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UZBEKISTAN


 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,949 9,713 11,300 91
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 420 450 550 173
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

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Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
26,410,416

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital 
Tashkent 

Currency 
Uzbek Sum

President 
Islam Karimov


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 brief.
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 harvest. 
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 [government] party." 
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 diplomatic relations?" 
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 you know?" 
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 capital, Tashkent. 
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. 

Disappeared 
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 seen again. 

No return 
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."

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

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 regions.
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.

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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 Agency reported.
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.

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