Monday, August 14, 2006

Kamoluddin's Death

Several days ago, Kyrgyz security forces killed Rafiq Kamoluddin, imam of the largest mosque in Karasu, a border town between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the Ferghana Valley which some have called "the capital of Hizb ut-Tahrir" because of its influence in the city. Kamoluddin allowed Hizb ut-Tahrir members to worship at his mosque, saying it was free to all, but always said he was opposed to the group's ideology, and compared his stance to Muhammad's own religious tolerance for those with errant doctrines. Kyrgyz authorites, however, are claiming he was a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group tightly linked to al-Qaeda which during the past few years has recovered from the U.S. war in Afghanistan and become active in that region of Central Asia. The evidence against him appears thin, and I suspect that simply by being tolerant he got himself into trouble.

In this article, some question whether it shows greater repression in Kyrgyzstan caused by cooperation between Bishkek and Tashkent, as Uzbekistan leans on its smaller neighbor to help crush dissidents among Kyrgyzstan's sizable Uzbek minority. The deportation of these five refugees from the Andijon massacre also fits that pattern. Given the problematic state of security in the Ferghana Valley, however, it may be that Bakiev feels there is no choice but cooperation among the governments involved in order to crush legitimate security threats. If so, then freedom in Central Asia will take a serious setback.

UPDATE: Kyrgyz authorities are now suggesting that Kamoluddin may have been kidnapped and used as a human shield by the IMU.


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