Past, Present and Future
Starting in 1985 and ending in 1991, the turmoil inside the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) eased with the dissolution of the Soviet Union into 15 independent republics including Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In one of the articles, Prof. Dr. Mahmud Es’ad Cosan stated that Soviet Union wanted to put down the heavy bags from its back to strengthen its bad economy and gain more power. Russia knew that having (in other words; occupying) them back was going to be easy after strengthening its army. In fact the intention never was letting the regions with the rich natural energy resources have their freedom.
Even after their independence most of these republics have been governed by the former politburo members. In other words they were not truly free after all. What’s happening in Ukraine (before it, in Georgia) shows that the statement of Prof. Dr. Mahmud Es’ad Cosan is right on the target. He also urged us to have closer relations with those republics that we have religious and ethnic ties with. In light of his wisdom, Uzbekistan is one of these countries that we want to know more about.
On the path of the famous ancient Silk Road between Europe and Asia, with its majestic cities of Bukhara and Samarkand famed for their architectural and cultural richness, UZBEKISTAN once flourished as a center of wisdom, knowledge and trade. The ancient City of Bukhara is the birth place of many Islamic scholars such as Imam Bukhari and Sufi masters such as Seyh Bahauddin Naksibendi. Uzbekistan was the land of head spinning spices, gold and silk, mystical tales and spiritual flares.
Uzbekistan has a very rich and diverse cultural heritage and spiritual inheritance.
Uzbekistan region was once part of the Turkic Khanate (Gokturks) and later Timurid Empires. In the early 16th century region was conquered by nomads who spoke an Eastern Turkic language. In the 19th century that region became part of the Russian Empire.
After more than a century of Russian rule and Red Army oppression, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan declared its independence in 1991. Even after its independence, the Uzbek government had very close ties with Russia.
Despite the central control of the economy dating back to the Soviet era, there is very little economic prosperity since its independence. The distribution of the country’s wealth is unfair. The gap between rich and poor is very wide.
Uzbekistan is one of the largest cotton producers and exporters in the world. The government is addressing international criticism for the use of child labor in its cotton harvest. Citizens (adults and children) are involuntarily forced to work in cotton fields and other areas.
After the September 11 attacks on the US soil, Uzbekistan allowed US forces to have a base in Uzbekistan for ready access across the Afghan border. In the following years, relations with Moscow became less warm.
Over the years the country has faced random and scattered bombings and shootings. Uzbek Government has been always quick to blame on Islamic extremist. Demonstrations against the imprisonment of people charged with Islamic extremism were punished with a crushing heavy force. In 2005, troops opened fire on protesters and killed hundreds of innocent civilians in the city of Andijan.
The western world criticizes Uzbekistan government’s use of heavy power against its oppositions. The government has been accused of serious human rights violations like systematic torture and killing of innocent civilians. Many human rights groups accused the international community of ignoring the many reported cases of abuse and torture, deaths in custody. There is no freedom of speech, press, assembly and association or religious rights in the country. Retaliation of imams, banning of forming independent religious organizations and organizing faith base programs, banning praying in congregation outside of government appointed (sanctioned) mosques, raiding religious and social gathering and police beatings, confiscating and destroying religious literature, prohibiting wearing religious clothing in public places by all except those serving in legal (!) religious organizations, prohibiting the teaching of religious subjects in public schools, arbitrary arrest, prosecution and detention, are just some of the cruel and unjust treatments reported in International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 of USA, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Due to strong criticism from the West, relations between Uzbek Government and US have cooled. In response, Uzbekistan expelled US forces from their base and moved closer to Russia.
Since 2008, because of Europeans’ need and hunger for energy sources in Central Asia, ties with the West began improving again. EU lifted its arms embargo and eased sanctions. Also Uzbekistan’s strategic importance for the anti-Taliban operation in Afghanistan plays a big role in this. At the same time, relations with Moscow became less warm because of Russia’s plan for a base in neighboring country Kyrgyzstan.
The Uzbek government swings between West and Russia. Because of its rich natural resources such as oil, gas, gold and uranium, the western world and others want to have closer ties with Uzbekistan. Unfortunately the current administration shapes the policies towards its own Muslim citizens based on foreign governments’ benefits. We want to see a strong, independent, free Uzbek government that stands up for its own citizens’ rights; rights of practicing their faith without worrying prosecutions, and rights of free speech. We are worried for the country’s future based on all these human rights violations. We don’t want to see similar episode of what’s happening in Ukraine. Because of our ethnical and religious ties, we want to have closer relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan. We are optimistic; we are praying for a better future for all.
UZBEKISTAN- In General
Tashkent is the Capital City and largest city of the country.
Languages: Official Language is Uzbek 74.3%, Russian 14.2%, Tajik 4.4%, other 7.1%
Ethnic Groups in 1996: 81.1% Uzbek, 5.4% Russian, 4% Tajik, 3%Kazakh, 2.5% Karakalpak,1.5% Tatar, 2.55 Others
Religions: 88% Muslim (mostly Sunni), 9% Eastern Orthodox, 3% Other
Population: Almost 30 million (nearly half the region’s total population) More than 60% of the population lives in densely populated rural communities.
Climate: Country has long hot summers and mild winters, has semiarid grassland in the east.
Terrain: Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country; 11% of the land is intensely cultivated, in irrigated river valleys. Uzbekistan has mostly flat to rolling sandy deserts with dunes. Along the Amu Darya, Syr Darya (Sirdaryo), and Zarafshon river it has broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys. In east of the country, Farghona Valley is surrounded by
mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In west there is shrinking Aral Sea. During the Soviet era, intensive production of cotton and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land degraded and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Shrinkage of the Aral Sea has resulted in growing concentrations of chemical pesticides and these substances are then blown from the increasingly exposed lake bed and contribute to desertification and respiratory health problems. Water pollution from industrial wastes and the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides, soil contamination from buried nuclear processing and agricultural chemicals, including DDT are the causes of many human health disorders.
Natural Resources: Natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, molybdenum.
Basmakaleler 1, Islam Dergisi Basmakaleleri, Prof.Dr. Mahmut Es’ad Cosan, (Server Iletisim, Istanbul 2007, 2.Baski)
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