman Baratov and others.
The round table became another reason to remind people in Russia and the world about the Andijan massacre that took place five years ago. The round table turned into discussion of general situation in the region: was the Andijan massacre an accident or logical explosion of steam boiler, where the pressure is increasing while the pot-lid is hermetically closed? What is the reaction to turmoil in Central Asia such as Andijan or Kyrgyz events? What has changed in the relations between the states in the region after Andijan? What is the relation of the world community to Uzbekistan, five years after Andijan massacre? Or have the relations between West and big energy producer restarted again and the massacre is forgotten and forgiven?
Relations with the West
In the live discussion the round table participants found out that the relations of West and Russia to Uzbekistan is one of the most sensitive issues. There was clear opinion that the West needs to reconsider its policy in relation to Central Asian regimes. In the last years all European projects in Central Asia are based on assumption that the regional regimes are authoritarian, but stable, which is critically important for Europe. Today, Kyrgyz events demonstrate the illusiveness of such stability. Washington DC realized the failure of American politics in Kyrgyzstan of Bakiev’s period; the same can be stated about US and EU politics in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other countries of the region.
It has to be mentioned that US congress hearings about Kyrgyzstan already mentioned that the violations of human rights in the region cannot be disregarded even if it leads to the deterioration of the relations with regime leaders. The representative of Freedom House Sam Patten said that when in 2005 US had sharply criticized Islam Karimov for violation of human rights, Tashkent immediately instructed Washington DC to leave the military bases in Uzbekistan. Since that time US were more careful with Tashkent. "However, the ruthless regime of Islam Karimov will see its end. How would Karimov’s successors trust USA if USA were not able to oppose the despot?"
The graves of victims, shot down in Andijan
The devaluation of western human rights standard in the region started with Andijan. Although Europe criticized the mass massacre in Andijan, step by step the West has ignored the violation of human rights in the region. In October of 2009 EU abolished all sanctions against Uzbekistan. The human rights reports, produced by western experts, not always indicate the true situation. It was rather difficult for Europe to reconcile the economic interests and human rights pathos, unlike in the case of Moscow that was never inclined to defend human rights.
The fact that after recent events in Kyrgyzstan Moscow, for the first time in post-Soviet history, supported new government, adhered to democratic principles, disturbs the authoritarian regimes in the region.
Away from Kyrgyzstan
Speaking of Andijan, the experts always mentioned both Kyrgyz revolutions. According to Dubnov, the events in Andijan and Kyrgyzstan showed various methods, applied by the leaders in Central Asia in order to remain in power. Being very concerned of the tulip revolution of 2005, Karimov ordered to shoot down the protesters. The current events in Kyrgyzstan already produced certain actions in the region: in Kazakhstan Nazarbayev is nominated as "the national leader", free of any responsibility, the Tajik government attacks the cellular providers, in Turkmenistan the authorities are thinking to skip the presidential elections, scheduled to January of 2011.
The round table attendants believe that the Andijan events were provoked by repressive regime of Karimov. The experts report dramatic increase of the number of criminal cases on extremism after the explosions in Khanabad and Andijan. In the opinion of Ponomarev, the unprecedented secrecy regime accompanies these cases.
"The regimes of Central Asia lost political reflection. They do not know the shape of the modern world and the political system outside their countries; moreover, they do not know what is going inside the country", said Dubnov. "Sooner or later it will produce another explosion".
1. At least 358 people were sentenced for long terms by the closed courts; the verdict details are available neither to the relatives nor lawyers and human rights advocates;
2. Over 100 people, suspected by Uzbek government in participation in the events, are wanted;
3. In 2005-2008 at least 125 suspects were detained in CIS countries (Kazakhstan - 49, Kyrgyzstan – 47, Russia – 18, Ukraine -11). Only 8 detained people were official extradited, at least 74 suspects were forced to come to Uzbekistan, avoiding the extradition procedures. Uzbekistan used not only official, but also corruption instruments in order to bring back the suspects. Until 2005 such practice was never used.
4. The international investigation of the Andijan massacre, demanded by EU, was not conducted. Later on the sanctions were abolished while the investigation, most likely, will be never conducted.
5. The exact number of people, killed in Andijan, is still not clear.
Venerate the memory
The abolition of EU sanctions definitely means the softer position of the West in relation to Uzbek regime and the downgrade of human rights standards. However, one cannot speak about unilateral position of Europe. The stela, venerating the memory of the Andijan victims, will be set up in Belgium. On May 12 the open competition, announced by The mothers against violence human rights association, announced the winners.
"There is moral responsibility to venerate the memory of murdered people, especially if these murdered people are innocent and unnamed victims" (Stephane Courtois). The project of Alexander Prochik
Russian artist Alexander Prochik became the winner of the contest. The press-release, announcing the contest results, indicates that the project "reflects the true face of the tragedy. The mother (the Republic of Uzbekistan) shed tears over dead child (innocent civilians); there is no hope, faith in the future, but reality… The pedestal shows four persons, symbolizing the democracy, human rights, justice and humanity. The national colors are considered. It feels like the author is aware of the details of the tragedy".
The jury says "Such monuments are very important for European community. The point is that people are only pieces in the complex mechanism of state power. The authorities can easily play the role of God. The dictators can be opposed by joint actions only…Hopefully, the stela will remind everyone that tyranny is the outrage upon humanity…There are crimes that need to be remembered by the politicians and the leaders of European states that support the President, responsible for the massacre of innocent people…"
At least in Belgium.
Perhaps, the similar monument will be erected in Andijan and Tashkent in the future.
For example, the stela, commemorating the victims of peaceful demonstration of 1962, was built in Novocherkassk. The result of the bloody event was the dozens of murdered, wounded and the hundreds of fates and no independent investigation. However, the monument stands there. Sooner or later the names of the victims and executioners will be publicly announced.