A Rare Roundup

by Nathan Hamm on 10/4/2005 · 4 comments

Central Asia news seems either to be a trickle or a flood. And if it’s flooding on one of the two days I have class (which is not as good as it sounds, I assure you), you get the following, which covers the flurry of stories out of Uzbekistan lately.

Activist in Psychiatric Hospital
This is a few days old, but deserves more attention than it may be getting over here. Yelena Urlayeva, the human rights activist arrested a month ago for distributing political leaflets and currently held in a psychiatric hospital, says that authorities are trying to get her to declare herself mentally ill.

Neither lawyers nor relatives are allowed to visit her. But a reporter seeking information in the hospital grounds saw her at a barred window.

The government is accused of hiding the truth over this year’s uprising
Speaking rapidly for fear of being caught, Ms Urlayeva said she had been beaten because the authorities wanted her to declare herself mentally ill. She said she had refused.

They want to transfer her to another part of the hospital where she said there were many political prisoners. And she said that if she was caught talking to anyone she feared she would be beaten again.

She was initially declared in good mental health at one hospital, but prosecutors sent her elsewhere for further tests. Just to get a second opinion, I’m sure…

Arms Embargo
It is now official. The EU has passed a package of sanctions against Uzbekistan. With the passage, Uzbekistan gets the distinction of being the first country with which the EU has suspended a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

The head of the Popular Democratic Party has accused the EU of double standards, which he supports with the following arguments with which I’ve taken poetic license. But the spirit is intact I assure you.

  • This is obviously a plot to destabilize Central Asia and steal resources.
  • I mean, come on, European democracy is obviously falling apart! EU governments can’t even force the electoral outcomes they want!
  • The West is just interpreting Andijon to its own ends (refer to argument number one). They won’t even admit that the perpetrators of the uprising fired first.
  • The Europeans are applying unfair standards to Uzbekistan. I mean, how would you like it if the minute you got picked up by the police, you were assumed to be guilty and nothing you said could convince them otherwise and they just kept pressuring you until you finally cave, admit guilt, and say everything they want to hear?

Uzbek rights groups applauded the sanctions though some acknowledge that little may come of them. The BBC reports on Nigora Khidoyatova’s reaction.

RIA Novosti commentator Pyotr Goncharov says that the EU has the wrong approach.

From the desk of Igor Rotar
Igor Rotar discusses the Andijon trial at the Eurasia Daily Monitor, ending with a one-sentence summary of one of the most defining characteristics of the Uzbek government at the moment.

At Forum 18 he writes about efforts to isolate religious groups from outside support.

Voluntarily closing shop
EurasiaNet reports on the Uzbek government’s efforts to convince NGOs to voluntarily close their doors.

According to Uzbek sources, hundreds of NGOs, most of them operating with miniscule budgets and small staffs, have been forced to cease activities. In many cases, NGO activists have been forced to “voluntarily apply for self-liquidation.” Those who resist government pressure face “serious trouble,” including possible arrest and imprisonment. Those who comply with the government’s request have not been harassed, according to a source with knowledge of the NGO crackdown, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Abdusalom Ergashev, Ferghana-based human rights defender, said Uzbek authorities are particularly interested in closing down NGOs that have received funding from public or private entities in the United States and/or European Union.

Moscow Mechanism
Four human rights organization issued a joint appeal (PDF) to OSCE participating states to invoke the Moscow Mechanism. This topic probably warrants further discussion…

Dropping in on the neighbors
Secretary of State Rice is visiting four Central Asian states next week. Uzbekistan isn’t one of them.

But what’s the big deal?
Being snubbed by Rice is no big deal after the news that Malaysia is joining the Uzbek fight against terrorism. The BBC-RFE-US Embassy Axis better watch out…

And I don’t even pretend to have kept on top of everything. So, if I’m missing something worth noting, please do add things in the comments.

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This post was written by...

– 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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David October 5, 2005 at 7:22 am

Its worth bearing in mind that the only other time the Moscow mechanism has been invoked, it produced a very good report on Turkmenistan, but failed to achieve any of its policy objectives. It contains no enforcement mechanism: the only possible punishment – suspension of membership of the OSCE – is extremely unlikely because of Russia’s inevitable veto, and would not necessarily be a useful step in any case. The mechanism does however provide a useful reporting mechanism and serves to focus political attention on an issue, and as such may be worth pursuing. Just don’t expect too much.

Denzil Uz October 5, 2005 at 8:25 am

Sorry for heckling :), but you mentioned about Moscow mechanism as a “useful reporting” one?! How it could be, especially in case with Turkemistan, when the appointed reporter even didn’t enter the country and developed that document mostly basing on assessments of people from “human-rights community” and so on?! Isn’t it easier to…copy HRW or Amnesty Int. or even ICG stuff and give it the OSCE status?!
Well, actually, you’re very right about “serves to focus political attention”. Moreover, there is no doubt for whom it serves… Of course, not for “the less equals than others” as it openly joke in Vienna…

tibetibet October 6, 2005 at 11:22 am

An information source that might be useful to you: IFEX.

We monitor censorship in Uzbekistan and issue alerts:

Let me know if you’d like to receive them by e-mail.

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