Murray’s July 2004 Guardian Profile

by Laurence on 10/12/2004 · 14 comments

Nick Paton Walsh’s interview was headlined The envoy who said too much, and had some juicy tidbits. Most damaging appear to be the Guardian’s characterization of Murray as a typical expatriate, and charges that a British Embassy staffer working for Murray was of accused of attacking Uzbeks with a rottweiler and baseball bat…

* …his personal life became more complicated when he met Nadira Alieva, an attractive, 23-year-old English teacher with a passion for the dancefloor, in a Tashkent bar. They soon began an affair.

* In February, the Mail on Sunday revealed his relationship with Alieva. Fiona, his wife, who friends say was aware of the affair, could not stomach the public humiliation and left Tashkent. She is now separated from Murray, and has taken his 10-year-old daughter, Emily, with her back to London. Today, Murray lives alone, bar visits from Alieva, in a small but palatial residence in Tashkent. His many bedrooms are empty and his pool largely unused – Murray can’t swim..

*On September 2 he had a breakdown, collapsing while having a medical check in Tashkent. He was flown back to London and put on suicide watch in St Thomas’s hospital. He told friends he had lost the use of his muscles. He said he felt powerful people were concocting allegations against him and he was not even allowed to call witnesses to defend himself. Murray refused to resign, and the pressure continued. In September, the FCO sent out a senior official, Tony Crombie, who was instructed to interview only staff in the Tashkent embassy as part of an investigation into the charges. Some staff dismissed the charges as nonsense, while others provided meagre support for claims that Murray had at times appeared a little “worse for wear” in the mornings.

*Chris Hirst, the embassy’s third secretary, was accused by the local authorities of attacking local Uzbekistanis on the capital’s streets often accompanied by his baseball bat and rottweiler. The authorities had been pushed into making formal complaints against Hirst. While he was out of town, a complaint got through to Murray and he had him immediately sent back to London. Subsequently Hirst resigned.

*He says he advocates a new style of ambassadorship, one that is more down to earth and less stuffy. “You don’t have to be a pompous old fart to be an ambassador.”

Yet this lack of discretion also applies to his personal life. Murray’s great sin, in the eyes of the FCO, may be that he chose to live the life of a typical expat in the former Soviet Union. He is an unashamed socialiser, almost keen to let me know that he cares little how much I see of his colourful personal life. On Friday night, he takes me to the Rande-vue bar beneath one of Samarkand’s hotels. We begin in the Bohar restaurant, where a series of dancing girls in traditional costume, then in cowboy outfits, parade on stage, while Murray drinks a couple of neat whiskies. Then we move on to the Jazz Bar in the Meridian hotel, where workers for Halliburton, servicing the US base at Kharshi come to unwind in the company of local girls. “I joined the Foreign Office, not a monastery,” Murray explains. “I have no intention of living like a monk – not that I have anything against monks. It has been put to me that this is perhaps not what ambassadors do…”

*”I had always wanted to be a whisky salesman,” says Murray.

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BDC October 12, 2004 at 7:53 am

Hi there Nathan e.a., I am a regular be it so far silent visitor of The Argus. The above sounds quite hallucinting especially the Rottweiler and baseball bat thing… :)))) We can not be sure that it is not a coordinated smear campaign to discredit an outspoken troublemaker though I have not difficulty imagining this: “Murray’s great sin, in the eyes of the FCO, may be that he chose to live the life of a typical expat in the former Soviet Union.” It is exactly that, that makes Westerners less credible and liked by the day.


Nathan October 12, 2004 at 9:42 am

Even if some of the charges are a bit excessive, I am positive that much of what is being said about Murray is entirely accurate. I know at least one other man in the government/aid community who ran off with a 20-something Uzbek woman, and then there were always the rumors…

It’s interesting to note that Murray essentially dismissed Chris Hirst. In fact, it speaks to why Murray needs to be fired himself. In the Peace Corps, they told us time and time again that it’s not only important to stay out of trouble, but to also avoid the appearance of impropriety. Putting yourself in a situation where your motives or actions can be easily misinterpreted is grounds for dismissal or relocation as a government employee overseas. As unfair as that may sound, it is sound policy.

By the way, thanks for reading, Bruno!

BDC October 13, 2004 at 5:49 am

Hi there Nathan:

I don’t know what your stance is on the Tashkent regime but Murray’s criticism is essentially right. It is a rogue state. The problem is that the perception of sleazy personal behavior has essentially given ammo to all those who want to discredit him.

“I know at least one other man in the government/aid community who ran off with a 20-something Uzbek woman”

Are we thinking about the same case?


Laurence October 13, 2004 at 8:14 am

Bruno, Uzbekistan may be authoritarian and repressive, but it is not a rogue state. Karimov didn’t gas his neighbors, doesn’t support terrorism, isn’t at war with the US, and there have been no mass murders. In fact, Karimov is an ally of both the US and Russia in the war against terrorism. You might not like his regime, but right now he is not a threat.

BDC October 13, 2004 at 9:56 am

I don’t agree. The Karimov regime played a role that was dubious at best in arming and hosting certain warlords and factions during the civil war in Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, the Tashkent regime is largely loathed and blamed for having exacerbated the civil war that way.

Same with Dostum in Northern Afghanistan.

Also, Laurence: it may be no threat to the US and the EU -neither is Syria BTW- but does that gives it the right to be a rogue towards its own people?

Laurence October 13, 2004 at 12:13 pm

Bruno, Uzbekistan may be unpopular with Tajiks, not surprising since Uzbek-Tajik ethnic conflict goes back to the time of the Persian and Turkic eras, and many Tajiks believe Samarkand and Bukhara should be in Tajikistan, but that does not make Uzbekistan a rogue state. You might honestly call Uzbekistan repressive, authoritarian, Soviet-style, and many other things, but rogue state— understood to mean a nation that is outside the international community– is just not one of them.

Unless you define rogue so loosely as to mean any government you don’t like, merely as an indication of personal distaste…

Laurence October 13, 2004 at 12:32 pm

Bruno, here’s a definition of “rogue state” from WordNet:

1. rogue state, renegade state, rogue nation — (a Third World state that possesses weapons of mass destruction and sponsors terrorism)

At this time, so far as I know, Uzbekistan does not possess weapons of mass destruction and does not sponsor terrorism. Therefore, it would not be covered by this definition.

BDC October 13, 2004 at 3:33 pm

Imagine it gets them in the foreseeable future (not impossible BTW). How would your reaction be?

Laurence October 13, 2004 at 4:38 pm

Karimov used to have nuclear weapons, from the USSR. He agreed with the other Central Asian leaders to make Central Asia a nuclear weapons free zone. Next question?

upyernoz October 13, 2004 at 5:03 pm

if you need WMDs to be a rogue state, then iraq apparently wasn’t a rogue state either, nor are any of the 1/2 dozen states that have been given that term over the past decade or so (except maybe north korea)

the term “rogue state” used to be defined as a state that ignored international conventions and agreements. but arguably, by “unsigning” treaties and announcing that it will not be bound by certain international commitments, the u.s. would also be a rogue state by that definition

i’m not saying that the u.s. is a rogue state, its just an example of how those terms are empty of content and usually used as way to put negative labels on countries you don’t like under the guise of objective assessment.

Laurence October 13, 2004 at 5:57 pm

I think your comment shows you want to make up your own definitions to call Uzbekistan (and maybe America) names. Iraq did not renounce the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, had an active program to develop them, and used them in the past–completely opposite to Uzbekistan. Saddam Hussein was also at war with the United States, and violated the terms of the cease-fire by refusing to disclose what he did with the unaccounted for WMD –he did have them, what were the UN inspectors looking for, and why would they have needed more time to find them,if they were never there?

Nathan Hamm October 13, 2004 at 8:04 pm

I have to kind of agree with upyernoz that “rogue state” is a fairly worthless term. At least it is now due to opportunistic uses at both ends of the political spectrum.

That being said, I don’t find a place for the Karimov government anywhere inside the nebulous cloud of rogue state definitions. If it does, then the term is especially meaningless. The scale of human rights abuses aren’t as high as one would guess from the breathless reporting on them would suggest. The involvement in the Tajik civil war, no matter what the Tajiks think about it now, was pretty important to Uzbek security to a certain extent. Also, they weren’t supporting the Islamists; quite a responsible move on my part.

(Incidentally, I’m a card-carrying citizen of the Rogue Nation. It’s kind of like the Kiss Army, but about beer.)

upyernoz October 13, 2004 at 10:52 pm

I think your comment shows you want to make up your own definitions to call Uzbekistan (and maybe America) names

on the contrary, i don’t think you understand my point. i think the term “rogue state” is so nebulous that you can make an argument that it applies to virtually every country. it is essentially a meaningless term. i think nathan understood me

i disagree with some of what laurence wrote about iraq in that last paragraph, but i’m not sure if anyone really want to have this thread drift into that issue.

BDC October 14, 2004 at 3:58 am

“Karimov used to have nuclear weapons, from the USSR. He agreed with the other Central Asian leaders to make Central Asia a nuclear weapons free zone.”

Sorry mate I don’t take that sort of engagements seriously at all. These people declare and commit a lot especially when they smell $$$ and think and do something else.

“if you need WMDs to be a rogue state, then iraq apparently wasn’t a rogue state either”


The thing with those banana republic regimes that they can exist and bully around as long as they are useful for certain external powers, in this case the US and Russia. Sooner or later they become cocky and unmanageable that will be it. Just ask Saddam and Mobutu.

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