Uzbekistan on Verge of Declaring President Karimov Dead
An announcement on the death of Uzbekistan’s president appears imminent as a host of signs suggest funeral preparations are afoot in Islam Karimov’s native Samarkand.
Reuters news agency on September 3 cited three diplomatic sources as saying Karimov had died of a stroke, the strongest confirmation so far of a fact that Uzbekistan’s government has been staunchly denying.
More subtle hints have been coming out of Samarkand. Residents in that city have told EurasiaNet.org that the city, and particularly the central and historic Registan square, is being cleaned and prepared for some major event. The word has also been put around that city’s men should have their white shirts, black suits and tyubeteika skull caps on standby. The expectation is that a funeral will take place on September 3.
Uzbekistan’s state media still perversely sticks to its line that Karimov is ill, although government newspaper Halk Suzi noted in its September 2 issue that the leader was in a “critical condition.”
In another certain giveaway, Reuters cited a source in Kazakhstan’s government as saying President Nursultan Nazarbayev is preparing to go to Uzbekistan on September 3, cutting short a trip to China. The Chinese visit was meant to last from September 1 through September 5.
In Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, sources in the administration of President Almazbek Atambayev have said the Kyrgyz leader will not go to Uzbekistan as there had been no public announcement about Karimov’s death. Atambayev will instead inaugurate the Nomad Games, a decision that some commentators have suggested reflects poorly on the state of Kyrgyz diplomacy.
Uzbekistan has for several days been poised in a mood of anxious uncertainty.
Moscow-based news website Ferghana.ru, which has led the pack on most of the reporting on Karimov’s fate, reported that prayer leaders in Uzbekistan have been told to avoid mentioning the president’s names during their Friday prayers.
“According to those that went to mosques today, there were more police at namaz [prayers] today than on previous Fridays. And they checked people more closely than usual,” the website reported.