The future of Uzbekistan after Karimov
Even though Uzbekistan swayed to and fro between Russia and the USA, there have never been positive signs in the quality of its governance until today, on the contrary it has even gone backwards
In 1999, in the city of Turkistan in Kazakhistan where the majority are Uzbek nationals, I was chatting with an old Uzbek and the topic of Karimov came up. He began his words by saying : 'Do not call him Islam as we call him anti-Islam'. It is clear to those who take an interest in Uzbekistan, how Karimov transformed the nation into an open air prison, in the eight years following his election to government in 1991, by closing the borders of Uzbekistan to the rest of the world and abolishing all aspects of opposition, including all parties, press, radio and television and all forms of freedom of expression. In the early years of his reign, Karimov jailed all opposition party representatives with false accusations, and even pestered those who were able to run away.
Certainly this repressive governance was not a program that could be applied in isolation by the Uzbekistan dictator or Uzbekistan's top officials. This dictatorship openly used the internal "satisfied minority", obtaining the necessary consent and support from outside, and turned a blind eye to all violations of human rights. All factions in opposition to Karimov's religious and nationalist ideas received their share of his tyranny, including thinkers, writers, opinion leaders, organisations and parties. By the fifth year of his governance, in a country with a population of 20 million people more than 150,000 were jailed, and were charged as criminals along with their families despite the modern legal jurisidiction that was in place. In addition, Uzbek prisons were deliberately kept below minimum prison standards. Those who were incarcerated for any period between three and five years, upon release would eventually die due to ill health as a result of the abysmal conditions of the prison.
In the face of these illegal activities, there was no helping hand to the opposition from the outside world, and their voices were not heard. In addition, annual reports by Amnesty International failed to show the severity of the situation.
In 2005, the Andican events were used as an excuse to massacre hundreds of people on the streets, and imprison thousands of people in opposition and very few people were able to escape overseas from the claws of this dictator.
In my earlier articles I have attempted to draw attention to many issues, in particular the false accusations against the religious and local nationals, accusing them of terrorism; the banning of dress codes; the forced labour of the elderly on the cotton fields; the subjugation, the poverty as well as the oppression of the local Uzbek community exluding the "satisfied minority".
The dictator Islam Kerimov, who ruled over the Uzbek citizens with an iron fist, died from celebral hemorrhage only a few days ago. As is known, 1991 in Central Asia and Caucasus, there appeared presidents who were Communist Party members that served during the period of the Soviet Union. These dictators had many common features and were not dissimilar to each other. The most prominent feature was their party membership and their loyalty to the Soviet system which they served most faithfully for a long period of time. Some of them were former employees of the Soviet intelligence. Another common feature that stands out is that from their first day of rule was the control of all propaganda, denying all requests from the opposition. All elections were nothing but a pretence and the propaganda was in favour of the leader, with the slightest objection sufficient reason for imprisonment. This system, despite the abundance of opposition, has continued to this day with the aid of outside support.
How will the political atmosphere appear in Uzbekistan from this point? Even though Uzbekistan swayed to and fro between Russia and the USA, there has never been any positive signs in the quality of its governance untill today, on the contrary, it has even gone backwards. There seems to be no changes to the approach towards Central Asia in the politics observed by the international powers.
If one is to look at those in power, its is evident that they are all candidates that will continue the same system; it is quite clear they will continue the legacy of the past dictator scheme and culture. The strongest candidate amongst them is Uzbekistan Prime Minister Mirziyoyev. Unless there is a big surprise, the possibility of him being the new president is highly likely. If the Uzbekistan governance that follows the Soviet state tradition will continue to follow this tradition, it is a strong possibility that Savkat Mirziyoyev, who was given the task of carrying out the funeral rights, will be given the Presidency. The second strongest candidate is the finance minister, Rustem Azimov.
The point of exit for Uzbekistan is to open the way for freedom of expression within a democratic and multi-party political system, and for the country to open its doors to the world, beginning with its neighbours.
Contrary to this, there is no doubt Uzbekistan will fall far lower in world standards than its current standing, and this country, who has much potential will lose its intellectual strength; the swamp of drugs and alcohol will only increase, further isolating the impoverished country to the sidelines.
As I have tried to demonstrate in my previous articles, Uzbekistan was the cradle of civilisation in Central Asia and in its essence, carried the true banner of Islam in the region. The noble Uzbeks were also exceptionally shrewed business people and were the bearers of civilisation from Central Anatolia to the west, India to the south and China to the east. If the oppression is lifted from the Uzbek people, they will lift their nation as in the time of Timur who achieved a prosperous state economically, commercially and spiritually with no foreign support.
Our prayers are for the Uzbek people, to be able to live in peace, to build their future, to carry on its glorious historic mission by way of renewing its ties with its neighbouring countries who it has strong family ties with, and listening to the rightful demands of its citizens, to build a fair and free Uzbekistan...