USCIRF Announces Recommendations

by Nathan Hamm on 5/12/2005

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its annual report and recommendations to Secretary of State Rice. Action on the list of countries of particular concern (PDF) include removing India, keeping Turkmenistan on the list, and adding Uzbekistan for the first time ever.

In addition to a restrictive law on religion that severely limits the ability of religious communities to function in Uzbekistan, the Uzbek government continues to exercise a high degree of control over the manner in which the Islamic faith is practiced. Uzbek authorities also continue to crack down harshly on Muslim individuals, groups, and mosques that do not conform to government-prescribed practices or that the government claims are associated with extremist political programs. This has resulted in the imprisonment of thousands of persons in recent years, many of whom are denied the right to due process, and there are credible reports that many of those arrested continue to be tortured or beaten in detention. Though security threats do exist in Uzbekistan, including from members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and other groups that claim a religious linkage, these threats do not excuse or justify the scope and harshness of the government’s ill treatment of religious believers. The Commission’s CPC recommendation for Uzbekistan should in no way be construed as a defense of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist and highly intolerant organization that promotes hatred against moderate Muslims, the West, Jews, and others.

In the arena of critiques of Uzbekistan’s restrictions of freedom of worship, this is probably one of the first I’ve seen that takes seriously the threat posed by some religious organizations. It both acknowledges that some religious groups are a threat to security (and it should be added, to religious freedom) and that the Uzbek government often overstates the case. The full report on Uzbekistan begins on page 98 and details the difficulties faced by all religions in Uzbekistan.

For what this designation means, see page 41 of the report (PDF).

One of the recommendations for Uzbekistan that I find particularly worth pointing out is for the US government to better coordinate our message across all agencies to ensure that our concern for human rights is reflected in all of our relations. There are also a wide range of public diplomacy recommendations and calls for establishing a series of benchmarks that direct aid should be contingent on. Though I’m not sure this is exactly what they mean, I support rewarding (or bribing, call it what you will) the Uzbek government for achieving certain benchmarks rather than punishing them for not meeting them.

The entire 192-page report can be accessed here (PDF).

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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