Category Archives: Uzbekistan

John Kerry Is Cautious on Human Rights During Uzbekistan Visit

David Sanger reports for The New York Times:

Secretary of State John Kerry prides himself on his willingness to deal directly with some of the world’s most repressive governments, and his insistence on “engagement” has yielded results this year from Iran to Cuba. But even the State Department had a hard time explaining the strategy for transforming the behavior of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, a ruler whose human rights record is frequently compared to North Korea’s.

The United States Embassy in Tashkent, the capital, famously described Mr. Karimov’s government, in a diplomatic cable leaked in the WikiLeaks trove, as a “nightmarish world of rampant corruption, organized crime, forced labor in the cotton fields and torture.” The State Department’s human rights reports indicate that with the possible exception of child labor, the situation has not improved. Mr. Karimov has been in power for a quarter-century and is in his fourth term, brushing off reminders that Uzbekistan’s Constitution limits him to two.

On Sunday, Mr. Kerry spent more than an hour with Mr. Karimov, on the second stop of a tour of all five Central Asian nations. And like the Bush administration and his immediate predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who visited here in 2011 and relaxed some of the sanctions imposed after hundreds of antigovernment protesters were shot in the streets a decade ago, he found himself struggling over how hard, and how publicly, to press one of the harshest authoritarian governments in the world.



Scandal Shakes Uzbekistan’s Ruling Family

Erich Follath writes for Spiegel:

[…] Welcome to Uzbekistan, a country that in recent months has been home to a drama that could have come straight from Shakespeare’s pen. Playing the leading roles are: a dictator, who has had his country under his iron grip for a quarter-century; his glamorous daughter, who he had been grooming as his successor; and his wife, who was conspiring with the head of the country’s intelligence agency against the plan. It is a drama about power, billions of dollars and corruption. There’s also a possibility of legal proceedings that could land his favorite daughter in jail for a long time to come. Artist Okhunov plays a small, but not unimportant, supporting role: that of the critical observer.

Uzbekistan is the second most important country in Central Asia after Kazakhstan. It’s a country filled with UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the famous Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, linked together like a pearl necklace with their turquoise cupolas, mosaic-covered mosques and caravansaries. Uzbekistan also has the potential for great wealth, with large reserves of uranium and natural gas along with gold mines. In addition, it is one of the world’s largest cotton exporters. The country is home to 30 million residents and is about one-third larger than Germany in area. It is also on the fault lines of the new Cold War, with Russia, China and the United States all lining up to court it.’


U.S. Firms Accused of Enabling Surveillance in Despotic Central Asian Regimes

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - U.S. Firms Accused of Enabling Surveillance in Despotic Central Asian Regimes‘U.S. and Israeli companies have been selling surveillance systems to Central Asian countries with records of political repression and human rights abuse, according to a new report by Privacy International. The U.K.-based watchdog charges that the American firms Verint and Netronome enable surveillance in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Verint’s Israeli arm provides those countries with monitoring centers “capable of mass interception of telephone, mobile, and IP networks,” the report says, as does the Israeli company NICE systems. Verint also enlisted California-based Netronome to give Uzbek agents the ability to intercept encrypted communications, Privacy International says, though it’s not clear whether the program was carried out successfully.

The report provides a broad picture of surveillance in a region that is marked by repression. Kazakhstan has been condemned for laws restricting free speech and assembly, flawed trials, and torture. As for Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch bluntly characterizes the country’s human rights record as “atrocious.”


Islam Karimov: The Uzbek dictator who has locked up his pop diva daughter

Cahal Milmo writes for The Independent:

karimova-gt.jpg[…] The Shakespearean drama has been variously blamed on a clash between Ms Karimova and the head of the Uzbek intelligence services, Rustam Inoyatov – late last year Ms Karimova suggested via social media that he was trying to seize power – and a dispute with her own mother and sister, which is strongly denied by them.

Others have argued that Mr Karimov, who, at 76, has ruled his country with a rod of iron for close to 25 years, has put his daughter out of reach because her business dealings, together with legal problems in Europe, had made her a liability.

Now Islam Karimov Jnr, Ms Karimova’s son, has entered the dynastic fray by taking the unusual step of making a direct and public appeal to the grandfather after whom he is named to end his mother’s detention.’


The Toxic Uzbek Town and Its Museum of Banned Soviet Art

Stephen Bland writes for VICE News:

‘Making our way out of Uzbekistan’s Xorazm Province, we began our three-hour drive to the city of Nukus, capital of the country’s autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Up until the late-1990s, the land we were driving through was still cotton fields; today, it’s just an expanse of salty grey emptiness.

Once a thriving agricultural center, Karakalpakstan is now one of the sickest places on Earth. Respiratory illness, typhoid, tuberculosis and oesophageal cancers are rife, and the region has the highest infant mortality rate in the former USSR.’


Uzbekistan ‘unspeakable abuse’ of political prisoners

BBC News reports:

Humans Rights Watch has called for the release of 'everyone imprisoned on politically motivated charges'‘Political prisoners in Uzbekistan suffer “unspeakable abuses”, including torture and abysmal jail conditions according to Human Rights Watch. A new report says that activists, journalists and government critics are locked up for years and often have their sentences extended arbitrarily. The Uzbek authorities say there are no political prisoners in the country and that torture is being eliminated.

The report looks at the cases of 34 current and 10 former prisoners. “We have concluded that at least 29 out of these 44 prisoners have alleged credibly that they have been tortured either during the pre-trial custody phase or in prison,” Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the BBC. One case highlighted in the report is that of prominent journalist Muhammad Bekjanov who has been held since 1999.’


Uzbekistan’s flamboyant first daughter grounded by corruption charge

Olivia Ward reports for the Toronto Star:

‘Gulnara Karimova wants to be wanted, but in a good way. Now Uzbekistan’s flamboyant First Daughter is wanted by all the wrong people – state prosecutors who this month charged her with “ systemic corruption .”

Karimova is currently under house arrest and under investigation, and her fast and furious social media communications have been cut off for seven months.

A London PR firm, hired to defend her reputation, issued a press statement that she is “being held for purely political reasons.” The uznews website published photos of a harried-looking Karimova gripped by a beefy camouflage-clad guard, and minus her trademark bling and blond mane.’


In Uzbekistan, ‘slave labour’ used to harvest cotton

In 2012, Uzbek human rights defenders observed school children picking cotton, particularly in more remote fields.From The Toronto Star:

[…] Uzbekistan, once part of the former Soviet Union, is a dry, landlocked country in Central Asia. Islam Karimov, 75, has been president since 1990, having won three consecutive elections that were widely considered to have been rigged. Karimov’s Uzbekistan is infamous for its use of torture, violent suppression of dissent and persecution of human rights activists.

Uzbekistan has significant gold and uranium deposits, as well as natural gas reserves. But it has gained its notoriety from cotton.

It is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of cotton, earning $1 billion (U.S.) annually in exports to China, Turkey, Russia, the European Union and Bangladesh.

This year, Uzbekistan expects to harvest 3.35 million tonnes of cotton between September and November. Its citizens will be forced to pick the crop — as they have been since 1991.

Uzbeks must perform hashar — national duty — which the government defines as supporting the cotton harvest. Authorities force adults in the public sector — teachers, doctors, nurses — as well as vulnerable citizens and schoolchildren into the cotton fields. They are threatened with physical violence and the loss of jobs, social benefits and even their pensions. Others are threatened with public humiliation.


Kanye West plays lucrative gig for controversial Kazakhstan president (and other wealthy despot prostitutes)

Kanye West attends the 2013 MTV Video Music awards in New YorkFrom The Guardian:

Kanye West allegedly spent Saturday night in Kazakhstan, performing at a wedding for the grandson of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Despite international protests over Nazarbayev’s human rights record, West apparently accepted millions for a gig at Almaty’s luxurious Grand Tulip Hotel.

News of West’s appearance emerged via Twitter and Instagram postings by several of the party’s guests. One attendee, a professional photographer, shared video from the show. The pixelated footage shows the rapper performing to an ambivalent crowd: people scarcely seem to be paying attention; when they are, they are posing for photographs.

According to Kazakh website Tengrinews (via Buzzfeed), the party celebrated the nuptials of Aysultan Nazarbayev and Alima Boranbayeva. Aysultan, 23, is the youngest son of President Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter. He is a graduate of Sandhurst, and now works for the country’s ministry of defence. Boranbayeva, 20, reportedly attends London’s Courtauld Institute of Art. Her father is Kayrat Boranbayev, chairman of the joint Kazakh-Russian state oil venture KazRosGas.

Celebrity blog TMZ claimed West received $3m (£1.93m) to appear at the royal wedding reception, offering up songs such as Can’t Tell Me Nothing. Before the bash, Tengrinews reported that other performers might include the Turkish singer Mustafa Sandal, Ukrainian pop star Elka, actors Gennady Khazanov and Nonna Grishaeva, and even, “according to some sources”, Beyoncé Knowles. Alas for the happy couple: there is no indication that the Crazy in Love singer followed West to Astana.



‘Uzbeks tortured me,’ says British Embassy man ~ Independent

SEE ALSO: Human Rights Watch Report on Uzbekistan 2012

by Jonathan Owen and James Hanning
The Independent

Britain has been accused of abandoning a Foreign Office employee who says he was tortured by the Uzbek authorities and accused of spying for London.

Kayum Ortikov, 44, a married father of four who worked for the British government as a security guard, ended up in a dungeon in Tashkent after being arrested on charges of “human trafficking”. It appears the extent of his “crime” was trying to help arrange visas for some relatives to work in Russia.

Mr Ortikov claims that his refusal to become an informant for Uzbekistan’s secret police led to torture sessions in which he was accused of spying for the British.