Uzbeks protest in Turkey, Independence Day spoiled
While Uzbek President was celebrating “a great holiday, an unforgettable historic date – the twentieth anniversary of independence [of] Uzbekistan – across the entire nation, in every single town and kishlak,” Uzbeks living in excile in Turkey were making their last preparations to protest against the regime in Istanbul, demanding democratic changes in Uzbekistan.
Ozodlik Radiosi (Uzbek serice of RFE/RL) reported that on September 1, 2011, some fifty human rights activists gathered in front of the Consulate General in Istanbul, organized by People’s Movement of Uzbekistan, a comparatively new oppositional movement to oust President Karimov led by Muhammad Salikh, first and only real opponent of Islam Karimov at first Presidential elections in Uzbekistan in 1991.
With branches over continents, PMU activists aim to spread a word about processes that take place in Uzbekistan, mostly political, but also including human rights violations, issues with media freedoms’, etc.
Protesters were holding banners with demands in Uzbek, English and Turkish, such as: “We don’t forget Andijan!”, “Time to Change!”, “Stop Torture!”, “For every Pharaon there is a Moses,” etc.
Although, PMU was the organizer of the event it wasn’t only their activists rallying — Uzbeks of Istanbul, several Turkish human rights activists, members of the Turkish “Buyuk Birlik” party (Turkish for “Great Union”), as well as mass media were present, too.
The protesters put forward five demands of the Uzbek government at the rally, namely: stop all antidemocratic policies, establish press freedom, release all political prisoners, allow the return home of all exiled politicians and political parties, and to hold immediate presidential, parliamentary, and local elections, Ozodlik Radiosi reports.
One of the protesters Aliboy Yulyakhshiev told RFE/RL that:
“In fact, the people of Uzbekistan declared their independence on June 20, 1990, when the parliament adopted the republic’s declaration of sovereignty,” he said. “Karimov hijacked our independence. Uzbekistan gained its political independence, but in terms of real liberty, democracy, and justice, Uzbekistan is not independent. That is why we decided to gather today and express our opinion.”
It’s interestnig to note that authorities didn’t mind and permitted a rally — police was peacefully monitoring a non-viloent event. What is this: change of political accents from Turkey’s pro-Karimov policy to if not anti-Karimov but more pro-opposition orientation, hinting on difficulties of Turkish citizen and almost an open anti-Turkish-business-presence policy of Uzbek authorities?
No reaction was expressed from Uzbek diplomat’s side. But while protesters were delivering speeches, somebody from the building of the Consulate General was carefully taking pictures and video taping the whole event.
The video won’t make it to the 2011 Holiday scratch book for the people of Uzbekistan, of course. Otherwise it would spoil the fairy tale President Karimov retells his countrymen for the past twenty years.
RFE/RL’s video of the rally available here.