Books on Uzbekistan
Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1925. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include insurgency by Islamic militants based in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratisation.
Update No: 281- (27/05/04)
Regime in crisis
The Uzbek regime is in serious crisis. . A spate of militant attacks in Tashkent has killed upwards of 40 people, with suicide bombers to the fore.
During the period, March 28-31, 14 civilians, 10 police officers and at least 33 militants were killed. The prime suspects behind the late March violence are two known radical groups, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, active throughout the Central Asian region.
The UK embassy acts as a maverick
The UK ambassador, Craig Murray, is a relentless critic of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, which have been only too common. He insisted on having the annual party in honour of the Queen's birthday in April, even though attendance at it had been threatened by the dark forces, i.e. the Uzbek secret services.
The renowned Uzbek folk singer Sherali, who has already been banned by the government, was top of the bill at the party. He had already been banned. What are they going to do? Ban him twice?
The boycott on the party is the latest in a series of moves by the regime of Karimov aimed at intimidating its most acerbic critics. The EBRD has suspended lending to Uzbekistan because of human rights abuses.
The government has recently banned all opposition parties in forthcoming parliamentary elections. Despite Western pressure, Karimov has outlawed opposition parties, harassed and imprisoned dissidents, and, despite his own promises, failed to take meaningful steps to stop the routine use of torture against perceived opponents. Scores of dissidents have been executed after sham trials. It is obviously a sorry affair.
Embarrassment in riches
President Karimov has aligned his country squarely behind the US since 9:11, although Uzbekistan was already a bulwark in the anti-terrorist campaign beforehand. He is a paranoid nutcase who has fomented the very eventuality he dreads by his excessively repressive policies. Opponents are boiled alive, arousing the indignation of foreigners, notably UK ambassador, Craig Murray, who is radically belying the definition of a diplomat made by his sixteenth century compatriot, Sir Henry Wotton, that one such is "someone sent abroad to lie there for the sake of his country." He has been fearlessly outspoken in his denunciation of the human rights abuses of the regime.
Islamic militancy has been outlawed, but in such a savage manner as to encourage a stream of martyrs to come forward. What better way for a true Muslim to die and be assured of his seventy virgins in the afterlife than by taking up arms against the infamous infidel in charge in Tashkent with his evil henchmen, singing their Satanic verses in tune with the Great Satan itself, the US.
Some sort of day of reckoning for the Uzbek regime may have arrived at last. Certainly a grave crisis has erupted. It has been long in preparation.
Islam Karimov, Dictator of Uzbekistan
Karimov's most recent display of resistance to opening meaningful political space for the opposition - or even for civil-society groups - came recently when his government blocked the holding of a conference on the death penalty in Tashkent.
International human rights groups, along with a significant number of political analysts, argue that the regime's rigid control over every aspect of life in the country was a major factor in provoking the militant attacks. The government naturally totally denies this and blames foreign conspirators entirely.
It has reacted predictably by tightening control over domestic media, while lashing out at foreign outlets that challenge the official version of events. The lack of press freedom was cited as a contributing factor in the recent decision of the EBRD to cancel several projects in the republic.
What keeps the regime happy is that the US remains on board, immensely keen to keep its new base on the southern border with Afghanistan, where things have not been going too well for coalition forces recently. Indeed the Afghan warlord of Uzbek origin, Rashid Dostum, has been making inroads in the north, which can only make the job of President Karshai more difficult. The US is only too likely to put geopolitical considerations first in Central Asia, keeping up its subvention of $90 million or so per annum to Tashkent. If it is proving pretty difficult to introduce democracy to Iraq, the cradle of human civilisation, how much more difficult it would be in Uzbekistan!
Uzbek auto production up 78.5%
Automobile production in Uzbekistan at Uzavtoprom enterprises was up 78.5% in the first quarter to 13,384 vehicles, a source in the state statistics department said, New Europe reported recently.
UzDaewooAuto production was up 77.3% to 13,300 cars, including 6,697 Nexia (up 63.9%), 3,507 Matiz (up 5.9 times), 1,963 Damas (up 14.8%), and 1,133 Tico (up 1.6%). Production of the Daewoo Lacetti was halted in the first quarter due to a lack of orders. The plant stopped production of the Tico as it updated its models and focused on the more popular Matiz, SamKocAuto produced 84 vehicles in the period, including 39 trucks and 45 buses.
MINERALS & METALS
Amantaytau sells 21,147oz of gold on London market
The Amantaytau Goldfields (AGF) joint venture between Uzbekistan and Britain's Oxus Gold Plc mined 21,147oz of refined gold in February-March this year, Oxus said in a statement released recently. It added that all of the gold was exported and sold on the London market, New Europe reported.
Initial cash operating costs of US$139 are expected to be reduced to forecast levels of US$110 as the project develops, the statement said. Oxus started producing gold at the Amantaytau field in Uzbekistan in January this year. But the joint venture was unable to export gold for two months this year due to a delay with registering the export contract which states that Amantaytau Goldfields will export 70% of the gold it produces at the hedging price. However Uzbek customs registered the contract on April 8th.
Standard Bank Group and West LB lent the joint venture US$36m in May 2003 to finance construction of a gold recovery plant at the Amantaytau gold field.
Oxus owns half the equity in Amantaytau Goldfields, Uzbekistan's State Geology Committee owns 40% and Navoi Mining and Metals Combine 10%. AGF is licensed to mine the Amantaytau field, which contains a recoverable 3.2m oz of gold and more than 3.0m oz of additional gold.
Fruitful telecom market
Uzbekistan's telecoms market grew 30% year-on-year to 59.9bn sum in the first quarter of 2004, New Europe reported recently.
The state statistics committee said fixed-line providers had revenues of 28bn sum or 46.7% of the total and cellular providers 25bn sum or 30% more than in the first quarter of 2003. The number of cell phone subscribers grew 71.3% to 352,700 during the quarter.
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