Azamatjon Ermakov used to have a relatively peaceful life ferrying traders and their goods around on his donkey cart in a village in Uzbekistan’s Andijan province. He had embraced Islam in 1995 and became a regular at the local mosque. But his daily routine was broken in 2005 when government troops opened fire on protestors in the provincial capital, killing hundreds.
Ermakov managed to avoid trouble amid the initial crackdown, but four years later, in 2009, Uzbek law-enforcement agencies reportedly sought his arrest for religious extremism – a charge commonly used to silence government critics after the Andijan massacre. He fled to Russia.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.