1) I have studied nonviolent struggle and I was very impressed with the 3-stage plan for the overthrow of the Karimov regime that you proposed on August 26th. How did you formulate your plan? Did you study the work of any specific thinkers or strategists? Were you inspired by any specific historical examples?
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the planning of a color revolution in Uzbekistan and the desire to carry it out come from the life that I have lived. Nearly 25 years under the dictatorial rule of Karimov, with its violence, corruption and tyranny, has brought only misery to the Uzbek people by making their lives unbearably difficult. Birdamlik’s August 26th announcement launching a 3-stage color revolution in Uzbekistan aims to put an end to this oppression of the Uzbek people.
Just looking at my short life, the injustice and corruption of the Uzbek government can clearly be seen in my imprisonment in 2001. This unlawful action was perpetrated to steal the company that I had worked hard for a year to build. After my release, I unsuccessfully fought for the restoration of my company. Every time I stood my ground, I suffered a new injustice.
In 2003, my fight for justice led me into the world of human rights activism. For a time, I became involved with the activities of a human rights organization.
Gaining a bit of experience as a human rights activist showed me that human rights violations are ignored in countries that do not value the rule of law and democratic principles.
Thanks to the Karimov regime, this is exactly why the people of Uzbekistan live in a democracy only on paper. In reality, they live under a dictatorship.
Life has taught me that fighting only for the protection of human rights in a dictatorial society cannot lead to the overthrow of such an inhumane system or the establishment of a democratic state and society. Therefore, I realized that fighting to protect human rights is very important, but the fight should not be limited to only this. It should also aim to change the political system.
That is what led me to the secular, democratic opposition. There, my dissenting views were sharpened, polished and became more definite.
By 2004, I found myself squarely situated within the world of the political opposition. I am, by nature, an open and kind, if strong-willed, person. Thus, I found my voice, my place and respect within these circles. Feeling and believing that I aspired only to what was good and just, people began to become my comrades.
My dream is for a society based upon the rule of law and justice. I am a supporter of democratic government that guarantees human rights and freedom of speech and the press. I am a democrat to my very bones.
In those years, and even now, the existing opposition groups in Uzbekistan were not united. Karimov cruelly tricked the «Birlik» politicians into splitting into two groups, and the party «Erk» was born. In general, the Karimov regime and its intelligence service played the lead role in creating the opposition’s disarray. These organizations were made very weak and constantly bickered with each other.
In this unclear, complicated, difficult, dangerous situation, I met and got to know many opposition activists, and I studied the situation and people. Finally, I realized that what was needed in such a difficult and desperate situation was a Movement that could lead the Uzbek people, who were paralyzed by a lack of trust and leadership.
Doing what had to been done in such a situation, I founded the People’s Democratic Movement «Birdamlik» on April 10, 2004 in order to lead the Uzbek people out of their severe crisis under the banner of nonviolent civil struggle against the dictatorship.
In the beginning, our Movement had the lofty goal of helping and supporting the weakened opposition political parties. The Movement’s first steps were to denounce the violence, repression, bribery, corruption, lawlessness, and injustice of the regime and to organize and conduct pickets, rallies and marches of dissenting citizens. Our main aim was to promote the overthrow of the dictatorial Karimov regime. We wanted to help the political parties «Birlik» and «Erk» assume their former positions. However, this did not happen, unfortunately.
Karimov’s regime had managed to leave the real opposition in a state of shock, and so it was not possible to breathe new life into the «Birlik» and «Erk» parties. Soon it became clear that the leaders of these organizations were megalomaniacs, and it was unlikely they could be cured of this disease. Their boundless self-esteem and lack of desire to see beyond their noses caused «Birlik» and «Erk» to lose the trust and attention of the people.
This very negative situation fundamentally changed the objectives and plans of our Movement. Due to increased harassment by the Karimov regime, I was forced to leave Uzbekistan in July 2004.
I went to Moscow. In Moscow, I met with representatives from the democratic opposition in Russia and other countries and with human rights activists. At one meeting of the human rights and democracy advocates, I was given a collection of writings by Tolstoy, Gandhi and King about nonviolent civil struggle.
This collection of writings contained ideas that fascinated me and had a major impact on my worldview and beliefs. After this, I began to find and read articles on the Internet, and studied the history and current status of nonviolent struggle.
I took a course about the color revolution in Georgia in 2003. Later, I closely studied the color revolutions in Ukraine in 2004 and Kyrgyzstan in 2005. I carefully acquainted myself with the stories of Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Philippines and other places where colored revolutions and nonviolent means of struggle have been used effectively.
After arriving in the United States, many doors opened for me, giving me the opportunity to become free and independent. In particular, thanks to selfless and tireless work, my family and my brothers became financially independent. This gave me the opportunity to visit the library and more widely utilize the Internet.
I read and studied books, pamphlets and articles about the color revolutions of the world. In the US, I had the good fortune to meet and befriend Gene Sharp, who is considered the father of the color revolutions and is a first-class strategist and theorist on this topic.
With the permission of Gene Sharp, I organized a translation of his books into the Uzbek language and the publication of them on the Internet.
I also met and talked with the practitioner of color revolutions and nonviolent civil resistance Mr. Robert Helvey. With his permission, I organized the translation of his books into the Uzbek language and publication of them on the Internet.
Friendly meetings and chats with Gene Sharp and Robert Helvey undoubtedly enriched my theoretical and practical knowledge about color revolutions and nonviolent civil resistance.
Our movement has also translated books into Uzbek about the nonviolent struggle of the Serbian youth organization Otpor. An Uzbek translation of the very instructive film about this youth movement, «Bringing Down A Dictator,» can be viewed and studied by visitors to our website. For us, the value of the film and books about Otpor is that most people in Uzbekistan are also young.
These actions and translations are designed to teach people in Uzbekistan about the ideas of nonviolent struggle and color revolution so that they are not afraid of and do not reject the ideas and practices of civil resistance. Our movement is trying to impress upon the Uzbek people that a free, prosperous life is not given by someone, but won by performing your civic duty and participating in nonviolent struggle.
One time, I wanted to further accelerate the activities of our Movement, and so I contacted the organization that gives grants. Unfortunately, I could not get their approval and was denied. This deeply troubled me, and I became depressed. On the other hand, it also pushed me to actively search for more funds for our work and struggle. And I successfully found the money myself. Counting my own money, along with the help of my brothers and the activists of our Movement, we have collected more than $350,000 and spent this on our nonviolent struggle.
As a result, not only in Uzbekistan, but also in many other countries, there are now offices of the People’s Democratic Movement «Birdamlik.»
Thanks to the tireless and selfless work of the members, activists and leadership of the People’s Democratic Movement «Birdamlik», it has turned into the most powerful opposition organization in Uzbekistan despite its relative youth, and is leading a nonviolent, active struggle against the dictatorship of Karimov.
2) It seems to me that if you can successfully reach stage 2 of your plan, then you have a very good chance of overthrowing the Karimov regime. How long do you expect it will take before the Uzbek people are ready for Stage 2? How has Stage 1 been progressing so far?
Karimov’s regime, having mobilized all internal and external forces, has tried to prevent the announcement of a nonviolent color revolution in Uzbekistan by the People’s Democratic Movement «Birdamlik». Pressure has been dramatically increased on me, my family and our movement’s leadership and activists. The severest pressure has been on human rights activist Hassan Choriyev, my father and chairman of the Kashkadarynsky regional branch of Birdamlik. Recently, his rich, flourishing farm was illegally seized and his house, barn and farm buildings were demolished. Trumped up criminal charges were brought against him and a large sum of money was taken. His farm was turned into bare land, a terrible piece of steppe.
On June 18th, two policemen took my father, an ailing 71-year-old man, from his home and he is still jailed on the absurd charge of raping a 19-year-old woman. He was repeatedly told by the authorities that he would go to jail if he and I continued our political activities, and this is the reason for his incarceration. Thus, during the stage-1 action «OSH,» a majority of the activists decided to name the highest prize in the photo contest of three thousand dollars after Hassan Choriyev for his resistance against evil.
As we expected, stage 1 of the color revolution may take a long time. This means that Birdamlik needs the support and attention of external forces. The people of Uzbekistan live in complete isolation; no independent information is allowed to reach those within the country.
Unfortunately, we lack access to the normal opportunities afforded to the political opposition in normal states. Uzbek citizens have the right to read, listen and watch only the newspapers, radio and television of the Karimov regime.
For example, Birdamlik can only use the Internet to explain and disseminate our ideas, plans and goals. And Karimov’s regime blocks the most truthful, unyielding, active opposition websites. Our website is among those that have been blocked. Therefore, we have not been able to communicate with the much of the population, and hence the slow pace of implementation of the first phase of our nonviolent revolution.
In this regard, the situation for the rural population of Uzbekistan cannot be forgotten. For more than 10 years gas and electricity have frequently been cut off in rural areas. Without electricity people cannot use the Internet.
This clearly shows the vile attempt to isolate Uzbek youth from the world and the Karimov regime from the advanced countries of the West. And people that have no opportunity to know about what is going on in the world will, of course, have a primitive perspective and not be politically active.
Will the journalists of the Uzbek department of Radio Liberty, Voice of America, or BBC come to the assistance of our democratic opposition at such an important stage in realizing phase one of our color revolution? Much to our regret and sorrow, the majority of journalists of the Uzbek department of Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and BBC are either afraid of the dictatorial regime of Karimov or secretly cooperating with him. They often avoid pressing problems, instead chewing over small everyday topics and pursuing narrow departmental interests. They are becoming more and more like tabloids.
These objective and subjective factors are contributing to a slowdown and contraction of stage 1 of our color revolution in Uzbekistan.
After the realization of stage 1, i.e. the preparation of a color revolution in Uzbekistan, stage 2 will begin. Stage 2 happens very quickly, within a few days, like thunder in the sky, to bring tangible benefits to the people. Nonviolent Revolution moves slowly, but we are confident that people will gradually become familiar with our ideas, plans and goals. And this, we believe, will eventually lead to their massive participation in the cleansing process of nonviolent revolution.
3) In Andijan, Karimov showed that he is willing to murder unarmed Uzbeks. How do you plan to protect your followers from such a brutal regime? Will you try to convince the military and police forces to mutiny? This has been an important factor in other successful nonviolent revolutions.
Not only in Andijan in May 2005 has Karimov given the command to shoot unarmed people. We remember the tragic events in 1989-90 in the city of Namangan, Kokand, Pskent, Bouquet, and Denov. And in 1992, the shooting of students at a peaceful demonstration in Tashkent. Therefore, we consider large-scale participation to be an important safety factor for our nonviolent revolution. It is necessary for all the towns and cities to demand the resignation of the dictator Karimov at the same time.
It should be noted that there are people among us who were the organizers and participants of the massive peaceful marches, rallies and pickets in the late 80’s and early 90’s that demanded Uzbek independence and that the Uzbek language be given official national status.
The movement «Birdamlik» does not consider officials and military officers of the Karimov regime to be enemies. We consider them to be part of the Uzbek people and native children of our homeland. They are only obedient executors of Karimov’s orders. We have conducted and continue to conduct work among these groups to explain our position and to urge them to switch to the side of the people. We will continue to pursue this work.
The dictator Karimov will be the main target for overthrow and punishment. We do not harbor plans for revenge against the enforcers of Karimov’s orders. We will not conduct a punitive policy towards them. This is what we have stressed earlier, and now state again.
Of course, when we have been able to reach more people and places with our ideas of nonviolent struggle against the dictatorship, the military and the police will be ideologically and spiritually weakened. And in this situation, it will be easy to persuade them to come over to the side of nonviolent revolution.
Leo Tolstoy said that «those who take a knee before the ruler see the sameness of their height upon rising,» and urged people to bow before no one. I believe that our nation will rise and under the leadership of «Birdamlik» find a common language with the military and police, throw the dictator into the dustbin of history, and build a democratic society.
4) What do you consider to be the greatest obstacles that you must overcome to successfully realize your plan and overthrow the Karimov regime?
The first factor hindering Birdamlik from successfully carrying out nonviolent revolution is the fear, indifference and belief in lies that paralyzes the people of Uzbekistan.
The second factor hindering Birdamlik from realizing nonviolent revolution is the numerous obstacles against organized mass collective action erected by the Karimov regime.
And to surmount these two problems Birdamlik must overcome its financial problems. We need about $5 million.
Then we would not have to think about everyday problems and could devote ourselves entirely to political activities and the overthrow of the dictator Karimov. The dictatorial regime’s efforts to isolate and intimidate us would not help then, because we would be working steadily to educate every family and person about our goals and plans.
The People’s Democratic Movement «Birdamlik» has enough determination and supporters to convince every family and person of the rightness of a nonviolent overthrow of the dictator.
Here I would like to again stress the importance to our struggle of conscientious work of the Uzbek services of Radio Liberty and Voice of America.
We will think of and find ways to overcome the large, medium and small barriers opposing our movement.
5) Why do you promote nonviolent instead of violent revolution? Do you believe nonviolence is morally superior to violence? Or do you think it is more likely to be effective than violence? Or both?
Mahatma Gandhi’s belief that «nonviolence is not just a philosophical principle but the law and the essence of life» has become imprinted in my mind and heart.
In my opinion, nonviolent struggle is something like a turn in history away from the abyss of war and violence and toward the side of humanity. Consider how many times Karimov has unnecessarily used punitive force against peaceful protesters and citizens.
From my point of view, a nonviolent civil engagement is a preferable fight in both moral and practical terms. Thus, my followers and I have chosen nonviolence as a way to fight the loathsome dictator Karimov.
This is our chosen path. The true power of the people. If the people wish it, we can do anything. Unfortunately, the dictator Karimov treats the Uzbek people like slaves. And Uzbekistan has long been transformed into a family’s repressive and corrupt fiefdom.
I would like to emphasize that the people of Uzbekistan hate the dictator Karimov. And Karimov hates and fears the people.
Given only the slightest opportunity, the people will overthrow Karimov. Rulers come and go, but the people remain.
Nonviolent struggle is ethically the highest expression of humanity and the most practical way for the masses to engage in peaceful political reconstruction of society, the state and the government.
The cardinal solution for all political, economic and social problems in Uzbekistan is successful nonviolent revolution.