Saturday, May 10, 2014

National Security Discourse, Legislation, and Action: Recap

               Over the past few months, I have attempted to discover and elucidate the current discourse on national security, emerging legislation, and related action taken by the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan.  The attitude of the discourse related to national security reflects the government’s anxiety of foreign and domestic threats to the stability of the state.  Recent legislation passed by the Oliy Majlis (Uzbek Parliament) generally reflects these concerns, as do actions taken by Uzbek security forces.
                As we have seen, the discourse made by President Islam Karimov warns of imminent threats to the integrity of the Republic.  Speeches urge security forces to remain vigilant and on high alert. [1]  The foreign threats President Karimov refers to are most likely an anticipated resurgence of the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) from Afghanistan and violence along the borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.  Uzbek officials have reported that militant Islamists have begun to return to the northern region of Aghanistan Badakhshan, where they are believed to be interfering with drug interdiction and security operations. [2]  The January 2014 shooting near the ethnic Tajik Vorukh enclave between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards is another cause for concern, as the enclave is not far from Uzbekistan’s own borders.
                The Parliament of Uzbekistan also drafted some noteworthy legislation in 2014 regarding the distribution of religious material.  In particular, the Parliament passed measures regulating the distribution, production, and importation of media materials categorized by the state as being religious in theme. [3]  The legislation requires that anyone wishing to distribute religious material in Uzbekistan must first receive permission from the Committee on Religious Affairs.  Authors, publishers, and distributors are now required to list their name, address, and quantity of media intended for distribution.  Customs officials now have the legal authority to seize unauthorized materials at checkpoints and detain those in possession of them.  With the broad scope of language used in this legislation, it is possible that the government could use this as a justification in repressing other groups and individual critics.  For example, one of the categories of “banned” material includes material which seeks to “discredit” the work of someone else. 
                Religious political movements remain a threat in the eyes of the state.  This is evident through the continued arrests of suspected members of the international political party Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT).  HT seeks to establish Caliphate (a state of Islam) in Central Asia.  The party is banned in most Central Asian states, including Uzbekistan, and arrests of suspected HT members in the country are a regular occurrence.  HT of Uzbekistan’s website frequently publishes videos condemning the government and President Islam Karimov and praying for the expedient establishment of an Islamic state in Uzbekistan. [4] 
                In 2013, the People’s Movement of Uzbekistan party leader Muhammad Solih was rumored to have published a call for armed resistance against thegovernment.[5]  Solih lives in exile in Turkey.  In March 2014, opposition group Birdamlik organized a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.  The group intends to carry out a “color revolution” similar to those seen in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan in Uzbekistan.  The security apparatus of Uzbekistan must be aware of these developments, because they have been denying travel permission to Birdamlik leaders from Uzbekistan to the U.S.[6]  The state has also reportedly engaged in harassment and coercion of Birdamlik leaders, including the father of the organization’s president. [7]
                In summary, the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan appears to be concerned with a wide array of foreign and domestic developments which it considers threatening to national security.  Rhetoric and press releases from the government’s executive are the initial signal of these concerns.  Legislation passed by the Parliament and action taken by security forces indicate that the government is seeking to regulate the emergence of religious and secular political opposition

1.  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan.  "Prazdnichnoye pozdravleniye zashchitnikam Rodiny po sluchayu 22-letiya obrazovaniya Vooruzhennykh Sil Respubliki Uzbekistan"  Jan. 13, 2014.
2. Central Asia Online.  "Uzbekistan prinimayet mery v svyazi s aktivizatsiyey IDU na granitse" Jan. 31, 2014.
3. Uzbekistan Parliamentary Database.  "Postanovleniye
Kabineta Ministrov Respubliki Uzbekistan
O merakh po sovershenstvovaniyu poryadka osushchestvleniya deyatel'nosti v sfere izgotovleniya, vvoza i rasprostraneniya materialov religioznogo soderzhaniya" Jan.  20, 2014.
4. Halifat News. 
"Rezhim Islama Karimova nikak ne nasytitsya krov'yu shakhidov" Jan. 7, 2014. 
Khaknazarov, Usman.   Narodnoye Dvizheniye Uzbekistana.  "Usman Khaknazarov: Islam Karimov reshil pozhiznenno ostat'sya u vlasti"  Feb 03, 2014. 
 6.  "Iz Uzbekistana na kurultay “Birdamlika” ne pushchat'!" March 24, 2014.
7. Rosbalt.  "Arest kak mest' za syna?" June 21, 2013. 

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