Friday, March 28, 2014

Fractured Opposition in Uzbekistan

                Popular opposition groups in Uzbekistan are faced with two substantial problems: disunity and restriction of association.  While the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan (PMU) is frequently listed as a key coalition of opposition parties, with a shared ideology and intent, the reality is that the coalition has significantly splintered since 2011.   This post will elaborate on the fractions within the ranks of the PMU and recent travel restrictions encountered by opposition figures.
                The PMU, led by Mohammad Solih, was organized in 2011.  As an oath, it declared that Islam Karimov, by Allah, would be removed within six months.  Is the PMU a united, Islamist opposition coalition?  It appears that the movement has since been divided.  News agency Mahalla reports that the states goals of the coalition are conflicting: calling for the preservation of a secular democracy on the one hand, and promoting a theological order on the other. [1]  Parties critical of the Karimov administration are also critical of the behavior of the PMU’s leader Mohammad Solih.  He is described as an Islamic fascist, promoting the superiority of Uzbek ethnicity over others (particularly Russians) in Uzbekistan, and leading the coalition as a dictator. 
                PMU is also suspected by some oppositionists of being a National Security Service trap, luring upset Uzbeks into joining and engaging in violent protest against the state.  Independent journalist,  author of the Zamondosh blog, Rizo Obidov states that the oppositionist Abdulaziz Mahmudov made this claim against Mohammad Solih. [2]  Perhaps this is why Obidov reports that the PMU has significantly splintered, losing Bahodyr Choriyev’s Birdamlik (Unity) party, Andijan-Justice-Progress party, and others.  Obidov estimates that the PMU presently only consists of three or four people, though this is not a verified claim.  What this current discussion indicates is that popular opposition within Uzbekistan and among the Uzbek diaspora cannot be labeled as a cohesive coalition.  For example, Choriyev’s Birdamlik party is based in the United States, acting independently of PMU leadership. 
                The Turkish Gülenists have, as alleged by Mohammad Solih, called for the extradition of Solih to Uzbekistan, in exchange for permission from President Karimov for the Gülenists’ permission to operate in Uzbekistan. [3]  The Gülenists are an Islamist party which was founded in Turkey, though their leader Fethullah Gülen currently lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.  It is not likely that President Karimov would agree to such an arrangement, though his administration has persistently sought after Solih. 
            Though political opposition in Uzbekistan appears to be divided in organization, they are still closely monitored by the state.  In March 2014, a Birdamlik member (Nuriniso Khobayevoi) attempted to travel from Uzbekistan to the United States, but her passport was taken by authorities and her transit was denied. [4]  Khobayevoi planned to attend an upcoming April 2014 opposition congress in St. Louis, MO.  On the agenda of the congress is the organization of a “color” revolution in Uzbekistan. 
            As can be seen, Uzbek opposition to the government of President Karimov is divided and rife with in-fighting and suspicion.  The state, anticipating diasporic-organized popular revolution, is restricting the exit and likely the entry of opposition party members and leaders.  Though no recent statements have been issued by the government, the actions are speaking the loudest.

1. Radzhabov, Abdumalik.  «Narodnoye dvizheniye Uzbekistana»: tseli i posledstviya.  Mahalla.  Jan. 23, 2014.
2. Obidov, Rizo.  "Padeniye NDU so skaly v boloto."  April 2, 2013.
3. Central Asia Today.  "Mukhammad Salikh: Storonniki Fetkhullakha Gyulena dobivayutsya moyey deportatsii iz Turtsii"  March 13, 2014.
4.  "Iz Uzbekistana na kurultay “Birdamlika” ne pushchat'!"  March 24, 2014.

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