Andijan Survivors Speak of Ambush

Victims of the Andijan killings recount how Uzbek security forces tried to ambush fleeing survivors.

Andijan Survivors Speak of Ambush

Victims of the Andijan killings recount how Uzbek security forces tried to ambush fleeing survivors.

Sunday, 20 November, 2005

It was extremely difficult for them to speak about their terrifying experiences. They said that at night they have nightmares of dead children and of streets turned purple by blood.

The survivors of the Andijan tragedy are struggling to come to terms with the carnage that unfolded in the Uzbek town on May 13.

I met two survivors at the Suzak hospital in the Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan, just across the border from Andijan, where they were receiving treatment for their wounds. There were five other injured people there but they didn’t want to speak.

Nabidjan Yunusov, a Tashkent resident, who had been hit in the hip by a bullet when the Uzbek forces crushed the protests, described the build up to the crackdown.

“I am myself a businessman, trading between Tashkent and Andijan. [On May 13] I went to Andijan, and saw a lot of people gathering near the local administration building, almost all the inhabitants were there. There were a lot of women, old people and children. Some of the women were carrying babies in their arms. I asked what was going on and what were people talking about. The demonstrators were protesting about a ruling of the local court in a case against a number of businessmen. They said the judgement was unfair. They wanted the defendants released, and end to state-sponsored violence and, above all, demanded democracy and freedom.

“We listened to the statements for a long time. No one wanted to leave the demonstration. There were no police forces to be seen. But at around 4 pm everything changed. Suddenly armoured troop carriers appeared in the central square and started shooting randomly at people.

“There were a lot of children and youngsters near the demonstrators, and many of them were the first to be hit. Panic broke out, people started running in different directions to escape the bullets.

“I ran as well and the security forces started opening fire on us. The bullets struck and we tried to carry some of the wounded in our arms. Then a bullet flashed past my head. I turned round and saw a middle-aged man fall to the ground – his face covered in blood. As long as I live, I will never forget this scene. I dream about it over and over again.

“We managed to stay alive by sheltering in doorways. Later in the evening, we were able to leave the city and headed towards the Kyrgyz border. We walked the whole night through heavy rain. There were many women and children among us. We were hungry and exhausted. And when we got to the village of Teshiktash, we were ambushed by Uzbek forces.

“Two women and three men fell to the ground. We could do nothing for them. Some people were wounded. It was when I was trying to protect the women and children that I was wounded in the hip. The pain and the shock made me fall the to the ground. The others grabbed me and we headed for the border. Only once we came across the Kyrgyz guards did we believe that we’d survived.

“Local Kyrgyz doctors immediately provided us with medical help, and then took us to the Suzak hospital. We were received warmly, and provided with all we needed.

“I want to stress that I did not see a single armed demonstrator. People like me turned up at the rally with no evil intent. I want to thank our Kyrgyz brothers, they greeted us so warmly and helped to take care of us. Here we feel like people, we feel the care one can expect only from relatives. We fear that if we return, the security forces will be waiting for us.

The second patient I spoke to was Muhamat Mavlanov, an ethnic Uzbek from Kyrgystan, who was shot in the arm during the Andijan unrest.

“On [the day of the protests] I was in Andijan by chance, I was there because of some business matter. I saw a large crowd, and wanted to know what was going on. As you know we had similar events in Kyrgyzstan recently. I listened for a long time to people making speeches. They were saying that the authorities were persecuting business people and prevented them from leading a normal life.

“There were a lot of women and children. At around 4 pm shooting started from all sides. We were completely unaware that this might happen. The first ones to die were children standing next to the demonstrators. Then women were killed. I along with a crowd of people ran to a [neighbouring] street.

“Four men were hit at the same time and fell to the ground. I was shot in the arm and fell. But people grabbed me and took me to a safe place, where I was given first aid. I saw with my own eyes how children died from gunshots to the head. I saw how women fell, how wounded men screamed. I will never be able to forget this bloodshed. We walked the whole night to Teshiktash, and the famous ‘brilliant Uzbek soldiers’ were waiting for us. They killed several of us.

“[People]were waving white flags and screaming that they had no weapons, women and children amongst them, but they continued to shoot. One woman, who was wounded, fell on top of me. Her screams pierced my heart. I have no idea whether she is now alive or not, but her blood is still on my clothes. We managed to cross the border and save our lives. Now I am at home, and have never been so happy to have been born in Kyrgyzstan.”

Jalil Saparov is an IWPR contributor in Jalalabad.

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