Harrowing Accounts From Uzbeks Who Fled Violence
UN Refugee Agency Reports Harrowing Accounts From Uzbeks Who Fled Violence
New York, Aug 15 2005 2:00PM
The United Nations refugee agency today reported harrowing tales of violence during disturbances in Uzbekistan earlier this year based on accounts from Uzbeks who fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and are now in Romania awaiting resettlement.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) quoted one 46-year-old woman describing how she had gone to Babur Square in the eastern Uzbek town of in Andijan on 13 May to express her grievances to the president about various detained people as well as the difficulties of daily life in the country.
“My young son was killed in Babur Square,” said Fatima (not her real name). “The bullet went through his ear, they said. I did not see it happen. I was also on the square with my other son and saw a young boy being shot in front of me. Now when I think about my dead son, I think about the young one I saw.”
Shooting suddenly started from nowhere. Before she knew it, Fatima and her son were running like crazy to the only street that was not blocked by buses and personnel carriers. They did not stop until they arrived at the Kyrgyz border around dawn the following morning. They managed to cross into Kyrgyzstan, unlike others who were reportedly shot by Uzbek security officials, UNHCR said.
Nargiza (also not her real name), 42, was at the scene of the violence, too. "I went to the prison where my husband, a businessman, had been imprisoned for six years. The reason? I don't know…
“I heard in the prison that the President would be coming, so I went to the square. When I heard a helicopter, I got excited: a chance to voice our grievances. We heard speakers, and then suddenly shooting started around me in the streets. I saw one neighbour in front of me. His face was all bloody. Speakers urged us to leave but I was cornered.”
She managed to escape and also did not stop running until she arrived in Kyrgyzstan at dawn. “Later I heard from others that my house had been sealed: the security had come and blocked it. And two of my daughters are missing. I would not dare to go home,” Nargiza said.
Both women are now waiting in Timisoara, western Romania, with 437 other Uzbek refugees whom UNHCR airlifted from Kyrgyzstan pending resettlement in other countries.
Another 15 remain in detention in Kyrgyzstan. UN officials have repeatedly voiced fears that they could they could face torture in Uzbekistan which has requested their return as criminals, and UNHCR said Kyrgyz authorities have emphasized on several occasions that the group will not be deported back home.
In June, four Uzbeks of concern to UNHCR were unlawfully deported from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. Since then, neither UNHCR nor any other organization or individual has had access to them. Last week, the Uzbek authorities told UNHCR in a letter that the four were “self-reported criminals” who had returned voluntarily and were now being held in a detention facility. UNHCR, however, has been unable to visit or talk to them, and remains extremely concerned about their well-being.