Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

New Uzbek Opposition Force Formed

By News Briefing Central Asia

The People’s Movement of Uzbekistan, a new umbrella group bringing together a number of diaspora opposition movements, is promising a revitalised campaign of action within the country, though some commentators question whether this is feasible.

When Uzbek opposition members and dissidents from the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe gathered for the movement’s first meeting in Berlin on May 23, they announced plans to stage acts of civil disobedience inside Uzbekistan to press their demand for regime change.

Muhammad Solih, whose Erk movement has joined the People’s Movement, was elected to head the group.

He told NBCentralAsia that active resistance was bound to be effective. "Events in the Arab world prove this,” he added.

Mutabar Tajibaeva of the Ut Yuraklar (Fiery Hearts) human rights group now based in France said the People’s Movement would seek "the release of political prisoners, the return of opposition members [to Uzbekistan], and free and fair elections".

The new movement has not disclosed details of its plans, and simply says they include peaceful protests and sit-down strikes, social networking websites and awareness-raising campaigns

Kamoliddin Rabbimov, an Uzbek political analyst living in France, said the People’s Movement differed from early efforts to coordinate opposition in that it had both supporters and financial backing in Europe and North America. He believes intensive publicity campaigns could spark popular protests inside Uzbekistan.

The People's Movement consists of the Erk party, the Andijan-Justice and Revival movement in Germany and the Swiss-based human rights group Tayanch (Support). 

One opposition leader whose party is not part of the new movement said it would nevertheless support it and uses its own networks to spread the word about it.

In Uzbekistan, some residents of the central Jizak and eastern Andijan regions said they had heard talk of opposition meetings, but did not know who was behind them.

Farhod Tolipov, an analyst in Tashkent, said people in Uzbekistan had little idea of the strength or activities of opposition groups. Another local commentator was sceptical that diaspora groups would be able to do much.

"Uzbekistan has heightened security measures in place, there are posters warning people to be vigilant… and police every two or three metres on the streets,” he said. “How is any kind of action possible in an environment like that?"

This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.