Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 174

On August 17, three days after his inauguration, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev

signed the new law “On Counteraction against Extremist Activity.” official Kyrgyz

government newspaper Erkin Too published the text of the law on August 19.

Activists from Hizb-ut-Tahrir (the Islamic Party of Liberation) immediately made a

statement alleging that this law is primarily directed against their party. The

international organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which seeks to unite all of the Muslims

of the world into a single Caliphate, is outlawed across Central Asia. In fact, the

ideology of this organization is quite odious when judged by Western standards. The

party considers democracy unacceptable and inappropriate for Muslims. Democratic

countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and Israel are declared to be

“creations of the devil.” Members of the party also make no effort to conceal their

hatred of Jews.

Yet at the same time it is not right to label Hizb-ut-Tahrir a terrorist

organization. Members of the organization constantly emphasize and re-emphasize that

they condemn violent means of struggle. Its members believe that the desired

Caliphate will be created only when the majority of Muslims are ready for this task

(Terrorism Monitor, March 11, 2004).

Two years ago the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan officially banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s

activities within the territory of the state and declared it to be an extremist

organization. However, Hizb-ut-Tahrir ignored the Supreme Court decision, and it has

been conducting its activities more openly there than in neighboring Uzbekistan and


Kyrgyzstan’s criminal code has no provisions that relate to the party’s activities.

Members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir have been charged under Article 299, “Incitement of

Interfaith Conflicts,” however the lawyers of the accused claimed that the article

was not applicable. Therefore, they argued, the accused members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir

must either be released from detention, given the government’s inability to offer

proof of their guilt, or they should be released after paying a nominal fine.

But after the adoption of the law on extremism, Kyrgyz law-enforcement agencies have

the legal foundation to issue new charges. For example, the new law considers

propaganda relating to the exclusivity, supremacy, or inferiority of individuals on

the basis of their attitude towards religion to be extremism. A savvy police

investigator or legal expert could indict Hizb-ut-Tahrir based on this

interpretation of the law, as all of the organization’s leaflets are anti-Semitic

and anti-Western (Fergana, September 9).

However, many Kyrgyz political scientists believe Beijing pressured Bishkek to adopt

this new law. In their expert opinion, there are no significant extremist groups

that might pose a threat to the state order. Kyrgyz political scientist Ikbol

Mirsaitov summed up this perspective by saying, “China had a large influence on the

Kyrgyz leadership in working out and adopting this law…. The Chinese believe that an

underground party of Uighur separatists is active in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.”

Such a Uighur group would pose a double threat. First, a Uighur party could be a

possible terrorist threat to China, and Beijing could not defuse that threat without

having some form of control over the organization. Second, Mirsaitov believes any

party of Uighur separatists “poses a threat to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, as the

activity of these parties may destabilize the situation in these republics that have

a large diaspora of ethnic Uighurs.”

In a related move, the Kyrgyz government is currently considering a law “On

Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.” The text states that the

draft legislation was developed as part of the parliamentary work connected to

ratifying the Kyrgyz-Chinese “Agreement on Cooperation in the Fight against

Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism,” which was signed December 11, 2002, in

Beijing. Under this proposed law such concepts as “separatism” and “extremism” must

be added to the Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, under this draft law,

terrorist and extremist activity would be punishable by imprisonment ranging from

five to 20 years (, September 9).

Currently about 400,000 Uighurs live in Central Asia, mainly in Kazakhstan and

Kyrgyzstan. Many of these Central Asian Uighurs support separatists on the other

side of the border. According to the newspaper Novye izvestiya, Uighur and Central

Asian Islamic radicals are trying to join efforts and destabilize the situation both

in China and in the countries of Central Asia. In 2003, the head of the National

Security Service of Kyrgyzstan stated that Uighur separatists had joined the Islamic

Movement of Uzbekistan to form the Islamic Movement of Central Asia.

There have been several notable episodes of apparent Uighur activity in Kyrgyzstan.

On May 1, 1998, a taxi was blown up in Osh, the main city of southern Kyrgyzstan,

killing two people and wounding 12. Eighteen months later, Kyrgyz authorities

arrested five people accused of involvement in that terrorist act. According to

official information, three of them were Chinese Uighurs who had undergone training

in the camps of the warlord Khattab in Chechnya. In 2000 police investigators found

a secret hideout housing Uighur terrorists from Xinjiang. The terrorists refused to

surrender and were killed in a firefight. Negmet Bazakov, chairman of the Ittipak

cultural and educational center for Kyrgyz Uighurs was killed in Bishkek when he

refused to give money for the needs of the underground separatists. At the end of

2003 two Uighur separatists from the Eastern Turkistan movement seized a

passenger bus traveling from Xinjiang and killed 21 passengers (Novye izvestiya,

July 22, 2003).

Whether this new law discourages such activities or provide a legal justification

for a government crackdown remains to be seen.