Terror in Uzbekistan: Who's to Blame?

By Simon Jones

Tashkent and a village near Bukhara. At least 20 militia and bystanders were killed and many wounded. The explosions involved women suicide bombers, one of whom detonated her load near the beautiful Kukaldash mosque in the old part of Tashkent. A sad first for the Uzbek nation. President Karimov denounced the events on TV, explaining that they

"were carried out by those forces that hate in their very souls our country, the peaceful life of our citizens and their achievements. Their aims are to disrupt peace, destabilize the situation, sow fear and panic, disrupt faith in our policies, disrupt our good thoughts and creative work."

For 'our policies,' read 'IMF dictates.' Yes, Uzbekistan finally made its currency -- ironically called the sum (but pronounced soom) -- convertible, after years of procrastinating, despite daily exhortations and pressure by the IMF, the United States, and the World Bank. In the process, all basic goods' prices were ratcheted up and the government soaked up sums by selling dollar reserves, pushing down the exchange rate as inflation continued to eat away at real wages.

The IMFhas ignored the devastation wrought on the average Farhad and the new ease with which corrupt officials and mafia deposit their ill-gotten gains abroad. The latest straw for the hand-to-mouth Farhads has been the public transit fare hikes, which have been monthly events.

The last such increase was met with outright protest on a bus I was in, the first time I've witnessed this. The babushka shouting at the conductor was hardly a terrorist.

President Karimov noted with disapproval in his speech that "before, we did not witness the situation where the criminal blew himself up. This shows the imitation of terrorist acts taking place in other countries." Ah yes, those cursed Palestinians and Iraqis. He goes on to blame "extremist centers with big financial means." And he calls on the traditional community organizations, mahallas, and their members, to be extra vigilant in exposing suspicious activities. "May they be brave and decisive, not stinting in their duty to preserve order in the mahallas."

But beware, Mr Karimov! The United States can be a fickle ally. The shiny new FBI office you allowed them to open here, the huge military base you handed over to them -- they aren't necessarily to protect you. And you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2004

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2004, page 21. Some rights reserved.

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