A US-led anti-terrorism operation in Afghanistan has held up activity of extremist organizations in Central Asia for a short period. For example, an Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir has not shown up for several months already. Its leaders did not appear now at illegal meetings and demonstrations, amount of leaflets and forbidden literature has reduced. But in June Islamists have resumed their subversive activities.
Investigation of the mass disorder in the Aksy district of the Jelal-Abad region revealed, appeals to jihad had been announced at the demonstrations. What is more important, population of the southern area is much more religious than in the northern part of Kyrgyzstan. According to some sources, Hizb-ut-Tahrir has won from 2,000 to 4,000 active supporters in this part of the republic, nobody can give the exact amount, as the party is conspiratorial: every member is acquainted only with three or four people who regularly contact with each other. To tell the truth, they know each other only by assumed names. Members of the party have got secret perfectly equipped printing houses and even radio stations in some places.
However, majority of Islamists work at marketplaces that are traditionally considered centers of the East’s public life. Unfortunately, official authorities seldom go to the marketplaces, but if go, they are accompanied with police. Hizb-ut-Tahrir members carry out an individual work, help the poor and answer the most acute questions. For example, members of the party were the first to give estimates to the Aksy tragedy, even before investigation held by the governmental commission.
Leaflets that have reappeared in the southern parts of the republic, touch upon these problems that are vital for majority of the population. During investigation of the incidents special services once again withdrew armament, explosives, large batches of provocative literature and video-tapes. It has been confirmed in the operation that Kyrgyzstan Islamists are closely connected with the Uzbekistan Islamic movement, and majority of extremists from the neighbor republic are hiding from Uzbek law enforcement authorities in the Osh and Jelal-Abad regions. Kyrgyzstan National Security Service admits that the Uzbek extremists have got more freedom of action there. It is said that extremely liberal laws adopted by the Kyrgyzstan parliament make for it.
It is to be admitted that religious extremists really enjoy support of the Kyrgyzstan parliament. Legislative Assembly deputy Tursunbai Bakir uulu, who is very popular in the south of the republic, is sure that it is a mistake to persecute Hizb-ut-Tahrir activists. In his words, this peaceful organization simply does not share viewpoints of Orthodox Muslim leaders, that is why leaders of the party pose no threat to the republic. It has been mentioned several times already that it would be necessary to establish a dialogue with Hizb-ut-Tahrir leaders. But official authorities have turned the suggestion down. This is done because of a constitutional prohibition of political activity of any religious party, first of all. And second, several attempts made to start a discussion with Islamists demonstrated that official Muslim leaders are much weaker than Hizb-ut-Tahrir rank-and-file members in the art of discussion.
It should not be ignored either that several objective factors make for propaganda of religious extremism in the region. The official authorities have already admitted that situation in the Fergana valley has been really very explosive for several past years. The instability is caused by demographic, ethnic and religious problems, unemployment is the key factor at that. Almost half of the young population can not get even minimum means of living legally. On the other hand, corrupt authorities still ignore social problems. Hizb-ut-Tahrir uses an opportunity and promises to set up an Islamic caliphate and fair society if the party comes to power, people are guaranteed to be provided with work, houses and land. And people do believe the promises.
So, we may expect that forecasts of some analysts may come true, and southern part of Kyrgyzstan is already ready to set up an Islamic revival party of its own. If a party is created, the government will face a problem: whether to repress the people or to recognize an Islamist party, that can easily come to power in view of the present-day situation.
Yury Razgulyayev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kyrgyzstan
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/06/11/42499.html