It took a massacre…


…to fully reveal that which the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan repeatedly told his government, to no avail, and at the cost of his job.

Craig John Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002-2004. While serving in that nations’ capital, Tashkent, he accused the administration of Uzbekistan President Islom Abdug‘aniyevich Karimov of human rights abuses. Murray repeatedly complained to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda, suspected of being gained through torture, was unreliable, immoral, and illegal. He described this as “selling our souls for dross”. Murray was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on October 14, 2004. [Source]

Craig Murray has chronicled his saga in the book Murder in Samarkand, which I have recently read and which has prompted this article.

Murray’s main point is that the USA, from 11 September 2001, was so intent on fighting “the war on terror” that its government tolerated the kind of official behavior in Uzbekistan which it declaimed against under Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—that is, repression, torture and atrocities on its own people. Further, the then government of the United Kingdom fully supported the USA position and was complicit in consciously ignoring violations of human rights, under the United Nations Charter including, especially, the use of torture to gain “intelligence.”

The British government has denied this, to date.

REPORT OF THE UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, February 2003—Mission to Uzbekistan: Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. [Please click on the report’s title, above, to access it in MS Word and PDF format)].

Karshi-Khanabad is an airbase in south-eastern Uzbekistan. Between 2001 and 2005 the United States Air Force used the base, also known as K2 and “Stronghold Freedom”, for support missions against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. [Source]

The USA ended its official relationship with Uzbekistan in late 2005 when it “closed its air base in Uzbekistan that was used for Afghanistan operations, a shutdown ordered by Uzbek President Islam Karimov after the United States joined calls for an international inquiry into the authoritarian leader’s handling of the Andijan uprising.” [Source]

The Andijan massacre occurred when Uzbek Interior Ministry and National Security Service troops fired into a crowd of protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan on 13 May 2005. Estimates of those killed on 13 May range from between 187, the official count of the government, and 5,000 people, with most outside reports estimating several hundred dead. A defector from Uzbekistan’s secret service alleged that 1,500 were killed.

Calls from Western governments for an international investigation prompted a major shift in Uzbek foreign policy favoring closer relations with Asian nations. The Uzbek government ordered the closing of the United States air base in Karshi-Khanabad and improved ties with the People’s Republic of China, India, and Russia, all of which supported the regime’s response in Andijan. [Source]

The unrest in the Ferghana Region has a lot to do with its minority Tajik population which were then (possibly still are) repressed and labeled, at various times, as Islamic extremists. Some observers claim that the repression drove some Tajiks toward extreme Islamism. But there is no doubt that at least a small fraction of Tajik-Uzbeks belong to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The region’s ethnic politics are complicated by the fact that the Soviet Union purposefully changed the borders of the “Soviet Republics” of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as you can see from this tortuous border around the Ferghana Valley.

[Source of Map. Please click on the image for clearer detail.]

For a variety of reasons the designers of the Soviet “national delimitation” in Central Asia discriminated against the Tajiks, having deprived the newly formed republic of Tajikistan of the two most important centers of Tajik urban culture, Bukhara and Samarkand, as well as regions of Fergana, Surhandarya and Khwrazm which were awarded to Uzbekistan. The majority of population in Uzbekistan are Tajiks. In the words of William Beeman, professor of anthropology at Brown University: “The Tajik situation in some ways resembles that of post-colonial Africa. Tajiks have been given an impossible piece of territory with disparate population and have been forced to make a nation out of it.”

The majority of Tajiks live outside border of what is known as Tajikistan today.The largest number of Tajiks are living in Uzbekistan, where the majority of Tajiks are forced to be registered as Uzbeks (the Tajiks on the official Uzbeki data, make about 4% of the population of this republic), but the real number of Tajiks living in Uzbekistan believed to be over 50 percent (11-14 millions) of the population.“ [Source]

I offer, in closing, these observations and sources regarding the Republic of Uzbekistan:

[Image Source]

…(N)on-governmental human rights watchdogs, such as IHF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United States Department of State and Council of the European Union define Uzbekistan as “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights” and express profound concern about “wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights.” According to the reports, the most widespread violations are torture, arbitrary arrests, and various restrictions of freedoms: of religion, of speech and press, of free association and assembly. The reports maintain that the violations are most often committed against members of religious organizations, independent journalists, human rights activists and political activists, including members of the banned opposition parties. In 2005, Uzbekistan was included into Freedom House’s “The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies. [Source].

Press Service of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Governmental Portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan

President Visits Ferghana Region

Dictator of the Month, December 2006

US slams Uzbek election as unfree, unfair and laughable [January 12, 2000]


About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate Californian living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles and creative writing.
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