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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 23:55 GMT 00:55 UK
One year on: Uzbek refugees and residents
One year has passed since the Andijan uprising, where witnesses say hundreds of demonstrators were killed by government troops.

Here residents of Uzbekistan and refugees from Andijan currently living in Kyrgyzstan talk about their experiences over the last year.

MAN, Kyrgyzstan

Two weeks after the events in Andijan I was arrested with three friends of mine. We were caught by security forces with an opposition statement that was condemning what happened in Andijan.

I spent eight months in jail. We were kept in the basement of the jail. There were 500 people there - 20 in each room, which are only designed for four people. It stunk and we had no air.

Everyone now is living in fear, everyone is hiding out
I cannot even express what my eyes saw.

The guards would stick needles under our nails. They would beat us regularly. They would not let us lie down, and every time we started falling asleep they would hit us hard; we did not sleep for days on end. For food we had pasta boiled in water. No meat, no vegetables, never.

Once, Red Cross representatives came to visit. We were warned beforehand that if we answered their questions, they would torture us. The guards stood and looked at us as we were talking to them. After they left they still tortured us. "No one can help you," they told us.

It was only us they treated this way. Criminals, thieves, murderers - they got much more respect. When we went for our trials we had to bend down - virtually walk on hands and feet. They would not let us raise our heads or look up.

I don't know what is going to happen to Uzbekistan. Everyone now is living in fear, everyone is hiding out. Things in Andijan are still very bad. Don't believe Karimov's media - no-one is getting paid, teachers and doctors are not getting their salaries. We are just all living in fear.

And I think people are so suppressed, so scared, they will continue living like this. I don't know how they will be able to bring change on their own.


Life is awful in Uzbekistan, people are terrified. People have so much pain in their hearts, but they are afraid to let it out. Everyone is afraid of the government, everyone is living in fear. The repressions are just like in 1937 under Stalin.

People are afraid to talk about Andijan even in their homes; their protest is only inside, in their souls. At home maybe you can trust your family members, but you can no longer trust your neighbour - you don't know who is tipping off the security services.

And being a relative of someone who has died in Andijan means that any moment at night security can knock on your door and take you away.

I was there in October. I spent a month there, and my friends - women from Andijan - were talking and I was horrified to hear their stories. Every day we talked, every day they told me stories. Once they showed me this street, a small street, and not a single person was left there.

I cannot even watch television in Uzbekistan, I don't have the nerves to do it. It's all lies

Everyone who lived on that street died in the protests. There wasn't anyone left to even bury the bodies. In one family five people died - every single member.

Karimov is lying about everything. So many people died - not hundreds, we believe more than 1,000 died. And we still don't know where the bodies are.

Can you imagine how scared you have to be not to even look for your loved ones, for their bodies? Because if you are a relative of someone who's been killed, then you live in a constant fear that you will be taken away any moment by Karimov's forces.

Karimov said that all people there were terrorists, but he is lying. He is a liar. No one there was a fundamentalist or a terrorist. Karimov is the biggest terrorist himself. Him and his government.

I don't think anything will change, it will all stay the same until Karimov goes. Only after he is gone, the world will find out the truth about Uzbekistan and what's been going on.

I think this is a situation similar to Iraq. What Bush did to Iraq, the same needs to be done to Uzbekistan. Because Karimov tricks all the foreign journalists, the international community and lies to us. I cannot even watch television in Uzbekistan, I don't have the nerves to do it. It's all lies.

ZAFAR, Tashkent

This is what I have to say about life in Uzbekistan. It is not sensationalised - just objective statements of fact.

To tell the truth, life has improved in some senses. The government eventually understood the need to support its own people, if only to ensure that they do not come out onto the streets in their struggle for survival. There have been grants and salary increases.

But government control over the internet, television and any opposition has become much tighter. There can be no other opinion. There is only the government's view of the situation.

There are no political alternatives here in Uzbekistan
I am not fearful. People in Tashkent are not scared. This is not because of any kindness on the part of the government but because we have so many other problems: we need to learn how to survive, earn a living, how to find good money.

I was in Tashkent at the time of the Andijan uprising. I would not have wanted to be in Andijan even for a million dollars - dead people don't need money.

They shot people throughout Andijan. I found this out from a website that is now closed in Uzbekistan.

Some people ask, who started Andijan? We believe the masses were made up of illiterate and poor people mixed with some extremists with money from abroad. If they had achieved their aim, there would have been a citizens' war or another Orange Revolution.

Islamic extremism has been a paranoid idea of our government's over the last year. It is the curtain, the excuse, used to name any threat. The government has probably put the most zealous Muslims in prisons already.

When we lived under the Soviet Union people could not go abroad as we do now. Soviet people could not choose between parties. But as Soviets we were happy: we knew exactly where to go, what to do and in what to believe.

I am not and could not be a political activist - there are no political alternatives here in Uzbekistan. The expulsion of journalists by the government showed a lack of democracy.

Now our country has become just another Soviet republic. Democracy has been left at the ideological cemetery.

MEERA, Tashkent

Over the past year, many changes have taken place in Uzbekistan. Now we have strong ties with Russia, which I hope will have a good effect on the Uzbek economy.

In relation to Andijan, I noticed a big outrage in the Western world, the EU and USA because of the uprising. I believe we need to do things our way, and we don't need to listen to the outside world when it comes to deciding our internal problems.

Freedom of speech does not play a big role in my daily life
The American troops were stationed near Karshi and they were occupying our territory. Apart from paying their translators I don't think they improved our living conditions. It was just a matter of some temporary jobs in the Karshi region and a base to land their planes.

But it is extremely hard to get visas to travel the EU now and I fear it is because of the Andijan uprising.

I think it is sad what happened in Andijan, but I think it was a good decision to suppress it, because if the protesters took over, what would have happened? It would have been a civil war, a big mess, and yes it is unfortunate, but we do not want war.

For the future, I would like to see more jobs and better salaries. Now we only worry about food and clothing, nothing else.

Democracy might work in the West where there is a space for critics and for opposition. It does not work this way in the East where you can't criticise, it is simply inappropriate. You can't speak at will.

Freedom of speech does not play a big role in my daily life. I say what I want but I do not involve myself in politics. It is not for me. I lead a smooth life with no connection to politics or opposition and in this way I make sure I do not have anything to fear.


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