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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Uzbek women detained over protest
Tashkent's Independence Square
The rally took place in the centre of the Uzbek capital
By Catherine Davis in Uzbekistan

At least 50 women have been detained in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, as they tried to protest against the imprisonment of relatives accused of being members of a banned Islamic group, Hezbuttahrir.

The rally took place in the centre of the city outside the city council.

A similar demonstration was staged in the Uzbek town of Andijan. Eyewitnesses say up to 80 women and two human-rights activists were detained there.

An official in Tashkent told the BBC that the women were detained for holding an illegal demonstration.

Punched and dragged

For the first few moments, it was hard to tell exactly what was happening.

Women wearing long Islamic headscarves were the target, but at the same time there seemed to be little discrimination as to who was detained.

Police and security agents forced the women and their children into waiting buses. Some people were punched and dragged.

Other people on the street ignored the commotion.

Co-ordinated protests?

In another Uzbek town, a similar rally was taking place. There, up to 80 women protested against the imprisonment of their relatives.

Rumours of a rally planned in Tashkent surfaced on Sunday.

A letter addressed to the Uzbek leadership was sent to diplomats and foreign organisations, and demanded the release of men arrested and tortured for being members of Hezbuttahrir.

There is some suggestion that the two protests are linked, co-ordinated by Hezbuttahrir.

If true, this would seem to be the first time that such protests have occurred simultaneously in different parts of the country.

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See also:

26 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Central Asia moves to thwart rebels
19 Nov 99 | Monitoring
Uzbekistan voices security concerns
04 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Uzbekistan
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Uzbekistan
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