A violent uprising left several dozens of people dead on Friday in Andijan, an important city of eastern Uzbekistan to where President Islam Karimov urgently traveled and where the army fired their weapons against the crowd. These riots took place after three suicide attacks against the US and Israeli embassies in Tashkent, the capital. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed responsibility for the attacks in communiqués that were impossible to identify. Afterwards, two processes implicating 31 alleged Islamists accused of being terrorists began in the capital and in the southern part of the country. The accused people supposedly “confessed”, but human rights organizations denounced the use of torture.

 Have these attacks been perpetrated by groups linked to Al-Qaida or the expression of a deep discontent? Different attacks took place in late March 2004 involving, for the first time, kamikaze women. The police repression was brutal. The ruling party accused the Islamic opposition party Hizb-ul-Tahrir who rejected the accusations. Hizb-ul-Tahrir supports the setting up of a “caliphate” in Central Asia and thus rejects violence and the democratic solution. The IMU, whose members had fought along the Talibans, was then accused. But if there is anything certain is that the presence of repressive Islam Karimov and the absence of any democratic space open the way to the emergence of anti-establishment movement of strictly Islamic inspiration. Only a few weeks from legislative elections, not a single party of that denomination has been allowed to officially register. A disastrous social and economic condition makes the situation even more deteriorated.

 Russia is the biggest power in the region and thus also in Uzbekistan. The somehow tacit project of Karimov is to have a Central Asia under Russia’s protecting wing but with Uzbekistan playing a determining role. In spite of the influence of Persian culture in the country, Iran’s place is secondary. In the new unipolar world, would the real influence come from the West? Washington is already establishing its bases and trains Uzbek noncommissioned officers. One of the decisive problems is linked to the route of the oil and gas pipelines and the Tashkent’s part in the affair, which will probably not be kept out of the business and the decisions as it produces oil and gas and exports the latter. However, the United States is concerned over the worrying situation of human rights and threatens to cut economic and military assistance.
To know the evolution of the situation in the region, it is necessary to answer the following question: is Central Asia becoming the scene of a new “big game”? The events in Uzbekistan, like in most of the other Central Asian republics, demonstrate the need to replace a new generation of leaders who lack the reflexes of the former Soviet leaders.

Le Figaro (France)
Circulation: 350 000 copies. Property of Socpresse (founded by Robert Hersant, it is owned today by planes manufacturer Serge Dassault). This is the reference journal of the French right.

" Que cachent les attentats d’Andijan ? ", by Semih Vaner, Le Figaro, May 16, 2005.