conflict & communication online, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008
ISSN 1618-0747




Sogdiana Azhiben
The Andijan Events: Radical Islam and Conflict in Uzbekistan

The aim of this study is to examine the influence of radical Islam on the emerging conflicts in the Republic of Uzbekistan through the analysis of radical Islamist discourse and the Andijan events that occurred on May 13, 2005 in the context of socio-economic and political instability. The method employed is the analysis of narratives and discourses on the religious factor in the local and foreign media, the Uzbek government, the international community and the Uzbek populace, with reference to existing theories of political Islam. The first section (Introduction) introduces three research questions and attempts to conceptualize the phenomenon of radical Islam by screening for appropriate definitions in an effort to understand the Uzbek cause. The next three sections discuss the realities of the Andijan incident and provide a detailed analysis of its preconditions, development and aftermath. The findings show a continuity in the oppression of Islam, even in the post-Soviet political situation of present-day Uzbekistan. The radical Islamic rhetoric that became an instrument in resolving conflicts is based more on preventing the emergence of opposition than on anti-Western political resistance against imported democratic values. What is relevant to understanding Uzbek society is that Islamic radical ideas have failed to attract support in the general populace because popular Uzbek Islam is more a matter of religiosity than of religion. The former, which relies on concepts of spirituality, is more influential in the local culture and way of life and does not support violence as a means of exerting influence. From a political perspective, however, the over-emphasis on religious radicalism indicates a failure of political institutions that encourages corruption and avoids needed social and economic reforms. It contributes to popular grievances that are formulated and expressed in terms of resentment (the Andijan incident) against the state monopoly of power. Additionally, this study revealed that the dynamics of the security realignment toward Russia and China symbolized a political intent to persist in a renewed cooperation strategy for combating the Islamist threat and preventing future unrest in Uzbekistan. In the end, such a "status quo" allows the overstatement of radical religious strength that complements further radicalization with popular acceptance.


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On the author:
Sogdiana Azhiben received her Bachelor degree in Chinese Language and Literature from Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies in 2005. In 2003-2004 she participated in the US-Government sponsored undergraduate exchange program majoring in American Studies at Eastern Connecticut State University. In 2006 she obtained her MA degree in Political Science (Central Asia) from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She has published an article on Chinese deep culture at the Austrian Institute for Integrative Conflict Transformation and Peace Building. Her professional experience includes internship at the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna, full-time work at Tashkent field office of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and English translation at the Uzbek Central Television.