Uzbekistan Celebrates Independence Day
Uzbekistan celebrated its independence on September 1. But for many Uzbeks, independence is not to be confused with freedom.
President Islam Karimov, along with selected Uzbek officials and foreign diplomats and dignitaries, participated in official ceremonies on August 31. Those festivities, featuring a speech by Karimov and a cultural performance – were closed to the general public, due mainly to government security concerns. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archives].
For Tashkent residents, independence-day ceremonies can mean additional hassles, including heightened police security and cordoned-off streets. On September 1, many Tashkent residents tried to enjoy the holiday by heading to parks, where they could sample local delicacies – such as kurt, sour dried milk balls; or somsa, meat pies. Thousands of uniformed police and plainclothes officers were also on the streets, intent on enforcing an orderly Independence-Day celebration.
When a EurasiaNet.org correspondent photographed a makeshift vegetables bazaar in the Chilonzor neighborhood, a middle-aged woman chased him to establish whether he was sent to take photos by the police. “They have already [come to photograph us] and disrupted our trade eight times in the past few months,” she complained. “We decided to catch them and take off their trousers if they hassle us today on the holiday.”
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