American engagement with the Central Asian states - key allies in the "war
on terror" - is being misrepresented and exploited by regional governments,
whose actions are fuelling instability in the region, local and
international analysts believe.
Authoritarian leaders especially in Uzbekistan, the main player, continue to
ignore pleas for change in their human rights practices. They are misreading
- sometimes wilfully - the signals sent by the United States that political
reform is important, too, and continuing in the belief that as valued
partners they can do pretty much as they like.
America continues to be a major donor of programmes to promote democracy and
civil rights in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and to a
limited extent Turkmenistan. Officials argue they are doing a lot to
encourage change in places like Uzbekistan.
But many analysts argue that these positive initiatives have now been so
overshadowed by the military agenda, where a readiness to provide air bases
and other facilities is key to improving relations, that regional
governments feel empowered to ignore them and continue with poor policies
that threaten to alienate their populations. . . .
[Acacia Shields, author of a Human Rights Watch report on Uzbekistan also
released yesterday, said: "Our concern is that the government will turn to
the 'usual suspects', including religious and political dissidents."--Andrew
Jack, "Further unrest leaves 22 dead in
Uzbekistan," Financial Times, March 30, 2004]
[Russia's Itar-Tass news agency on Wednesday said Uzbek security forces
arrested 30 people on suspicion of involvement in violence blamed by the
U.S.-backed government on Islamic "terrorists". But scepticism mounted over
Human rights groups, which estimate that Uzbekistan has locked 7,000 Muslim
dissidents in prisons where torture is allegedly practised, say they fear
the blasts will serve as a pretext for further crackdowns on non-violent
Muslims.--Michael Steen, "Uzbeks arrest 'terror' suspects," Reuters,
March 31, 2004]
Bombs of Tashkent," Washington Post, April 1, 2004
Eric Margolis, "U.S. ignores human rights record of new best friend,"
Toronto Sun, April 5, 2004