May 26, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
Ten years ago, Uzbekistan was rocked by tragic events, the true background of which is still debated.
“The Andijan massacre” – is a common name in the West of the tragedy which took place on May 13, 2005, in this Uzbek city. According to various estimates, the number of killed during demonstrations ranges from two hundred to five hundred people. About five hundred fled through neighboring Kyrgyzstan and then settled in the USA and Europe. About two hundred people involved in the events received prison terms.
There are many consequences of the Andijan events, among them – Western sanctions against Uzbekistan, a pivot of Tashkent (the capital) to Moscow and Beijing, the withdrawal of U.S. military base from the territory of the country. There are several versions of what happened, and between the official and, shall we say, the “human rights” interpretation of the tragedy, there are many inconsistencies and “black spots”.
But these are all, by and large, expected discrepancies for events of this scale, which does not change the essential fact: ten years ago the Islamist underground, with the support of the West, tried to stage a coup in Uzbekistan. Which, if successful, could launch a “democratic reformation of post-Soviet Central Asia” nearly six years before the “Arab spring”. The only difference would be that all the bloody “turbulence” would occur not somewhere in the Middle East, but in the immediate proximity to the Russian borders, in the “soft southern underbelly” of Moscow.
“Andijan-2005” – is the culmination of a multi-level game, in which the Uzbek authorities, the U.S. intelligence services, the Western “color revolution” technologists and the Islamists came to a head.
Each side had their own goal in this game, for which they were willing to generously pay with lives of civilians.
We need to study the lessons of those events very carefully. But they don’t like to remember these events in Uzbekistan. The West pretends that it had nothing to do with it. And Russia, as usual, has too many other worries, to pay particular attention to what happens there, in the East. In this article I have to leave many details in order to provide at least a general outline of what happened. And I have to start… with Afghanistan.
The terrorist attacks of “9/11” and the designation of George W. Bush of Afghan Taliban a target for “revenge” gave the neocons Cheney and Rumsfeld, relying on the CIA and the Pentagon, the opportunity to start implementing the project “For the New American Century”. In accordance with it, it was planned to place military bases and special units in post-Soviet Central Asia. Officially – to prevent terrorist threats. In fact – to provide control over the region and creating the levers of control over the political situation, the individual elements of the “deep state”, the mechanisms of which have already been successfully operating in Europe, Turkey, Egypt and other countries.
Actually, this project was developed since 1992, but the American neocons carefully, step by step, started its implementation in the late nineties. Close contacts between the CIA and the Uzbek security services have been established in 1997-1998. Initially, their goal was to create a channel of operative communication with the “Northern Alliance” via Tashkent. And after the bombings at the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, the U.S. and Uzbek intelligence services began carrying out joint operations against the Taliban and their allies from the IMU – “The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan“.
And it is very important to remember: the agreement of 2001 on the establishment of the first and the largest on the territory of the post-Soviet countries American military base at Karshi-Khanabad – or K-2 – on the territory of Uzbekistan was preceded by a preliminary agreement of local intelligence services on cooperation with the CIA, which was signed in 1999. In the end, on September 11, 2001, the U.S. army special forces were already on the territory of Uzbekistan, at K-2. After another ten days, two weeks before the formal military agreement between the U.S. army and the Uzbek military, the CIA had already sent their staff to the base at Karshi-Khanabad.
And setting the Taliban aside, the primary task of the CIA in Uzbekistan was digging in on the territory of the country. Creating the elements of “deep state” and its combat units, whose role was to be played by the militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
After all, decisions adopted in the eighties by the CIA Director William Casey about covert operations in Afghanistan were not only about this country. Their development is not so much credited to Langley bureaucrats, but to the Director of Saudi Intelligence – first Kamal Adam, and then Prince Turki bin Faisal. Among these decisions we must focus on two.
First, a creation of a kind of “Foreign Legion”, which was tasked with assisting the Afghan Mujahideen. We are talking about network support, which we know today under the name of “Al-Qaeda”. The second – active agent penetration into the territory of Soviet Central Asia, recruitment “in reserve” of the citizens of the republics of this region.
The backbone of IMU initially consisted of these agents, and it relied on the organizational and financial opportunities created by the CIA and Saudis. Uzbek Islamists did not lack financial resources. Moreover, monetary assistance came not only from Afghanistan. It is known that a citizen of Saudi Arabia of Uyghur nationality, Muhammad Amin Turkistoni presented in 1999 one of the leaders of the Uzbek Islamic radicals, Tahir Yuldashev, with 260 thousand dollars to purchase weapons, half of which, in accordance with the requirements of Turkistoni, was transferred to Uyghur separatists in China [Uyghur region of China is the gateway to the New Silk Road project, bringing Central Asian states into Chinese-Russian sphere of influence – KR]
And what’s more interesting: the increasing American presence in Uzbekistan strangely fit with the increasing activity of IMU. During this period, from mid 2001 to 2005, the number of IMU guerrillas was about 10 thousand people, the militants had millions of American dollars in their accounts and the latest weapons in the arsenals. In Afghanistan, which was actively “sweeped” during this period by the Americans, there were several training camps for the militants, and these “training courses” miraculously never fell under aviation bombardment of the “International security assistance force”.
On the Afghan territory IMU operated on a par with the Taliban, in some military situations, the leaders of this movement demonstrated their independence and superiority. In short, the formation of an “invasion force” into Uzbekistan was in full swing, which were to play the role of the detonator of destabilization with subsequent “democratic reformatting”. The leader of the Uzbek Islamists Tahir Yuldashev announced about his plans not somewhere from a cave, as his senior colleague Osama bin Laden, but in an interview with “Radio Liberty” (Radio Svoboda): “We know our goal, this goal is to overthrow the existing system in Uzbekistan, to free about a hundred thousand of our brothers and sisters from behind bars – Muslims of Uzbekistan, and create in Uzbekistan a regime in which people could freely practice their faith”.
Even to an outside observer, by 2003 it became clear that Washington was playing a double game in the country, implementing its own plan for transition of power in Tashkent: from Islam Karimov to American candidates.
Nothing strange about it at all. Planners in the White House have already formulated a strategy of Washington in the region, among its elements the former Director of the Department of Eurasian relations in the Security Council, Rosemary Foresythe emphasized the following tasks in the beginning of the “zero” years:
- Contribute to the weakening of the influence of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Russia;
- To carry out economic penetration of the U.S. in order to strengthen the American presence in the region;
- To involve the Central Asian states in market relations for maximum benefit from unequal exchange of finished goods for commodities;
- To carry out the linking of economic plans with the regional policy environment, providing “containment” of Iran and support of Turkey and Saudi Arabia as agents of Western interests among the population.
At the same time the White House formulated requirements for the Central Asian political elite: “a thorough involvement of the West is a necessary condition for changing the trajectories of development of Central Asian states. But this participation is not enough in itself. The outside world can provide direct investment, technical assistance, loans and grants, but it takes commitment to reforms in the countries of the region, as we saw in Kyrgyzstan. It should come from the population willing to endure the turmoil associated with political and economic changes. And, more importantly, it must come from the leaders willing to abide by the terms of staying in power, as defined by the Constitution, to hold free and fair elections – even if the polls show that they will lose, and to leave their post in case of defeat”.
Not one of the leaders of post-Soviet States of Central Asia met the asserted demands, the political culture of post-Soviet elites was completely different.
Islam Karimov absolutely did not intend to “reformat” Uzbekistan to the standards of “American democracy”, which in the East always turned into an even worse dictatorship, loss of autonomy and the transition of natural resources under foreign control.
On the initiative of the Uzbek side cooperation was phased out, followed by limitations in activities of CIA operatives in the country and other unpleasant things for Washington. Thus by the end of 2003, Islam Karimov was blacklisted by the American side as “unpromising” for further cooperation.
At the official level it was expressed, first of all, in curtailing economic cooperation, Tashkent was left without the standard Western “carrot” for post-Soviet States, whether it was Russia, Kyrgyzstan, or Uzbekistan: investment, the same “sweets”, which messed with the heads of the new rulers, who came to the rubble of the USSR. Before the official visit to the United States in 2002, Islam Karimov exuded optimism: “This country has a great investment potential, – he said. – Our close ties with the United States will help us in conducting our economic reforms.”
A few years later, he openly said in a conversation with Vladimir Putin: “We thought we were welcomed on the international arena with open arms. Thought in vain.”
There were openly demonstrative signals from the West. The leadership of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – previously providing credit to Tashkent – demanded Karimov to condemn the violence in places of detention, and to do it publicly. Such a statement, according to the organizers, was to demonstrate the readiness of the Uzbek leadership for liberal reforms. When the President refused the bankers, the Bank’s activities in the country were curtailed.
Well, and the small things. In 2003, the court in New Jersey issued a verdict in which the parental rights to two children of Karimov’s daughter, Gulnara, were given to her husband, American, Mansour Maksudi. And she, who before the divorce took her children home, was found guilty and declared wanted.
Based on available data, all through 2004 CIA resident agents in Uzbekistan worked diligently, mobilizing everyone they could for the preparation of the coup.
It is noteworthy that in January 2005, the Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Michael Goldman, visited homes of some Uzbek human rights defenders and asked them questions from a specially prepared questionnaire:
- “Do you think the population of the Republic is ready to come out to mass protests?”
- “Could we rely on relatives of people convicted on religious grounds in the organization of such rallies?”
- “What do you know about the Islamic group “Akramia”? [the one which was the primary organizer of the riots in Andijan – I. P.]”
- “Can Islamists come to political power in Uzbekistan after the exit of Karimov from the post of President of the country?”
- “Who would you like to see as the President of Uzbekistan after the departure of Karimov?”.
According to the results of the survey, in mid-February 2005 Goldman writes in his official report to J. Purnell, the American Ambassador in Uzbekistan, that “the social situation in the country is favorable for the implementation of tactics and strategy that meets the interests of the United States”.
And at the end of February 2005, at the U.S.-Uzbek gold mining joint venture Zarafshan-Newmont there was a new Deputy Director – Joseph Presel, former U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan. He is also a career CIA officer, former first Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in the Soviet Union, expelled in 1977 for espionage. Immediately after the arrival the new Deputy Director travels not to Navoi, where the enterprise is located, but to the Fergana valley.
And at the end of April 2005, the State Department “suddenly” disseminates the warning to American citizens that “The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is preparing terrorist acts on the territory of the Republic”. Therefore they are encouraged to avoid visits to the Fergana valley. It became clear that the countdown to “acute events” is on, and the place for action has already been chosen.
In Uzbekistan, more precisely, in the Fergana valley, the main “actors” were the members of the “Akramia” community, which was created by a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Akram Yuldashev, a namesake of his associate. This community is so interesting, and its story is so instructive and relevant, that some aspects deserve close attention.
Akram Yuldashev creatively reworked the principles of other Islamist groups, logically reasoning that created according to the specifics of Arab countries, they don’t answer to the Central Asian realities.
He believed that the attainment of true faith and the revival of the Caliphate is possible only when these two ideas “will take place in the consciousness of everyone who calls himself a Muslim.” But since such “enlightenment” of all at once is impossible, then it needs to be achieved “from below” within one community, village, city. Actually, as wrote the already quoted analysts of the White House, “the pursuit of reforms in the countries of the region… must come from the population.”
Yuldashev organized the operations of his group in the Fergana valley, as described by the expert on this issue, brilliant Uzbek orientalist Bakhtiyar Babadzhanov, according to the following scheme:
Stage 1: “Sirli” (hidden, underground) – the selection and education of future members of the group in special study groups, where they will be trained in “original Islamic rituals”. Successfully completing this stage, the neophyte undergoes a special ceremony with an oath of allegiance to the other brothers on the Quran.
Stage 2: “Moddii” (material) – creation of the material resource base of the community with efforts of all of its members. Neophytes get a job in public production organizations, where “brothers” are already employed or at small industrial or agricultural enterprises founded by members of the group. 1/5 of the income is allocated to the common treasury by each group member.
Stage 3: “Ma’ Naviy” (spiritual) – constant “spiritual communication” with strictly defined circle of “brothers”, which are held by the leaders of the cells.
Stage 4: “Usvy Maidon” (organic infusion, connection) – which involves the actual legalization of the community in the structures of power by recruiting officials and law enforcement, or by implanting their own people in local authorities.
And, finally, stage 5: “Okhirat” (final, ultimate) – when a “true Islamization” of society must occur, meaning the transition of power in a particular locality to the leaders of the “Akramia”.
In fact – we have before us the structure and tactics of the Islamist underground, adapted to modern conditions and for the post-Soviet States. Note: very effective, because on the same principles this underground acts in Kyrgyzstan and in Western Siberia.
For the masses the most attractive aspect – economic policy, business opportunity to employ the “brothers” and their relatives, to financially help the “sympathizers”, charity, while recruiting new supporters. And, of course, to recruit officials and law enforcement agents.
It is also important that such tactics can easily direct the discontent of the masses in the right, anti-government direction. Corruption and extortion from businesses, prevailing social injustice and incompetence of the authorities is a problem of the whole community simultaneously with the growing popularity of Islamist cells. The credibility of “good businessmen” surpassed that of local authorities among the population. And it was enough for the authorities to try to eliminate a local community and cut down its economic roots, incidentally, for profit motives, as the city engulfed in mass protests. It took very little to destabilize – a couple dozen fighters and mass discontent with the authorities.
On the night of May 12 to 13, 2005, these two dozen militants first seized a military base, procuring weapons for distribution to “the masses”. Then, attacking a jail released about five hundred prisoners, of which the militants were joined by about a hundred. But the rest made their contribution to destabilization.
On the morning of May 13 a rumor was started in Adijan about the arrival of President Islam Karimov. Supposedly, he stayed at the summer house of the regional authorities, and was going to appear on Babur square during the day. People from all corners of the city started gathering there. Their flow increased after the traditional Friday prayer: some of believers went to hear the President’s speech right from the mosques [sounds familiar? – KR]. The global mass media, representatives of which were present in the city, hysterically aired their own purely anti-government view of events. The Babur square turned into a Kiev “Maidan” and the future “Tahrir” in Egypt, causing a massive explosion throughout Uzbekistan. And then the crowd started firing at the law enforcement. To which the authorities responded with machine-gun fire…
“Andijan-2005 has left a lot of questions. Why the Uzbek “security forces” did not take any measures in order to neutralize the gunmen on the way from prison to the Babur square? Who’s spread the rumors about the upcoming speech of the President? Why the authorities did nothing to stop these rumors, to make formal statements on radio or television?
In my opinion, there are only two logical explanations, which, incidentally, are not mutually exclusive. First, some officials and law enforcement officers worked for the conspirators [just like in Kiev – KR]. Secondly, the local authorities were completely frazzled and showed total incompetence.
No matter what, blood was spilled, but, at the same time, Uzbek society was vaccinated against rebellion. The country was on the brink of an abyss – and managed to hold on. The dead Andijan residents with their own lives had saved the region from collapse and mass slaughter. To some extent, Islam Karimov repetead what, in 1982, did the father of the current Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in the town of Hama: fired at the rebellion of the “Muslim brotherhood”, pacifying the local jihadists for nearly three decades.
Unfortunately, there are no “eternal” victories. The Fergana valley has remained a “boiling cauldron” of the region which could blow any moment. Neither economic nor social problems after “Andijan-2005” had disappeared, nor the interest of the Islamists and the West to this region.
And Russia should really take a closer look at the history of those events. Their lessons had become painfully effective and relevant today.
KR: I can only imagine how the Western authorities would worry about the human rights of hundreds of prisoners who just escaped and ran downtown to shoot at some cops and take over the city after we just saw their reaction at a looting of a CVS!