Interview to the organization «OZOD OVOZ» (Uzbekistan)
As is known, in November of this year in capital Norway city of Oslo the seminar on a theme «Regional development in the Central Asia was held: an Islam, safety and human rights» on which political scientists and experts from the West have taken part, leaders of political opposition, human rights activists and journalists from Central Asia republics. The leader who has taken part at this seminar of the Uzbek political opposition, the chairman of democratic party «ЭРК» («WILL») Mohammed Salih has given interview of the organization on protection of a freedom of speech «OZOD OVOZ»(«FREE VOICE»), recently created in Uzbekistan. Talked the director «OZOD OVOZ» Bobomurod Abdullaev also taken part on the given seminar. We give your attention this conversation.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: Today, making with speech at a seminar, you once again have criticized a policy of the government of Uzbekistan, have named it dictatorial. After such criticism of authority of Uzbekistan and even some experts living and working in republic, usually accuse you, that you and your party are engaged only in faultfinding and any constructive offer on improvement of position in the country do not give. What you can tell in reply to such accusations?
— MOHAMMED SALIH: Both authorities, and the governmental experts who accuse me and party «ERK» of faultfinding, perfectly know, that party «ERK» gave to the government of the country the offers. They also perfectly know, that today these offers of a party take root into life and are used by authorities of the country. I shall bring to you examples.
In the beginning of 1992, right after presidential elections, despite of the begun prosecutions, «ERK» has offered to parliament alternative variant of the Constitution of independent Uzbekistan. I have told Islam Karimov, that I would want, this variant would as governmental variant, that we are ready to refuse authorship. Only acceptance of this variant of the Constitution in parliament was important for us.
But Karimov has not accepted our offer: he has not liked two cameral parliament that was stipulated in our variant of the Constitution. Apparently, now, in 10 years, mister Karimov has overcome this «barrier», has guessed, that all the same the two-chamber parliament is better offered then him unicameral. Or other example. In same 1992 «ERK» has collected the Forum of economists and has charged them to prepare the Economic program of Uzbekistan. It should be the program not party «ERK», and the program of our state. Instead of supporting this initiative, president Karimov at once began unhealthy rivalry: has created same «a forum of economists» which «sessions» began to be broadcast on republican TV. As you can see, regarding ideas and offers Karimov went for us, repeated our initiatives, however repeated in own way and in the direction.
Despite of it, we continued to search for constructive forms of co-operation with the government. In March, 1992 we have created the Forum of democratic forces of Uzbekistan where have come almost more and more or less appreciable public organizations. It has frightened the government. In the beginning of May of the same year president Karimov has invited me to itself and has offered me enter the government in an exchange of dissolution of the Democratic forum. I have not accepted his offer not only on political, but also for the moral reasons. Then many criticized me and have named my act «romantic», but the next years have shown, that I have acted correctly. I have told Karimov, that we as opposition are ready to cooperate with the government for a way of democratization of the country. I have told: «But we shall cooperate as OPPOSITION, instead of as a part of the coalition government. We shall criticize you and your government if such criticism will be necessary». I then have told him, that it will be his authority as this act of his tolerance, he will show himself as the leader-democrat will raise not only authority of opposition, but also it, maybe, most of all. Such beginning would excite hope for the prompt improvement of life in people, would inspire foreign investors, would add friends on international scene. But also here Karimov you have acted by a principle «or you are with me, or you are my enemy». So, accusations that I and party «ERK», ostensibly, are engaged only in criticism of authorities, naked.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: You have told, that the president Islam Karimov has not wanted be tolerant to opposition. However, Karimov some times during sessions of parliament of the country invited opposition to return to the country, spoke, that he is ready to work with it. May be, the Uzbek opposition really should return to the country and to begin work?
MOHAMMED SALIH: Personally I do not believe these words. May be, there will be a nursery boy who will believe such promises of president Karimov. Yes, he not once invited leaders of national movement «BIRLIK»(«UNITY») Pulatovs to return, but they have not returned and not going to return. May be, they too do not trust these promises. Karimov calls to home not members of «ERK», but only “Birlik” members, probably, because them does not count dangerous to the mode.
«OZOD OVOZ»: Why your way such offer is not provided to party «ERK»?
MOHAMMED SALIH: Because Karimov mode does not want registration «ERK» as always saw in his , and in particular, in me, its chairman, the main enemy. If to register «ERK» it is necessary to authorize and for my returning in republic as the chairman of this party. Present authorities of Uzbekistan never will want, that I have returned to home. Look, how many they have made against me. For ten years of my absence on the native land of authority of Uzbekistan have thought up against me about ten criminal charges. On in absentia court of 2000 the public prosecutor of republic demanded for me the fivefold death sentence, but the court has taken out more «soft», having sentenced me on 15 and a half of years of prison of a strict mode.
However, authorities were not limited to it: they have put in prison my three brothers only that my brothers. Also have put in prison of my friends, even my schoolmates who sympathized with me. And all of them tortured to receive indications against me but «to show» them there is nothing was. This litigation was observed by representatives of the international human rights organizations and foreign embassies in Tashkent. They witness that the court could not result the uniform fact in the proof of accusations against me. Besides for these years the president of Uzbekistan through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continuously conducted a policy of pressure upon those countries where I was. In current almost ten years were not any day that the presidential device has overlooked about us, some times tried even to kill me. Also the propaganda machine of authorities actively worked: to discredit me and party(set) «ERK», on struggle all news media of republic were thrown. Propagandists carried out assemblies in areas, schools and high schools to finish up to people, that Mohammed Salih is a traitor of the native land, and party «ERK» is a danger to light future Uzbekistan. Also it would be absurd, if after all it authorities would propose party «ERK» officially to begin work in Uzbekistan.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: You have told, that Karimov mode pursued you for ten years of independence, has put in prison your native, close and friends. Today, after all this, do you not regret what in the beginning of 90th years on one of sessions of parliament of the country you have protected Islam Karimov from the then prime minister of country Shukrullah Mirsaidov who has left with the offer to send Karimova in resignation from a post of the president?
MOHAMMED SALIH: No, I do not regret, because, having acted against Mirsaidov’s offer, I have acted against clans in our policy: behind this offer there were certain clans which wanted to grasp political authority in the country. I always hated clans in a policy as clans are illness ruining our people, strongly braking formation of our nation. I did not protect Karimov, I have simply acted against hypocrisy and lie of mister Mirsaidov. It occured any way, I not knew about preparing plot against Karimov. I, as always, intended to criticize Karimova. On a tribune the person who at each session stamped legs suddenly rises, protesting against my criticism to address of the president, and starts to criticize… the president! I was struck. I have acted against this metamorphosis, against this hypocrisy. And my statement appeared strong impact on antikarimov coalitions, it has helped Karimov to remain with authority.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: At the end of 80th and the beginning of 90th years when you and party «ERK» struggled for independence of Uzbekistan, leaders of national movement «BIRLIK» asserted, all over again it is need establish positions of democracy in republic and then positions of independence. If you remember, they explained it that without democracy independence «will present» Uzbekistan a dictatorial mode. Whether it seems to you, what then “Birlik” leaders were right?
MOHAMMED SALIH: No, I so do not think, though today in Uzbekistan really dictatorial mode. Never regretted and now I do not regret, that I was the supporter first of all independence, then already democracies. For us, for those who struggled for freedom in Soviet Union at the end of 80-years, freedom meant not only freedom of our peoples from the Soviet empire, it meant as freedom of each person in a society, a personal freedom. I think, that it is impossible to strengthen positions of democracy when this state is politically dependent on not democratic empire in any state. In a today’s dictatorial mode isn’t result of independence, on the contrary, it’s result of our passivity in struggle preservation of this independence. In the proof of the ideas I can result and that fact, that three Baltic countries which today by way of political arrangement, democracies and observance of human rights have far gone forward from Uzbekistan and the others Central Asia republics, then, to Soviet time, as well as we, struggled first of all for independence, instead of for democracy in structure of former Soviet Union.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: What is a place occupies Uzbekistan among other republics of the Central Asia by way of democracy, observance of human rights, a freedom of speech?
MOHAMMED SALIH: Penultimate. You know, that last place confidently occupies Turkmenistan. However, today in work of authorities of Uzbekistan it is possible to see much more absurd things, than in work Turkmen authorities. For example, attempt of authorities of Uzbekistan is ridiculous to criticize former Soviet Union and all failures to dump on it. Even more comically, when newly appeared Uzbek «nationalists» warn us of Russian danger. This antinational mode and its worthless officials, not seeing an output from impasse, foredoomed itself on constant inventing «enemies of independence, the country with the great future». The probability of sudden falling of this mode today as is high, as was, say, five years back. It is paradoxical, but is explained: the mode keeps exclusively on power structures, somehow it is necessary to explain to people why the impoverishment of people proceeds. And, when the basic part of broad masses of the beginning to test nostalgia on the Soviet empire when by it was guaranteed even daily bread, this number with the former USSR is started up.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: However, today Uzbekistan has also achievements: political stability, new buildings. In particular, today the city of Tashkent much more has changed in comparison with the beginning of 90th years. Unless is it not achievements?
MOHAMMED SALIH: As to stability about which you speak, in the beginning of 90th years I was against burial-ground stability which is achieved by force, dictatorship, arbitrariness and infringement of rights of people. It is artificial stability which can fail any minute. The genuine stability happens natural, it is achieved by observance of human rights, true democracy.
Concerning new buildings, I shall tell, that authorities of Uzbekistan have got used to declare any new building achievement of independence. Usually, such applications are done by chiefs of any building trusts, but not presidents of the states, especially «the countries with the great future». And Tashkent has changed the shape, does not mean, that all country has changed the shape. The set of buildings, type of Tashkent city municipality building is under construction, however to people of the country from it at all it is better. By the way, about a building Tashkent city municipality. Simple people hate this building with its inhabitants because it the luxury symbolizes authority of the vampire which sucks blood of simple people.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: What have made you today for improvement of life in Uzbekistan if you were the president of republic?
MOHAMMED SALIH: First, I such have not made anything for deterioration of life of my country. Certainly, I suffer, looking where our state is gradually rolled. But I feel strange simplification because, that I do not carry the responsibility for the tragical position created in the country. If I was the president, I have returned to my people freedom which has been taken away by a totalitarian mode. Freedom original, instead of paper. Freedom both in political, and in economic life. The state would serve people, rather the reverse. Rights of the person would have a priority above rights of the state, and the Law, only the Law accepted by people, decrees and decisions of the dictator, not ambitions of one person would be the main rudder in government, instead of.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: The last year, it is remembered, the press-secretary of the president of Uzbekistan Rustam Dzhumaev spoke, that you are of political strike of nothing do, has named you even a political corpse. What do you can tell in a refutation of such applications?
MOHAMMED SALIH: Well know, similar applications are small stepping-stones of small peoples. I do not pay to them at all attention. If something similar would be told by president Karimov, I has proved the opposite. Let’s think, if authorities of Uzbekistan count me a political corpse, why they do not stop the attempts to arrest or simply to kill me. What for to hunt on «a political corpse»?! By the way, unsuccessful and ridiculous attempt of the Uzbek authorities to arrest in Prague through the Interpol and to deliver me to Uzbekistan has happened after that applications. In the beginning of our conversation I spoke you, that till now authorities of republic have not overlooked about me, at the slightest opportunity want or to arrest and deliver to Uzbekistan or to kill. These actions Karimov mode are also the answer to his applications, Muhammad Salih, ostensibly, has turned in a political corpse.
Such applications mode of Karimov wants to spread to people an idea that Muhammad Salih as the political figure, ostensibly, does not exist any more that for ten years of persecutions he has refused political strike. I have not refused political strike, struggle for freedom. Inshaallah (the God will give), I shall not refuse, while my people be not unyoked. I have refused only blasphemous idea, that I unique, who has right on authorities in Uzbekistan. Today in this question I am more modest, than ten years back: my task is to work, the result is will of Allah.
— «OZOD OVOZ»: In political strike it is necessary to lean on any force. On whom you lean in the struggle?
MUHAMMAD SALIH: I shall lean on force on which in totalitarian modes it is not accepted to lean, namely — on people.
«OZOD OVOZ»: Thank you for conversation!
November, 7, 2003, Oslo, Norway