After a Tashkent graveyard was desecrated, Uzbek police arrested young goth men. But goths say they didn’t do it. Photo by Flickr user eastwords.
Graves in one of Tashkent’s oldest Christian cemeteries were recently damaged, and police needed suspects. According to the BBC, the officers arrested two young men they called “goths.”
The only problem is, anyone who knows goths knows that they see graves as museum artifacts or rare antiques — something to be respected, admired, and revered; not destroyed. That’s what goths told the BBC, adding that they feel the conservative government in Uzbekistan is trying to squeeze them out.
[Uzbek goth Leticia] says she can count barely 200 goths in Uzbekistan, a country with a population of 30 million. She knows most of them through Facebook where her friends list their second name as Manson – a tribute to their hero, American singer Marilyn Manson.
Goths in the country have faced arrest and public harassment, and are banned from entering Tashkent’s Roman Catholic Church. Many have been detained by police, only to be let go for lack of charges. Maybe that doesn’t sound bad, but according to goths, it gets much worse:
There has been a campaign in Uzbek media denouncing Western mass culture for encouraging “immorality” among the youth and for “damaging the country’s national values and traditions”. Rap, rock and heavy metal have been labelled “alien music” and some genres have been subsequently banned.
Recently even Russian state TV broadcast claimed that goths engage in cannibalism. Many Uzbeks watch Russian television and are influenced by such coverage.
During one punk rock concert during the last two years, masked police turned up in large numbers and began rounding up the fans, detaining some for several hours.
Unfortunately, Uzbek police and government leaders would not talk to the BBC, making this a very one-sided story.
However, this kind of behavior toward alternative cultures is common in countries where conservative religion dominates — and Uzbekistan is upwards of 90% Muslim. Laws also ban all religious practices not approved by the state; even Protestant Christians are persecuted. In other conservative regions, from Lebanon to Morocco, we’ve seen alternative, western-based subcultures persecuted and arrested, particularly metalheads.
Such attacks often come when governments become publicly unstable or appear weak — or when they want to distract the public from other problems. So what’s going on in Uzbekistan right now? Well, it’s also in the news this week for arresting five telecommunications workers and suspending MTS’s license, alleging that the agency owes Uzbekistan $900 million in taxes. Other international firms have also faced inexplicable backlash, all of which could spell trouble if Uzbekistan hopes to host major corporations in the future.
As MTS went dark, a third of the nation’s mobile devices went offline. Not much could distract people from that — but what about arresting young deadbeats who desecrate graves? That might just do the trick.