The Lying Liars of Washington and Tashkent
The situation remains confused in east Uzbekistan on Monday 16 May as thousands of people escaping Friday’s bloody repression in Andijan cross the border into Kyrgyzstan. On Sunday, the Kyrgyz and Uzbek authorities decided to open the frontier in both directions for five days in a measure meant to reassure the populace.
On the Kyrgyz side of the frontier, a refugee camp opened on Sunday not far from Jalalabad under the supervision of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. 900 people are in the camp, including dozens of wounded. The same day, the residents of Andijan (a city 30 km from the frontier) buried their relatives killed when the Uzbek Army machine-gunned the central square.
Although no official death toll has issued by the authorities, President Islam Karimov announced the death of ten police. He has remained silent on the number of civilian dead. A doctor in Andjian told AP under cover of anonymity that 500 bodies were stacked up in School No. 15, transformed into a temporary morgue. According to accounts by eyewitnesses given to the few remaining media correspondents, hundreds died in the repression. The city has been surrounded and reporters have been ordered to leave.
Despite the violent charge by police into the crowd of 4,000 people assembled in the central square of Andijan on Friday, numerous protesters were able to reach the frontier with Kyrgyzstan. Only the most determined were able to cross the river separating the two countries, however. The others headed for the local administration in the village of Ilitchevsk. After collaring the local top official, the demonstrators burned down government buildings and shouted anti-government slogans.
In Kara Su, a little farther along, people built a passage over the river and began to cross. A few months ago a bridge spanning the river was demolished by order of the authorities following a border agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The measure angered the locals because a large number of Uzbek traders used the bridge to reach the large Kyrgyz market on the other side. The closing caused them to be deprived of their income and only source of revenue. Later on Saturday in Kara Su, furious demonstrators burned down the tax office, the police station and the customs house.
Denying the evidence to the contrary, President Karimov blamed "Islamist groupings" for the bloody unrest in the country, even going so far as to deny that he gave the order to fire on the demonstrators. This is not terrorism. This is the people speaking out against poverty and repression, says Holly Cartner, Human Rights Watch’s expert on central Asia.
The UK through the voice of its Foreign Minister Jack Straw condemned the violation of human rights in Uzbekistan. But the United States, linked to the current regime in a military partnership, abstained from making the slightest comment critical of the Uzbek government. The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government, but that should come through peaceful means, not through violence said White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Friday.