Uzbekistan: Famous Opposition Figure Aims to Make President Step Down Peacefully
On May 23-24, the newly formed People’s Movement of Uzbekistan opposition group, formed on the basis of the “May 13 Union,” had it first meeting in Berlin. The first day of the kurultai (traditional people’s gathering) congress was devoted to organizational issues, such as adoption of the movement’s charter and program. Renowned opposition figure Muhammad Salih, leader of Erk political group who was sentenced to 15 ½ years in jail in his home country, was named president of the assembly of founders.
The People’s Movement of Uzbekistan is the largest Uzbek opposition movement that incorporates six organizations including the Erk Democratic Party, the Democratic Forces of Uzbekistan Forum, the "Andijan Justice and Rebirth organization," the Tayanchi society, Uygon Uzbekistan youth movement, OPChU human rights group.
On the second day of the congress, an international conference was held devoted to discussing problems in Uzbekistan and the political situation in Central Asia as a whole. The meeting of analysts and experts was attended by guests from numerous countries.
Muhammad Salih also delivered a speech at the congress. We are publishing the text of his speech in full. In the coming days, Fergana will also publish an interview with Salih.
A Regime on Autopilot – Muhammad Salih’s speech at the kurultai in Berlin on May 23, 2011
The ruler of Uzbekistan, Karimov, has for 20 years boasted uninterruptedly that he has created stability in the country. But the stability created by the dictator of Uzbekistan is the stability of the graveyard.
He argues that he created peace in Uzbek, but the peace he has imposed on the Uzbek people is worse than the most terrible war. That is why millions flee Uzbekistan, trying to save their lives for political reasons, but also for economic reasons.
There are some 20,000 political prisoners stewing in Karimov’s jails – most of those of representatives of the opposition and moderate religious believers. Twenty thousand political prisoners each and every one gives lie to the notion of political passiveness in our country.
At the time of the collapse of the USSR, Uzbekistan was after the Baltic nations, the most political active Soviet republic. The Uzbek SSR was among the first to adopt a declaration of independence, on June 20, 1990. This declaration was adopted despite the opposition of the Central Committee Communist Party of Uzbekistan and Islam Karimov himself personally, who then headed the Central Committee. Tens of thousands came out onto the squares with their political demands. What we see today in our society is a remarkable transformation of that protest potential. That potential has not diminished over the past 22 years. On the contrary, it has grown. That is why the Uzbek dictator has been forced, every five or six years, to effect purges in the population, picking out people that appear to pose the greatest risk to the regime. As you can, the undesirables to the authorities number no less than 20,000. And the list of those unhappy that are not in the penitentiaries number in the millions.
Human rights is the most tragicomic issue in the country. Karimov has built an independent concentration camp on the territory of the former Uzbek Soviet republic. Calling the republic of Uzbekistan a concentration makes it no easier for the people. The political regime created by Karimov can be called a classic dictatorship.
Karimov and his entourage know that the situation is getting ever worse and they are desperately trying to keep control over the situation. But their feeble minds have led them merely to reforms offered by Karimov in the parliamentary and presidential systems, which are pitiful and risible. All this is nothing but the dying gestures of a dictatorial rule doomed to disaster.
We become ever more certain that the dictators will only be cast once the people themselves decide to shed this burden from their shoulders. The Arab revolts are clear demonstration of this situation. The kurultai that has brought us here today in Berlin is intended as a venue to discuss precisely this. We must change our way of working, we should be better prepared to fight firmly against the state terror deployed by the Uzbek dictator, to organize actions of disobedience, merging together ever more protests in our ranks. We are heartened that people inside the country already hear us and are responding. Hundreds of volunteers have come forward who have offered to give us their help in our undertaking.
Uzbek society has fairly criticized in our excess of liberalism in our fight against the Karimov regime. The opposition working along European lines has hoped to change the situation by means of elections. This has been a fruitless approach.
The electoral process has long since become a joke in Uzbekistan, and the hope of defeating Karimov through elections under the conditions of police state impunity is a mirage. That is why we have set up a combat position capable of standing up to the authoritarian order and forcing it to depart the scene.
We will no longer allow them to shoot on the people, as they did in Andijan. The tragic lessons of May 13 have taught to be prepared for the provocations of the regime.
The events in Andijjan in 2005 were spontaneous and were not planned by the opposition. Karimov used the opportunity to ruthlessly kill hundreds of innocent people.
We now know what the Uzbek dictator is capable of when he sees defenseless children and women before him. But we will see what he is capable of when the organized ranks of the opposition rise up before him, willing to defend their position to the very end.
As I have already said, the Karimov policy of state terror has not justified itself. This has reached not Karimov, but the armed forces – the perpetrators of the tyrant’s will.
The middle echelon of the armed forces becomes ever fuller of the discontented. The attraction of working in state institutions is becoming ever weaker. At the very top, an increasingly bitter fight is taking place for new position in this situation. The mechanism of state terror is not stopping, it is running on autopilot.
The situation is reminiscent of a story by Franz Kafka that tells of how the builder of a death trap himself falls victim to the very same construction. Whether the same thing will happen to the creator of the political regime in Uzbekistan, time will tell.
In any case, every thing will be for the best.