Central Asia: May 18, 2005


In the eastern Uzbek town of Korasuv, government officials and police were driven out of the town of 20,000. Irate citizens then tore down barricades that blocked access to neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Three years ago, the Uzbek government closed the bridge, as part of a policy to seal Uzbekistan off from a more tolerant atmosphere towards Islamic conservatives and democracy advocates in Kyrgyzstan. This move hurt a lot of people on both sides of the border because trade was also cut off. Families were not cut off as well. The population on both sides of the border is largely Uzbek. This had not been a problem for as long as the Soviet Union existed, because Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were simply two provinces (or "republics" in Soviet doubletalk) of the Soviet empire. But now, some leading citizens of  Korasuv have come forward and announced their intention of establishing an a democratic Islamic republic in Uzbekistan. A democratic Islamic republic is one in which you can vote for any candidate you want, as long as that candidate supports the use of Islamic law (Sharia) as the law of the land. Journalists did not see many armed men in Korasuv. But no government officials or police were seen either.

Meanwhile, government officials gave reporters a tour of nearby Andijan, where violence in the last week had left at least  500 dead. The government insisted the death toll was under 200. Locals also in that at least 200 people were killed in another city, Pakhtabad, in  Ferghana valley of eastern Uzbekistan. 


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