The world did not hear us
I am an Uzbek woman originally from Tashkent. I used to work as a journalist, and I left my homeland like so many others not because I wanted to do so, but because I had to.
I enjoyed reading the articles posted on Fergana by readers, political experts and journalists about the possibility of “velvet” revolution in Uzbekistan. I share the general sentiment of the readers’ opinion. However, I did not see in any of those articles the main reason as to why neither a “velvet,” a “color,” a “sunny” or any other kind of revolution would occur in Uzbekistan. The reason, as I see it, is the geopolitical interests of the most powerful countries on Earth—the USA, Russia, and China.
The fact that Uzbek people will not rise up on their own is a no-brainer. First of all, lack of a strong person; of a leader with a defined program, a stage-by-stage plan of eliminating the current governmental authority; program on restoring the economy that was destroyed long ago; and, most importantly, an agenda on changing the Uzbek mentality.
Nobody would follow Muhammad Salih because he is a radical Islamist. That is a big caveat because the majority of the Uzbek population practices moderate views on Islam. Although Uzbeks do worship Allah, the absolute majority of the population (I could certainly say 80%) prefers a secular way of life, rather than an Islamic society with strict Sharia laws. Besides, Muhammad Salih never was influential or authoritative among Uzbeks.
As already mentioned by other readers, Bahodir Choriyev is unable to be a leader and to guide people, because he doesn’t know where and how to go himself. He has neither a sound program nor supporters; most importantly, he lacks necessary funds. A strong opposition must have a good financial support; otherwise all efforts are doomed to a failure.
The only real leader, in my opinion, is Sanjar Umarov. In 2005, he outlined the course of his policy, elaborated a concrete program of bringing the economy out of recession, and therewith obtained support from international banks ready to provide finance. He aimed to get powerful backing from the most aggrieved layer of society – peasants and farmers; furthermore he became more authoritative among businessmen and the intelligentsia. However, our much-esteemed president sensed a real danger in Sanjar Umarov’s personality as a strong oppositionist, and instantly brushed him out of the way. This is one of the reasons why there would be no revolution in Uzbekistan, along with all other reasons already mentioned in other readers’ articles.
However, I think the main reason is the geopolitical interests of such powers as the USA, Russia and China in Central Asia. Neither Russia nor the United States will allow changing the regime from below in Uzbekistan; even if a leader is found and there are all preconditions for success, namely a clear program that most of the population supports, as well as arms and funding.
The geographical location of Uzbekistan will always be a stumbling block on the path to a truly democratic, free society. As long as there will be a problem of Afghanistan and terrorism (and they always will be there), the U.S. troops will be present on the territory of Uzbekistan. Even after 2014, the U.S. will occasionally find an excuse to be on the Uzbek soil, not because of the need to fight terrorism, but because they cannot allow Russia exert influence with its powerful military potential in this region. As for Russia and China, Uzbekistan is economically tied with these countries. The Uzbek gas is being sold to Russia and China for a penny, the main importer of agricultural production of Uzbekistan is Russia; we can endlessly name economic interests of these countries. Therefore, for political and economic reasons, it is not to these countries’ advantage to change the situation in Uzbekistan. Everyone is satisfied, and no one cares about the real condition of people, a poor economy, and especially the situation with human rights in the country.
In Arab countries, where a revolutionary wave swept over, life was much better than in Uzbekistan, and the dictatorship wasn’t worse. However, if the opposition movement would not have a support from outside, there wouldn’t be any coups. No revolution (peaceful or bloody) is accomplished without funding from interested stakeholders. In our case, there are no stakeholders; that’s why our opposition is unable to become a real force; basically because there is no money. All attempts to speak out loud through mass media outlets (mostly via internet) remain just as a mouse squeak: it is immediately blocked and does not reach the population inside the country.
Every year various human rights organizations provide reports with lots of evidences of clear violations of human rights, freedoms of speech and religion. Freedom House, in its annual report in 2012, ranked Uzbekistan one of the world’s most closed states and a “Not Free” country. Furthermore the government was recognized as the most dictatorial power in Central Asia, second to Turkmenistan. However, all efforts of international human rights organizations to draw attention of the UN, the EU, the NATO and others to the problems of Uzbek people are still futile.
Once Uzbek people actually tried to rise up on their own, but it brought us to nowhere, except resulting in a bloody massacre followed by repressions. The world did not hear us, or did not want to hear us at that time.