what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Uzbek Connection

I had no sooner blogged earlier in the week about media restrictions – and inserted a link to a good Craig Murray lecture and interview on the topic than he posted the news that these 2 videos had been removed from the site of the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin (the only two videos from the Conference on Free Expression (!) to be subject to this treatment)
One of the discussants on the discussion which followed suggested that this might be connected with some uncomplimentary things Craig had said about German politicians and foreign policy somewhere else in Berlin at the same time, namely -
The former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has also roundly criticized the relationship between Germany and the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan. Speaking at the High Level Hearings on Uzbekistan, held in Berlin on 1 March, Murray said that Termez was the first military base Germany had taken over beyond its own borders since the end of World War II. “It is ironic that Germany’s first overseas military base is being used to reinforce the totalitarian system in Uzbekistan,” said Murray.
He also revealed his contempt for the hypocrisy of European and particularly German politicians who try to justify their cooperation with Karimov by citing dubious ‘progress’ in Uzbekistan’s approach to human rights.
It would be more honest, Murray said, if politicians in the EU and Germany admitted that they cooperate with Karimov because of the military base in Termez which is essential to them in supporting their military campaign in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan finds itself in a very advantageous position because of the war in Afghanistan, said Scott Horton, editor of the influential Harper’s magazine, at the same Hearings in Berlin Uzbek - Greater security is not all that Karimov has gained by cooperating with NATO, said Horton. A company belonging to his elder daughter Gulnara makes money from supplying goods to NATO troops in Afghanistan, he claims. “All goods that are imported are processed through Gulnara’s company; it’s a win-win situation,” Horton said.

It was, therefore, highly ironic that, on Monday, I was suddenly asked by a German company if I would take over as Team Leader of an EC project with the Uzbek Parliament!
Part of me was keen to see the country again – not least to visit Khiva and Bukhara and to take the proper opportunity this time to see (and perhaps acquire) some of the country's fascinating art work.
But another part of me, however, questioned whether I could ethically justify this – given how much more repressive the regime has become in the decade since I last lived and worked there. Since I left the country in 2002, several hundreds of people were massacred at Andijan (in 2006); and Craig Murray has exposed the scale of torture And, given the opinions I have about the "political class" everywhere (let alone in Uzbekistan where they are mere ciphers), could I really sleep at night if I was part of a project supposed to be strengthening it????
At a more personal level, I have read cases since I left the country of foreigners driving cars being arrested and held to ransom for several thousands of dollars. I drove myself around Tashkent and the countryside 1999-2002 and had no trouble with the police. But I had a red Cabinet Office pass – which commanded deep respect.
I had to respond immediately – and sent an ambivalent reply, asking whether the team has the same sort of official pass I had a decade ago. I heard no more! So fate solved my ethical dilemma! And, to date, I have had no response from the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy to my query.

update

And, three weeks on, a story appeared which indicates the strength of the set of cards which Uzebistan has as countries such as the UK prepare to pull out of Afghanistan. And how the UK prostitutes itself to ensure a base in this Dictatorship....

No comments:

Post a Comment