- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2003

“I did not serve time in jail, but I was a member of HT [Hizb ut-Tahrir, an underground Islamic group that, in the government’s view, wants to create a Taliban-like regime in Uzbekistan] for eight years,” said Oripjanov Ulugbek, 27.

Mr. Ulugbek said he became disillusioned with the group in 2001 and accepted a government amnesty offer in 2003. He said he was recruited by an HT cell leader named Musafir, who lived in his neighborhood in Tashkent, the capital.

“I got sick in 1990, and was quite ill for four years. Musafir taught me how to pray and perform Muslim rituals. He told me that if I would pray, I would be healed. I did not know at first that Musafir was a leader of HT.

“Musafir introduced me to a book called ‘The Structure of Islam.’ The first two parts of the book were about duties of worship, but the third part tells about the duty to overthrow the government and help re-establish the caliphate. It says the duty to restore the caliphate is more important than prayer.

“Musafir taught a group of four or five of us in our homes. After studying the book for some months, he called us together and urged us to swear an oath to be faithful to HT. We all accepted a written pledge. Then he told me I should become a teacher, too, so I began preparing to do that.

“By 1998, I was a teacher, but my chief duty was recruiting.

“During these years, I worked in cafes or as a house painter, tithing 10 percent of my income. This was burdensome, because the fee had to be paid whether I was employed or not. But my foremost job was to carry out the orders of my chief, and I reported to the chief every day.”

Mr. Ulugbek said the heavy-handed management of the HT chiefs took their toll.

“The chiefs were very abusive. They frequently humiliated us, and then used the oath we had taken to shame us into obedience. ‘But you promised, you promised!’ they would say.

“When some of us questioned their teachings, they rebuked us, saying that our level of understanding did not qualify us to ask such questions. We were told that our regional leader was God’s representative, and that we could not question his orders.

“By 2001, I came to the conclusion that the group was up to no good, and decided to get work in Kazakhstan, where I stayed for a year.

“At the urging of my parents, I took up the amnesty offer of the government this year, and I am really happy I got the pardon. Now I don’t hesitate to call my friends who are still in the group and urge them to quit. In my opinion, the government is not very strict. The amnesty is available to those who ask for it.”


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