Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 299- (28/11/05)
Murray on the warpath
Someone who is determined to keep the real nature of the Uzbek regime in the
public eye in the West is former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray.
The former ambassador was disgracefully squeezed out of his post by the Foreign
Office in 2004 after criticising the human rights record of the Uzbek
government. He is turning to a number of different forums in the US and the UK,
the two Western countries with strong ties and support for the Tashkent
government before the bloody events of May.
Since the appalling massacre of May 13th in Andijon in the eastern part of the
Ferghana Valley near to Kyrgyzstan, whence hundreds of Uzbeks fled, relations
have soured. The US arranged for refugees being threatened with return to
Uzbekistan to be flown instead to Romania, and for some onwards to other
countries offering asylum. Tashkent responded by obliging the Americans to
vacate the military base that they were leasing in Karsi-Khanabad on the Afghan
border. Washington then cancelled payment of rent of the base for the last two
years. London, as ever, took its cue from its Transatlantic mentor. Uzbekistan
is no longer a favourite.
Murray saw that his moment has come once again. He is the one man who has been
thoroughly vindicated. He is championing human rights, not only in Uzbekistan,
but also those of the people being detained in the West's own campaign against
terrorism. He has not only Washington, but the British government in his sights.
Human rights violations lead to increased isolationism
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is a private, international
communications service to Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus,
Central Asia, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia, funded by the US Congress
through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Uzbekistan is, therefore, in its
The increasingly isolated totalitarian government there keeps itself in power
through massive human rights violations and a system of slave labour, according
to Murray. He told a recent RFE/RL audience in Washington that "the Uzbek
government is not a model of Southeast Asian development; rather, it is much
closer to North Korea."
"Torture," said Murray "is the tip of totalitarian state control
in Uzbekistan." According to Murray, there are at least 10,000 political
prisoners in Uzbekistan and 99 per cent of all trials in Uzbekistan result in
confessions. Murray, who "fell out" with his government over policies
in Uzbekistan," claimed that much of the information passed by Uzbek
intelligence to the British and other intelligence agencies is unreliable,
because prisoners are tortured and their children and relatives are threatened
with torture. "The intelligence is rubbish," he said, "people who
have been tortured will sign up for anything."
"The Uzbek economy is not reforming," according to Murray. With
"60 per cent of the Uzbek population tied to the rural kolkhoz
system," Murray said these "serfs or bonded labour," particularly
on the state cotton farms, assure a cheap labour force for the government while
dampening political dissent. An average wage for farm workers is two dollars per
month, Murray said, while an Uzbek factory worker earns on average 28 dollars
per month and even those are "paid months in arrears, or often
in-kind." According to Murray, "one-third of the population, including
children as young as six or seven, are dragooned" to help with the cotton
Murray also described the Karimov government's economic stranglehold in
Uzbekistan. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Uzbekistan has "dried
up," Murray said, because foreign investors are treated poorly. Murray said
that he thinks Uzbekistan is "looking to Gazprom and the Russian
government" as a model of economic development. According to Murray,
President Karimov fears that "a little liberalisation would lead to
independent thought" in Uzbekistan, so the Russian business model is the
one most helpful to Karimov. Murray is "not surprised" by the trial of
23 businessmen in Andijon earlier this year, because "the [Uzbek]
government can't stand any private sector to exist outside the control of the
Murray concluded that, until recently, Western governments were
"complicit" in the actions of the Uzbek government by permitting
"certification [for continued foreign aid]." He urged the
international community to apply more pressure on the Uzbek government over its
violations of human rights.
Minister 'misled Commons' over attacks by Islamic group
Jon Ungoed-Thomas of The Sunday Times - Britain (October 23rd) has
highlighted another challenge of Murray's, a gauntlet thrown down, for his own
former employers to pick up:
Hazel Blears, a Home Office minister, has been accused of misleading parliament
by presenting "false" intelligence over the threat posed by an alleged
Islamic terrorist group. Blears told MPs that an Uzbek organisation, the Islamic
Jihad Union (IJU), was a threat to British interests overseas and announced that
it was to become a proscribed organisation.
MPs questioned the wisdom of banning a group with the stated aim of bringing
democracy to Uzbekistan, a dictatorship with one of the worst human rights
records in central Asia. It was pointed out that in May Uzbek government troops
killed about 700 people when they opened fire on crowds in the eastern city of
Andijan following an uprising.
To make her case against the IJU, Blears told MPs that information on the group
had been received directly from British intelligence sources which showed it to
have been responsible for a series of bombings in Uzbekistan in March 2004.
Her account was accepted at the time by MPs but has now been challenged by
Murray, who as British ambassador in Uzbekistan until 2004, is in a position to
know what he is talking about. He said that while he was ambassador he had
warned the British government over accounts of bomb attacks connected to the IJU.
He suspected they may have been concocted by the Uzbek government to justify
local police killing a number of dissidents.
"The official accounts were not credible," he said. "I went to
one of the sites where a suicide bomber was meant to have launched an attack. It
was a triangular courtyard and not one of the windows was blown out and there
was no sign of significant damage. I sent a telegram to London - copied to the
Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) in MI5, to the Foreign Office and the
Ministry of Defence - about the inconsistencies of the accounts. JTAC agreed
with my assessment that the official version of events was not credible. I am
amazed to find it being repeated in the House of Commons by Hazel Blears."
Murray said an organisation calling itself IJU also claimed responsibility in
2004 for attacks on the Israeli and American embassies, but there was no
convincing evidence that such a group existed. He says MI6 has no staff in
central Asia and was relying on information from other sources - possibly the
Uzbek government itself.
MPs were concerned at the inclusion of IJU when its name first appeared on the
list of banned groups. Blears was repeatedly questioned in parliament whether it
was right to ban the organisation. Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP, said:
"Should we not tread very carefully before proscribing an organisation that
has less blood on its hands than a government with whom we still maintain
Blears assured MPs she had taken a "particular look" at the IJU. She
said she was satisfied that it posed a threat and cited the attacks in 2004.
A Home Office spokeswoman said Charles Clarke, the home secretary, who took the
final decision to ban the IJU, had been provided with a detailed intelligence
assessment. "IJU is a proscribed organisation by the United Nations and
there was a clear case for the government to follow suit," she said. Blears
had presented accurate information to parliament and was drawing on the
"full intelligence picture".
Murray or British Home Office Officialdom? Who is nearer the mark?
The bullet holes and bloodstains are gone, but for Uzbeks life is even worse
Repression on a huge scale has been following the massacre of at least 500
protesters. The following is a searching piece by Nick Paton Walsh from Andijan
itself. It appeared in The Guardian on Wednesday October 26, 2005:-
Plaster covers up the bullet holes in the walls of Andijan, a city whitewashed
into denial. Builders clamber around buildings, hastily repairing blast damage.
Residents talk in code on the phone; the less cautious sometimes disappear.
Thick-set men in sunglasses band together on street corners, their silver
saloons conspicuously tailing outsiders. The veneer of normality, here in the
authoritarian state of Uzbekistan, is brittle. Ola picks at her ice cream in one
of Andijan's pristine parks and says: "Everyone here has amnesia. Didn't
In the centre, the tranquil Bobur Square yields no suggestion that five months
ago it was, in the words of witnesses, awash with blood. Here troops shot dead
at least 500 people protesting in support of 23 local businessmen charged with
"extremism" but freed in a jailbreak. The troops walked among the
wounded, finishing them off with a single shot to the head, before hoarding
their corpses in a nearby school.
But while locals say between 1,500 and 2,000 people died on the square, the
regime of President Islam Karimov insists that only 187 criminals were killed.
They have tried to recast the massacre as a measured response to a coup by
Islamists, a version of events repeated daily in the Uzbek supreme court in the
In the court, 15 of the 23 businessmen are on trial for terrorism and may be
executed. They have said they opened fire first, that the US embassy helped
finance their attack, and the foreign media, including the BBC, advised them.
Officials have testified that the militants refused an offer of safe passage,
battered their captives and began shooting each other. State TV has replayed
confessions from similarly repentant "organisers".
This Orwellian conceit lapsed only once when a woman said troops had shot at
people waving white flags. Makhbuba Zakirova, 33, who was interrupted by the
judge, said: "Even Hitler did not do it that way."
The charade is shattered behind the closed doors of Andijan's homes. Survivors
and relatives told the Guardian, the first western newspaper to gain access to
Andijan since the massacre, of months of repression, arrest, and torture.
Hundreds of survivors have been forced into confessing their "military
involvement" to bolster the state's case.
Many are in jail, up to 200 awaiting trial; others have disappeared from
hospital. One police officer said 300 people had been arrested in Andijan since
the massacre; Human Rights Watch suggests up to 4,200 have at some point been
detained in the surrounding region. Knock on doors in a street in Andijan and it
is clear the repression that hit the town of 450,000 after May 13 may eclipse
the horrors of the massacre itself.
Udgarbek, 16, sits on a bed in his mother's courtyard. On May 13 he was shot
twice in the back. The first cut just past his upper spinal cord. The second is
lodged in his lower back. He walks stiffly as if his back and thighs were
strapped to a plank; urine stains his trousers, his nerve endings still damaged.
That day, he was left for dead near Bobur Square. Soldiers dragged him into the
grounds of a school where he lay among hundreds of corpses. He saw nine injured
people die before they put him on a bus to hospital at dawn. There, the security
services visited him. "They beat me on the legs and the soles of my feet to
make me sign a confession saying I was a sniper," he said. "They
yelled at me: 'Where are your guns and your friends?' But I refused, fearing
what they would do to me if I confessed."
After 26 days, he was discharged. But at home convalescing and unable to walk,
he was still seen as a threat. "They came again in June and took me to the
regional police station," he said. "They did not beat me that time,
but fingerprinted, photographed and filmed me."
Many did not return home from hospital. Saidkhan Saidhojayev, 27, left home
excitedly on the morning of May 13. The businessmen had been busted out of
prison. The local government building had been taken over. The town's life would
start anew. The president was coming to negotiate and so Mr Saidhojayev dressed
in his best white shirt and trousers. By 8pm, he was staggering home after being
shot in the left arm. He did not enter his mother's house, but lay outside on a
pile of gravel until 11pm, when friends took him to hospital. There his infected
arm was cut off. Three days later he was moved by the police and has not been
On the same day, Anvar Todjihanov, a father of four, was taken from
hospital. His wife declined to be interviewed but told friends how her husband,
36, who was shot in the back on Bobur Square, had lost 10kg (22lb) in weight and
is "on the borders of death" in jail. Plain-clothed security men, who
had searched her flat 15 days before, have told her to get a job as Mr
Todjihanov won't be returning.
The authorities' reputation has heightened the anguish. The US state department
says Uzbek police use "torture as a routine investigation technique."
Methods include crushing limbs, electric shocks, raping relatives before the
accused, sexual abuse with a broken bottle, and in one case the boiling to death
of a suspect. Others have been arrested by the National Security Service, as
"hostages" to persuade relatives to give themselves up. Shurat
Nuridinov, 24, a student, was jailed for terrorism on May 26. His father Avas
said the case was probably aimed at forcing his relative, one of the
businessmen, Burkhoni Nuridinov, to return to Uzbekistan. Burkhoni is one of 400
Uzbeks who fled to Europe and gained asylum.
A human rights activist, Saidjahon Zainabitdinov, who spoke out about the death
toll, was arrested on the Uzbek border after taking a wounded protester to
Kyrgyzstan. He has been charged with criminal defamation and distributing
leaflets that threaten national security. "We don't know where he's being
held," said his son, Ilhom. "I doubt they'll release him. His lawyer
says he's already confessed and asked for the president's forgiveness."
Ilhom was beaten up days after meeting the Guardian, a human rights worker said.
The crackdown has continued across Uzbekistan, as Mr Karimov hurries to ensure
that any repeat of Andijan will not be as well publicised. Two weeks after the
massacre, in the town of Jizzakh, a human rights worker was attacked at home by
70 people who gave him 24 hours to leave town. "They were all state
employees," Bakhtiyor Khamraev said. "They hit me over the head with a
stick. For 50 minutes they screamed: 'You are an American spy, a terrorist. You
have sold yourself.'"
The next day they came back, but Mr Khamraev was with a US researcher from Human
Rights Watch. The threat of publicity caused the crowd to flee, he said. Since
then telephone calls have threatened his family, warning: "We will kill
you. No foreigner can help you."
Uzbek, Germany to boost business ties
Chairman of the Uzbekistan-Germany Friendship Society, Abdulla Oripov, met
Executive Director of Germany-Uzbekistan Friendship Society (Bonn), Frau Dagmar
Hermann, and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Germany to
Uzbekistan, Herr Hans-Joachim Kiderlen, on 28th October at the Uzbek Agency of
Communication and Information, reported Interfax News Agency.
Members of Uzbekistan-Germany Friendship Society, as well as representatives of
the Germany Embassy in Uzbekistan attended the event. Frau Dagmar Hermann is
visiting Uzbekistan in the framework of TACIS "Recovered energy"
Project, implemented in Bukhara.
During the meeting, parties expressed their satisfaction with the work of
Uzbekistan-Germany and Germany-Uzbekistan societies. The parties also stressed
the need to activate their work, and especially attract new members from the
Kiderlen pointed out the importance of the societies' activity and stressed the
significance and importance of their role in building strong business and
cultural relations between Uzbekistan and Germany.
MINERALS & METALS
Steel output up by 10%
The state statistics department said that Uzbekistan raised crude steel output
9.8 percent year on year in January-September to 481,659 tonnes, Interfax News
The state-owned Uzmetkombinat produces 99 percent of Uzbekistan's crude steel,
and all of the country's roll and milling balls. It smelts scrap metal and has
the capacity to produce 750,000 tonnes of crude steel per year. Uzbekistan
smelted 602,160 tonnes of steel in 2004, up 24 per cent from 2003. It increased
roll production 23.3 per cent to 550,670 tonnes. Roll output grew 12.2 per cent
to 451,434 tonnes.