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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

Andijan refugees tell story

From The Macon Telegraph:

They say they raised their hands in the air, waved white scarves and shouted that they were unarmed, but that the Uzbek troops kept firing. Leaving the dead behind, they say they ran for their lives and were fired on again upon reaching the Kyrgyz border after an all-night trek.

Uncertain about their future and longing for justice, some of the 534 men, women and children who made it to Kyrgyzstan gave their own account Tuesday of last week's bloody suppression of a revolt in the Uzbek city of Andijan.

The survivors, including 96 women and 21 children, are living in 10 crowded tents provided by Kyrgyz authorities just a couple hundred yards from the Uzbek border, in the green hills on the bank of the Kara Darya River.

Tavakal Khojiyev, 28, one of activists in the uprising, said the protesters' only demand was that the government allow free business activity. Other Andijan residents who joined the protest demanded better living conditions and complained about the stark poverty they've been forced to live in since the ex-Soviet republic became independent in 1991.

Responding to accusations that the protesters were armed, Khojiyev said they had weapons only for self-defense and weren't planning to attack anybody.

He said that when the crowd of about 5,000 protesters on Andijan's main square was told the news that President Islam Karimov was heading to the city, everybody cheered and clapped.

"We believed until the very end that he would come," said Muqaddas Zhabborova, 44. "If he had come and talked to us, we wouldn't be here today," she said, crying.

"We believed that nobody would fire at peaceful people," said Odina Karimova, 33. "We tried to complain once and this is what we got."

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