Assessment for Tajiks in Uzbekistan
Area: 174,846 sq. km.
Total Population: 23,783,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)
701 – 800 Islamic Arabs conquered Central Asia and brought a new religion and culture. Under Arab rule, Central Asia retained much of its Iranian character and remained an important center of culture and trade for centuries.
801 – 900 Turks arrived in Central Asia.
1001 – 1100 Persian replaced Arabic as the standard written language in most of Central Asia.
1201 – 1300 The armies of Chinggis Khan led by Mongols conquered Central Asia. The conquest, known as the Mongol invasion, quickened the process of Turkification of the region as the armies of Chinggis Khan were made up mostly of Turkic tribes. The Mongol domination was important in the history of Central Asia because it established the tradition that the legitimate ruler of any Central Asian state could only be a blood descendant of Chinggis Khan.
1301 – 1400 Chinggis Khan’s empire began to break up into its constituent parts as the princes of various tribal groups came to compete for influence. One tribal chieftain, Timur, known also as Tamerlane, emerged as the dominant force. While not a descendent of Chinggis, Timur unified Mongol holdings in Central Asia and imbued his empire with a rich culture. Turkish first rivaled Persian as the literary language.
1501 – 1600 The Timurid state quickly broke into halves after the death of Timur. The chronic internal fighting of the Timurids attracted the attention of the Uzbek nomadic tribes which undertook a wholesale invasion of Mawarannahr, an important trade, administrative and cultural province in Central Asia. Uzbeks established states of which the most powerful was the Khanate of Bukharo, centered on the city of Bukharo. The khanate controlled the region of Tashkent, the Fergana Valley and northeastern Afghanistan. Another Uzbek state controlled the oasis of Khorazm at the mouth of the Amu Darya.
1601 – 1800 Kazak nomads and Mongols raided and weakened Uzbek khanates. Conflict with Iran isolated Uzbeks in the Muslim world.
1701 – 1800 The Khanate of Bukharo lost the fertile Fergana region and a new Uzbek khanate was formed in Quqon. Russians began to arrive in Central Asia.
1801 – 1900 By the early nineteenth century Central Asia was caught between Britain and Russia, the first of which arrived in Afghanistan while the second appeared in the Kazak steppes. Tashkent, Bukharo and Samarquand were captured by the Russians in 1865, 1967, and 1968, respectively.
1861 – 1870 The Jadidist movement founded in the 1860s emerged to be the only avenue for Uzbek resistance to Russians. The Jadidists were supported by Tajiks, Tatars, and Uzbeks. Being modernizers and nationalists who viewed Central Asia as a whole, they believed that the religious and cultural greatness of Islamic civilization had been degraded in the Central Asia of their day.
1867 Guberniya (Governorate General) of Turkestan was established as the central Russian administration. It included (1899) present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and southeastern Kazakstan.
1891 – 1900 The new Russian railroads brought greater numbers of Russians into the area.
1900 Jadidism became the first major resistence movement in Central Asia.
1900 The territory of Uzbekistan, already in full control of the Russian empire, was divided into three political groupings the khanates of Bukharo and Khiva, and the Guberniya of Turkestan.
1916 A bloody rebellion began in Uzbekistan and then spread into Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Kazaks, and Turkmen rebelled against Russian land confiscation and conscription. An estimated 2,000 Slavic settlers and even more local people were killed, and the harsh Russian reprisals drove one third of the Kyrgyz population to China.
1917 The Soviet State was established through the Bolshevik Revolution.
1918 Bolsheviks crushed the autonomous government in Quqon. Jadidists began a decade-long Basmachi revolt involving elements from all five republics and mercenaries.
1921 Communists won the Russian Civil War and reduced the power of the Central Asian party branches.
1924 The Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan was established. The territory of Uzbekistan included the two main Tajik cultural centers, Bukhoro and Samarqand, as well as parts of the Fergana Valley to which other ethnic groups could lay claims. The readjustment of ethnic politics would cause animosity and territorial claims among Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz through much of the Soviet era, but conflicts were to grow especially sharp only after the collapse of central Soviet rule.
1925 – 1935 Uzbek communist party chief Khojayev enforced the Soviet policy of collectivization of agriculture in Uzbekistan. The new party policy opened up opportunities for local Uzbeks to enter party and government positions. The process of rapid inclusion of local Uzbeks into the republican establishment raised suspicion and fear of strengthening of Uzbek nationalism, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin soon arrested and executed the entire group around Khojayev. Following the purge of the nationalists, the government and party ranks in Uzbekistan were filled with people loyal to the Moscow government. The capital Tashkent and other large cities were Russified. Local Uzbeks mostly populated the country’s agricultural regions.
1929 The Soviet Socialist republic of Tajikistan was separated from Uzbekistan of which it had been a part since 1924.
1936 Karakalpakstan was transferred from Russia to the Republic of Uzbekistan and was declared an autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. The Karakalpak are a Turkic Muslim group.
1956 – 1964 The Central Asian communist leaders who had been purged by Stalin were rehabilitated. Russification remained a prerequisite for party advancement.
1959 – 1982 Publications from the glasnost’ period caused a public scandal in Uzbekistan and in the Soviet Union when it was revealed that the long time first secretary of Uzbekistan Sharaf Rashidov had been bribing the Moscow authorities since he first came to power and had been establishing a clan-based political system in Uzbekistan whereby incumbents had used their official positions to enrich themselves.
1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
1985 – 1990 Uzbek intellectuals began forming opposition political groups. The most important of these was Birlik (Unity) which advocated the diversification of agriculture; a program to salvage the Aral Sea; and, the declaration of the Uzbek language as the state language of the republic.
1986 Widespread purge of Communist Party of Uzbekistan leadership began after the exposure of corruption in Rashidov regime. Anti-Russian feelings and nationalism intensified.
Jun 1989 Clashes between Uzbeks and Meskhetian Turks broke out after a disagreement in a market between an Uzbek vendor and a Meskhetian buyer. The incident sparked widespread violence that spread to several cities in the Fergana valley. Around 100 people were killed and 600-800 wounded. The victims were mainly Meskhetians and the perpetrators mainly Uzbeks. Hundreds of homes and government buildings were also burned. Several thousand troops were sent in to quell the violence that took place over the course of a week. Moscow later evacuated 17,000 Meskhetians. They had in recent months been pressuring the government to let them return to their homeland in Georgia from which they were deported during World War II for fear they would support Turkey in the even of an invasion of Russia. Moscow then appointed Islam Karimov as first secretary of the Communist party of Uzbekistan. (Los Angeles Time, 6/6/89; BBC, 6/8/89; Toronto Star, 6/12/89 and 6/13/89)
Nov 13, 1989 At a meeting organized on 15 September by citizens of Samarkand, claims were raised for the autonomy of Tajiks in Uzbekistan, for the removal of borders between Bukhara and Samarkand, and for the establishment of an autonomous republic by the name of Sogdiana. (BBC)
Nov 13, 1989 Civic activists and politicians from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan discussed more frequently the situation of the ethnic Tajiks in Uzbekistan. The prevailing opinion was that the situation of the ethnic Tajiks was bad and that practical steps were necessary in order to improve it. Mukhammad Shukorov, Doctor of Philology and corresponding member of the Tajikistan Academy observed that since the early 1920s, many injustices were committed against Tajiks living in Uzbekistan. Khayat Ne’mat, poet from Samarkand, pointed out that in the language law of the Uzbek SSR, the linguistic and cultural interests of the Tajiks were disregarded. Laiq Sherali, poet and Editor-in-Chief of the magazine ‘Sadai Sharq,’ noted that while leaders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan agreed to opening Tajik language schools in Samarkand and Bukhara, as well as to the commission of newspapers and theaters, no practical steps were undertaken for accomplishing the tasks.(BBC)
1991 – 2000 The Central Asian states were the scene of several incidents of ethnic conflict. Ethnic clashes between the Tajiks and Kyrgyz took place nearly every summer over water rights. In February 1990, Tajiks and Armenians clashed in Tajikistan. Clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz erupted in the Fergana valley in June 1990 over land issues. One to two hundred people were killed in the latter violent incident (The Economist, 9/21/91)
Aug 1991 A coup against the Gorbachev government failed in Moscow. Uzbekistan declared the republic’s independence.
Oct 2, 1991 Everywhere in the Fergana valley in Uzbekistan Muslim believers demonstrated, demanding the banning of the CP of Uzbekistan, the nationalization of its property, the dissolution of parliament and the democratization of society. A correspondent in Uzbekistan observed that the events of the Fergana valley were not so much echoes of the Tajik events. They had been scheduled to coincide with the start of the session of the Uzbek parliament on 30th September which would have to deal with plans for elections. (BBC)
Oct 9, 1991 The opposition in Uzbekistan demanded that President Karimov swear on the Koran. (BBC)
Nov 1991 The Communist Party of Uzbekistan reorganized and was renamed the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDPU).
Dec 1991 Five Central Asian states signed the Alma-Ata Declaration, formally establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Dec 1991 The independence referendum passed with 98.2 percent of the popular vote.
Dec 1991 A new Parliament was elected in Uzbekistan and Karimov was chosen as the nation’s first president.
1992 The Karimov regime sent military forces to Tajikistan to support forces of the old-guard communist Tajik government struggling to regain political power and oust the coalition government that had replaced them.
1992 Uzbek and the other Central Asian languages were made the official languages of instruction, which meant that Uzbek schools might use any of the five Central Asian languages or Russian as their primary language. For a time the Karimov regime closed Samarqand University which taught in Tajik, as a part of a broader crackdown in the country’s Tajik minority.
1992 Repression of opposition and media increased in Uzbekistan.
1992 – 1993 The suppression of internal dissent in 1992 and 1993 in Uzbekistan drastically reduced foreign investment in the country.
May 1992 Uzbekistan signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Russia.
May 3, 1992 The Tajik national movement in Uzbekistan, centered in Samarkand, underwent a process of disintegration following the arrest of the leader of the movement’s radical wing, Uktam Bekmukhamedov. The delegates of the Congress of Tajkis of Uzbekistan which Bekmukhamedov had organized were arrested. The movement split into three divisions which gradually turned into sects. The Tajik movement in Uzbekistan had fought against the enforced Uzbekization of the country’s ethnic Tajiks. Its major concerns were two one was the official nationality classification which until recently did not recognized the ethnic Tajiks as a nationality group in Uzbekistan; second was the official recognition of the Tajik language without which the ethnic Tajiks were doomed to assimilation. The ethnic Tajiks complained that the Uzbek authorities had tried to present them as nationalists eager to join Samarkand and Bukhara to Tajikistan. According to the ethnic Tajiks this claim discredited the group and hampered its struggle against its administrative, political and cultural discrimination.(Moscow News)
Dec 1992 Uzbekistan adopted a new constitution. The constitution reaffirmed that Uzbekistan was a secular state. Although the constitution prescribed a new form of legislature, the PDPU-dominated Supreme Soviet remained in office until the first parliamentary elections took place in December 1994 and January 1995. Birlik, a main Uzbek opposition party and a nationalist force, was banned.
1993 A 1993 opinion survey revealed that the proportion of Uzbeks naming a Kyrgyz as undesirable as son- or daughter -in-law was about the same as the proportion naming Russians. Reports observed that there was an official government policy in Uzbekistan aimed at discrimination against the Tajik minority.
Jan 14, 1993 The co-chairman of the national Birlik movement, Igor Rotov, said that by sending opposition leaders to prison Karimov’s regime was provoking rather than preventing a Tajik option in the development of Uzbekistan. The opposition in Uzbekistan was experiencing hard times after Tashkent launched a concentrated campaign against opposition movements following the international human rights conference in Bishkek. Karimov’s propaganda implanted in the population the idea that the only possible alternative to the current regime was the Tajik option, that is, a bloody uprising. (BBC)
Mar 1993 It was reported that many thousands of refugees entered Uzbekistan fleeing violence in neighboring Tajikistan. The Uzbek government returned an estimated 30,000 persons to Tajikistan in July and August 1992 as the existing policy had refused residence permits to such refugees. As of late December 1992 the border was effectively sealed.(US Department of State)
Aug 9, 1993 The Uzbek president said that the Tajik-Afghan border was a CIS border and that signatories of Collective Security Treaty must strengthen it. Karimov said that when it was a question of stabilizing the situation however each state must resolve this problem itself, relying above all on its own material, moral, political and diplomatic forces. In this respect the Uzbek president expressed confidence that the people and leadership of Tajikistan were capable of resolving such problems in a restrained and a sensible manner, and by peaceful, just means.(BBC)
Sep 1993 Uzbekistan announced plans to switch its alphabet from Cyrillic, which had been in use for more than 50 years, to a script based on a modified Latin alphabet similar to that used in Turkey.
May 1 – Jul 31, 1994 Uzbekistan joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace.
Oct 29, 1994 Representatives of Uzbekistan’s Tajik community sent a letter to President Karimov complaining that their spiritual and cultural needs were neglected. The letter said Tajik schools in Uzbekistan were not supplied with textbooks, Tajik literature was published in insufficient quantities and radio and specialized television programs were seldom broadcast. Human rights activist Dzhamol Mirsanov qualified this concern as a cultural rather than a political one. According to the latest census, there were about one million ethnic Tajiks in Uzbekistan, while unofficial sources estimated their number at about three million.(BBC)
Dec 1, 1994 – Jan 31, 1995 Parliamentary elections were held in Uzbekistan. They were dominated by the People’s Democratic Party (PDPU).
Mar 1995 A referendum extended Karimov’s term as president of Uzbekistan to 2000.
Apr 11, 1995 Uzbek President Islam Karimov called for US assistance in advancing domestic reform and in countering the “chauvinist attitudes” in Russia, and Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. (BBC)
May 23, 1995 Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov informed the Tajik government that they intended to withdraw their troops from the areas adjoining the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan if the Tajik conflict failed to find a political solution. Kazakh and Uzbek troops formed part of the CIS forces stationed along the Tajik-Afghan frontier.(BBC)
Jun 1996 Karimov made an official visit to the United States to improve bilateral and UN relations.
Oct 3, 1996 Some reports observed that the Taliban movement in Afghanistan planned to incorporate Bukhara into the Afghan state. Bukhara is a Tajik populated city in Uzbekistan and one of the Islamic holy places. (BBC)
Oct 14, 1996 The Tajik Islamic opposition in Tajikistan denied allegations that it intended to join forces with the Afghan Taliban Islamic movement. The opposition said that it was not allied with Taliban and it did not support or oppose any of the political forces in Afghanistan. The opposition’s statement claimed that none of the military-political groups in Afghanistan had territorial claims on Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. (Iterfax News Agency)
Aug 26, 1997 President Islam Karimov said that Tashkent was ready to sign up as one of the guarantor states of the recent Tajik peace agreements, after previously refusing to endorse the documents. Independent experts observed that Uzbekistan’s refusal to undertake the role of guarantor of the Tajik settlement was dictated by the fact that the scheme of the future division of power in Tajikistan had not suited this country. In particular, the political circles loyal to Tashkent like the National Revival Bloc of Tajikistan, had not been duly represented in this scheme or they had been completely excluded from it. (BBC)
Nov 1, 1997 Uzbek President Islam Karimov denied that Uzbekistan had been involved in recent unrest in western Tajikistan. Karimov accused outside forces of creating tension between the two countries. “Uzbeks will never fight against Tajiks and Tajiks will never fight against Uzbeks,” the Russian News agency quoted Karimov as saying. (BBC)
Jan 6, 1998 President Islam Karimov received his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmonov. The two presidents signed a joint communique in which they undertook to oppose political and religious extremism. (BBC)
Feb 1998 The Government’s campaign against alleged Islamic fundamentalists intensified. The Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs appealed to the Pakistani Government to extirpate military camps where Uzbeks were allegedly trained in terrorist activities by illegal Pakistani religious groups. The Government of Pakistan denied the existence of any such groups. (The Europa World Yearbook, 1998)
Mar 5, 1998 The foreign ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan discussed in Dushanbe the threat of Islamic extremism in the region. The ministers also discussed the issues of “preserving a secular state” in Tajikistan and combating arms and drug smuggling. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov said that certain countries supported extremist activities in Central Asia. (BBC)
Mar 7, 1998 Russian journalist Aleksandr Knyazev wrote in the Kyrgyz Utro Bishkeka that Uzbekistan was the strongest Central Asian country and one which had economic control over northern Tajikistan and south-western Kyrgyzstan. Knyazev observed that Uzbekistan frustrated Russia’s plans to establish closer cooperation with Central Asia by increasing considerably its armed forces and by showing that it favored cooperation with the US.(BBC)
May 7, 1998 The Uzbek parliament adopted a new law on religious freedom, freedom of conscience and religious organizations. The new law made it legal for the Tashkent government to fight Islamic movements which had been growing since last year. Political commentators criticized the regime noting that a country which pursued a policy of becoming a regional power should distinguish between extremists’ activities and reformist Islamic tendencies. (BBC)
May 9, 1998 Uzbek President Karimov said at a news conference that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia had plans to resist the threat of Islamic states in Central Asia. (BBC) Karimov explained the need for the alliance by the spread of Wahhabism, the extremist wing of Islamic fundamentalism, in Central Asia and in the Caucasus. According to Karimov, Wahhabites aimed to come to power and set up Islamic states whenever possible. Karimov pointed out that the spread of Wahhabism posed a threat to Uzbekistan as well as to Russia. (Moscow News, 14 May, 1998)
May 14, 1998 It was reported that Kyrgyzstan could possibly become involved in the anti-fundamentalist pact of Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at the level of the national security ministers. (Moscow News)
May 15, 1998 A court in the eastern town of Namangan sentenced four men to prison terms of five to seven years for committing acts of “terrorism”, attempting to overthrow the government and propagating the ideas of ” Wahhabism”. Vali Egamberdyev was sentenced to seven years in prison, Mukhtor Mannonov to six, and the Shakhbiddinov brothers, Abdullo and Zhobir, to five years. It was reported that a judicial proceeding on a case concerning another three Uzbeks had just begun. (BBC)
Aug 13, 1998 The Russian defense minister, Mr.Igor Sergeyev, said he would meet his counterparts from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on September 2 to discuss the increasingly complicated situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban advancement towards Russia’s border, (FT Asia Intelligence Wire)
Nov 13, 1998 Following the rebellion of renegade commander Makhmud Khudoberdiyev in neighboring Tajikistan, Uzbek foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov said that Uzbekistan would not allow Tajik anti-government fighters to take refuge in the republic. Komilov rejected media reports saying that Tajik rebels crossed Uzbek territory before briefly seizing control of the northern town of Khujand. (BBC)
Nov 13, 1998 Security Minister of Tajikistan Saidamir Zuhurov told the national parliament that rebels involved in the insurgency in the northern Leninobod Region had broken into the area from the territory of neighboring Uzbekistan. Zuhurov said that the republic’s secret services had “enough materials and documents to confirm this conclusion”. (BBC)
Feb 8, 1999 A spokesman of the Uzbek Foreign Minister said that Uzbekistan would leave the CIS Collective Security Treaty because, as stated by Uzbek Foreign Ministry, “the Treaty in its current form does not meet the demands of the time, and it does not perform the functions, which are laid on it”. In addition, “Tashkent does not agree with the Russian military activity in some CIS countries.” Uzbekistan disliked Russia’s activities in Armenia and Tajikistan which contested Uzbekistan’s supremacy in the Transcaucases and Central Asia.
Feb 27, 1999 Six car bombs went off in the Uzbek capital on 16th February killing 15 people and injuring over 150. The government of Tajikistan roundly condemned the terrorist actions. Tajikistan confirmed that officials in Dushanbe were ready to act and carry out the obligations arising from the Russian-Tajik-Uzbek declaration on all-round cooperation which was signed in October 1998, including those concerning issues of regional security. (BBC)
Mar 1, 1999 The brief visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Tajikistan concluded with the signing of a resolution to prepare a bilateral agreement for military cooperation between the two countries. This agreement would specify the location of a Russian military base on Tajiki territory. The Tajik-Russian bilateral agreement added to tension in Uzbek-Tajik relations which came worsened in the fall 1998 when President Rakhmonov accused President Karimov of having provided support to Tajik rebels of renegade commander Makhmud Khudoberdiyev. The relations deteriorated further when Uzbeks charged Tajiks with organizing the 1999 terrorist acts in Tashkent. (Agency WPS)
Mar 3, 1999 In their comments on the terrorist act from February 16th in the center of Tashkent, political analysts disagreed over who the perpetrator of this act might have been. Some blamed the Islamists. Other said that Russia’s special services had carried out the attack in order to punish Uzbekistan for its refusal to sign on to the CIS collective defense agreement. Yet others said that this was a job of the drug mafia which suffered immense loses after Uzbek customs inspectors confiscated hundreds of kilos of drugs. In the opinion of independent political analysts these acts of terrorism were planned in the government rooms of Uzbekistan with the aim to victimize the opposition and neutralize it in the up-coming general and presidential elections.(BBC)
Mar 26, 1999 Analysts saw different reasons behind Uzbekistan’s withdrawal from the CIS collective security treaty. A BBC commentary pointed to poor Russian-Uzbek relations caused by Russia’s one-sided policy in Tajikistan, as well as by her neglect for the interests of Uzbekistan. Tashkent’s official press agencies produced a different version. It pointed to the treaty’s inefficiency which became obvious with the inaction of the treaty member states toward an incident when Taliban missiles hit Uzbek territory in August 1998. Symptomatic of the treaty’s efficiency was a follow-up statement of President Kuchma of Ukraine who went so far to say that he would stay neutral even if the Taliban group attacked Uzbekistan. (BBC) Uzbekistan was worried about the fact that the Taliban group in Afghanistan had taken more than 90 per cent of that country’s territory under their control. This fact was especially worrying because the ethnic-Uzbek Afghan Gen Abdorrashid Dostum, who had been loyal to the Uzbek government, had lost Afghan territory bordering on Uzbekistan. In addition, the Uzbek-supported rebel Col Mahmud Khudoyberdiyev’s who had attacked the Tajikistan insurgency in northern Tajikistan in November of 1998 had disappeared from Tajik’s political scene. In view of this, analysts expected changes in Uzbekistan’s foreign policy. (BBC)
May 9, 1999 The Iranian radio carried an appeal from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to the parliaments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan asking them not to extradite to Uzbekistan Muslims who sought “a last refuge” in their countries. The announcer-read appeal, signed by the chairman of the Political Department of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, identified as Zubayr ibn Abdurahim, said that under the “tyrannical, despotic and dictatorial policy carried out by Uzbekistan’s government”, innocent people are being persecuted “only because they are Muslims”.(BBC)
May 20, 1999 Six CIS countries- Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – confirmed their adherence to the collective security treaty which had been signed in Tashkent on May 15, 1992 by nine countries including, besides the aforesaid ones, also Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan. (Iterfax Russian News)
Jun 2 – 3, 1999 A trial of 22 suspects accused of detonating six bombs in Tashkent that killed 16 people opened in the Uzbek capital. The main charges against all 22 men were attempting to assassinate the president; threatening the constitutional order of the state; trying to start a revolution; murder and possession of illegal weapons. State prosecutor Bokhodyr Zakhidov said the 22 men belonged to a Moslem sect called Hizbi-Takhrir which sought to establish an Islamic state. Since 1993, members of the sect committed contract killings and robberies to earn money to carry out the conspiracy. In the Spring of 1997 they met in Kabul, Afghanistan, to plot the conspiracy against the president. In December 1997 the sect committed a murder of a police officer in the Fergana town of Namangan. In January 1999 its representatives were sent to Ferghana to announce that a jihad, or holy war, would start in the spring of 1999 in Uzbekistan. (Agence France Presse)
Aug 1999 On 21 August, armed Islamists crossed into southern Kyrgyzstan from their bases in Tajikistan, took hostages and demanded to be allowed to enter Uzbekistan. Many of the militants, like their leader, Juma Namangani, were Uzbeks from the Fergana valley, who fled to Tajikistan during the break up of the Soviet Union in the hope of escaping religious and political persecution. Mr Namangani’s group had ties with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a shadowy organization whose spiritual leader, Tohir Yoldosh, operated from a base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In Tajikistan, Mr Namangani’s men fought alongside the Islamist opposition during the 1992-97 civil war. They were also alleged to have trained guerrillas for operations inside Uzbekistan. But, as the UN-sponsored peace process matured, the Tajik Islamists, who had accepted a 30% share in government, decided that sheltering armed Uzbeks was increasingly at odds with their political objectives. (The Economist Newspaper Ltd 4 September 1999)
Aug 22, 1999 Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan carried out a joint military operation to flush out a group of 21 fighters from a remote mountainous region of Kyrgyzstan about 15 kilometers (eight miles) from the Tajik border. The operation backfired when Tajikistan accused Uzbek bombers of straying over into its territory in a dawn raid. Following a series of official denials, Uzbek President Islam Karimov finally admitted that his air force might have dropped bombs on Tajikistan in its attempt to “liquidate” the rebel group. Uzbekistan claimed that eastern Tajikistan was a home to secret training camps for Moslem fighters who were trying to overthrow Karimov and set up an Islamic state in Central Asia. (Agence France Presse)
Aug 29, 1999 The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) released a statement saying that defending Islam and protecting Muslim people was one of its basic goals. The statement said that the movement would continue its struggle to free 50,000 Muslims currently kept in Uzbek prisons. The statement also noted that the movement considered jihad to be the only means of establishing an Islamic state and Koranic rule in Uzbekistan. The statement said the Uzbek government must abandon its policy of violence against the people and secure safety and peace among them. In another part of this statement, the movement demanded that other Central Asian countries immediately stop their assistance to the authorities in Tashkent.(BBC)
Aug 30, 1999 A meeting of the foreign ministers, heads of defense and national security of the Republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan was held in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan on 28th August. Opinions were exchanged on the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan and a plan to stabilize the region was proposed. Uzbek radio carried a report on a statement issued at the end of the meeting which said that the states were united in their determination to wipe out the “bloodthirsty criminals” currently holding hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan and to tackle the threat of “international terrorists” whose actions are “aimed at destabilizing the situation in Central Asia”.(BBC)
Aug 31, 1999 Russian Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev flew to Tashkent to hold meetings with Uzbekistan’s military and political leadership. Igor Sergeyev was expected to discuss the situation in south-west Kyrgyzstan, where fighting with Islamic extremists were on-going. Military and diplomatic sources in Moscow believed that in order to stabilize the situation in the region “a mechanism of CIS collective security should be activated” . (BBC)
Sep 4, 1999 The Islamic guerrillas demanded the release of 50,000 political prisoners in Uzbekistan in exchange for freeing their hostages, including four Japanese mining engineers. In a statement faxed to the presidential office of Kyrgyzstan, the rebels declared a Jihad (holy war) against the Uzbek government led by President Islam Karimov. (Jiji Press Ticker Service)
Sep 7, 1999 A member of the Uzbek opposition told the Iranian radio that the armed rebels in Kyrgyzstan were Uzbeks fighting for greater freedom of conscience and democracy in Uzbekistan. He said that Uzbekistan no longer enjoyed good relations with Russia or any of the countries of Central Asia. (BBC)
Sep 8, 1999 The Uzbek defense minister said Uzbekistan had alerted its armed forces and tightened its border controls as a result of the events occurring in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.(Interfax News Agency)
Sep 8, 1999 Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan tried to isolate the Islamist militants in the mountains and prevent them from breaking through into the Fegrana Valley in Uzbekistan. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan sent additional units and armored vehicles to their borders with Kyrgyzstan to prevent the rebels from escaping. Uzbek aircraft bombed the Kyrgyz village of Kara-Teit. Sporadic skirmishes between the invaders and government troopers were reported. (Agency WPS Defense and Security) The leadership in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, hoped that Russia would be able to curb the Uzbek guerrillas. However, according to political observers, Russia which was not pleased with Uzbekistan’s policy of drawing close to the West, had not shown much interest in being involved in direct clashes with the opposition to the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. (9 September 1999, BBC)
Sep 10, 1999 In a speech delivered in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe to mark the 1,100th anniversary of the Samanid state and Independence Day, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov spoke of the importance of the culture and civilization of the Samanid state, emphasizing that this was the heritage of all peoples of Central Asia, not just of Tajiks. “We have no nationalistic pretensions or superpower chauvinism”, Rahmonov said, “we never make a biased or malicious assessment of the national values, historical heritage or cultural achievements of our brothers who have the same language, and of our neighbors far and near.” Tajikistan, he added, pledged to champion “the spiritual rights, ethnic interests and cultural uniqueness of Tajiks who live abroad”. “Tajikistan is a house of hope for Tajiks throughout the whole world”, the president observed. “We will do our best to turn this house of hopes into a point to which may gravitate the love, hopes and aspirations of all Tajiks in Central Asia and elsewhere”, Rahmanov ended. (BBC)
Oct 2, 1999 State officials from Kirghizia, Armenia, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed a declaration on the situation in Central Asia which called for “immediate joint measures to provide the necessary assistance to Kirghizia.” (Itar-Tass News Agency)
Oct 2, 1999 Uzbek President Islam Karimov visited the eastern Fergana valley to inspect security measures taken by Uzbek border troops. Karimov said that all mobilization work had been done. Karimov recommended that mobilized forces should be set in motion. (BBC)
Oct 6, 1999 A news commentary in Moscow observed that the strategic objective of the Islamic movement in Uzbekistan was to stage an armed uprising in the Fergana valley, a traditional Islamic stronghold. The commentary noted that Islamic ideas tended to increase in popularity every time when Tashkent authorities tried to stamp them out. Yet the main danger, the commentary noted, came from the nationalist background of the rebels’ plans. The commentary pointed out that in trying to assure a larger following, the Islamists were once again harping on the subject of “Tajik historic cultural centers, Samarkand and Bukhara, which the Bolsheviks had handed over to Uzbekistan.” This had been one of the most sensitive issues in Tajik-Uzbek relations of the past decades, which was vigorously exploited in the civil war in Tajikistan. The commentary concluded by observing that an armed rebellion in the Fergana valley could begin as early as spring 2000, and the current disturbances at the juncture of the Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek borders were merely a prelude to more serious events.
Oct 6, 1999 Uzbekistan bombed regions near Tajikistan’s border with Kyrgyzstan. “The military measures taken by the Uzbek side could have a negative effect on the political situation and do not comply with the fundamental principles of mutual understanding and good- neighborliness between the two states,” the diplomat told Interfax, citing a Tajik government note of protest sent to the Uzbek Foreign Affairs Ministry. (Interfax Russian News)
Oct 8, 1999 Interior ministers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) announced the creation of a joint anti-terrorist center. The body was intended to coordinate the fight against Islamic rebels currently operating in parts of Russia, and in the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. (Agence France Presse)
Oct 15, 1999 The IMU warned that if Uzbekistan continued to attack Tajikistan in a bid to wipe out what it sees as rebels opposed to the Uzbek government, it could seriously jeopardize stability in the region. The Uzbek government said it would never negotiate with armed rebel groups. (BBC)
Oct 18, 1999 The Uzbek Foreign Ministry warned the Kyrgyz government that rebels may launch new measures in the spring 2000 and asked for a strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts in fighting rebels in the region. (BBC)
Nov 12, 1999 Iranian radio reported that Uzbekistan planned to ally with China in fighting Islamic movements and terrorism. It also reported that Uzbekistan and China were expanding economic cooperation. The government of Uzbekistan hoped to expand economic opportunities for its people thereby curbing the political and social activities of groups encouraged by Islamic ideals. (BBC)