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Uzbekistan: Andijan Refugees Form Tight Bonds in Arizona

Rakhmat Kobilov sells some of his watermelons and Ferghana-style cantaloupes at an Uzbek restaurant in Phoenix. (Photo: Matthew Kupfer)

During the summer, Rakhmat Kobilov rises at 4 am, eats breakfast, and drives 45 miles to the farm where he cultivates cucumbers, watermelon, and a fragrant variety of cantaloupe indigenous to Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley.

The routine is familiar to him, even though Kobilov is not in his native Uzbekistan. Instead, he lives a world away in Phoenix, Arizona, where he and more than 100 other Uzbek refugees settled after the 2005 Andijan massacre.

For all that has changed in their lives since 2005, the Andijan refugees’ values have remained remarkably constant. Since arriving in Phoenix, they have built a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community, much like an Uzbek mahallah, or neighborhood. They live together, work together, and help each other.

“In Uzbek culture everything is done together. We are used to living this way,” Kobilov said, speaking in Russian. “In America you don’t know who lives on your street, but in Uzbekistan you know everyone for five miles.”

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Matthew Kupfer is a freelance writer specializing in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan: Andijan Refugees Form Tight Bonds in Arizona

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