Persecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Uzbekistan
A report detailing the cruel persecution and rights abuses against
the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the people of Uzbekistan, by
the country’s repressive government under its president Islam
Testimonies of Victim’s Families 6
Testimony on Prison Conditions 14
Media articles on Activity of Hizb ut-Tahrir 17
Human Rights Reports 36
Human Rights Watch 37
Amnesty International 81
Policy Institute Reports 145
Institute For War & Peace 146
Foreign Policy Studies 157
Washington Institute for Near East Affairs 167
Images such as the one above depicting the body of Farhad Usmanov, member of Hizb ut-
Tahrir is the standard signature of Islam Karimov’s Presidency of Uzbekistan. Since 1997
Uzbekistan’s President began a cruel campaign to stamp out all religious political activity and
opposition to his despotic rule. In particular Hizb ut-Tahrir has been targeted due to its
ideological call for a pure Islamic State in Central Asia and the Muslim world and due to its
staunch criticism of the governments failing policies in Uzbekistan.
Evidence of unlawful arrests and prosecutions, persecutions of family members, torture and
extra judicial executions of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been widely documented by NGO’s
and Human Rights organisations.
Since the attacks on America on September the 11th and the subsequent ‘war on terrorism’
US led campaign, the ill treatment of the practising Muslims of Uzbekistan has intensified at
an alarming rate.
America’s endorsement of Uzbekistan as a strategic ally on its war on terror has effectively
sanctioned the Karimov regime’s civil and human rights abuses of all religious and political
opposition in Uzbekistan.
Following the attacks in the USA, nine suspected members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were accused
and charged amongst other charges with links to Al Qaeda. Even though the sate prosecutor
produced no convincing evidence, and it is widely acknowledged that Hizb ut-Tahrir adopts a
non-violent method for political change, all nine members were sentenced to lengthy nine to
fifteen years prison terms. According to human rights observers at the trial, this was the first
time that such a charge has been used by the country’s judiciary.
There is no question that the Karimov regime is yet to produce any credible evidence to justify
its cruel campaign against the Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a campaign that is now targeting
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the women and the elderly from the member’s families. Musharifa Usmanov the wife of
Farhad Uzmanov pictured above remains unjustly in custody up until today charged with
similar unfounded terrorist activity. Another suspected female member of Hizb ut-Tahrir 29
year-old mother of two Shokhnoza Musaeva is currently serving 7 years in prison since
August 1999 for possession of party literature.
Further to the systematic harassment, evidence planting and threats by the security forces,
documented evidence indicates that psychological torture especially of female detainees is
common. In December 2000 a 25 year-old mother of two, Feruza Kurbanov, detained in
Shakantaur District Police station was threatened with group rape if she did not confess to
being a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
As the global US led ‘war against terrorism’ campaign unfolds it is ironic that the international
legal system has turned a blind eye to the state terrorism practiced by Islam Karimov’s
government against the devout Muslims in Uzbekistan, a country that is party to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Instead
Uzbekistan has been rewarded with a $55 million USD Credit Guarantee granted by the US
Export-Import Bank and a promise of 160 million in US foreign aid, triple the previous aid
package according to an article in the Washington Post on Wednesday, March 13, 2002.
In this report we have collated testimonies from the families of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir,
media articles on the groups activity in the region, reports on human rights and civil rights
violations in Uzbekistan and neighbouring states and policy institute reports to provide a
comprehensive and clear picture of the alarming situation and extreme persecution of the
groups members. The evidence contained within these documents establish beyond doubt
that Islam Karimov’s government is in violation of its responsibilities under the above-
mentioned treaties and that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non violent political party that has never
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engaged in violence despite the unfounded allegations, persecution and lengthy sentencing
by the government of Uzbekistan.
Whilst Karimov aims to convince the world that he is fighting terrorism, his heavy-handed
dictator style approach seems to have only strengthened Hizb ut-Tahrir’s call of political
change for a new just and sincere system of government as the group continues to win favour
amongst the Muslims of Central Asia.
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Testimonies from Victims Families
Below are some testimonies from the families of Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir that have
been persecuted by the Karimov regime. The names have been withheld to protect the
prisoners and their families from further ill treatment and persecution.
Nasser born in 1971
Nowadays he serves his prison term in Jaslik prison, located in Karakalpak autonomous
republic of Uzbekistan. He was arrested on October 7th of 1999, tried on April of 2000
and sentenced to 20 years of prison. During interrogation he had undergone the most
inhuman and barbarous tortures: suffocation, breaking of hand and leg bones, pulling
out his teeth and the like. In the meantime, while serving the imprisonment term, he is
constantly being tortured and mistreated: regular beatings and battery, putting an
excreta up to his chin, injecting unknown liquids with syringe and so on.
Deceased Rasheed born November 19th, 1969 and tortured Aliev born November
My sons - Rasheed, married, father of two children, his brother Aliev, married, father of
three daughters - were both taken in custody by security officers on October 16th, 2001.
My older son Rasheed was cruelly beaten (all parts of his body were bruised and
injured) to death, his younger brother Aliev underwent barbarous battery, now he is still
under intensive therapy in Tashkent Medical institute.
Husain born June 10th, 1977
My son served 7 months in Zangiota prison around Tashkent, then was sent to a
prison in Karakalpakstan After falling ill was brought to San.gorod (prison located in
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Quyliq, Tashkent for severely sick prisoners). I did not know his whereabouts and
finally found him after six months. After that I still was not allowed to see him two
more months. When I finally saw my son, his condition was terrible. He was
brought in a stretcher to a room and put to the floor. Even then he was proud and
tried to calm me. According to him, in both prisons he served his term in there were
cruel beatings and tortures. “Here we do not get any medical treatment” - he said
and asked – “Did you hear the news that Muslims all over the world are uniting?
That is why Karimov went to USA whining”.
Only then I realized that he also was in Navoi prison. When I asked him if he wrote
an excuse letter, he said: “How would I face my Lord after that, how would I answer
on the Judgment day?” “Every single day at least two people die here. There are
holes on the sides of these people – through which the pus flows out. But I am fine;
I get rid of the pus via cough. And my friends come and support me” he continued.
One week after I last saw him – on Wednesday, October 31st his body was
delivered to us. My son was still handsome, as if he were alive and sleeping, his
hair very black. On Thursday evening at 20.00 he was buried.
Faruq, born March 15th 1971.
Married, father of one child. Joined Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1997, ever since was one of the
most active members. On Saturday August 30th 1999 together with several other
members of Hizb was taken from local neighborhood committee to Kumkurgon
department of Internal affairs ministry (IAM). There he was severely tortured. One week
or ten days later, when he was brought home to attend the search, he felt really bad
and could not sustain himself without somebody’s help. He waited for trial seven
months and on March-April of 2000 he and 48 other members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were
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tried. He was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. At the end of April of 2000 he was
sent to prison № 64/48, located in Zarafshon town of Navoi region. At the night of May
2nd of the year 2001 – around 1 o’clock a.m. we were informed of his death. When he
was brought home and washed before burial, the back of his body was dark due to
bruises caused by battery. He was buried on May 4th late in the evening. The whole
burial process was taped by the officers of National security service (NSS).
Usman, born on August 2 1958.
He was arrested on August 28th of 2000 by officers of IAM in the streets of the city. The
trial took place in Shaykhontohur district and sentenced him to 15 years of
imprisonment. After appeals the term was reduced to 9 years. During trial he was
already seriously sick. After sentencing he was sent to prison №64/61 in Qarshi, 20
days later brought to Quyliq (San.gorod). He was really sick and on November 23rd he
died. Next day he was brought home – he was very thin, his legs and stomach swollen,
and his liver injured.
Umar born on November 18th 1969
Married, father of 3 sons. He was arrested on November 12th 2000 during distribution of
leaflets and was interrogated in Chilonzor district Internal affairs department of
Tashkent. He was tried in Tashkent regional court: first in January, second time in
March - sentenced to five and a half year imprisonment and sent to prison № 64/46 in
Navoi, where he was under constant tortures. His working hours were not reduced even
due to his poor-health – in the morning in the quarry, then at the brick plant, cleaning the
toilets with his hands, during which he would be put into excreta up to his chin. Due to
heavy work his health worsened, so that he was brought to San.gorod on July 7th of
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2001. On October 6th he died. Next day at around 10.30 a.m. security service officers
informed of his death, at 14.00 p.m. brought home, couple of hours later buried.
Muhammad born in 1976 in Yailma district of the city of Margilan
On August 27 of 2001 at 23.00 p.m. officers of NSS and neighborhood committee
chairman Isroil came home, presented thousands of reasons to Hurshidjon’s parents
and took him to police office. On Friday, September 28th his family visited Ferghana
department of NSS to see him. They were told, that he was sick and needed a
medication that cost 18 thousand sums. They were not allowed to see him, however he
was already dead, because when on Sunday, September 30th his body was brought
home it was very much obvious, that he died 2-3 days earlier.
On September 30th the neighborhood chairman Isroil was informed of his death. He,
prior to informing Muhammad’s parents, went out to cemetery and ordered a grave for
him. Then he informed his uncle of the death. At that same time Muhammad’s father
was in rehabilitation after surgery. Relatives decided not to show his body to his father
and brought him in stretchers. Nevertheless, his father found out of the death, and when
he saw the body of his dead son he fell unconscious. So Muhammad’s body was
brought at 18.00 p.m. on Sunday and before his relatives arrived he was buried. His
body was exhausted and very thin. His skull was broken, his hair turned grey, his back,
legs and feet were bruised because of beatings, nails on the feet were pulled out, his
stomach cut and sewed. He was so thin that his mother and wife did not recognize him
at the first sight. The NSS officers brought a document, stating he was retarded and had
a heart disease. However, Muhammad has neither had a heart disease nor was
retarded; he was very kind to his parents, family members and relatives. Also he was
one of the most educated men of these times. May Allah be pleased with him.
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Ali born on October 12th 1975
On May 29th of 1999 was arrested by officers of NSS as alleged member of Hizb ut-
Tahrir. At that time my son admitted the membership and said to me: “Pray and ask
Allah to give us the patience and do not worry”. He was kept in NSS office for three
days, and then transferred to Andijan prison. Starting from November of 1999 he served
six months in Zangiota prison near Tashkent – I went there and visited him two times –
he was fine. On May of 2000 he again was transferred to Jaslik prison located in the
town of Nukus of Karakalpakstan, but since the weather of that place was not good my
son two months later – on June 20th of 2000 – was sent to hospital located in Tashkent
San.gorod – to intensive therapy department. I realized this one and a half months later,
when received my son’s letter. At the end of September I visited my son to see him for
two hours as per such admission. He was so sick that he could not walk to the meeting
room, so he was brought on a stretcher. Even then he would only say: “I am fine, pray
and ask Allah to give us – me and you – cure from sicknesses and patience, mother”.
So I would see him every month, also every four month they would allow one food
bundle from home. Afterwards, during one and a half year, I would visit him in Tashkent
every month, delivering food and medication. But his condition kept worsening he would
get thinner. Also he could not step on one of his legs – from the time he was in Jaslik.
When I asked for reason, he said he would tell me later, but never told. On January 10th
of 2002 we received a telegram, stating that he died. My brothers went there and
brought the body, the next day he was buried. May Allah be pleased with my beloved
and dear son. His father was born on October 26th of 1951, completed college of
commerce in Asaka, died on April 18th of 1979. His mother was born on October 7th of
1954, completed secondary school and for 20 years worked at a craftsmanship plant.
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Musab born August 31st of 1974
In 1991 completed the secondary school № 186 with honor. That same year entered
Tashkent state oriental studies institute – department of philology. In 1993 he
transferred to Islamic studies department, during 1994-95 studied at al-Azhar University
in Egypt. In 1996 graduated from the institute with honor.
On July 6th of 1999 he was arrested by Shaykhontohur district department of IAM.
There he was interrogated by Begmanov N., during it – up until September - was held in
Tashkent prison, then transferred to Khovos prison in Sirdarya region, from December
of until April 15th of 2001 in Zangiota prison, located in Tashkent region, then until May
31st in Quyliq prison (San.gorod).
His trial was held at Mirzaobod district of Sirdarya region, prosecutor asked for eight
and a half years, the judge sentenced him to seven years.
We had seen him last time on March 13-14 of 2001 during an extended visit. He was
sick, had a cold, exhausted, hurting from back and leg aches. After our visit he was put
in an isolation ward. After getting out of it he was brought to Quyliq (San.gorod), where
he stayed from April until the middle of May. When we went there, we did not get a
permission to see him. The notion of his death was received on June 1st of 2001. When
his body was brought home, we could not recognize him: hair turned gray, very thin
body – only bones were left. Since the body was frozen, we assumed he died one or
two days ago.
Faisal born in 1965
He was a baker, had three children. He was one of those active members of Hizb ut-
Tahrir, who gave it all he had – his life and property. On August 25th of 1999 his house
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was searched, late in the evening he was arrested and taken to NSS, where he was
interrogated during 4 months. They could not extract from him neither any information
nor regret for joining the Hizb. After that he was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.
He was sent to Qiziltepa prison № 64/47, located in Navoi region. In the middle of
September of 2001 the neighborhood committee chairman and 5 officers of NSS came
home and told my son died hanging himself. They brought this information on Saturday,
saying the body would be brought on Monday. However, the security officers
unexpectedly brought him home on Sunday night. His left shoulder and left arm had
bullet-caused injuries, back heavily hurt, one hand finger smashed. The officers insisted
that burial of martyr takes place at night – they even prepared the washer and grave-
digger. When the grave-digger refused to work at night, they promised to fire him, so he
was compelled to dig a grave. When the family of Tursinboy asked them to postpone
the burial at least until 10.00 o’clock in the morning, the officers did not give their
consent they insisted on burying him early in the morning, right after the morning (fajr)
prayer, so imam and 30-40 people around him had buried the martyr.
In actuality, Faisal was really firm even in prison, which resulted in constant tortures and
beatings and ultimately in his death. The prison workers took his dead body and hung it
in his room, then disseminated rumors in prison, that he hung himself. However, his
friends and brothers (members of Hizb) knew the actual state of the things. May Allah
give His guidance to the tyrants. And He is enough for those who refuse to be guided by
Abdullah born on May 1st, 1974
Married, father of two children – one daughter, one son. Graduated from a university.
Worked as a mathematics teacher at a school. On April 5th of 1999 was arrested as the
member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. On May 31st sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. Served
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his term in Jaslik prison, on April 19th of 2001 was brought to San.gorod due to lung
disease. On January 31st of 2002 joined the martyrs.
Abdul-Hameed born in 1953
Married, father of three sons and one daughter. He was a farmer. On May 12th of 1999
was arrested as the member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and sentenced to 13 years of
imprisonment, which he served in prison №. 64/46, located in Navoi. On February 6th of
2002 he died from heart attack and joined the martyrs. On February 9th was brought
home. That same day – within one hour, without letting the relatives and neighbors to
burial prayer - was buried by officers of NSS.
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Testimony on Prison Conditions
Nowadays the prisons of Uzbekistan are being visited by commissions, mostly comprised of
the representatives of ICRC – Internatioanl committee of Red Cross. Due to this, when the
commissons come to prisons, all renowned Muslims capable of talking to commission
members are being transferred to San.gorod (prison clinic, located in Tashkent) or Tashkent
prison in order to hide them from the eyes of commissions. We have been witnessing this for
the last five months. Currently, upon rumors that ICRC might visit the Qizil-tepa prison №
64/47, 50 Muslims have been transferred to Tashkent prison and there distributed to other
places pair by pair. Recently, in January a meeting was held in Koson prison № 64/51 –
representatives of Internal affairs ministry (IAM), National security service (NSS), procurators,
two imams of Qarshi cathedral mosque and the head of Qarshi regional prisons Islomov
attended it. Only the Muslims among all prisoners stood up and uncovered one truth about the
life in Koson prison – that they had been forced to ask for government’s mercy right before the
independence day and also afterwards to qualify for early release. Majority of Muslims did not
do so and have no intention to do so in the future. Failing to compel them by tortures, cruel
battery and putting in isolation wards, the prison authorities started employing even worse
methods – the ones even animals would be ashamed of. They summoned Muslims into their
cabinets and – four, five or even more people – tried to rape them until they refuse and reject
from their faith and membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. They take the lead and make several mean
vermin prisoners do this job. When Muslims strongly resist this, 3-4 prison officers cuff their
hands so that those vermin prisoners could rape them. This state of the matters continues to
happen in Qarshi 64/49, Qarshi 64/61, Koson 64/51, Navoi 64/29, Qizil-tepa 64/47 and
Zarafshon 64/48 prisons. Those Muslims who dared to openly disclose this in Koson prison
three days later were taken to San.gorod. Despite their fine health condition, now they are put
among those diseased by tuberculosis.
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One week ago on April 12th an interrogator from Qarshi came to visit 5 Muslims from Koson
prison, asked them about events that took place in their prison and announced that a criminal
case against head of Qarshi regional prisons was being brought, and had them write
testimony. He told our brothers that they might be summoned to court as witnesses. We ask
you to find out where will this trial be held – in IAM, NSS, office of public prosecutor,
Presidential administration or human rights organizations – and send to all those instances
the written complaints, so that the crimes of those prison guards will be uncovered. Let people
know, that people who are supposed to obey the law, protect and act in accordance with it are
the ones who break them in the first place, commit awful crimes and mean offences
(according to own laws) against their own laws. Let our nation and people know – whatever it
takes, whether through BBC, Liberty Radio, human rights organizations, orally or in written
form – request them to disclose these things.
There are deaths in San.gorod every day. Every single day a patient prisoner dies here. The
diseased prisoners stay here for 2-3 months and then transferred to Navoi 64/36 and Kokand
64/62 – special prisons for tubercular patients. After one or two months they are again taken
half dead to San.gorod, the reason for that being constant hard work, very limited amount of
food intake, cruel battery as punishment for prayer and tough conditions of isolation wards,
where Muslims are put on a regular basis. Recently a commission visited San.gorod and
video-taped the naked prisoners from Navoi prison № 64/36 to present the tape as evidence
of their disastrous condition – completely exhausted and famished bodies – to the
representatives of IAM. However, these frequent commissions cause little change – on the
visit day things get the artificial make up, the next day everything returns to its original
It is a custom in Uzbekistan prisons that a number of healthy prisoners brought to San.gorod
commingled with diseased prisoners, stay together with them 15-20 days, get infected and
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then sent back to their prisons. In 2-3 months they return to San.gorod again – this time being
really diseased. And most of such prisoners are Muslims.
In the meantime most cases are filed against women – they are sentenced to long-terms and
undergo tortures in prisons:
· Rahmonova Ulfatoy, born in 1953, mother of 5 children, two of them are
sentenced to 15 years each.
· Mirzahamidova Muqaddas, born in 1981. Despite asking for mercy sentenced
to five and a half years. She is the one, who is put into isolation wards for 9-10
days – even in cold winter days – having only a light chemise and no shoes.
· Musaeva Shahnoza, born in 1971. Mother of 2 children. Sentenced to 7 years
All these women are from Tashkent. They are mostly subject to a psychological insult and
threats - lately dramatically increasing.
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This section contains some media articles from news sources and
journals with regards to the activity of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central
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Central Asia: How Big A Threat Is Hizb ut-Tahrir? (Part 1)
By Bruce Pannier
As Central Asian governments continue their crackdown on unsanctioned Islamic groups they say pose
a threat to regional security, the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which advocates a return to “pure” Islam and
the creation of a region-wide Islamic state, is an elusive and mysterious target. Among the most feared
Islamic networks in Central Asia, it is also, seemingly, the least understood. Operating in three-person
groups, with only limited contact with other such “cells,” Hizb ut-Tahrir’s members are nearly impossible
to tally, and their goals in the region are unclear. But hundreds, and possibly thousands, of them are
filling the jails of Central Asia, despite little evidence the group has ties to more militant Islamic groups in
the region. In the first of a two-part series, RFE/RL looks at the origins of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia.
Prague, 30 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- No one can say with any certainty how many members of the Hizb
ut-Tahrir movement are active in Central Asia. But leaflets and other materials advocating the
establishment of a vast Islamic caliphate, or empire, have appeared in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, and, most recently, in southern Kazakhstan. For the governments of Central Asia—deeply
concerned over possible incursions by Islamic militant groups into the region—the spread of Hizb ut-
Tahrir propaganda is a worrying trend.
John Schoeberlein, the director of Harvard University’s Central Asia program, described Hizb ut-Tahrir’s
goals and appeal in the region. “First of all, it’s a political organization primarily. And perhaps,
secondarily, a religious one, although it’s certainly on their agenda to promote the revival of religion and
ultimately to achieve a caliphate—that is, an Islamic state—across the region. The goal is to work in the
underground in opposition to the existing governments and ultimately to eliminate them. It’s certainly the
most influential, most widely popular political Islamic group in Central Asia,” Schoeberlein said.
Hizb ut-Tahrir—or “Freedom Party”—has its roots in the Middle East in 1950s. Its original members
were mainly Palestinians from Jordan and Syria, although the movement quickly found supporters in
Egypt and North Africa as well. It is an orthodox movement that believes the sanctity of Islam was
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shattered soon after the death of the Prophet Mohammed, and aims to return the religion to its original
state of spiritual purity. Among its goals is the elimination of modern forms of government and imposing
Sharia Islamic law throughout the Islamic world. But unlike other movements, like the Taliban and
Wahhabism—which likewise advocate a strict interpretation of Islam—Hizb ut-Tahrir does not oppose
modern technology, and uses VCRs, CDs, and the Internet to spread its message.
The movement first appeared in Central Asia in the early 1990s. Its penetration of the region is unclear,
and its organization—based on networks comprising three-person “cells” with only limited contact
among one other—make it difficult to estimate its size. Hizb ut-Tahrir claims to have upwards of 100,000
members in the area, but more modest assessments place the number at some several thousand. But
regardless of its numbers, the group’s impact is undeniable.
Journalist Ahmed Rashid, in his recently published book “Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central
Asia,” writes that there are more members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the region’s prisons than of any other
movement. The movement even appears to have spread beyond Central Asia to the Caucasus: An
Azerbaijan court last month sentenced six Hizb ut-Tahrir members to prison terms.
Peter Sinnott of Columbia University’s School of International Affairs said the defining characteristic of
Hizb ut-Tahrir—and the reason it inspires such fear in the governments of the region—is its secrecy.
“The main characteristic of this organization is that it is very secretive. And people should keep in mind
that in many ways that’s the way Islam was preserved in the Soviet period,” Sinnott said.
In their crackdown against radical Islamism in the region, the governments of Central Asia have
consistently linked Hizb ut-Tahrir with groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU. The
IMU, which in recent years has staged armed incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, has already
demonstrated it is prepared to use violence to achieve its goals, which, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, include the
creation of an Islamic state.
Hizb ut-Tahrir has no such record of violence in Central Asia. But, Sinnott said, its shared goal of an
Islamic caliphate makes it easy for the region’s governments to link it to more radical groups like the
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“What [Hizb ut-Tahrir and the IMU] are espousing in terms of Islam is more alike than different, and they
are espousing, as I understand it, the renewal of an Islamic caliphate. And I think that this factor, which
is similar to what the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were very much about, is the factor people are focusing on,”
There is little to demonstrate that Hizb ut-Tahrir advocates violent means to achieve its end of creating
an Islamic caliphate. The U.S. State Department, which last year included the IMU in its list of world
terrorist organizations, did not list Hizb ut-Tahrir. Schoeberlein of Harvard University agreed there is no
reason to believe Hizb ut-Tahrir poses a danger, at least in any direct sense, to the governments of the
“The governments of the region have declared [Hizb ut-Tahrir] to be bent on violent overthrow of the
government, but there’s actually no good evidence that any Hizb ut-Tahrir members have been involved
in violent acts,” Schoeberlein said.
In fact, Schoeberlein said, Hizb ut-Tahrir “quite explicitly disavows violence as its means for achieving
(The Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Tajik services contributed to this report.)
Central Asia: Governments React To Uncertain Threat From Hizb ut-Tahrir (Part 2)
By Bruce Pannier
International rights groups have watched with concern as the countries of Central Asia crack down on
Islamic groups branded by governments as extremist or violent. Among the targeted groups is Hizb ut-
Tahrir, a movement advocating the creation of a region-wide Islamic caliphate and a return to Islam in
its pure, original form— a goal shared by demonstrably radical groups like the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan, or IMU. But to date, Hezb ut Tahrir has staged no acts of violence and its goals in the
region remain unclear. Nonetheless, scores of its members have been arrested and sentenced to terms
in prison. In the second of a two-part series, RFE/RL reports on how individual Central Asian
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governments are reacting to Hizb ut-Tahrir, and what the group’s members see as their aims in the
Prague, 30 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The governments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and
Kazakhstan are united in staunchly defending their crackdown on outlawed Islamic groups like Hizb ut-
Tahrir as part of the broader campaign against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. But reaction to the
perceived threat varies from country to country.
The sense of danger is felt most keenly by the government of Uzbekistan. This may be because—
judging by the names of Hizb ut-Tahrir members put on trial throughout Central Asia—the group
comprises mainly ethnic Uzbeks. Human-rights organizations also say that prisons in Uzbekistan hold
more Hizb ut-Tahrir members than those in any other country in the region.
Acacia Shields is a Central Asian researcher for the New York-based organization Human Rights
Watch. She said many Hizb ut-Tahrir members find themselves in Uzbek jails because of their group’s
superficial resemblance to more radical groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, which
have proven records of violence.
“This is something that is very troubling, that is, the conflation of really disparate Islamic groups in the
region. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a distinct organization, separate from Hizb ut-Tahrir. The
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a militant group, it’s an armed organization based outside of
Uzbekistan, whereas Hizb ut-Tahrir is a group with members inside the country who avow that they are
nonviolent, who have never been accused of any specific violent act, and have never made any
statements suggesting that they are in league with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” Shields said.
But Hizb ut-Tahrir cannot be said to invite the understanding of regional governments. Its structure is so
secretive—estimates of the group’s Central Asian membership range from several thousand to more
than 100,000 -- that most people learn of the group’s members only once they are arrested and put on
trial, most often for distributing leaflets and other types of propaganda material.
In Uzbekistan, sentences for such activity can be stiff, ranging from 10 to upwards of 20 years.
Moreover, rights groups say, members of banned religious groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir can suffer severe
beatings at the hands of police officers once in detention. The issue of police torture has recently been
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spotlighted in Uzbekistan, where four officers this year were convicted for their role in the beating death
of a detainee.
Tajikistan, like Uzbekistan, has arrested, tried, and convicted dozens—possibly hundreds—of alleged
Hizb ut-Tahrir members. The Tajik Interior Ministry reported last month it had apprehended more than
20 members since the start of the year. Although Tajik courts hand down comparable sentences to
those in Uzbekistan, their legal system is regarded as more transparent, if not necessarily more fair.
RFE/RL spoke to several Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Tajikistan. One, speaking under the pseudonym
Safar Jonmahmadov, said many of his fellow members have suffered severe abuse—and even
death—while in police custody.
“There was Arobidin, an agitator for Hizb ut-Tahrir. In the prison of the [Tajik] Interior Ministry, or
somewhere else, he was tortured and died because of this torture,” Jonmahmadov said.
Another Hizb ut-Tahrir member, using the pseudonym Navruz Soliev, described his own arrest. He said
Tajik police regularly violate proper legal procedure when arresting members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. “The
means they used against us were barbaric, even by the standards of their own ‘laws.’ First, they should
come with a document. Second, they need an order from the prosecutor, and third, they should have
evidence of a crime [before making an arrest],” Soliev said.
In Tajikistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir faces a unique problem. The government itself includes members of the
Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRP, a splinter group that has allied itself with some of the
region’s radical groups. But IRP’s leader, Said Abdullo Nuri, labeled Hizb ut-Tahrir as extremists and
added his party is doing all it can to limit the group’s influence.
A third Hizb ut-Tahrir member, who spoke under the name Kurban Adhamov, said his group differs from
groups like the IRP. “We do not agree with those who go by the means of the IRP. We think that we will
follow peaceful means until the time when we form an Islamic caliphate, and therefore we can not be
with [the IRP]. But we are their brothers. They understand things differently. They think they are right,”
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Kyrgyzstan is perhaps the mildest in its treatment of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members. Sentences are no
longer than 10 years, and are typically much less. Some Hizb ut-Tahrir members, usually those caught
distributing or possessing the group’s leaflets, are simply fined after a brief detention.
A member of Hizb ut-Tahrir living in southern Kyrgyzstan, who asked not to be named, offered a
possible explanation for why Kyrgyz authorities have been relatively tolerant of the group’s activities. He
said his group has no intention to overthrow the government nor does it bear any ill will toward the
country’s president, Askar Akaev. But, he said, his group does believe that sooner or later the system
“We are opponents of the democratic system. We are not against individuals if they embrace Islam and
return to Allah. If a person wants to live according to Sharia [Islamic law], he is our brother. If he wants
democracy and to live by the laws of the ‘kufr’ [nonbelievers], he is then our enemy. Kufr are our
enemies. If Akaev willingly accepts Islam, and if he imposes Islamic laws, he can sit on his throne,” the
Hizb ut-Tahrir member.
Such militant remarks may be on the rise among Hizb ut-Tahrir members. Bakhtiyar Bobojonov, an
Islam specialist at the Tashkent Academy of Sciences, said the group has undergone a philosophical
shift since the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign began in neighboring Afghanistan.
“After the campaign against terrorists started in Afghanistan, the position of Hizb ut-Tahrir changed and
they became much more radical. They are spreading leaflets and literature calling for war and
martyrdom in the war for Islam,” Bobojonov said.
Analysts have noted that the recent growth in radical Islamic movements in Central Asia—particularly
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan—may be explained in the chronic poverty and lack of basic
freedoms that continue to plague the region.
The Hizb ut-Tahrir member speaking in Kyrgyzstan seems to confirm this. Asked what role his group
can play in Central Asia, he said: “The people are tired of democracy. [All around you,] you see
unemployment, immorality. Our people are Muslims and they all yearn for Allah and to live by his laws.”
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(Uktambek Karimov and Khurmat Babadjanov of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service and Salimjon Aioubov and
Iskander Aliyev of RFE/RL’s Tajik Service contributed to this report.)
Astana Concerned by Islamist Propaganda Drive
Hizb ut-Tahrir activists arrested distributing leaflets calling for a Caliphate
and a Jihad against Israel.
By Daur Dosybiev in Shymkent (RCA No. 117, 26-Apr-02)
The arrest of two Islamists distributing leaflets in the southern Kazak city of Turkestan earlier this month
underlines the growing power in the area of the secretive Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Sunni fundamentalist group
dedicated to the creation of a theocratic Muslim state.
Esen Saparov, 43, and Izatulla Abdraimov, 33, detained on April 13, did not deny membership of the
Islamic group, but they refused to give any evidence that might harm the organisation, which is banned
across Central Asia and has been linked with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU, rebel group
that tried to assassinate Uzbek president Islam Karimov.
Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party for Islamic Freedom) has hitherto held less sway among the nomadic
Kazaks than in neighbouring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But plunging living standards, the lack of a
social safety net, corruption and state heavy-handedness have created a fertile breeding ground for the
It is dedicated to persuading Muslims to return to an Islamic way of life and to spreading the Islamic faith
throughout the world by means of Jihad. The party aspires to the creation of a united theocratic Muslim
state - the Caliphate.
Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in 1952 by a judge at the Palestinian Sharia court in Jerusalem, Taki ad-
adin Nabkhani al-Falastini. The 78 Kazak language leaflets confiscated from Saparov and Abdraimov,
alongside traditional stirring calls for the creation of a Caliphate, explained the current crisis in the Middle
East and attacked the Israeli government.
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Following the death of al-Falastani in 1979, his successor Abd al-Kadim Zallum began work in the
Muslim countries of the former USSR. At first, members of Hizb ut-Tahrir tried to work openly,
distributing literature and leaflets and organising conferences.
But growing state antagonism forced the organisation underground, and in the early 1990s, Hizb ut-
Tahrir wrote in its charter a secrecy article covering the location of its leaders.
The Islamists will not say how many members it has in the south Kazak oblast, but police estimate that
there are about 20-30 activists. They are well organised and have the resources to print propaganda
material. Last year, they distributed leaflets during the celebrations for the 1,500th anniversary of the city
Turkestan, with its mausoleum of one of the founders of the Suffi order, Hadji Akhmed Yassawi, is a
sacred site for Turkic-speaking Muslims throughout the world. Saparov and Abdraimov are from
neighbouring Kentau but said they were distributing leaflets in Turkestan because the population was
more religious in the city.
Kentau was a centre for the mining industry in southern Kazakhstan during the Soviet era, and
ethnographist Igor Savin believes it is no coincidence that the two pamphleteers came from there. Over
the past ten years, the town has turned into a focus for social problems and a source of social
"This is evidence of social and not religious motives for people joining Hizb ut-Tahrir," Savin said. "The
more southerly regions, bordering on Uzbekistan, which are more inclined towards traditional Central
Asian ways of life have fewer followers of Hizb ut-Tahrir. It seems that traditional religion has got nothing
to do with this."
Last November, a young resident of Kentau died in hospital, alleging he had been beaten by security
forces while being interrogated about his involvement with the Islamists. Police said Kanat Beimbetov,
22, died when he attempted to escape by jumping out of a car that was moving at speed.
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Kanat's relatives say they filmed his account of being beaten by the police on video. But sadly, there is
little cause to doubt their claims as security forces frequently beat prisoners in Kazakhstan. Since the
government declared Hizb ut-Tahrir to be illegal, the hands of the police have been untied.
The corruption and the inflexibility of state bureaucracy have allowed the party to promote the
importance of living according to the rules of the Sharia. Hizb ut-Tahrir followers believe people would
show greater respect for the laws of the Sharia as they would be afraid of being punished by Allah.
A young man in Kentau, who wished to remain anonymous, told the IWPR that although he would
prefer to live in a secular society, "Hizb ut-Tahrir, unlike our current authorities, doesn't lie." He said a
state constructed in accordance with the laws of the Sharia would feature less of the corruption and
other negative factors endemic in Kazakhstan today.
"When speaking of the social roots of the appearance of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kazakhstan, it should be
noted that the main factor is the impoverishment and spiritual vacuum of the population," said Savin.
"People don't see any legal means to improve their condition and respond well to any calls for
alternative approaches. As a result, stopping people from being attracted to extremist organisations is
problematic because of the limitations of just using repressive measures."
Daur Dosybiev is an independent journalist in Kazakhstan
BBC INTERNATIONAL REPORTS (CENTRAL ASIA) 23rd April 2002
RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS POSE THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA, TAJIK MEDIA CONFERENCE
Text of report by Kyrgyz news agency Kabar
Bishkek, 23 April: Underground religious parties are posing a threat to the existing system in Central
Asia, the Islam and Society regional media conference in Dushanbe [Tajikistan's capital] has said. The
Islamic Liberation Party, Hezb-e Tahrir al-Islami, has carried out specific activity. It has exploited the
WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 26
empty ideological niche in the Fergana valley [which includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan],
where 12m people are poor. It is here that the well-conspired party arranged the first disobedience
action - an unsanctioned meeting near the District state administration [in Kyrgyzstan] - exactly a year
ago. Therefore it is not accidental that not only experts from Central Asia have come to the conference,
which was convened by the Swiss CIMERA organisation and the Tajik media association. Scientists of
Russia, Iran, France and Switzerland have presented their vision of Islam in society.
Source: Kabar news agency, Bishkek, in Russian 0928 GMT 23 Apr 02
April 16, 2002
REPRESSION BREEDS EXTREMISM IN CENTRAL ASIA.
Continued government repression is breeding extremist movements in all five Central Asian republics,
particularly in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to four leaders of human rights organizations
active in Central Asia who spoke at a briefing at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Washington offices
last week. Vitaly Ponomaryov, head of the Central Asian Program of the Moscow-based Memorial
Human Rights Center, characterized the regime of Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov as
"unprecedented among the republics of the former Soviet Union" in its efforts to repress its citizenry.
According to Ponomaryov, Niyazov imprisons more political dissidents than all of the post-Soviet states
combined, and his regime persecutes and tortures the families of opposition members who have fled
Turkmenistan. Although some political prisoners have been released, new trials of dissidents are under
Pulat Akhunov, a former political prisoner in Uzbekistan and senior member of the opposition Birlik
Party, said that September 11 gave Uzbek President Islam Karimov a new "opportunity to crack down"
on political and religious opposition. Akhunov said that the government's repression of the religious
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opposition has been even more severe than the measures it has taken against the secular political
opposition. Atanazar Arifov, the general-secretary of the opposition Erk Party of Uzbekistan and also a
former political prisoner, said that "the will of the Uzbek government is anti-democratic" and that the
"negative developments overshadow the few positive steps" the Karimov regime has taken in recent
months "because of the U.S. presence." According to Arifov, "the Clinton Administration did have a
program", but that effort appears "to have been put aside."
Abdusalom Ergashev, head of the Ferghana branch of the Independent Human Rights Organization of
Uzbekistan, said that recent convictions of political activists in a Ferghana district court, where members
of Hizb-ut Tahrir -- a group sometimes called "utopian" as it seeks the non-violent establishment of an
Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia -- received 7 to 20-year sentences, could drive this group to become a
terrorist organization like the Islamic Movement for Uzbekistan (IMU). Ergashev said that the IMU,
which is based outside Uzbekistan, had grown out of the government's repression of a peaceful Islamic
political movement, Adolat.
US military presence in C. Asia alarming
By Frank Brown
BISHKEK : As 1,500 troops from eight countries work around the clock to construct an airbase just
outside this sleepy former Soviet city, Kyrgyz political observers are debating just what the Western
military presence will mean for democracy in the mountainous country that has never quite lived up to its
billing as the Switzerland of Central Asia.
Although opinions vary on the West's ultimate aims in this country bordering China and a 45-minute
fighter flight from Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the domestic political landscape is changing
Last month, at least six people died in a murky clash between government security forces and people
protesting the imprisonment of an opposition political leader. Exactly what happened is still unclear, but
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President Askar Akayev took the incident seriously enough to go on national television in an effort to
calm the nation of 4.7 million.
Some human rights activists fear increased government crackdowns on political opponents by an
emboldened government. Chinara Jakypova, Kyrgyz country director for the London-based Institute for
War and Peace Reporting says: "We have the sense that with the opening of the base, the United
States is closing its eyes to human rights concerns."
He claims that a boost to the country's battered economy will be the only clear benefit from the
construction of the Peter J. Ganci Jr Airbase, named after the New York Fire Department chief who died
in the World Trade Centre collapse.
A US Air Force spokeswoman said the military had spent $4.5 million on food, lodging, fuel and landing
fees in the first two months of work on the base since the deal was struck in December. When it is
completed, the base will house about 2,000 soldiers and 25 aircraft supporting operations in
Afghanistan. Six French Mirage fighters are already flying sorties from there, supported by ground
crews from the United States, Denmark, France, Spain, South Korea, Norway, Netherlands and
Australia. The Americans predominate with 700 of the 1,500 soldiers living in the swiftly built tent city.
Under the terms of the one-year lease for use of the civilian airport and 35 acres of adjacent land for the
he military base, the Kyrgyz government is placing no restrictions on what sort of aircraft can use the
At least one Kyrgyz opposition leader is happy to see the Western military presence as a long-term one.
Emil Aliyev, a leader of the Ar-Namys opposition party, believes that President Akayev got more than he
bargained for by agreeing to construction of the airbase.
"When the Americans said that in spite of the military base they would keep talking about democracy
and human rights, Akayev realized that it might not be the best thing for him. It is good for the people,
though," says Aliyev, whose party claims membership of 12,000 but holds no seats in parliament.
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Alisher Sabirov, an independent member of the Jogorku Kenesh - the Kyrgyz parliament - also praised
the airbase, its economic impact and role in protecting Kyrgyzstan from bigger neighbours like China,
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. "It has an influence not just militarily," he says. "It also means that America
will try to promote the politics of democracy. They can't be located here and close their eyes to what
This view was backed up by an official at the US Embassy, located on the edge of this city where the
Tien Shan mountain range begins. "There has been no change in policy towards human rights. We
consider respect for human rights to be an important element in ensuring the success of the fight
against terrorism," says the official, who asked not to be named.
Kyrgyzstan's official Muslim leadership has not spoken out against the base. In a recent interview, the
country's top mufti, Kimsanbai Azhy Abdurakhmanov, said: "If our government decided things this way,
it is all right with us." But one underground Muslim religious group, the outlawed Hizb-ut-Tahrir party,
attacked the idea of warplanes leaving from Kyrgyz soil to bomb fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. "Hasn't
the time come for us to overthrow the leaders who have made us each other's enemies?" it asks
rhetorically in leaflets stuffed in mailboxes in late January.
While the mufti's faith in Kyrgyzstan's political leaders may not be shared by much of the populace,
which has suffered a decade of grinding poverty after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, at least
some people sense welcome change coming with the construction of the airbase.
As one middle-aged taxi driver waiting at the airport watches white shuttle buses drop off soldiers at the
airport, he comments on how the people in his nearby village were now more hopeful.
"There was talk that they would buy our village," said the man, who declined to give his name. "Let
them. I'll sell my home for the right price." -Dawn/The Observer News Service.
THE ANALYST- WEDNESDAY/JULY 18, 2001
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IS HIZB-UT-TAHRIR GOING PUBLIC IN ITS STRUGGLE?
The Hizb-ut-Tahrir party is officially banned in Central Asian states, and membership in the party can
lead to lengthy prison terms. Although the party claims never to resort to violence, the activities of Hizb-
ut-Tahrir are often labeled as extremist and terrorist by media and governments alike. Its ultimate
objective is to establish an Islamic state, an objective it sets to be achieved in three stages: First, to
culture masses with the thoughts and rules of Islam, second to embrace and carry Islam as a political
issue; and finally, to establish an Islamic government. Recent developments in Central Asia may
suggest that under intense government crackdown, the party is moving to an active political role, at least
BACKGROUND: On July 2, an action of protest took place in Tashkent and Andijan, carried out by
women and children, relatives of accused Hizb-ut-Tahrir party members. In Tashkent the rally was held
in the center of the city outside the hokimat building. The organization of the protest action suggests that
it was well coordinated and planned to draw the attention of the international community to the gross
violations of the freedom of expression and freedom of conscience perpetrated by the government of
Uzbekistan. Several days in advance, an announcement about the rally was posted on an Uzbek
Islamic web site and a letter addressed to the Uzbek leadership --"Talabnama" (letter of demands) was
sent to diplomats and foreign organizations. The action was staged with women arriving to the hokimat
in small groups, thus prolonging the duration of the rally as they were subsequently met and detained at
the site by security services, who were well prepared to meet them. The action clearly reached its goal
of attracting the attention of the international media and human rights organizations. The suppression of
the rally by the Uzbek law enforcement agencies was broadly covered by BBC, United Press
International, Agence France Press, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Radio Liberty.
According to BBC and UPI reports, women were forced into the waiting buses. Those who resisted
were punched and dragged. Ruslan Sharipov of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, who
witnessed and filmed the rally with a hidden camera, described scenes of women being beaten and
dragged by their hair and crying children. The UPI correspondent, Maria Kozlova, reported that
policemen also tried to put her in a bus, and even tore her dress while dragging her. The BBC
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interpreter reportedly was followed by the security forces to his home where he was intimidated and
IMPLICATIONS: Until now the emphasis of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Uzbekistan has been on covert
propagation of an Islamic way of life among Muslims. The party has been characterized by a high level
secrecy and conspiracy that is ironically reminiscent of the Bolsheviks in Russia before the revolution.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir members are organized in small circles (da’ira) of five to seven people, headed by a
Mushrif. Each group member knows only the members of his/her circle and only the Mushrif knows the
next stage superior. The party manifests that all its work is political in nature even when it is just
spreading Islamic ideas. The goal is "changing the society’s existing thoughts to Islamic thoughts so that
such thoughts become the public opinion among the people, who are then driven to implement and act
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which was founded in 1952 on the base of Palestinian branch of "Muslim Brotherhood,"
considers Uzbekistan to be its stronghold in Central Asia for it is "the most devoted to Islam in Central
Asian Republics." In an interview with Ahmed Rashid, an anonimous party leader claimed that they
have as many as eighty thousand members in Uzbekistan and that they even managed to penetrate
Karimov’s regime from within.
On a spectrum of different Islamic movements, Hizb-ut-Tahrir can be roughly placed in the middle as
they are often criticized by the sufi groups for giving priority to politics over spirituality and at the same
time by more fundamentalist movements for not accepting ahaad Hadith (hadith that were narrated by a
few people as opposed to mutawatir hadith that had a great number of its reporters) into an article of
faith, as well as for considering it permissible to view nude pictures, smoke, shave beards and listen to
In its recent analysis of Hizb-ut Tahrir, Moscow’s Carnegie center states that "the fact that unlike many
like-minded movements in the Middle East, Hizb-ut-Tahrir is not predisposed to a xenophobic attitude
and is open for a dialogue with other confessions and ideological systems truly makes it stand out."
CONCLUSION: The current political situation in Uzbekistan is such that the democratic secular
opposition (Erk and Birlik parties) has been exiled from the country and fragmented. By initiating armed
insurgencies in 1999 and 2000, the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan discredited itself, while creating
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security problems for all states in Central Asia and finally making the U.S. State Department’s list of
Terrorist Organizations—a fact that doesn’t contribute to its popularity in Central Asia, as western
support remains vital for any opposition movement in the region. However, Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s ideas of
peaceful jihad – "culturing and propagating" Islam, go along the stream with the creed of freedom of
expression and freedom of conscience promoted by the West. In such a situation, coupled with
economic deprivation and a lack of opposition alternatives, Hizb-ut-Tahrir becomes a viable player in
the political life in Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia, steadily advancing in its battle for minds and
AUTHOR BIO: Alima Bissenova received her Master's degree from the University of Missouri School of
Journalism, and is currently an editorial assistant to the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst.
AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN KYRGYZSTAN
Simon Churchyard: 5/1/00
On April 26, a court case opened in the southern Kyrgyzstani city of Osh in which several
members of an opposition part, Hizb ut-Tahrir, faced charges of inciting interethnic hatred. The
trial marked the latest stage of the Kyrgyz government's intense campaign against its political
The government effort to neutralize the northern-based opposition alliance, which centers on the
El and Ar-Namys parties, has received considerable attention in the international arena. The
arrest of Feliks Kulov -- the head of the Ar-Namys Party who was detained on March 22, and has
been dubbed a "criminal abuser of power" by the government -- has developed into a cause
celebre in the West, as highlighted by Madeleine Albright during her recent visit to Bishkek. [For
background see Eurasia Insight Archive] In sharp contrast, the crackdown on the southern-based
political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, including the arrests and intimidation of dozens of people over recent
months, has attracted little international and domestic concern.
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The Hizb ut-Tahrir members have been charged with inciting ethnic hatred under section 299 of
the Kyrgyz criminal code. The wording of the law leaves it open to broad interpretation and
manipulation. The charge stems from the distribution of leaflets that call for the restoration of the
Caliphate, the Pan-Islamic institution abolished by Turkish nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk in
1925. The leaflets distributed by Hizb ut-Tahrir also have been critical of state-supported Islamic
clerics in Uzbekistan, and of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's heavy-handed policies.
The Hizb ut-Tahrir movement spread in the early 1990s throughout southern Kyrgyzstan following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, helped by the work of foreign missionaries. Initially, Hizb ut-
Tahrir activists concentrated their efforts on building a grassroots support base amongst common
people, proselytizing during the winter months when farmers and craftsmen were idle. More
recently, the movement has been distributing printed matter, including political critiques of
western-supported Islamic states. Uzbekistan’s human rights practices have been a particular
The movement, which sprung up in the 1950s in Palestine and Syria is trans-national in character.
Its aim, stated in its official literature, is "to change the situation of the corrupt society so that it is
transformed into an Islamic one" under a restored Caliphate. Intellectually, it represents an anti-
colonial critique of nationalism as an alien ideology imposed upon the Islamic world by the West.
Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology is essentially non-violent. It rejects the use of force, identifying the
weapons of what it calls its "intellectual and political" struggle as the use of "thought, conviction
In its campaign to discredit Hizb ut-Tahrir, Kyrgyzstani officials have engaged in the arbitrary
interpretation of the country’s legal code, and have grossly misrepresented the group's aims,
describing its members as 'fundamentalists.' The term "fundamentalist" has come, in common
parlance, to represent a dogmatic religious bigot who refuses to accept change. Within a strictly
Central Asian context, the term conjures up a picture of a bearded, gun-totting Muslim terrorists.
Incumbent authorities not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in other Central Asian regions, have not
hesitated to tar opponents as fundamentalists. They have used the alleged fundamentalist threat
as justification for state repression of individual liberty. In this spirit, Kyrgyz authorities have
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Human Rights Reports
This section contains collated reports and articles from Human
Rights organisation highlighting the persecution and rights abuses
against the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir
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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTS
Uzbekistan: Round-up of Women Linked to Islamic Groups
(New York, May 1, 2002) The government of Uzbekistan is extending its crackdown against
independent Muslims to include women, Human Rights Watch said today.
In the past two weeks, police in Tashkent and the Ferghana Valley have detained dozens of women.
Some stand accused of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned Islamic group, and others have
relatives who are in jail for their religious affiliations.
"The authorities in Uzbekistan have already detained thousands of men for their affiliation with
peaceful Islamic groups," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central
Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "Now they're rounding up women."
On April 23, police broke up two protests by several dozen women in Tashkent's old city and in
Margilan, a city in the Ferghana Valley. The women were protesting the state's harsh actions
against independent Muslims. Many were also demanding the release of their male relatives who
are serving prison terms for their religious affiliations. In Tashkent, police detained between nine
and eighteen women and their children, including babies. Journalists and others who witnessed
the incident told Human Rights Watch that officers descended upon the group, herded many of
the protesters onto buses, and took them to an undisclosed location. Police disbanded the other
demonstrators. In Margilan, police detained at least nine women and dispersed about forty-five
Authorities currently require scores of overtly pious Muslim women, particularly those who wear
headscarves partially covering their faces, to sign monthly or even weekly statements pledging
not to participate in unauthorized meetings or gatherings and not to join any "religious sects." Until
recently, however, few women had been arrested.
"We've seen a steady rise in the number of people, particularly women, willing to risk the
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enormously dangerous move of peacefully voicing their dissent," said Andersen. "The latest round
of detentions shows that the government does not intend to relent on the campaign against
Uzbekistan is a predominately Muslim country, where the government closely regulates religion.
Some Muslims practice Islam beyond state controls.
The government has intensified its efforts against women who are alleged members of Hizb ut-
Tahrir (Party of Liberation), an Islamic group that calls for the peaceful reestablishment of the
Caliphate in Central Asia. Uzbek authorities routinely prosecute those accused of affiliation with
the group on charges of anti-state activities or possession or distribution of "illegal religious
Human Rights Watch observed two recent trials of women charged with Hizb ut-Tahrir
membership. The first, involving four women-Aiazimkhon Yakbalkhojaeva, Tursunoi Rashidova,
Arofat Khakimova, and Lazokat Avazova-continues this week in Tashkent. According to the
defendants, the court failed to give them adequate advance notification of the trial date in which to
communicate with legal counsel and prepare a defense, and instead summoned several of them
by phone in early April just an hour before the hearing was due to begin. The prosecution gave
the defendants a copy of the indictment against them only after several days of trial hearings. The
defendants had no prior notification of the charges they faced.
The second trial, also in Tashkent, concluded on April 24 with four women convicted for
membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir: Nasiba Uzakova; Nargiza Usmanova; Mukhtabar Omonturdieva;
and Fatima Khamroboeva. The women testified that their religious activities consisted of meeting
privately for prayer and Islamic study. One of the women testified in court that police beat them or
threatened physical violence to coerce confessions and to "punish" them for their activities.
Sentences ranged from two years of probation to four years of imprisonment. These are relatively
lenient terms in Uzbekistan, where an estimated 7,000 independent Muslims have been
sentenced to up to twenty years in prison for their religious beliefs, affiliations, and practices.
The husband of defendant Nasiba Uzakova had been sentenced to fifteen years in prison in 2000,
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also on charges of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership. At trial, the judge announced that yet another
group of women would soon be brought up on religious charges, including one of Uzakova's
relatives, Musharraf Usmonova. At the time, Usmonova had been in custody for a week, while
police withheld information about her whereabouts.
On the night of April 14, 2002, a group of policemen and close to forty unidentified men in civilian
dress had burst into the Usmonov household, searched the premises and, though they found no
illicit materials, took Musharraf Usmonova to an undisclosed location. For seven days police
refused to inform her relatives of her whereabouts or even confirm that she had been detained.
Usmonova's "disappearance" ended on April 22-the day that the judge in the Uzakova case
announced Usmonova's upcoming trial-when her lawyer finally learned of her whereabouts.
The authorities continue to deny Usmonova access to her lawyer, and her conditions in custody
are not known.
"It's hard to imagine a more dangerous situation for Usmonova," said Andersen. "There's a real
threat of torture during pretrial custody in Uzbekistan, particularly when the detainee is held
Five of Musharraf Usmonova's children (ranging in age from four to sixteen) were detained until
evening following their participation in the protest on April 23.
Usmonova's family has been devastated by the official crackdown on independent Islam. In June
1999, police detained and tortured to death Usmonova's husband, Farkhod, the son of a well-
known imam. Also in June 1999, Usmonova's then seventeen-year-old son was arrested and
sentenced to six years in prison for "anti-state activities;" he was later released. Farkhod
Usmonov's youngest brother, Muhammadjon, was sentenced to eleven years in prison, for alleged
possession of a religious magazine; he was also released. Usmonov's brother Ravkhat was
sentenced to fourteen years on a variety of charges related to alleged religious and "anti-state"
activity. Usmonova's brothers, Shukrullo and Faizullo Agzamov, were sentenced to seven and
seventeen years in prison, respectively. Abdukarim Rashidov, also a relative, was sentenced to
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Uzbekistan Human Rights watch
The government of Uzbekistan has systematically arrested thousands of peaceful Muslims in recent
years, justifying these violations in part as a necessary element of its campaign against the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an armed insurgent group primarily based in Afghanistan that launced
cross border incursions into Uzbekistan in 2000 and Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000. The Uzbek
government campaign against independent Islam targets Muslims who practice their religion beyond
the tight restrictions imposed by the government - participating in private prayer groups, following imams
out of favor with the state, joining religious organizations banned by the stae, and distributing literature
not sanctioned by the state. Victims face charges of "anti-state activity" or "attempted subversion of the
constitutional order," with sentences of up to 20 years in prison. Torture of detainees in routine, resulting
in a number of deaths in custody.
The U.S. government has linked the IMU to Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. Uzbek
President Islam Karimov is taking advantage of this linkage to further justify his government's
crackdown on peaceful believers in the name of anti-terrorism. On October 9, he stated that,
"Indifference to, and tolerance of, those with evil intentions who are spreading various fabrications,
handing out leaflets, committing theft and sedition in some neighborhoods and who are spreading
propaganda on behalf of religion should be recognized as being supportive of these evil-doers."
On January 14, 2002, police spokesman Davlatov justified the actions of four policemen charged with
the October death in custody of Ravshan Haidov, an accused member of the Islamic group Hizb-ut-
Tahrir, by claiming that the group was responsible for the events of September 11. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which
employs anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric, is banned in Uzbekistan for espousing the
establishment of a Caliphate, but it has not been implicated in acts of violence. Nevertheless, on
January 30, the policemen were found guilty of "inflicting bodily harm that caused death" and each was
sentenced to 20 years in prison.
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Memorandum to the U.S. Government Regarding Religious
Persecution in Uzbekistan
August 10, 2001
This memorandum outlines Human Rights Watch's most pressing concerns about the systematic
religious persecution of independent Muslims in today's Uzbekistan, where the government is pursuing
a campaign of unlawful arrest, incommunicado detention, torture, unfair trials, and incarceration of non-
Human Rights Watch has maintained an office in Tashkent since 1996, from which it has conducted
research in eight provinces in Uzbekistan and all thirteen districts of Tashkent, compiling documentation
on more than 800 individual cases of religious persecution and interviewing victims and their relatives in
more than 200 of those cases. The evidence presented below is only a small portion of the
documentation on Uzbek religious persecution gathered by Human Rights Watch during two years of
monitoring trials, interviewing officials, lawyers, victims, and their relatives. It draws upon direct
examination of evidence that ranges from court documents to the inspection of physical remains of
victims evidently tortured to death in custody.
The government of Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov contends that the affected persons are
prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms because of their intent to overthrow the state or
commit acts of terror. But of the thousands who have been detained, harassed, tortured, and
imprisoned since the religious persecution intensified in 1999, only very few have been charged with
specific violent acts; even more rarely have the authorities produced credible evidence to support
charges of the use or advocacy of violence. Human Rights Watch is convinced that the measures
against independent Muslims in Uzbekistan constitute religious persecution. This stems primarily from
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these individuals' adherence to-or in many cases, even their superficial interest in or exposure to the
tenets of-certain variations of Islam unacceptable to the governing authorities.
The government's campaign against independent Muslims has far exceeded the bounds of legitimate
security measures to enforce the law and to counter terrorism and other violence. In doing so it is in
clear violation of international human rights standards, particularly the right to freedom of religion. The
government continues to unlawfully arrest and detain people who pray in mosques not run by the
government, who belong to Islamic groups not registered with the government, who possess Islamic
literature not generated by the government, or who meet privately for prayer or Islamic study, singling
them out for nothing more than the peaceful expression of their religious beliefs.
RECOMMENDATIONS: UZBEKISTAN AND THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT
Human Rights Watch therefore urges the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to
recommend that the Bush administration designate Uzbekistan as a "country of particular concern" for
religious freedom, as provided under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
We further urge the Bush administration to designate Uzbekistan as a country of particular concern.
Under IRFA section 405, such a designation would require the Bush administration to take appropriate
action with regard to Uzbekistan including, but not limited to, public condemnation in bilateral and
multilateral fora, and the conditioning of state or other visits and of financial or security assistance on
Uzbekistan's progress toward ending abuses outlined in this memorandum.1
IRFA section 402 (b) requires the executive to designate as countries of particular concern those that
"have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom... during the preceding
12 months..." IRFA section 3 (13) includes in its definition of "violations of religious freedom" the
detention, interrogation, and imprisonment of individuals "if committed on account of their religious belief
or practice." Under IRFA section 3 (11), "particularly severe violations of religious freedom" mean that
the legal and practical suppression of religious beliefs is combined with systematic torture or "other
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flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of persons."
As described below, these conditions are amply met in Uzbekistan, where in addition to torture and
prolonged incommunicado detention and denial of due process of law the targets of the religious
persecution campaign are subjected to public shaming, ostracism, and surveillance.
The U.S. government itself has repeatedly expressed concern about violations of religious freedom of
independent Muslims in Uzbekistan. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 notes
that in Uzbekistan: "The security forces arbitrarily arrested or detained pious Muslims...on false charges,
frequently planting narcotics, weapons and forbidden literature on them.... The Government harassed
and arrested hundreds of Islamic leaders and believers on questionable grounds, citing the threat of
The report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for 2000 uncritically reported the
Uzbek government's view on these matters: the Karimov government, it noted, "does not consider
repression of these groups to be a matter of religious freedom, but instead to be directed against those
who oppose the political order." In 1999 and 2000, the U.S. administration did not designate Uzbekistan
a country of particular concern for religious freedom. We are pleased that the commission's report of
May 2001 notes that Uzbekistan is a "serious violator" of religious freedom, but this does not bear the
same consequences as designation as a country of particular concern. And the legal designation is
warranted, because a constant feature of the current crackdown has been that those arrested are
explicitly pursued and prosecuted for and because of their religious activity-whether individual or group
prayer, Koranic study, or discussions or publications about their faith.
Below, we divide the abuses into the four main categories set out in IRFA as criteria for countries of
particular concern for religious freedom: detention and arrest, extrajudicial executions (cases in which
detainees have been tortured to death), torture more generally, and social punishment that recalls the
Stalin-era practice of publicly humiliating and ostracizing those believed to espouse views inimical to the
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The victims and their relatives describe their activities as essentially studying Islam. Some, though not
all, religious detainees support the reestablishment of the Caliphate (Islamic state) in Uzbekistan.
Fundamentalist religious movements typically reject separation between the sacred and secular
spheres, but this does not explain away the essentially religious nature of these movements. The U.S.
government has, commendably, taken a strong stance against the persecution of the small Christian
community in Uzbekistan. To overlook or misinterpret the anti-religious content of the government's
campaign against independent Muslims cannot but create the impression for the Uzbek government-
and others-that the U.S. is concerned only with Christian religious freedom and not with the rights of
Muslim believers. It sends the unintended message that the U.S. government is willing to countenance
the massive persecution of religious believers so long as that persecution is labeled anti-terrorist.
Human Rights Watch is well aware of the offensive content of some literature generated by independent
Muslim organizations in Uzbekistan. Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), an organization whose
leadership and members have been especially targeted since 1999, publishes tracts that are anti-
Semitic, antithetical to the rights of women, and intolerant of others' beliefs. But the views of the U.S.
government on this should not impede it from taking appropriate action on the Uzbek government's
violation of religious believers' fundamental rights to physical integrity, due process of law, and freedom
of expression-all subsumed under an attack on freedom of religion
A NOTE ON ISLAM IN UZBEKISTAN
More than 80 percent of the population of Uzbekistan is Muslim; the vast majority adheres to the
Hannafi school of Sunnism. During the Soviet era the Muslim Board of Central Asia and Kazakhstan
controlled Islamic worship and study, regulating the registration of mosques, appointing imams to lead
local congregations, and dictating the content of sermons and Islamic practice. The agency survived
Uzbekistan's transition to independence in 1991, becoming the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan and
retaining its responsibility for the regulation and restriction of the population's religious beliefs and
practices. Independence gave rise to a revival of popular interest in Islam, which the government sought
to use as a tool in building national identity and solidifying its monopoly on power.4 During this revival,
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some imams began to preach without deference to the Muslim Board, communities founded mosques
that were not registered by the board, and a variety of Islamic literature not approved by the board
became available. The brief period of relative tolerance came to an end in 1992 when the Karimov
administration, having defeated its political rivals, turned its attention to Islam, which it apparently
perceived as a similar threat to its hold on power.
BACKGROUND ON THE CAMPAIGN OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
The period 1992 to 1997, when the Uzbek government sought to establish strict state control over
religious activity, was punctuated by sporadic arrests and "disappearances" of prominent independent
Muslim leaders. The murders of several police officers and government officials in December 1997 in
the province of Namangan provided the pretext for the Karimov government to crackdown more heavily
on independent Islam, portraying it as a threat to the country's stability. Authorities closed independent
mosques, and began arresting Muslim believers for having attended religious services of imams who
had run afoul of the government or for manifesting their faith by wearing beards. Hundreds arrested
during this period remain in prison today.
The crackdown developed into a systematic, widescale campaign that intensified following the first
significant incident of political violence in Uzbekistan-a series of bombings near government buildings in
Tashkent in February 1999 that killed sixteen people and wounded more than one hundred. Police
undertook mass sweeps of entire neighborhoods throughout the country, and the government
expanded the targets of the repression to include relatives of suspected independent Muslims.
Increasing numbers of men were sent to Jaslyk prison in Karakalpakstan, a place infamous for its harsh
treatment of prisoners. In 1999 and 2000, Uzbek militants based abroad-known as the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan- launched armed incursions into Uzbekistan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan. In
2000, the Karimov government used the fighting as another pretext to justify the continued arrests.
The government enacted laws restricting and forbidding certain peaceful religious practices and
activities, in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which
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Uzbekistan is a party.5 Article 18 of the Covenant provides that:
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.... This right shall include
freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in
community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance,
practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his freedom to have or to
adopt a religion or belief of his choice.6
A May 1998 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, together with amendments
to Uzbekistan's criminal and administrative codes, bans all religious activity and organizations not
registered with the state, including private religious education7 and the distribution of literature deemed
"extremist,"8 and sets out criminal penalties for leaders who fail to register their groups.9 The 1998 law
also forbids proselytizing and religious dress in public for non-clerics.10 In addition, under subsequent
amendments to the criminal code, any manifestation of belief or exchange of information deemed by the
state to have "religious extremist" content was subject to harsh penalties. Though police frequently plant
evidence to facilitate prosecution on drugs or weapons charges-and invoke articles of the criminal code
including attempts to overthrow the state11-these clumsy tactics cannot conceal the religious basis of the
The government's campaign targets those perceived by the authorities to be adherents of
"Wahhabism," a term suggesting a radical form of Islamic belief.12 The government has misapplied this
term to refer to religious observance that takes place outside strict state controls. Thus, the label is
applied to those who engage in private prayer alone or with others or engage in the private study of
religion, i.e. study beyond state oversight. The state also brands as "Wahhabi" any person suspected of
following or having been associated with Muslim leaders who have displayed independence from or
been critical of the government, specifically those who have favored the establishment of an Islamic
state in the territory of Uzbekistan or the incorporation of Shari'a as the law of the land. Those who
proselytize for strict observance of Muslim prayer or who learn Arabic to study the Koran in the original
are labeled "Wahhabis," as are men who grow beards as a mark of piety and women who wear certain
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kinds of headscarves.
Aside from "Wahhabism" and its supposed leaders, the government targets specific Islamic
organizations, primarily the unregistered group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which it has defined as an "illegal
religious organization." The group espouses the creation of a Caliphate, or Islamic state, through
peaceful means. Memorial, the Russian human rights group, has estimated that more than half of the
1,042 religiously and politically motivated arrests that had been documented for the period January
1999 through April 2000 involved people accused of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership.13 In nearly all of the
hundreds of Hizb ut-Tahrir cases reviewed by Human Rights Watch, as in the vast majority of the
thousands of cases of people caught up in the crackdown, the state did not accuse Hizb ut-Tahrir
members of involvement in any violent act, much less prove that they were involved in violence, and
further failed to show that belief in an Islamic form of government was tantamount to action to overthrow
the Karimov administration.
UNLAWFUL ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS: 1999-2001
In April 1999, stepping up anti-dissident rhetoric in the wake of the February bombings, President
Karimov publicly vowed to deal harshly with perceived enemies of the state-and with their entire families
if necessary. He said, "The fathers who have brought them up will be brought to account together with
their children. If necessary, I will sign a decree on this."14 The president did not have to sign a decree;
the head of the country's law enforcement agency treated his words themselves as law, and almost
immediately declared that the state would exact severe punishment on members of "dogmatic and
extremist groups" who failed to surrender to police, and on their fathers.15
Once arrested, independent Muslims faced torture in pre-trial detention, including sustained physical
torture and various forms of psychological abuse, including threats against and detention of their
nearest relatives. Torture was facilitated by long periods of incommunicado detention, from several
weeks to several months, during which lawyers and relatives could neither offer aid nor verify a
detainee's physical state. Those arrested were most commonly charged with attempted overthrow of
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the constitutional order,16 preparation, possession or distribution of materials containing ideas of
religious extremism, separatism, or fundamentalism,17 and membership in a forbidden religious
Unfair trials followed: legal counsel was frequently obstructed or denied; judges routinely accepted
coerced confessions, ignored recantations, and refused to hear evidence of the torture used to extract
self-incriminating statements. Convictions were handed down, even in the face of risibly inadequate or
planted evidence-two bullets, five bullets, or some pamphlets, "discovered" on a third or fourth
inspection of a home. Sentences ranged up to twenty years in prison. Prison conditions were inhumane,
and prisoners suffered ill treatment and torture.
Arrests and trials of groups of detainees as alleged co-conspirators have been common since 1999,
with a rough average of fifteen people prosecuted together. This method of prosecution suggests an
urgency to produce convictions and to move large numbers of detainees through the judicial system; it
also permits prosecutors to focus on one main defendant, coerce other defendants into accusing him of
serious crimes, and then accuse those lesser defendants of association with him and with failing to
inform the authorities of his illegal activities. Some examples follow.
Thirteen men were tried in June and July 1999 for activities that-even according to the
prosecution-involved no more than the exchange of ideas about religion; the state did not
charge them with violation of any other article of the criminal code. Defendant Danior Hojimetov
argued in court, "Each citizen has the right to express his views. We expressed ideas against
the constitution, but I think this is freedom of expression."19 He was sentenced to twelve years
In another group case, involving twelve defendants, Judge Akmadjonov of the Tashkent City
Court explained their crimes as follows: "[T]hey said they did not carry out actions against the
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