Muhammad Salih`s speech at “13 May Union” international conference in Brussels 27.10.2009
In the early 90s, along with other political parties, a wave of religious organizations appeared which have nurtured ideas of devotion to the God that appealed particularly to young men.
Those groups had not embraced radicalism.
For example the Renaissance Party headed by Abdulla Utaev, could have been easily integrated into political landscape of our country.
No doubt that there were marginal groups with radical components such as Tovba, who set the route in founding IMU eventually. But even those groups could have been brought into constitutional frame if the right policies were deployed. Repressive policies forced them out of the system making them rogue from the mainstream.
After the fall of Communism, US and the West have created a new ideological enemy – Islamic Fundamentalism. Such new ideology aligned with the policies of new Central Asian dictators. They had no hesitation to use this ideology in their repressions against opposition and religious people.
The most reckless among those dictators was Islam Karimov, who, following Bolshevic methods, launched red terror against everyone who expressed independent opinion or argued with him. The “red terror” began to serve as an attraction and breeding ground for ever growing radicalism.
Islam Karimov has achieved success in the past 20 years in such dangerous game. He has managed to convince the United States, the Bush Administration that he is the “shield against Islamic extremism”. And now he is negotiating with the Obama Administration in an attempt to preserve his status.
Meanwhile the syndrome of Islamic fundamentalism has exacerbated in a way that now the entire Uzbek opposition is being suspected with this syndrome. We had to respond in order to eliminate this.
Thus we have founded “Union of May 13” together with groups that are branded as religious radicals by the Uzbek authorities.
Today they are sitting with us in this forum, they speak the same language, the language of democracy.
They could be sitting in the death camp of Jaslik (prison camp in Uzbekistan) too, and speak the language of violence and abuse with Karimov’s prison torturers, right?
I believe integration is possible, that means one cannot be born as democrat. He or she should become one.
Give the people choice, give them freedom of expression, let them breath free air, the one that you breath.
Don’t make them to defend themselves against you’re your wring policies, don’t force them to take arms.
An article in the Declaration of Human Rights clearly elaborates this:
“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort , to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
The current social political situation in Uzbekistan is catastrophic. Iit has dramatically deteriorated in a way that even ordinary people are ready to take arms against Karimov regime. Those are not religious radicals, nor opposition members, they are businessmen, workers, teachers, even journalists.
While European Union is considering possible revoking of symbolic sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan, dictator Karimov continues to build up his repressive machine, breeding his “child” – radicalism.
Prosecutors in this country are openly executing authorities’ orders who give them what number of religious or political activists to arrest. They torture and kill in a more innovative ways than 5 years ago.
Besides political repressions there are other things that contribute to strengthening of radicalism such as economic failures. For example two years ago Karimov quietly banned farmers to move and sell their produce outside the country. This means that small and medium farms growing agriculture products will go bankrupt.
This will serve also as another way of enrichment for corrupt law enforcement and will flourish contraband. The authorities explain this by saying that this policy would help stabilize prices in the domestic markets. But the truth is that the regime fears people who are materially independent from the government. This process only exacerbates people’s anger towards the government and increases the number of desperate people who could resort to resolve their problems in a radical way.
In the past the Western governments were more reluctant to express concerns over the repressive policies of the Uzbek regime, but now it seems like they surrendered their stance to Karimov and turned blind eye. Today when the EU is about to revoke the sanctions it introduced against Uzbekistan 5 years ago, the number of political prisoners in Uzbekistan has doubled since the time those sanctions were imposed. Uzbekistan did not comply with a single demand declared in the sanction terms.
Furthermore, Uzbek Foreign Minister, while embracing Xavier Solana in Brussels, rigorously warned the EU to do not interfere in domestic affairs of the “country with great future”.
Apparently, Foreign Minister of “the country with great future” does not have ability of appreciation for such a generous gesture. Though Karimov’s regime is much worse than, for example, the military-junta of Burma, EU sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan are not even tenth of what Burma got.
Instead, the West has been providing financial and political aid to Uzbekistan for many years in its war “against extremism”.
The West cannot and does not want to acknowledge the fact that as long as the regime of Karimov exists, the extremism will remain in the region inevitably, because the main sponsor of this evil is the Uzbek dictator himself.
Karimov needs extremism to scare OSCE, EU and US, so that they could regard him as the main shield against “Islmaic fundamentalism” on the Southern borders of post-soviet landscape.
This is half a problem. The other half relates to its neighbors: albeit the leaders of neighboring republics do not regard Karimov friendly, they embrace his style of ruling. The strong-fist and authoritarian style of ruling in the example of Uzbekistan has proven itself as effective, in the views of those leaders.
According to press, in Kazakhstan, for example, some Sura’s from Koran have been added to the list of banned extremist literature. The city court of Astana has ruled on banning several Sura’s from Koran under the pretext that they promote ideologies of radical wahabbism. Perhaps, those courts are not aware that such verdicts only fuel the spread of radicalism. In other words, the court of Astana simply acted in Tashkent style.
Karimov is the main cause of hostile policies between the Central Asian neighbors. He has initiated the establishment of wire- barbed borders between neighbors. He has always sparked tensions between leaders during summits in order to create hostility between brotherly nations.
Radicalization in any society could be stopped by eliminating the roots that caused it. This means that in our situation only political and economic freedoms could save us from this dangerous labyrinth.
Are Uzbek authorities ready for reforms?
I don’t think they are or will be ready in the near future?
As Uzbek opposition, what do we have to do?
1. First we have to abandon the illusion that the Uzbek people and the World view Karimov equally.
2. We need to once again emphasize the fact and let the world know that one of the main factors of destabilization in Central Asia is the regime of Islam Karimov. We need to convince the world that the collapse of the regime will be the liberation not only for Uzbekistan but for the entire region.
3. We need to acknowledge that our method of struggle – petitions, complaints, monitoring, conferences -against the regime has proven vulnerable. We need to take ultimate decision on our method of struggle for our values, and work out an action plan. The program needs to focus on our core actions within the country.
4. We need to breakthrough the information blockade set by the regime. We need to let our people know the real situation in the country. We need to let them know our plans about the future of Uzbekistan.
5. We need to call on boycotting any elections held by the authorities. Do not fall into illusion of “democracy in slavery” by registering for participation in the filibuster organized by the regime. Any elections without people’s participation are fraud.
Our group – Union of May 13th, includes religious societies too, which denounce terror and are committed to peaceful development of our country. We are convinced that without integrating religious groups into the democratic process we cannot establish a genuine stability in our country.
What is the main purpose of our conference today?
We are gathered here to eliminate Karimov’s myth of “Islamic fundamentalism”, used by the dictator who continues to deceive the whole world for the past 20 years.
We came here to prove that the root causes of radicalization of Uzbek society need to be searched in the nature of totalitarian regime of Islam Karimov, and not in the Islam religion.
“Union of May 13” is a perfect example that in the struggle with the regime, consolidation of different groups is possible. What bonds these groups in our union is their adherence and commitment to freedom, justice and denouncing of terrorism, including state terrorism.
We would like to call on uniting all freedom-loving people of Uzbekistan to join us.
I particularly appeal to millions of our countrymen who suffer from terror of Uzbek authorities: your patience has limits, your patience starts resembling slavery. Pull your heads up and stand up from your knees. Do not be afraid of losing your job, or even your home – your human dignity is above everything.
I appeal to that majority who quietly monitor for the past 20years how the executioners of the regime torture and neutralize opposition, religious and independently thinking people. Very soon, the Day of Shame will arrive. The day when you will realize that your inability to speak up had served as approval for the crimes committed by the regime. Wake up while it’s not too late.
I appeal to that minority, to that small crowd, which defends this criminal regime: Abandon that ship of evil, while you have time. Come to your people, maybe they will forgive your betrayal.
Finally, I appeal to those who, for the past 20 years talked about uniting opposition, but in reality did everything to destroy it. Your evil intentions just like of Badr, Yehud, Haibar and Hudaibial are useless before the unity of supporters of Almighty’s Justice. You failed then, you will undoubtedly fail this time also.
Leader of Democratic ERK Party of Uzbeksitan