Activists of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU) held a traditional action in the centre of Tashkent at the foot of the ‘Courage’ monument on 13 May to commemorate the hundreds of peaceful Andijan residents, who died during the shooting of the rally 12 years ago. To the surprise of the participants, this time the event passed without any interference by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Security Service (SNB).
The first time such an action was held at the ‘Courage’ monument on 15 May 2005, two days after the Andijan tragedy. Every time the protesters were detained by the police and SNB; they were taken to the Tashkent courts where some of them were sentenced to large fines. It happened even if there had been no posters in the hands of human rights activists - only flowers and children's toys. Sometimes potential participants of this action were blocked in their homes in the early hours of 13 May preventing them from leaving the house.
The organiser of the action - the leader of the PAU Elena Urlayeva - informed the central police on duty of the Ministry of Internal Affairs just calling the number ‘102’ about the upcoming event in advance. Except for a few human rights activists and the family who specially arrived from Jizak (city in Uzbekistan), and a handful of curious tourists, there was nobody at the ‘Courage’ monument on 13 May this time. Human rights defenders laid flowers and several toys at the monument, then unfolded posters with which they stood for about an hour.
‘Victims of the shooting in the city of Andijan on 13 May 2005 by the government troops of Uzbekistan are not forgotten!’ the posters stated, and ‘We demand the punishment of guilty in war crimes committed on 13 May 2005 in Andijan - several thousand people were killed and shot, including children!’
Video of the action in YouTube
The choice of a place for an annual memorial event is not accidental. ‘Courage’ memorial was opened on 20 May 1970 in memory of the devastating earthquake that occurred in Tashkent in 1966. According to Ms Urlaeva, ‘this monument is directly connected with the courage of the Uzbek people, and for human rights activists is also the embodiment of the heroism of the Andijan residents, who were not afraid to massively claim about infringement of their rights and brutally shot for it.’
The Uzbek authorities and the media prefer not to remember the Andijan tragedy. Even the reminder by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who had been in this country from 10 May to 12 May 2017, did not contribute to the appearance of any information about it in the mass media of Uzbekistan. In a message on the results of his visit he said, in particular: ‘On Saturday, we will mark the 12th anniversary of the terrible events that took place in Andijan on 13 May 2005. While it is important to look forward, it also important [for Uzbek authorities] to come to terms with past events and ensure that victims are not forgotten and their grievances are addressed.’
Activists paying tribute to memory of victims of Andijan tragedy. Tashkent, 13 May 2017. Photo by Fergana
‘The visit of UN High Commissioner was held on the eve of the memorial day of the victims of the Andijan events of 2005. And it is important to note that this was the most inconvenient topic for the Uzbek government at the meeting. It shows that even after 12 years, the UN General Assembly resolution that condemns Uzbekistan for its refusal to investigate the events in Andijan remains relevant, and the consequences of this massacre deserve the attention of the international community,’ says the head of the French-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia Nadejda Ataeva.
According to the official version, in the early morning on 13 May 2005 and the next day an armed seizure of the prison and a number of government buildings was carried out in Andijan. During the attack, 12 law enforcement officers were killed, 334 weapons were captured. Law enforcement authorities of Uzbekistan reported that terrorists took a total of 70 people hostage, 15 hostages were killed. Later, troops entered Andijan. According to official data, 187 people died.
Andijan, May, 2005. Photo © Denis Sinyakov
According to human rights activists and eyewitnesses there were at least 700 victims. Many people paid with their lives only because they happened to be nearby; passing or driving through the territory adjacent to the area. In 2006, a 70-minute video film about the Andijan events was posted on Western websites confirming the version that most of the rally participants were unarmed civilians among whom were women and children. Including - the wives of 23 businessmen had been arrested on charges of religious extremism and membership in the banned ‘Akramia’ movement; the trial of the businessmen caused the protests that had this tragic ending. At present, you cannot see the movie by clicking on the link above. But there are other works on this topic:
Later, at least 358 people were sentenced to long terms during secretive trials; no relatives of convicts, lawyers or human rights defenders could get detailed verdicts; there are more than one hundred people suspected of involvement in the Andijan events wanted by the Uzbek authorities; from 2005 to 2008, at least 125 suspects in the Andijan case were arrested in the CIS countries. An international investigation into the Andijan events was never held. The convicts in this case continue to remain in custody, although the term of imprisonment that was set for them has expired: they have been added terms for minor violations which is called ‘raskrutka’ (‘unwinding’) in prison jargon.
Andijan, May, 2005. Photo © Denis Sinyakov
The Fergana News Agency Gallery houses Andijan photographs taken after the shooting by The New York Times correspondent Yola Monakhova, and photographs of the famous freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov who flew to Andijan immediately after the tragedy.