Uzbekistan is waiting for Russia's help.
The victory of an imported version of Islam in the Fergana valley will have a negative impact on our country.
Quite an unexpected formation of "triple union" between Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, directed against religious extremism in Central Asia, gives Russia a chance to return to this very important to her region, the key to which, without doubt, is Uzbekistan. Here clashed the interests of Saudi Arabia and president Islam Karimov, so disparate, that with a will and a little interest, it is possible to uphold absolutely different points of view.
Despite the fact that compared to other Central Asian states, Uzbekistan presents a stark contrast to them, both in economics and in internal political situation, such a positive example does not convince its numerous critics from the human rights organisations, who are the source of all the information for the Russian and world media regarding situation inside the country. The pictures, constantly painted by the "Human Rights Watch", "Amnesty International" and BBC, indeed in most cases are based on real facts,. And the reality of the last years, mostly revealed to us from Belorussia, convinces, that if a campaign of mass human rights abuses begins in a country, it means that interests of a particular state are dissatisfied there.
Namangan's judgement day.
The history of religious extremism in Fergana valley has its roots in the Soviet past. In the 60-s, in the educational centres there, the military from the Middle East used to study there, spreading ideas of the Hanbali school of Islam about inseparability of religion and politics. The were particularly many undercover Islamic schools in Namangan and Andijan, where the youth were taught Arabic language, Quran and Islamic philosophy from the Hanbali books, secretly transported here from the Saudi Arabia - the largest centre of distribution of religious literature. The traditional for Uzbekistan Hanafi school was gradually being pushed out of the Fergana valley. This, the most ancient Islamic school of 1300 years, being followed by 70% of the world's Muslims, teaches gentleness, tolerance, cultural openness and equal validity of all the traditional Islamic schools. Hanafis do not rigidly tie Islam to politics, they assign big importance to the traditions of each nation, its culture and history.
During discussions with the religious activists of Uzbekistan, they invariably asked not to mention their names. In fact, police and civil officials insisted on the same. The reason was clear: wahhabis went into open terror, and no-one excludes the possibility of new killings of the police and civil servants. In 1990, one of those I talked to, was preparing and sending to Saudi Arabia the pilgrims from Uzbekistan for the first official hajj. After that he took a prize in one of the annual world Olympiads on the knowledge of the Quran and now studies and teaches Islamic philosophy.
"Namangan and Andijan - are special places in Uzbekistan. These cities always were distinguished by a special level of religiosity. By the way, Timur at the end of XIV cent. was fighting for a long time with Namangan, and this war was very harsh. May be it had to do with the fact that he was exponent of the idea of a secular state, a convinced follower of the Hanafi school. In the 1990 in the first hajj went 500 people, 100 of them - from Namangan only. And we noticed another interesting detail. In Saudi Arabia there are many immigrants from Namangan and Andijan - they came here with the two waves of emigration in the 1930-s and at the end of 1970-s. Majority have lost their customs and took up the Arab ones. The locals invite the pilgrims to their homes, and usually no-one is interested, who is from where. But the ex-residents of Namangan and Andijan were looking especially for their own compatriots among the Soviet pilgrims and took them. They were teaching the pilgrims their customs, which have nothing to do with our customary practices. We pray the way our teachers taught us many centuries ago, but they do - as they wish. For Uzbeks, who during the time of the Soviet rule lost many of their own traditions, a person from Saudi Arabia, speaking Arabic, the language of the Prophet, was an unrivalled authority. They were copying his manner of praying, listening to his each word. Many rich Namanganis from Saudi Arabia have been here, and each considered it a duty to erect in a place where his parents used to live a mosque in their honour. It is enough to say that all together in Uzbekistan there are about 4000 mosques, but in Namangan only there are 1300! For comparison, in Khorezm, a recognised cultural centre in the Muslim world, there area only 37 mosques. But the quantity does not mean something positive, rather opposite, Even caliph Mansur in the XII century warned, that there should not be too many mosques in one city, because as many mosques are going to be there, as many there are going to be imams, and as many opinions. And also he said that plenitude of mosques are a sign of the nearing Judgement Day."
Nowadays the prophesy of the caliph has been brilliantly illustrated. The society of Namangan has been split. There are areas in the city where one side of the street - wahhabis, the other - hanafis. They go to the different mosques, don't greet each other, and consider each other unfaithful.
The strategic power arrangement.
- Yes, in the Fergana valley the government is very late with the religious work among the inhabitants, - says one of the Internal Ministry officials. - It's been done for us by certain powers from Saudi Arabia. According to our estimation, 5 to 10% of the inhabitants already follow wahhabism.
History of the Fergana valley after destruction of the Soviet Union is the time of strengthening of Saudi Arabia's influence there. Uzbekistan is only one, but very important centre of the Central Asia, which she has an opportunity to subject to its influence. Turkmenia is completely orientated towards Iran. Tajikistan, despite the war between the clans which was successfully provoked there, speaks Farsi, and Iran, has all reasons to view it as a sphere of its influence. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgizia religiosity of population is so low, that it is pointless to play this card there. And even in Uzbekistan itself not all the regions are potentially dangerous. In Samarkand, Bukhara, Khorezm, in the historical religious centres, where the traditions are still strong, there are no wahhabis, and this movement is still impossible. Vulnerable, due to the reasons named above remained only Fergana valley, where apart from wide connections with Saudi Arabia, there is a difficult social situation, high density of population and high unemployment.
In the 70-s Saudi Arabia realised itself as a new centre of power in the Islamic world and with the help of USA moved on to active foreign policy, directed to widening the sphere of its influence. Following the downfall of the Soviet Union, Arab preachers and emissaries began to frequent Fergana Valley, teaching the local youth their own variant of Islam. Saudis organised Islamic schools, where they used the well known in Russia method of drawing youth into the totalitarian sects. Tactics of bribery and gifts were also widely used. Monetary advances from Saudi Arabia came in astronomical for not so rich Uzbekistan amounts. When Uzbekistan officials came round, it was already too late. After the government began its struggle with Wahhabis, their centres moved out of the republic - into Osh area of Kyrgyzstan and Chimkent area of Kazakhstan. Into these republics the literature and large sums of money were delivered unhindered and then, through the transparent border transported to Uzbekistan. In few years of youth work in Fergana valley, the whole generation of young wahhabis have grown up. The children began to blame their traditionalist parents for lack of faith. The family - major guardian of the traditional Uzbek values - came under threat.
Zheglov - Sharapov dilemma.
The tragic events of December 1997 were its final. In the Namangan district three road police workers and a director of a kolhoz were violently killed. Earlier, there were killing of five more policemen and the deputy head of the Andijan district. The military were called to the town. The wahhabis were watched even before that - this is revealed by the films made even before the December events. However, unfinished by then criminal Law did not allow to act definitively. But the
well-known in Russia Zheglov - Sharapov dilemma was long decided by the Uzbek government: the thief should be in prison. The local security officials went against the Law - the wahhabis were planted with drugs and bullets. Thanks to this, in the shortest time it was possible to find and arrest the perpetrators and accomplices of the killings.
Interesting things were uncovered in court. It came out, that majority of the accused, who were members of wahhabi groups, had travelled illegally for hajj to Saudi Arabia and were trained in the special camps in Pakistan and Tajikistan. It became apparent that behind the extremists are some very financially powerful structures. At each point the wahhabis were met, accompanied and handed over to other people. It was possible to trace the financing chain up to the point when in Georgia and Azerbaijan the accused received fake passports, in producing which specialises the Georgian Mafia. The wahhabi leaders had beautiful houses and expensive cars, even though they did not work and were not in business. The ordinary members were not suffering from poverty, despite their large families.
American human rights organisations hurried to declare, that the court hearings were staged, evidence obtained under torture, and that president Karimov attempts in this way to strengthen his position in the unstable region. Even though it was enough to spend a little time in the court watching this painful show to be convinced the reality of the events. On the bench behind bars the picture was the same as that seen in Russia in the court hearings in "Aum Sinrike" case, in Kiev - the case of "The White Brotherhood". The same had been happening in other countries when members of religious sects found themselves on the bench. Several fanatical leaders do not cover their actions, answer the questions firmly and straight. The mass of the youth, pulled in by deceit or by force, charged as accomplices, answer the questions undecidedly, in trembling voices and place all responsibility on the leaders. It came out, the plans of the wahhabis consisted of three main points. They are training of abroad, widening the network of the mosques, so that they could through propagate shari'a through it, and destruction of the power of the government structures by demonstrating the population helplessness of the local administration. Regarding the last point the calculations were simple. In responce to the killings of the members of local administration, government begins mass re[ressions in Namangan, which leads to popular dissatisfaction and resistance, which leads to destabilisation. But today, despite the harsh measures undertaken by the government, there is no sign of popular protest. This gives an opportunity to assume that Karimov is not too late with the struggle against wahhabism.
Shortly before the final hearing in Tashkent, "Human Rights Watch" in its report, geared towards the foreign media, hurried to claim that the chief defendant Talib Mamajanov, wounded during the arrest, died in prison, and thus managed to escape the torture, to which were subjected the other defendants. For the western human rights activists, it would have been better if Mamajanov died. This person does not at all fit an image of inoccently accused Muslim, broken by torture in hte cells of the Ministry for Internal Affairs. But on direct orders of the president, Mamajanov had been treated there by the best doctors of Tashkent. Next door, in reanimation, was seriously wounded by him policeman. After the persecutor's question whether Mamajanov regrets the killings, the courtroom fell silent for a minute, but after a firm "No", there was a wave of noise, with women-relatives of the road-police major killed by him began to cry.
"We feel sorry for those young people who were by force or deceit pulled into the wahhabi organisations, - says Marat Zahidov, chairman of the Human Rights Commitee, the only non-governmental human rights organisation allowed in Uzbekistan. - And we are not the only ones. Those who did not directly participate in the killings, got the minimal sentences permitted by Law. Largely thanks to our commitee, the court removed the accusations of storing drugs, which were planted to the accused by the police".
Constant claims by the foreign human rights organisationsthat Karimov is fighting Islam are truly surprising for the administration and religous leaders of the republic. The President swore upon the Quran, and through his efforts now begins propagation of traditional for Uzbkistan hanafi school of Islam, but the resources of the republic and Arab missionaries are beyond comparison. It is possible, that there are some who would wish to repplace traditional Islam with imported one, but this is a different question. One thing is clear: it would be followed by a civil war. And who will answer for the Uzbeks one definite question: "What's more important - unity of the country without a civil war or human rights?"
The administration keeps saying: "We were not the first ones to take up weapons. Until the
events of December last year we did not use any force. But the bandits who took up weapon we will fight without mercy. You in Russia have some places in Daghestan where the police are scared to go. If we are going to be scared too, our country will soon fall apart. We were forced to tighten the Law, and we know that it is very harsh now in Uzbekistan. But otherwise it will be worse". It is hard to estimate the true extent of wahhabism in the country, but it is known that the wahhabis actively recruited and bribed members of the intelligentsia and civil servants.
Will Russia be able to win back from Bzhesinsky.
"We will be doing everything to push Ukraine and Caucasus away from Russia, and do everything to pull her into the Central Asia", - as usually, the ideologist of destruction of the Soviet Union, Zbignev Bzhesinsky, openly declares his ideas; meaning that Russia will spend its last resources for this large and complicated region. Such openness is understandable: its long since our country is having to play according to the rules fixed for her by others. Due to many causes Russia will face to come back to the Central Asia. The most important - Wahhabism, which has long been standing on the doorstep and demanding to open the door wider. First this ideology, passing South Caucasus was exported directly to our Northern Caucasus. The next objective is evident - the Muslim republics of the Volga region, which means a threat of a split right in the middle of Russia. It is characteristic that Wahhabism very well adapts depending on a situation. In Uzbekistan, a country of ancient Islamic culture, its methods of action were completely different to those in the Northern Caucasus. According to the claims of one of important religious leaders in Uzbekistan, Wahhabis and their schools have appeared in Tatarstan, and in Moscow he knows (me too - S.A.) at least two absolutely legal Arabic centres, founded to finance the Saudi variation of Islam under the standard label of helping the poor. No doubt, an appropriate approach to the republics on Volga will be found. But will Russia be able to approach the problems of the region in such a way as to disappoint Bzhesinsky's expectations.