Agence France Presse
Thursday 3 July 2003
Last Update 3 July 2003 12:00 am
ALMATY, 3 July 2003 — Repression by US-backed Central Asian regimes could push the region’s leading Islamic movement Hizb ut-Tahrir toward terrorism, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group warned yesterday.
“The US in particular is in danger of damaging its reputation... by close association with Central Asian dictatorships,” Robert Templer, the ICG’s Asia director said as it published a new report on Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Created in the 1950s Hizb ut-Tahrir has promoted the use of peaceful means to create an Islamic state in Central Asia’s Ferghana Valley, which is uneasily divided between the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. “Despite the allegations of governments there is no proof of (Hizb ut-Tahrir’s) involvement in terrorist activities in Central Asia or elsewhere,” Templer said in a statement. From 1999 until 2001 Ferghana was rocked by insurgency by Afghan-based members of another organization, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which was crushed during the US-led overthrow of Afghanistan’s Taleban leadership.
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to the presence of major US military bases for the Afghanistan campaign. The two countries have since continued to host US-led forces in return for military and other assistance amid strong criticism of the heavy-handed approach to Islamic belief taken by Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is currently allowed to operate in most Western countries with the exception of Germany and calls to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir should be refused, the ICG report said. “It is in the security interests of the international community to ensure that political opposition to unpopular regimes does not by default turn into a more militant group, with a more violent and dangerous agenda,” David Lewis, director of the ICG’s Kyrgyzstan office, said.