The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions
No-one inside Uzbekistan and few outside is the answer to the first part of this question if you believe the Western media, and almost everyone in Uzbekistan opposes the regime according to the same interpretation. The idea that “Everyone”, or at least everyone in Uzbekistan apart from his henchmen opposes the President is simplistic propaganda. Things are much more complicated than anti-Karimov propaganda suggests. There is a lot of evidence that Uzbek society is not as unanimous as glib media reports of The People versus The Tyrant suggest. The Russian Central Asian analyst, Andrei Grozin, argued that the Karimov regime had structural supports as well as opponents: “The system that has developed since Uzbekistan gained independence is not a superstructure, which is not inherent to Uzbek society. The regime would not have maintained itself on guns alone and on the will of Islam Karimov, if it did not have the wide support of considerable groups of society. I am very skeptical about democratizing Uzbekistan and the Fergana Valley in particular. Mass consciousness there is for the large part is not disposed towards modernization. Values accepted worldwide are often not applicable here.”
Events in Andijan: Will international scrutiny get to the bottom of what happened?
HITS: 2222 | 24-08-2005, 23:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , PR and human rights, Global Events
Demands for an “independent international inquiry” into the events in Andijan came thick and fast after 13th May. Getting reliable information was clearly difficult and yet providing a clear account of what happened would certainly help any peaceful settlement of the dispute. Nonetheless, the loudest voices calling for such an “independent international inquiry” have form. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has hardly encouraged openness about his own country’s role in imprisoning suspected terrorists or their treatment in US custody. The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Louise Arbour, was the Prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague, whose Canadian citizenship did not recuse her from charging Slobodan Milosevic with genocide when country Canada was participating in a war with his. The perception of Western hypocrisy is as important as the reality of any faults in the West’s treatment of suspects of terrorism or “rogue regimes”.
HITS: 2171 | 24-08-2005, 23:04 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Media World, PR and human rights
The grotesque is rarely far from tragedy. Sadly even as bloodshed disfigured Andijan, the wishful thinking of Western journalists expressed itself in a post-modern fantasy about the border town of Kara su comparable to Maupassant’s parody, “The Coup d’état.” The star reporter of BBC 2’s “Newsnight, ” Tim Whewell, put all of his talents into a report on 18th May from the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border town: “In a long oppressed corner of Central Asia… the people of one Uzbek town have taken over the job of their government. They’re rebuilding the bridge ancient Silk Road… Today I can cross the frontier without showing any papers People can import their hearts’ desires after years of deadening trade restrictions. The only reason this bridge is now open is because the People demanded it… They demanded that their mayor re-open the bridge. When he refused they beat him up, and they opened it themselves. Now it is the People and only the People who are in charge in this tiny corner of Uzbekistan. [emphasis added] Now they’re celebrating freedom from hated officials….. The revolt in Andijan was suppressed by a barrage of government bullets, but here the Revolution triumphed.”
HITS: 6078 | 24-08-2005, 20:14 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Media World, PR and human rights
Whatever happened in Andijan and elsewhere in the Ferghana Valley, it did not precipitate a refugee crisis. There was no mass flight even though the Uzbek authorities clearly did not control the border with Kyrgyzstan around Kara su. It was not Kosovo nor Darfur. Accounts given to journalists over the border in Kyrgyzstan suggest that the refugees from Andijan were mainly directly connected with prison break out: either defendants or their rescuers. For instance, one defendant, 29 year old “[Shamshudin] Atamatov said he heard about 10 shots, then someone opened the door of his prison cell with a crowbar. He and another 11 inmates in the cell came out to the street. Someone there, whom Atamatov said he didn't know, said: "Those who want can come with us to the governor's office." And so he went…”
HITS: 3421 | 24-08-2005, 20:01 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Analyzing, War and peace
“The trial opened in February, and by last week, a sentence was due. The trial had already brought thousands into the streets of Andijan for peaceful protests, and the protest leaders promised massive resistance if the men were convicted. But the sentence never came.” Although regional specialists and locally-based journalists and NGO activists had followed the trial of Twenty-three businessmen in Andijan on charges of Islamic fundamentalist subversion before 12th May, 2005, the impending crisis had passed the outside world by. Yet it is important to note that before the trouble broke out, contrary to the image of a relentlessly intolerant police state, one of Uzbekistan’s main critics, Daniel Kimmage of RFE, reported, “The brother of one defendant told uznews.net, “We are ready to do anything in order to free our innocent brothers.” Police have not interfered in the demonstrations, which are unusual in their size and degree of organization, according to observers...” The glib descriptions in Western media after 13th May of Uzbekistan as a state where protests were never tolerated were not matched by evidence from reporters there before the violence broke out.
The Andijan Tragedy: Why no pictures of the “massacre” itself?
HITS: 2341 | 24-08-2005, 19:47 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Analyzing, War and peace
Whether William Randolph Hearst ever telegraphed the infamous phrase, “You provide the pictures and I’ll provide the war” to Frederick Remmington after his complaint in 1897 that there was no sign of war in Cuba is open to doubt. However, the widespread acceptance of this iconic statement of the power of the press baron is very revealing since it simultaneously indicates that people suspect that much of what they are told as news is “imaginary” to put it kindly and yet still such is the power of images that they impose a picture of events on us. That was in the age of newspapers. Today publics in the West are commonly supposed to be in thrall to the audio-visual media but strangely enough our own electronic age no longer requires pictures to confirm words. Vivid prose and radio pictures are all that the posse of journalists and NGO activists in Andijan on that dreadful day can offer us by way of description of events. Pictures exist of before the “massacre” and of its aftermath but not of the event itself. This is a curious omission in an age of ubiquitous photographic devices.
HITS: 2056 | 24-08-2005, 12:01 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , PR and human rights, Politics
The violent events in Andijan and other parts of Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley on 13th May, 2005, attracted worldwide attention. Unfortunately the intensity of the media coverage was not matched by impartial reporting. As in a number of cases over the last 15 years since the Romanian Revolution in 1989, rumours were reported as fact and the more grisly the allegation the more widely it was disseminated. Pundits repeated allegations of dubious origin. Opposition supporters were presented as journalists or experts rather than partisans. Whatever the faults of the government of President Karimov and its forces’ responsibility for casualties on 13th May, the widespread failure of Western media to report a violent jailbreak, the murder of prisoners by insurgents and their use of prisoners as human shields and hostages left foreigners with a one-sided impression of what happened and why it happened.
Uzbekistan tragedy: Intervention or Chaos? Or Intervention and Chaos
HITS: 2095 | 24-08-2005, 11:56 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , PR and human rights
“The worst is not; so long as we can say, ‘This is the worst’” Shakespeare, King Lear (IV, I, 27)
The universal clamour for “something to be done” about Uzbekistan reaches from the serried ranks of proponents of the invasion of Iraq to find its elusive WMD and overthrow Saddam Hussein to that crusade’s fiercest critics. Ironically, those who doubted every jot of the Bush Administration’s claims about the nature and weaponry of Saddam’s regime are as gung-ho for intervention in Uzbekistan as Washington’s hawks. Unanimity like this among opinion-makers ought to make observers’ queasy. Even if they were right in their analysis of what happened in Andijan, are there solutions not naively optimistic in thinking that Western intervention will necessarily promote a solution which makes matters better for Uzbeks? Remember Mobutu’s Zaire, for instance. Before his downfall in 1997, everyone agreed there too that nothing could be worse than that regime’s kleptocrat. Well, 3 million dead later, perhaps it is time for human rights activists to prepare for the worst case consequences of their own success. Yet Mobutu is still trotted out as simply an example of American hypocrisy during the Cold War when he was backed as an anti-Communist, rather than seeing the unanimous Western governmental and media campaign to remove him in 1997 as a classic example of short-sightedness on the part of the moral indignation brigade.
HITS: 5241 | 24-08-2005, 00:02 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Media World, PR and human rights
Much of the reportage about Uzbekistan recalls previous media “beat ups” when excitement and shock combined to make plausible what turned out afterwards to be wildly exaggerated accounts of violence and cruelty. The contemporary stereotype for this media syndrome originated in 1989 when reports emerged of demonstrations against the Ceausescu regime in Timisoara in south-western Romania. Considering what happened in Romania in December, 1989, helps to focus understanding of the problems of reporting protests from a safe distance with moralising blinkers. Timisoara was the birthplace of the media myth of genocide in the post-Communist period. Like many myths had some basis in fact but took on a life of its own. As news filtered out that demonstrations were taking place in Timisoara after 16th December, 1989, reports of the savagery of the infamous Romanian secret police, the Securitate, soon filled Western media.