Islam Abdug‘aniyevich Karimov, age 75 is the president of the Republic of Uzbekistan and a friend of both American and Russian imperialism. This former Stalinist turned nationalist-capitalist after 1991. Like many dictators in Central Asia, Karimov began his career in the bureaucracy of the Soviet-Union. By June 1989 he was the leader of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan. When the USSR collapsed he made himself first president of the Republic of Uzbekistan and has remained president ever since. The Karimov regime is responsible for the 2005 Andijan massacre, when 800 demonstrators were murdered by the Uzbek Security Forces!
Karimov was placed in an orphanage in Samarkand at birth, grew up to study economics and engineering at school. Like many youth he joined the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League and in the 60’s, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet-Union. Because of his party membership, he obtained privileges and was able to rise in the Stalinist bureaucracy. Like the other dictators of Central Asia, he had to fight brutal wars within the communist party against other power-hungry bureaucrats. Karimov was able to become general secretary because he predecessor was unable to stop the violent ethnic conflicts in the Fergana region. As stalinism collapsed, ethnic violence erupted the Central Asian Soviet republics. Radical nationalists took advantaged of the economic stagnation and eventual collapse of Stalinist rule!
On 24 March 1990, Karimov made himself president of the Uzbek Socialist Soviet Republic. In December 1991, he changed the name and flag of his nation. The Uzbek Socialist Soviet Republic became the Republic of Uzbekistan. Although he claimed to be democratic, he did not tolerant political opposition to his regime. Karimov’s Communist Party of Uzbekistan cut ties with the Communist Party of the Soviet-Union and changed its name to Uzbekistan People’s Democratic Party. Karimov was its chairman and de facto leader until 2007, when he decided to become a member of the Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party ( ULDP ). Because the president choose a new political party, the ULDP is now the biggest party in Uzbekistan. Since only political parties with presidential support can participate in elections, the ULDP has become the largest party in the Uzbek parliament!
But the Republic of Uzbekistan is no democracy. Uzbekistan is a authoritarian state dominated by the supporters of the president. No true opposition parties are allowed, every registered political party supports president Islam Karimov. Islamic fundamentalists make up a part of the opposition. These fundamentalists hate the secular nature of the Karimov regime and its corruption. Secular opposition is led by the banned Unity People’s Movement. Founded in September 1989, the Unity People’s Movement was soon banned by the authoritarian president, because they refused to follow him. Another banned political party is the Erk/Liberty Democratic Party. This party was the first opposition party that was registered in Uzbekistan, Certificate of registration dated September 3, 1991!
Dictator Islam Karimov made sure that his Uzbekistan People’s Democratic Party remained in power after 1991. This was made easy because the media and government are all controlled by members of the former Communist Party of Uzbekistan. Although some opposition parties were created after 1991, most turned out to be bourgeois democratic. No genuine leftist parties have been created and no exist in Uzbekistan. As Karimov established his personal dictatorship, he used the state bureaucracy to hinder the opposition, critical journalists got arrested and jailed easily. The first general elections were a fraud. The state made sure the the president and the UPDP won every election. By 2007 all opposition parties to Karimov were banned, only political parties who support the president are permitted. In a way, the Republic of Uzbekistan is like the Republic of Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko followed the same path!
After 2001, Uzbekistan became an ally in the War against Terrorism. Like many Central Asian nations, Karimov’s dictatorship faces opposition from Islamic fundamentalists. To invade Afghanistan and to remove the Taliban, the US Air Force needed an air base to launch its bombers. President Karimov gave the Americans permission to use the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base. Between 2001 and 2005, US bombers used this airfield to bomb Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan. The Americans called the air base “Stronghold Freedom”, how ironic consider the fact the there is no political freedom in Uzbekistan, yet the Americans called their air force base “Stronghold Freedom”!
Uzbek workers grew frustrated with the corrupt regime. In May 2005 they choose to show the world they had enough of their dictator. When the government jailed 23 innocent businessmen for supporting ”extremism, fundamentalism and separatism” many people choose to demonstrate. The protesters demanded the release of these men, their numbers soon reached 4.000. The Uzbek government at first said the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan organized the demonstration and that the protesters were members of Hizb ut-Tahrir ( Party of Liberation ). But critics argued that the government uses the ”Islamic label” as a pretext for maintaining a repressive state!
On the night of 13 May, armed men attacked the prison and freed those 23 businessmen from their cells. They also liberated other prisoners who were held by the government. The armed men, including the 23 defendants, also took over the regional administration building in Andijan and took at least twenty law enforcement and government officials hostage, including the Head of the Prosecutors Office and the Chief of the Tax Inspection Authority. Dictator Karimov feared a popular revolution and spread the lie that the militants used woman and children as human shields. The state media portrayed the uprising as militant Islamic!
Around six in the morning, the Uzbek Security Police launched an counter-attack. They sealed off the occupied buildings and started to shoot at them. After a brutal battle more then 500 people were murdered, although the Uzbek government claimed only 187 died. Others say that 1.500 people were killed when the Security Police opened fire on the demonstrators. The banned opposition claimed that many victims were buried in mass graves. This is why it is unknown how many died. When the workers realized the mass murder, their angry was huge. They again took the streets and shouted; ”murderers” to police forces. They attacked the offices of the Security Police and burned their police cars. Again the government troops opened fire, killing another 200!
Foreign media claimed that between 400 and 600 people were killed, most were civilians. Human Rights Watch said the killing of unarmed protesters by the Uzbek government on 13 May was so extensive and unjustified that it amounted to a massacre. Because of the killings and the criticism from western nations, the US Air Force was told to leave the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base. The Americans relocated their air force to bases in other parts of Central Asia!
After the massacre in Andijan, the Karimov banned the opposition from participating in elections. But in order to show the world that he was a ”fair liberal democratic” leader. He choose to become a member of the Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party in 2007. Because the president choose to become a ”liberal democrat”, this party was catapulted into becoming the biggest party!
All four political parties are loyal to Islam Karimov, so there is no genuine democratic process in Uzbekistan. Yet western imperialism needs the authoritarian state in order to fight Islamic fundamentalists. This is why there is little attention in the western media about the dictatorships in Central Asia. We saw the same thing with the Arab dictators, who were supported by western imperialism because of their opposition to Islamic fundamentalism. Dictators like Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, even Gaddafi in Libya were seen as allies in the struggle against Islamic terrorism in the eyes of western capitalist nations!
Karimov and Kazakh dictator Nazarbayev are among the oldest leaders of Central Asian. Both are now old men way into their 70’s. Since their regimes are build around themselves, it remains to be seen what will happen when they die. Uzbekistan and Kazakstan never had a period of genuine political freedom. The nations were created by the Soviet-Union and ruled by criminals ever since. Revolutionary socialists call for the removal of Karimov and all who support his personal dictatorship. His 25 year old regime must be destroyed, through a popular revolution that will bring power to the working class of Uzbekistan!