Uzbekistan’s popular Axborot news program showed that even Islom Karimov must be censored if he speaks about subjects too sensitive for Uzbekistan’s national mentality. According a report originally published by Ozodlik (in Uzbek), Axborot cut a portion of comments Karimov delivered while meeting with President Putin in Moscow. During his talk with Putin, Karimov brought up birth rates and the need to prevent population from growing too quickly for the economy to keep up.
Axborot reported Karimov as saying,
The population of Uzbekistan is now nearly 30 million people. We are doing all we can so that the growth of our population corresponds to the growth of our economy so that future generations can live better than us, be smarter than us, and live happier lives than us. If one looks through this lens, our children must grow up so that they are no more worse off than those of the most developed countries.
Uzbekistan’s population today is nearly 30 million people. I am not saying that the population is growing rapidly: unlike Russia, we are doing everything we can to make sure that the population growth rate does not exceed 1.2 to 1.3.
It is our firm belief that given the present situation and our current prospects and resources, which include first of all water, territory and arable land, our main challenge is to provide everything our people need, and most importantly to make sure that the future generation lives better than we do, and is smarter and happier than we are. From this perspective, we try to use public campaigns, education and healthcare to ensure that population growth corresponds to economic growth. [Если смотреть через эту призму, мы и в этом вопросе через пропаганду, агитацию, медицину пытаемся создать условия, чтобы темпы роста нашего населения соответствовали темпу роста экономики..] Our children should enjoy the same standards of living as children in the most developed countries. This is the Kremlin’s translation. I’ve inserted the Russian original after the second to last sentence.
Ferghana speculates that Axborot wanted to avoid even hinting at birth control, a taboo subject, and especially at anything that might suggest the government does indeed engage in a campaign of forced contraception or sterilization.
Placing Karimov’s comment in the context of how Uzbekistan’s government works, this looks as close to an admission that the state is indeed engaged in suppressing the birthrate as one could ever expect. For every one of the government’s sinister policies, there is a tame explanation from the highest levels of government. If forced labor in cotton is just “children helping their families earn an income,” “job training,” or “a peculiarity of national culture,” then it’s not hard to interpret a “public awareness, education, and healthcare” campaign to keep birthrates low to be referring to a campaign going back more than a decade that forces contraception and sterilization on women in rural areas.