Central Asia: May 17, 2005


Police and soldiers are trying to restore order in eastern Uzbekistan. So far, the security forces appear to have killed over 700 people, wounded over a thousand and arrested over 1,500. Over the past few years, Uzbek president Islam Karimov has been warned by the U.S. to either get with the democratic process, or risk getting overthrown. Even though the United States withdrew most foreign aid last year over this issue,  Karimov believes that he can tough it out. But the United States has been funding pro-democracy political organizations in Uzbekistan, meaning that Karimov has to convince the world that he is fighting Islamic terrorists, not just Uzbeks fed up with his corrupt rule. Unlike neighboring   Kyrgyzstan, where police and troops refused to fire on their countrymen, in Uzbekistan the security forces have, so far, remained loyal to Karimov, and done his dirty work. 

Unless massive numbers of Uzbeks come out in the cities and confront the troops and police, and are not fired on, Karimov will remain in power. So far, the crowds have  been either not there, or driven away by gunfire and the threat of arrest.


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