religion :: hate is a global issue
|Muslims arrested and tortured in Uzbekistan|
by Matt Moody
On Sept. 17, 2002, an Uzbek court convicted Yuldash Rasulov of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and distributing extremist literature, sentencing him to seven years in prison. The only evidence presented in trial against Rasulov was that he prayed five times a day and regularly listened to tapes on Islam that were previously widely available in Uzbekistan.
Upon arrest, Rasulov was held in custody in the basement of a government building with out any communication to the outside. Rasulov claims government officials beat and abused him during this time and that he feared for his life.
Rasulov is only one of more than 7,700 people that the Uzbek government has imprisoned solely for their religious or political beliefs, according to Human Rights Watch, a large New York-based human rights organization..
According to the United States Helsinki Commission, 17 torture victims died while in Uzbek custody since December 2000.
Uzbekistan became an important U.S. ally in the war against terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001 because of its border with Afghanistan. Islam Karimov, the autocratic leader who retained power from the Communist era, allowed the United States to station more than 1,000 troops at a former Soviet base in the southern part of the country for operations in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan, a predominately Muslim country, experienced religious freedom in the waning years of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. After the country gained independence in 1991, Karimov eliminated political opposition, took control of the media and repealed many of the perestroika policies that allowed personal freedom.
In 1997 Talib Mamjonov murdered a police officer and claimed in court it was Islamic justice. Karimov reacted to this statement by beginning a crackdown on religious expression that continues today.
The government closed 900 mosques, outlawed religious clothing, arrested and ordered men with long beards to shave and banned women from wearing head scarves in universities.
A May 14 U.S. State Department report certified that Uzbekistan made “substantial and continuing progress” in meeting its human rights and democracy commitments under the “Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework,” signed in March 2002.
Human Rights Watch refutes the report by citing hundreds of arrests and several deaths of tortured prisoners. Elizabeth Anderson, the executive director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, said very little progress has been made.
“Another prisoner tortured to death in Uzbekistan is not progress—it is more of the same,” said Anderson on upon hearing of the torturing death of Uzbeck prisoner Otamaza Gafarov.