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Viewing cable 07TASHKENT1596, PROTESTS REPORTED IN FERGHANA VALLEY AND TASHKENT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TASHKENT1596 2007-09-07 09:45 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tashkent
VZCZCXRO0947
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHNT #1596/01 2500945
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 070945Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY TASHKENT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8429
INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 3245
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA 9415
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 3859
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 3723
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TASHKENT 001596 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/07/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON SOCI UZ
SUBJECT: PROTESTS REPORTED IN FERGHANA VALLEY AND TASHKENT 
 
REF: TASHKENT 1479 
 
Classified By: CDA BRAD HANSON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D). 
 
1.  (C) Summary: Independent websites and Embassy contacts 
have reported scattered demonstrations in the Ferghana Valley 
and in Tashkent this past week.  The demonstrations 
reportedly have been caused by rising food prices and 
scarcities.  Officials in the city of Margilan also 
reportedly have paid merchants to lower prices during a 
planned visit on September 7-8 by President Karimov.  At 
first glance, these reports appear credible.  End summary. 
 
PRESS REPORTS OF PROTESTS IN FERGHANA VALLEY 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (U) Several independent websites reported demonstrations 
on September 3 in the Ferghana Valley cities of Andijon, 
Namangan and Ferghana.  Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported on 
September 3 that dozens of residents, upset with rising 
prices for basic staples such as meat, flour and oil, marched 
from the Yangi-arab village to the Oltiaryq district 
administration building before proceeding to the Ferghana 
province administration building in Ferghana City.  Before 
dispersing, the protesters were met by officials of the 
Ferghana City administration, who agreed to investigate their 
complaints.  RFE also quoted independent journalist and 
Uzmetronom operator Sergey Ezhkov, who said that people 
across Uzbekistan are unhappy about rising prices for staple 
goods and low wages and that security forces have been put on 
high alert in the Ferghana Valley.  The article also noted 
unconfirmed rumors of serious clashes between the local 
population and security forces in Andijon. 
 
3.  (C) Poloff spoke on September 6 with human rights 
activist Abdusalom Ergashev, who was quoted by RFE. Ergashev 
told poloff that the protest over rising food prices began at 
10:00 on September 3 when a group of about 100 persons from 
Yangi-arab village marched out to the Oltiaryq district 
administration building, where they were met by local 
officials.  Several of the protestors were then invited to 
Ferghana City to meet with officials from the provincial 
administration, where they delivered their complaints about 
rising food prices before dispersing.  Ergashev also told 
poloff about a separate demonstration a few days earlier by a 
group of women at the Huvaydo mausoleum in the Chimion region 
of Ferghana province.  The protest started when well-known 
poet Abdul Aripov, a close associate of President Karimov and 
member of Uzbekistan's Senate, was observed visiting the 
shrine.  A group of approximately 40 women then quickly 
formed, demanding an explanation from Aripov and President 
Karimov about a decision by local authorities to prevent the 
export of fruit to Russia, which is a major source of income 
in the region. 
 
4.  (C) A German Embassy officer told poloff that he heard of 
an additional small protest over rising food prices in 
Namangan.  The demonstration involved 30 to 40 protestors, 
mostly elderly, who disbanded after Namangan city  officials 
agreed to investigate their complaints.   According to the 
German officer, the demonstrators were observed by police, 
who did not interfere with the protest. 
 
PRICES FOR STAPLES GOING UP 
--------------------------- 
 
5.  (U) The RFE and independent website reports cited  rising 
prices for staple goods as the principle cause of the 
protests.   Uzmetronom reported on September 3 that the 
average price for a kilogram of flour in Uzbekistan has 
increased to one dollar and a kilogram of meat has increased 
from 3.75 dollars to 5.70 dollars (Note: one dollar is equal 
to approximately 1,275 soum  End Note.)  According to 
Ferghana.ru, bread now costs between 200 to 1,500 soum (.16 
to 1.17 dollars) in a country where the minimum monthly wage 
is only 12 dollars.  Ferghana.ru also reported on September 3 
that the price of bread in Ferghana City has recently doubled 
and that lines have formed at the Mirobad Bazaar in Tashkent 
for vegetable oil.  Prices for many basic consumer goods and 
services have surged since the beginning of August, when a 
presidential decree raised the minimum salary (reftel). 
 
REPORTED CURFEW IN MARGILAN AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL VISIT 
 
TASHKENT 00001596  002 OF 003 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
6.  (U) Ferghana.ru reported on September 4 that a curfew 
would be declared in Margilan in Ferghana province on 
September 5 after a series of disturbances in recent weeks. 
 Uzmetronom reported that a September 7-8 visit by President 
Karimov to celebrate Margilan's 2000 year anniversary was the 
reason behind the increased security measures.  The website 
also noted increased sightings of military personnel 
movements throughout the Ferghana Valley, which it speculated 
also was tied to the upcoming presidential visit.  In 
addition, Uzmetronom reported that city officials have 
offered 8 dollars to residents who live on the presidential 
city tour route to vacate their homes, 40 dollars to produce 
vendors who lower their prices and have required all 
Soviet-era cars to be hidden from sight. 
 
7.  (U) The Ferghana.ru article also stated that city 
authorities have angered local residents by demanding that 
they stop driving Soviet-era cars, ostensibly for safety 
reasons.  According to the article, residents believe 
(correctly or not) that the authorities are pressuring them 
into purchasing new Daewoo cars produced in Uzbekistan. 
 
ANDIJON MARKET STALLS BURNED IN JULY 
------------------------------------ 
 
8.  (C) Protests reportedly occurred in Andijon this July, as 
well.  In late July, several market stalls were burned down 
at a bazaar in Andijon.  In a press release from August 15, 
Human Rights Alliance activist Abdillo Tojiboy-ugli said that 
the several market stalls were burned in late July by 
individuals upset by the city's lack of cottonseed oil, which 
is heavily relied upon by rural Uzbeks for cooking.  On 
August 23, however, Free Farmers opposition party leader 
Nigora Khidoyatova provided poloff with a different account 
of the incident.  She said that the fire occurred after 
several hundred women traders were evicted from the bazaar to 
make way for the construction of the stalls.  She speculated 
that some of the women then burned down the stalls in 
protest.  In addition, Khidoyatova said that a guard at the 
market also was lynched. 
 
PROTESTS OVER RISING PRICES IN TASHKENT 
--------------------------------------- 
 
9.  (C) Reports of protests have not been confined to the 
Ferghana Valley.  On September 4, an ex-deputy hokim (mayor) 
of Tashkent's Uch-Tepe region and reliable Embassy contact, 
Adolat Nasirova (strictly protect), told poloff that 
demonstrations were organized in August by residents of 
Uch-Tepe's 13th, 21st, and 23rd blocs.  The residents, she 
said, were upset by rising prices and threatened to take 
their complaints directly to Tashkent's Hokim (mayor), 
Abdukahhor Tukhtaev, and the Presidential Apparatus. 
Representatives from Tashkent's Hokimiyat (city hall) met the 
protestors, and convinced them to disperse after promising to 
investigate their complaints.  After the meetings were 
dispersed, Tukhtaev reportedly threatened to fire any mahalla 
(neighborhood) chairman who allowed such meetings to take 
place in their neighborhoods again.  Nasirova said that 
rumors have circulated that Tukhtaev himself will be fired as 
part of a continuing Government shakeup ahead of the expected 
presidential election in December.  She added that Tukhtaev 
is not seen as a serious powerbroker, and that Prime Minister 
Shavkat Mirziyaev is viewed as the true "mayor" of Tashkent. 
Furthermore, Nasirova said that she had heard of similar 
neighborhood protests occurring recently in Chilanzar, which 
like Uch-Tepe, is one of Tashkent's poorer areas. 
 
WOMEN THREATEN SELF-IMMOLATION AT TASHKENT BAZAAR 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
10.  (C) Nasirova also told poloff about a confrontation last 
week between several women traders and police at the 
Chilanzar Bazaar in Tashkent.  The police reportedly raided 
the bazaar to confiscate smuggled goods, which according to 
the contact, constitute a majority of the items available at 
the market.  After seizing the wares of 23 traders from 
Tashkent, the police approached a group of women traders from 
Samarkand and Bukhara, who put up a struggle and then doused 
their goods and bodies with lighter fluid, threatening to 
light themselves on fire if the police tried to seize their 
 
TASHKENT 00001596  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
goods.  The contact speculated that the women from the 
regions were more aggressive than the other traders because 
they probably had their life savings invested in the goods 
and may have felt they had nothing left to lose.  After a 
tense standoff, the police were ordered by superiors to stand 
down and leave the bazaar, and the women and remaining 
traders were able to keep their goods. 
 
INCREASED NUMBER OF WOMEN OBSERVED AT MARDIKORS 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
11.  (C) In addition, Nasirova said that a friend who works 
at the Business Women's Association in Tashkent reported 
seeing a five-fold increase around the country in the number 
of women offering their services at "mardikors," labor 
markets traditionally for unemployed men, but increasingly 
also including some unemployed women.  The friend also 
reportedly told Nasirova that mardikors are appearing in new 
locations, including in the town of Chirchik in Tashkent 
province.  Women are usually hired at mardikors to serve as 
maids or cleaning ladies. 
 
COMMENT 
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12.  (C) Spontaneous demonstrations over economic conditions 
are not unusual in Uzbekistan and are often handled by 
authorities promising to investigate protesters' complaints. 
The reported demonstrations July thru September seem to have 
been handled in the normal way.  However, with the continuing 
rise in prices, and the possibility of elections in December, 
protests may prove a bit more challenging for authorities. 
HANSON