KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 8 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

KESTON NEWS SERVICE SPECIAL REPORT

AFGHANISTAN: WHAT IMPACT WILL FIGHTING HAVE ON
UZBEKISTAN?
'Mercenaries from many former Soviet republics are fighting with the
Taliban, particularly fighters from Chechnya and from the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU),' the Northern Alliance's foreign minister
Abdullo Abdullah told Keston News Service. In Afghanistan the conflict
is largely inter-ethnic: the majority of Taliban fighters are Pushtuns, while
the Northern Alliance unites Afghan Tajiks and Uzbeks, who are happy to
fight with the US against the Taliban. In neighbouring Central Asian
countries, however, the situation is not so clear-cut. The IMU originated
in the Uzbek section of the volatile Fergana valley (other sections of the
valley are in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) and many of the movement�s
supporters are likely to have remained in Uzbekistan itself. The radical
international Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir is also active in the Fergana
valley, despite being banned in all the Central Asian countries, and has
called for its supporters to �defend the domain of the Muslims�.

AFGHANISTAN: WHAT IMPACT WILL FIGHTING HAVE ON
UZBEKISTAN?

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

'Mercenaries from many former Soviet republics are fighting with the
Taliban, particularly fighters from Chechnya and from the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU),' declares the Northern Alliance's foreign
minister Abdullo Abdullah. 'We think it is pointless to suggest that these
people should leave Afghan territory, as the situation in the states that
border our country could then become less stable,' he told Keston News
Service on 24 October in the northern Afghan town of Khwaja-
Bahawudin, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Tajik border. The fact that
IMU fighters are indeed fighting alongside Taliban forces is confirmed
not only by Northern Alliance leaders, but also by refugees.

On 25 October Keston visited a refugee camp in the small town of
Konkushlan, on the outskirts of Khwaja-Bahawudin. The camp is home to
around 1,100 people, who fled from the town of Khuzhega, 60 kilometres
(35 miles) from Khwaja-Bahawudin, about a year ago, when it was seized
by Taliban forces. Practically all the camp's inhabitants are from
Afghanistan's ethnic Uzbek minority. 'When the Taliban entered the town,
they started to go round the houses, telling people to give up their
weapons,' an Uzbek refugee from Khuzhega, 35-year-old peasant
Khamidulo Khayit, told Keston. 'But we are simple peasants and we do
not have any guns. We were frightened that the Taliban would kill us, and
we fled to Khwaja-Bahawudin.' According to Khayit, IMU fighters
appeared alongside the Taliban forces in the town. 'They proposed that we
should fight with them in Uzbekistan. But these people came to Khuzhega
with the Taliban, who are enemies of Afghan Uzbeks, and so we did not
trust them.'

The war in Afghanistan has been caused by conflicts not so much of
politics
as of nationality. The overwhelming majority of Taliban fighters are
Pushtuns, while the Northern Alliance that opposes the Taliban unites
Afghan Tajiks and Uzbeks, who are concentrated in northern
Afghanistan. Uzbeks and Tajiks live in the town of Khwaja-Bahawudin,
and all of the several dozen inhabitants of the town questioned by Keston
supported the bombing of Taliban positions by United States forces. 'Of
course, it is bad that peaceful Afghans will be killed by the US bombing
campaign. But war is war. The most important thing for us now is to
destroy our enemy - the Taliban,' Keston was told on 26 October by Sayid
Muhamad, an ethnic Tajik who lives in Khwaja-Bahawudin.

Northern Alliance military commanders also stress their common cause
with the US. 'We have managed to establish that the Taliban and their ally
Osama bin Laden drew up a plan under which the murder of our leader
Ahmad Shah Masoud would act as a signal for the launch of terrorist
action in the United States,' Major-General Khabibula Alayar told Keston
in Khwaja-Bahawudin on 26 October. 'Today, we and the US have a
common enemy in the Taliban, and so we are allies.' The Northern
Alliance leadership seems prepared to join forces with any opponent of
the Taliban.

Speaking to Keston on 26 October in Khwaja-Bahawudin, the head of the
Northern Alliance's department for the assistance of virtue and prevention
of vice, Jalal Fahri, declared that the IMU is itself forcing Uzbek
president Islam Karimov to take repressive measures against Muslims.

However, if the inter-ethnic nature of the conflict in Afghanistan gives
grounds to hope that the US intervention will not lead to the
destabilisation of the north of this Islamic state, the situation in the
neighbouring Central Asian countries is not so clear-cut. The most
volatile regions are in the Fergana valley, which is shared between three
states: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The IMU originated in the
Uzbek section of the Fergana valley, and although the movement's
fighters are currently in Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan, many
of its supporters are likely to have remained in Uzbekistan itself.

The radical international Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir is also active in the
Fergana valley. Banned in all the Central Asian states, it aims to unite
Muslims world-wide under a single caliphate regulated by Shariah law.
Before the start of the US-led military action in Afghanistan, this party
condemned the use of force, but since the start of the bombing campaign,
the party leadership has decided to change tactics. On 9 October, Hizb-ut-
Tahrir distributed a declaration on the Internet declaring: 'The time has
come for you to defend the domains of the Muslims... The time has come
for you to liberate the Ummah [community of believers] from the evil of
these renegade clans that have permitted loyalty to Kufr [infidels] at the
expense of supporting the Muslims. It is forbidden for you to obey them
in fighting the Muslims. Rather it is obligatory on you to work to liberate
the Ummah from them, and to support your Muslim brothers in
Afghanistan and elsewhere by standing on their side in confronting
America, Britain and their allies in their brutal war against Islam and the
Muslims.'

This declaration could be interpreted by its Central Asian members as a
call to armed conflict with the authorities. Hizb-ut-Tahrir is perhaps the
most popular political organisation in the Fergana valley. Moreover,
extreme fanaticism is a characteristic of its members, who are
predominantly young people from traditional Central Asian society. In
court cases against Hizb-ut-Tahrir members, the accused almost always
say they are not frightened of prison and that they would happily endure
torture in the name of Allah. In such a situation there is no doubt that if
Hizb-ut-Tahrir's Central Asian members receive an order to commit an
act of terrorism, they will carry it out, regardless of their own fate. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.

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