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Soviet Statement Vague in Denying Pogroms in Uzbekistan Cities

The Soviet press agency Novosti has circulated this weekend a Joint statement issued in Uzbekistan by Jewish and Moslem clergymen denying reports issued by the B’nai B’rith at a press conference in Washington last month that “blood libel” pogroms on Jews took place in the two Uzbekistan cities of Tashkent and Margelan.

The denial made no reference to the blood ritual libels. The closest it got to the specific charges was to refer to “rumors of some kind of strife” between Jews and Moslems arising from “some misunderstanding on religious grounds, ” The joint Jewish-Moslem clergy statement said the “rumors” were “absolutely untrue” and the facts reported were “fabricated.”

The Guardian here carrying the Soviet denial, points out that the Moscow Joint Jewish-Moslem statement avoids mention of the relevant facts and therefore “adds plausibility” to the original reports.

The joint statement referred to reports involving both cities. The B’nai B’rith had charged that in Margelan, a Jewish woman named Mazol Yusupova was accused of having kidnapped and killed the two-year-old child of a Margelan Moslem for a “ritual murder.” According to the charge, she was arrested and formally charged with abduction and murder and reports of the arrest touched off mob rioting against the Margelan Jews. It turned out that the child had been kidnapped but by a Moslem woman.

The denial in the Moscow joint statement took the form of a query: “What did in fact happen in Margelan? A little Uzbek girl was reported missing. The panic-stricken parents were frantic with worry. The state authorities took every measure to find the child. The search lasted for days. It finally turned out that the girl had been kidnapped by an Uzbek woman from Andizhan who was mentally unbalanced because of sterility. Does this incident offer any grounds for religious strife? Of course it does not.”

In Tashkent, the B’nai B’rith charged, the Jews were assaulted last May 9 following spread of a rumor that Abigai Bangieva, a 70-year-old woman who runs a small shop, had taken blood from the ear of a Moslem girl for use in a Passover ritual. Wild rioting against the Jews of Tashkent followed.

The Joint statement, in its comment on this charge, said: “On May 9 last year, a fight broke out between an Uzbek and his neighbors, three Bokhara Jews, This is certainly a regrettable fact but what is to be done about it? Although the state and we, the clergy, are making every effort to get people to stop, heavy drinking and fighting, incidents entailing both sometimes occur. Certain people painstakingly amplify this hooliganism to make it fit into the category of ‘religious strife’ and are trying to prove that there is some kind of religious feud between Moslems and Jews.”

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