After Uzbekistani authorities suppressed the uprising in Andijan in May, at the cost of hundreds of dead and wounded, many, including many in Russia, took Islam Karimov's cruelty as a sign of the strength of his regime. The line of thought was that he, unlike Eduard Shevardnadze, Leonid Kuchma or Askar Akasev, was able to resist unrest on the streets and showed the decisiveness to prevent a velvet revolution and strangle it in its very infancy.
But now it can be seen that the events in Andijan were evidence of the weakness of the Karimov regime. The strength of any ruler is his ability to control the situation without the use of military force against his own people. By giving the order to shoot into the unarmed crowd, he showed his weakness and that he is no longer fit to rule the country. And that diagnosis will be acted upon without doubt. It is just a matter of time.
The unavoidability of that outcome is understood by both those close to the Uzbek president and his opponents. This is clear from the battle beginning in the Uzbekistani elite, especially law-enforcement heads, to be his successor. In his presence, the battle is exclusively to draw closer to the president, who has no intentions of going anywhere, and not to succeed him.
Another sign of Karimov's impending departure is the burst of energy from the democratic opposition, such as the visit by leader of the Erk Party Mohammed Salih to the United States. Washington had condemned the use of force in Andijan before the visit. Now, organizational steps may be taken, such as the international isolation of the Karimov regime. That will be a serious lesson for other authoritarian rulers in the CIS and more confirmation that the wave of velvet revolutions is not over there.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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