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Uzbekistan erupts

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On Friday 13 May Uzbekistan armed forces opened fire on thousands of unarmed demonstrators including women and children in the eastern city of Andijan. It appears that some 500 people were killed. Rebellion spread on Saturday to the nearby town of Korasuv, where demonstrators opened a border crossing to Kyrgyzia.

Demonstrations against the regime of president Islam Karimov were triggered; it appears, by the jailing of 23 local businessmen, accused setting up an Islamist political organisation. Angry crowds stormed a local government building and a prison where large numbers of political prisoners were kept. They were relapses and small number of Kalashnikovs distributed, it seems.

But local people have told reporters that the uprising had no connection with Islamist organisations. It was the result of mounting fury over unemployment, economic hardship and the repeated arrests carried out by the dictatorial regime.

The White House issued a statement urging “restraint” on both the demonstrators and the regime— those who had been massacred and those who carried out the massacre. It has since criticised the shooting by the troops and the “violence” of storming government buildings.

“A more representative and democratic government … should come through peaceful means not through violence,” said the White House spokesperson. Curious for an Administration that has recently proclaimed that it is encouraging a democratic revolution worldwide. Washington has indeed been actively encouraging, even funding “democratic revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine, and - so far unsuccessfully in Belarus.

Imagine on the other hand what would happen if five hundred demonstrators were shot down by Hugo Chavez in Caracas in Venezuela?

To understand these blatant double standards is actually quite easy. The above-mentioned regimes are regarded by the US as hostile to its interests. Uzbekistan on the other hand has performed very valuable services to the USA in its expansionist drive for oil and using strategic airbases for its penetration and takeover of central Asia. In Karimov’s case the famous words used for about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza apply: ”OK he may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch”.

And Karimov certainly fits this category. Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has reported that Karimov’s prisoners are brutally tortured to “extract information [about reported terrorist operations], which is supplied to the US and passed through its Central Intelligence Agency to the UK.” Indeed, for leaking such information and making clear his hostility to the regime, Home Secretary Jack Straw recalled Murray. Only when the mass bloodletting could no longer be concealed, and the US revealed its guarded concern, has Straw courageously criticised Karimov’s bestial regime. In such grubby hands does the crusade for democracy lie.

The regime has received hundreds of millions of dollars aid from the US - $79 million in 2002 alone The reason is that it provides the Americans with an important air base - Qarshi Hanabad – vital to supplying US forces operating in Afghanistan. It performs an even more secret service for the apostle of worldwide democracy - one that keeps the Americans hands clean, technically.

Uzbekistan is one of the destination countries for so-called ’renditions programme’ This involves the CIA shipping terrorist suspects to countries where the most savage torture methods can used: ones the Pentagon and the CIA dare not employed on USA territory or even at Guantanamo Bay, for fear of later discovery.

The New York Times and other US newspapers say dozens of suspects have been transferred to Uzbek jails from destinations in the Middle East and Europe. There repeated beatings, water torture, electric shock, and disposals of prisoners who die under interrogation can be used with no come back. Other countries performing this filthy service for Bush and Co include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Morocco.

Human Rights Watch released a 319-page report in 2004, which said “torture is rampant” in the country. It claimed 7,000 people were imprisoned for political offences and documented at least 10 deaths, including Muzafar Avozov, who was “boiled to death” in 2002.

The Observer reported on May 15th “violence … appeared to be spreading to neighbouring towns… raising fears that the volatile Central Asian state could erupt into a full-scale revolution”

“Raising fears.” Raising hopes more like. The liberal bourgeois press always fears revolution as the worst outcome. In fact it is not revolutions that are bloody and violent but counter-revolutions. The victorious people always display incredible generosity in victory, largely out of sheer relief that torture and terror are over

The most peaceful outcome would be the speedy overthrow of Karimov breaking up of his secret police and armed forces and the arming of a mass popular militia. This would create the best and most democratic conditions for the workers, the rural and urban poor to work out a future free of corrupt ex-bureaucrats, crony capitalists, oil companies and US garrisons. The only solution is to turn a democratic and anti-imperialist revolution into a workers revolution.