The American administration keeps strengthening its friendly relations with the leaders of the countries of Central Asia of the former Soviet Union. It can be now said who is best for the White House: the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov. At least the leader of this republic received an invitation from George Bush to visit the USA this March.
Karimov does not have extensive experience in communication with top American officials yet. In 1996, Islam Karimov had a 40-minute meeting with Bill Clinton; it was devoted to the issue of human rights in Uzbekistan. Is it possible to say that the situation with the human rights in Uzbekistan changed after the events of September 11? The answer is no, 100%.
There is some information that there are up to six thousand people in the prisons of Uzbekistan, people who were imprisoned for political reasons. Uzbekistan’s independent magazine ARBA wrote in August 2001, shortly before the terrorist attack on America, “There is a totalitarian regime in Uzbekistan. Karimov’s regime has been waging constant political, punitive, and informational warfare against the otherwise-minded people and the democratic opposition of Uzbekistan, both within the country and beyond its borders.”
In January of 1992, a students’ demonstration was broken up in Uzbekistan. The students who voted for Muhammad Salikh in 1991 (the leader of the opposition movement in Uzbekistan) were demanding democratic changes in the country. After the acts of terrorism in the capital of Uzbekistan Tashkent on February 16, 1999, the Uzbek government rushed to accuse Muslims of the act, who did not like “the stability and welfare of the country.” President Karimov promised to cut their hands off. Another stage of the persecution of the otherwise-minded people started in the republic under the disguise of the anti-terrorist struggle. Muhammad Salikh became the prime suspect of those acts of terror.
Western specialists in the field of human rights repeatedly warned President Bush against friendship with the Asian tyrants, claiming it was dangerous for the democratic image of the United States. However, the Bush’s administration chose a simpler way: it did not go deep into the roots of the regional despotism; it simply asked the leaders of the region to create the semblance of submission to the democratic principles.
Uzbekistan, a country with a hopelessly backward financial system, according to IMF’s opinion, was promised to be given a market economy status. President Karimov acknowledged his mistakes and realized he should not have suppressed the opposition: “The new system will give a good incentive to the establishment of a multi-party system in the country. Each party will aspire to exert as much influence as possible, trying to win more seats in the lower house of the parliament.”
However, a referendum, which took place on January 27, 2002, included another question in addition to the bicameral parliament, about the extension of the term of the presidency, adding two more years. The lower house will become professional and permanent at that, and the sense of the election system will change: “Those privileges of the president to appoint the officials to certain positions will be handed over to the parliament. Therefore, a lot of directions of the executive power will be subordinated not to the president, but to the upper house. I have to say we want to learn a lot from the experience of the United States,” – Karimov stated.
The results of the referendum were so fake and predictable that the American administration had to react. However, this reaction was rather sluggish: they expressed their concern and nothing more. So does the issue of human rights mean that little to the American administration? Is it one of the means to gain predominant influence in the regions? Why is the White House constantly accusing others of the violation of the human rights in Iran or in North Korea but prefers to keep silent when such things occur in Uzbekistan? Are army bases more relevant?
Washington supports Karimov; that is a fact. How long will this support last? This will depend on Karimov’s ability to assure the USA in his own irreplaceability. Since the miserable political and economic situation in the country is so unlikely to change soon, Karimov’s chances to stay in power and even strengthen his grip with the help of the American administration are rather high.
Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/11/36888.html