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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 10:55 GMT
Tensions high in Uzbek bazaars
By Monica Whitlock
BBC correspondent in Tashkent

There is continued tension in Uzbekistan over a presidential decree that triggered an unprecedented wave of civil disorder last week.

The decree places new restrictions on trade and makes it very difficult for people to buy and sell.

Friction is focused in the bazaars, especially those in Fergana Valley, the most populated eastern part of Uzbekistan.

Bazaar traders said they could barely survive on what they make selling shoes and jumpers they buy across the border in China.

And, under the new decree, even that trade will become almost impossible.

It says the sellers must have a special licence and that tax officials will fine anyone without one and confiscate their goods.

People are so angry and upset that many are close to despair.

At one bazaar, traders torched cars and chased the tax officers out of the market.

We have heard, too, how traders arranged plastic bottles of petrol around one bazaar, threatening to torch them if officials came in.

These scenes are unprecedented in Uzbekistan, where demonstrators run the risk of huge trouble with the police, and it seems the local authorities are alarmed.

Across Fergana we heard that they had suspended the decree, even though it was issued at the highest level.

They say the bazaars can work normally for now, perhaps until the end of Ramadan in a week's time.

The bazaars in Uzbekistan are of the utmost importance. They are the centre of economic and social life, and, in this tightly controlled country, they are the main public places where thousands of people meet and talk freely every day.

If the authorities lose the support of the bazaars, there could be serious consequences throughout the country.

Civil unrest erupts in Uzbek city
01 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Uzbekistan
20 Jul 04 |  Country profiles

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