Actual - 25 May 2010
06:01 - About “Birlik” Party of Uzbekistan and its Struggle for Official Registration
Popular Movement “Birlik” was founded in 1988 as first democratic opposition organization in Uzbekistan. “Birlik” was transformed to political party in 2003. Computer science professor Abdurahim Polat was one of the founders of the organization; he has been the leader of “Birlik” since its creation.

The main goal of Birlik was to achieve full independence of Uzbekistan and transform it to a democratic state.

“Birlik’ had a huge support from Uzbeks; tens of thousands of people were gathering to its meetings. Authorities feared “Birlik, as it was the second power in the country. In October 20, 1989, under the pressure of “Birlik”, Parliament of Uzbekistan declared Uzbek as official language of the country.

In that period, i.e. period of Gorbachev’s ruling, “Birlik” was one of the strongest national-democratic organizations in all Soviet Union. This statement can be confirmed by the fact that leaders of “Birlik” had meeting with leaders of USSR. Thus, chairman of “Birlik” Abdurahim Polat had meeting in Tashkent with Prime-minister of Soviet Union, Mr. Nikolay Rijkov in July 1989.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Uzbekistan became independent. After that, “Birlik” was officially registered by Ministry of Justice.

On February 16, 1992, US Secretary of State James Baker visited Uzbekistan and after meeting with president Karimov, he had meeting with leader of “Birlik”, Abduahim Polat. It is necessary to underline that Mr. Baker visited almost all countries of former Soviet Union and had meeting with opposition activists just in Uzbekistan. This event won immense prestige to “Birlik”. Uzbek authorities undertook to neutralize the activity of its leaders.

In June 26, 1992 Pulat Akhun, vice-chairman of “Birlik”, former Member of Parliament of Soviet Union, and only Uzbek member of Interregional Deputy Group lead by Yeltsin and Sakharov was arrested and sentenced for 5 years prison by false accusation. He was released in November 1994, supposedly by the request of Russian President Yeltsin. Then he got refugee status in Sweden.

In June 29, 1992 after coming back from the first visit to the United States, Abduahim Polat was badly beaten by agents of Security Service of Uzbekistan and was hospitalized with broken skull and brain damage.

In July 7, 1992 US Senator Larry Pressler visited Abdurahim Polat in the Tashkent hospital. After the emotional speech of Mr. Pressler in US Senate (see: L.Pressler. “Time for caution in Central Asia”, Congressional Record, 138, No 21, July 21, 1992, pages 1-3) where he described in detail his meeting with Abdurahim Polat in Tashkent hospital, the announced official visit of Uzbekistan’s president to Washington was canceled.

After the second attempt to kill him in Tashkent in October 1992, Polat had to leave Uzbekistan. First, he stayed in Turkey. But under the pressure of Uzbek government, Turkey’s authorities did not give him refugee status and he arrived in the U.S. in 1998 with his family.

By then, “Birlik” and other democratic organizations were cracked down under the repressions of dictatorship regime of Uzbekistan.

Abroad, Abdurahim Polat and Pulat Akhunov organized Political and Human Rights Journal “Harakat” in Uzbek language and its electronic version in Internet (see: This journal is being published with the financial assistance of National Endowment for Democracy (USA) and distributed in Uzbekistan. A total of 75 issues of the journal have been printed over the past years. It played a great role in the process of rebuilding Uzbek opposition.

Beginning of the new century, the Uzbek democratic opposition began to re-establish itself. After September 11, 2001, when Uzbekistan became the partner of the U.S. in antiterrorist war, the process of rebuilding had become more effective. In 2003 “Birlik” was fully re-created as political party at its Congress, which was held in Tashkent for the first time in 10 years.

As a democratic organization, “Birlik” was going to be registered and participate in both parliament and presidential elections. So, beginning in 2003, “Birlik” Party filed documents to Ministry of Justice for a total of five times. On each occasion, Ministry of Justice rejected to register “Birlik” Party on various far-fetched pretexts.

In order to not lose time, “Birlik” fulfilled all demands of Ministry. “Birlik” even opened a case in the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan against Ministry of Justice in 2004, but the Court didn’t investigate the case appropriately, and returned it back to the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Uzbek Parliament unexpectedly increased the number of members of political parties that was necessary for registration from five thousand to twenty thousand. “Birlik” increased the number of members to twenty one thousand in three months and filed the member’s list to the Ministry again.

The last answer of Ministry, on April 4, 2005, said that the member’s list contained about four thousand false signatures. However, the Ministry rejected to give the list of false members to “Birlik”. It demonstrated that this pretext was far-fetched again.

In spite of frantic resistance of authorities, "Birlik" tried to participate in December 2004 parliament elections and nominated 10 candidates as independents in 10 election districts. The authorities didn’t allow district election commissions to register them.

At the same time, “Birlik” was going to increase its members to 40-50 thousand but after bloody Andijan events (May 2005), any political activity was impossible in Uzbekistan.

On November 6, 2006, “Birlik” released the Appeal to The European Union and called for normalization of relationships with Uzbekistan in exchange for democratization. Main idea of the Appeal was: Dictatorships cannot be won only by means of sanctions and their isolation from outside world. To that there are historical examples - Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, etc. Therefore it is necessary to skillfully combine external pressure upon government of Karimov with integration of Uzbekistan into all the international institutions, and thus, promote achievement of a major objective - prompt democratization of our country.

On November 24, 2006, “Birlik” leaders Abdurahim Polat and Pulat Akhun addressed the letter to Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of The European Union on the same contents. The answer of the office of Mr. Solana was quite reassuring.

Now, after the beginning of some dialogues between European Union and Uzbekistan, the pressure of authorities on opposition is softening a little bit. On May 1, 2010 “Birlik” held its Central Council meeting in Tashkent for the first time in years. Party’s body decided to renew its activity to get official registration from the Ministry of Justice.

In this crucial period, “Birlik” needs international support from the West, especially from the U.S. and the European Union.

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