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8/17/05

Uzbeks Picket Dutch Embassy In Tehran

17 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A group of Uzbeks held a peaceful protest outside the Dutch Embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran today, RFE/RL reported.

Thirty-seven men, women, and children participated in the demonstration. They arrived in Tehran from the city of Zahidan in southeastern Iran on 16 August. The protesters demanded to be given an asylum in the Netherlands.

Police were watching the crowd without interfering.

Dutch Embassy officials met with several protesters and recommended them to go to the United Nations' refugee office.

The demonstrators told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tehran that 87 Uzbeks fled Uzbekistan, in 1997, first to Tajikistan, then to Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have lived in Iran for several years but have not been given a refugee status.

"We've been here in Iran for 3 1/2 years," one demonstrator, who asked not to be identified, said. "The reason we haven't contacted the Iranian government is that the world didn't know about the nature of the regime in Uzbekistan and [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov until recently. But after 13 May [violent crackdown of protestors in Andijon], it became clear who Karimov is. Then, we decided to go to the UNHCR. But our case hasn't been solved yet, therefore we came to Holland's embassy."

The Netherlands recently gave political asylum to a number of Uzbeks who fled their home country after the Andijon crackdown by Uzbek forces last May.


Copyright (c) 2005 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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