Uzbekistan Protest Ends Violently
A small demonstration outside the United States embassy in the Uzbek capital Tashkent has been broken up by security forces wielding truncheons.
The protest by about 70 people – largely women, some with children – began on the morning of May 3, but it was not until late in the evening that security forces moved in.
The demonstrators had come from the southwestern province of Kashkadarya to press their central demand that the authorities should return a farm to a family called the Chorievs. Family members, who were among the protesters, say the farm was wrongly seized by the local government.
The group set up tents on the pavement outside the embassy compound and said they would remain there until their demands were met. They chose the venue because they said they would seek asylum in the US if their own government refused to respond.
Placards and banners called on government officials to resign and called for an end to poverty.
Although the protest clearly reflected local concerns rather than opposition politics, and there were so many women and children present, the authorities resorted to tough measures.
The rally indicates Uzbeks may be losing their fear of openly challenging the authoritarian-minded government.
Uzbek leaders have been on guard since the late March revolution in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, seemingly intent on preventing the spread of the popular passions that toppled Askar Akayev’s administration in Bishkek.
Once the May 3 protest got underway, authorities generally did not interfere. At one point, law-enforcement officers supposedly moved to take a toddler into custody, but backed off when a group of women began throwing stones and hurling invective at police, according to Ferghana.ru.