Uzbekistan: Arab Spring Unlikely -- Activists
Analysts generally agree that no Arab Spring is coming to Central Asia any time soon, despite similarly entrenched dictators and poverty. Current and former US officials; EU, American, Turkish and other experts have all weighed in with all the reasons why such upheavals are unlikely – particularly the lack of independent broadcasting, Internet, and social media.
But there is some evidence that the conversation about the Arab Spring is itself a bit of a catalyst and that lessons from the Middle East are being absorbed by authoritarian leaders and their subjects alike. There doesn't seem to be a way to independently and reliably poll public opinion in Uzbekistan about this now.
Meanwhile, the independent web site uznews.net interviewed a few prominent activists on the prospects of the Arab Spring in Central Asia.
Dilarom Ishakova, a Tashkent activist said she was disappointed that political prisoners were not released on the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence. Massive unrest as in the Arab world was unlikely, she said; the 2005 massacre in Andijan and the suppression of a popular uprising still had an effect: “The people are very intimidated."
Ruhiddin Kamilov, a Tashkent lawyer, said that an Arab Spring was hardly likely in Uzbekistan.
Surat Ikramov, head of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders in Tashkent, said that people could improve their conditions if they would unite and demand their rights, but they prefer to go abroad as labor migrants. Like others interviewed, he believed Uzbeks had not reached the stage for revolt but did talk about the issues more. Rather than looking for an Arab Spring, Ikramov warned that a clash between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, given all the recent water and energy disputes, was more likely.
Unlike those in the capital, Bahtiyor Hamraev, a human rights activist in the provincial city of Jizzak, believed the Arab Spring was in fact affecting all dictatorships throughout the world and Central Asian governments would not escape great changes.