Saturday, May 14, 2005

I found Wanderlustress through yesterday: Nathan's account of Dee Warren's evacuation from Andijon and her earlier writings from the town offer a really good perspective on how unexpected the violence has been and how one's circumstances affect one's views...

Dee Warren, a Peace Corps volunteer in Andijon, wrote this about the events in the neighboring Kyrgyzstan a month and a half ago:


Back in Andijon and all is peaceful ("tinchlik"), and Uzbeks like it this way.  General opinion surrounding the Tulip revolution next door was that "hooliganism" was causing all the chaos and government propaganda was successful in leading most to believe that American-backed institutions (specifically Soros) paid people to protest.  But no one could answer my question as to how much would it take them to stand up against the government, the riot police, and the militia.  I would not let them win the argument that it was all money and no heart.  Where I lose the argument is when they say, "At least it's peaceful here."  If that is the way they prefer things to be, then who am I to even suggest that my ideals are better?  At least the dialogue is there and that is enough for this American harbinger of democracy...


Life is peaceful, and generally good.  It certainly goes on...people have found a way to circumvent the closed borders to enter Kyrgyzstan to carry on their trade with the Korasu bazaar, internet cafes are sprouting like crazy and prices have lowered by half in the competition, and my NGO just signed a five year agreement for a UN project.  Tinch.

Here are the two pictures that Dee took from her balcony a month or so ago - and a description of what 'peace' could be like in Andijon:


It wouldn't be spring in Uzbekistan without making Sumalak.  Made by boiling a caldron of fresh wheat sprouts over wood fire, it produces a thick, sweet spread, to be eaten with non (actually, everything is eaten with non).  These ladies spent the entire morning stirring and adding wood to the fire, right below my balcony...

And here's what Dee has written today:

Stirred Not Shaken

After the excitement of leaving Andijon yesterday, I woke up feeling sad for everyone I know there.  Sad that they may be in danger, sad that it had to come to this, sad that its possible to bruise their battered morale even more.

It would be "reductionist" to interpret this as a purely religious movement, or a drive for democracy.  I maintain that the worsening economic situation for the general population, coupled with increased taxation, systemic corruption, and a host of other factors converge into a force of disobedience that leave no other choice, no other outlet for people who need to find a way to improve their lives, even if it means risking it.  There's not much else to lose...

Finally, Dee's account of her evacuation from Andijon yesterday is here:


Finally, a call came through saying that despite the diplomatic plates on the vehicles and diplomatic passports, that they were not allowed to enter the city.  Apparently, events had escalated while they were enroute and it was decided that we would be removed from the city as a precaution.  Since two Andijon volunteers were already in Tashkent, and the other two lived outside the city limits, I was the only one to be removed from within the city.  After getting through three city limits check-points, they could not get passed the last blockade to reach me.  They tried other check-points without luck so I suggested that I walk out to the first check-point since it was only about 100 metres from my apartment building.  I could sense that something was seriously wrong when we were walking towards each other only 50 meters apart and they still called me on the cell phone asking if I could see them walking towards me.  As soon as the Peace Corps staff reached me, they flanked me on both sides until we got near the vehicles.  Only then did I become aware that there had been shootings there just 30 minutes before.  In addition to Peace Corps staff, there were two American looking men on cell phones, one of whom told Peace Corps staff that I was to get into their "amored vehicle" (bullet proof and probably other things-proofed).  I asked who he was and was reassured that he is the Assistant Army Attache to the Defense Attache Office of the American Embassy.  Coincidentally, they were in the region, too, and only hooked up with Peace Corps in our efforts as part of their protocol to check on all American citizens in the area.  Only those who wanted to leave were to be assisted.  Surprisingly, American staff of an international NGO decided to stay, four adults and five kids.  We then drove to pick up the two other volunteers who were outside of the city limits and drove to Ferghana City where we will spend the night.


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