Islamic Protests in Uzbekistan Leave More than 500 Dead At least 500 people have died in Uzbekistan after violent protests in the Central Asian country. Demonstrators remain in control of parts of the country, which provided a military base for U.S. forces' operations in nearby Afghanistan. Last week Uzbek troops clashed with Islamic protesters after rebels freed inmates who were to be tried on charges of religious extremism.
NPR logo

Islamic Protests in Uzbekistan Leave More than 500 Dead

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4653109/4653110" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Islamic Protests in Uzbekistan Leave More than 500 Dead

Islamic Protests in Uzbekistan Leave More than 500 Dead

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4653109/4653110" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Demonstrators remain in control in some parts of Uzbekistan. Over the weekend, authorities met a violent protest with a violent crackdown in the city of Andijan, but there are protests in some other cities near the country's eastern borders, as we learned from reporter Natalia Antelava, who is in Uzbekistan's capital.

NATALIA ANTELAVA (NPR Reporter): Andijan remains to be a closed city and just a few kilometers away from it in the city of Kirsu(ph), the local authorities basically lost to the people, and people are now running the place. But it's very difficult to say or predict whether this is a trend, whether this is going to carry on and continue elsewhere, because authorities have definitely shown that they're not afraid to use their power. They are probably hoping that they taught the demonstrators a lesson and no one else will dare to come out into the streets.

INSKEEP: The violence in Andijan alone left an estimated 500 people dead. All this happened in a country that is an important United States ally. Uzbekistan provided a military base for the war in nearby Afghanistan. The country's authoritarian government is also fighting an Islamist movement, and it was an effort to put 23 accused religious extremists on trial that led to the demonstrations. Those following developments in Uzbekistan include Fred Starr. He is chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Mr. FRED STARR (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies): We should be concerned. It's a very important country. It's a kind of linchpin of the region along with Afghanistan. And we have a serious interest there, not just the security one but a larger, regional interest, because it borders all the other countries of Central Asia, including Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: And what parts of this country have Islamist movements in strength?

Mr. STARR: Well, the current issue is in the Ferghana Valley, which is actually divided into three countries. Part is in Tajikistan, part is in Kyrgyzstan. And there, there has been, in addition to some very modern developments, like tennis camps and a Korean automobile factory, there has been an Islamist movement. And the people who are under trial in Andijan that led to this crisis were connected with a quite radical group.

INSKEEP: Would a revolution in Uzbekistan be as welcome to the United States and to the West as revolutions in other former Soviet republics have been?

Mr. STARR: I'm not sure that the US is in the business of welcoming revolutions. I think what we're in the business of is welcoming changes that lead to a greater public voice in decision-making. I think a revolution in Uzbekistan, we'd have to acknowledge, it could be a disaster. It could be a very bloody affair because both sides will probably use a lot of force. Are we concerned that the gradual process toward openness occurs? Yes.

INSKEEP: If there was majority rule in Uzbekistan, just looking at the numbers, would that likely be Islamist rule?

Mr. STARR: Probably not. It wouldn't be anything like the Islamic rule that this small group out in the town of Andijan favors. It's rabidly anti-Semitic. It is kind of medieval in its world view. It wants to do away with states. It's violently anti-Western. There's no sympathy for that in the country as a whole. Would it be moderately pro-Islamic? Yes. Is the current regime so? Yes, but it's a secular state, and I think there is general support in Uzbekistan for the state remaining secular in character.

INSKEEP: Fred Starr is at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington. Thanks for coming by.

Mr. STARR: Thank you.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.