For twenty-five years, an invasion of Uzbekistan by Islamic terrorists has been predicted, and for twenty-five years, it has not happened. Instead, that fear has been used as a pretext for the state to clamp down on domestic dissent. For Politico Europe:
Despite Uzbekistan’s reputation as a hotbed of Islamic militancy, terror attacks in the country are extremely rare. Islamic militant groups have no substantive presence within the country, and few Uzbeks are interested in joining one. If there is a threat to the country and its citizens, it’s more likely to come from government security forces than from Islamic insurgents.
Karimov died as he lived, shrouded in secrets, discussed by his countrymen through the mish-mish— gossip — that forms the primary source of communication in his insular, authoritarian state. During his 27-year rule — he served first as secretary of the Communist Party before becoming president in 1991 — Karimov repressed the rights of his people and suppressed evidence of the repression.
His control of the country’s information system seems to have outlived him. On August 26, Uzbek officials abruptly announced that September 2 would be an official “day off,” claiming Uzbeks needed time to rest after the festivities. In reality, it appears to have been a pre-planned day of mourning. Late that evening, Karimov was announced dead, and he was buried the next day in an elaborate funeral in Samarkand.
The perception that Uzbekistan is beset by Islamic militants is a product of Karimov’s propaganda apparatus and his efforts to maintain control. Karimov encouraged Uzbeks to follow their Muslim faith, but in an extremely narrow way that conformed to state directives and acquiesced to state-approved mosques and imams.