Posts Tagged ‘Central Asia’

Uzbekistan’s cotton picked by forced labor

September 15, 2017

Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia and a crossroads of China’s so-called New Silk Roads—railroads and pipelines uniting the heartland of Asia and Europe.

This Human Rights Watch documentary shows how the Uzbek government uses forced labor and child labor in its cotton fields.

Students, teachers, medical workers, other government employees, private sector employees and sometimes children were ordered into the fields to harvest cotton in 2015 and 2016, HRW reported; they also were forced to plant cotton and weed fields early in 2016.

The World Bank has invested $500 million in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.   Supposedly it should withdraw the money if Uzbekistan uses child labor or forced labor, but HRW says this is not enforced.

Russia as the jihadists’ “far enemy”

January 5, 2017

isis-610417-putin

When Al Qaeda jihadist terrorists attacked the U.S. World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, it was part Osama bin Laden regarded the USA as the “far enemy” who propped up all the “near enemies” in the Arab world.

But for many of the jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, the “far enemy” is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not the USA.   A large number are Chechens, a Muslim nationality living mostly within the Russian Federalion, or Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs or others living under regimes in Central Asia that are propped up by Russia.

One of Putin’s first actions when he came to power was to ruthlessly crush the independence movement in Chechnia.   The justification was a series of terrorist attacks that were very likely a false flag attack by the Russian FSB.

Since then many Chechen fighters have been driven out of Russia, and are now fighting the Russian-backed Assad government of Syria, along with Uzbeks and other nationalities from the former Soviet republics.

Some analysts think that the export of jihadists is a conscious Russian strategy.  The best outcome, from the Russian point of view, is that they die fighting in Syria.   But even if they survive, they have made themselves known to Russian intelligence services.

Saudi Arabia does the same thing with its jihadist rebels—suppresses them at home and encourages them to go wage war in other countries.

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Ted Rall on the death of Uzbekistan’s tyrant

September 7, 2016

Ted Rall, who has traveled in Central Asia, had this to say about the death of Uzbekistan’s ruler Islam Karimov.

uzbekistan-C-Asia-MAPGiven Uzbekistan’s tremendous oil, gas and mineral wealth and its geographically and geopolitically strategic importance, its citizens ought to enjoy a high standard of living.  Instead, the average Uzbek subsists on $3 to $8 per day.

Where does all that energy wealth go? Karimov, his family and cronies steal it.  Gulnara Karimova, the deceased despot’s flamboyant chanteuse daughter, is accused of breaking in over $1 billion in bribes from telecommunications companies seeking permits to do business.  Another daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, is linked to shell companies that own gaudy multimillion estates in the U.S.  [snip]

Uzbekistan is routinely awarded the world’s “Worst of the Worst” status for its extreme corruption and violations of fundamental human rights.  Phones are tapped and militsia goons shake down motorists at innumerable checkpoints.  Print and broadcast media are completely state-controlled. There’s a zero tolerance policy toward political opposition.  [snip]

At least 10,000 political prisoners are rotting in the nation’s prisons. Torture is standard and endemic; Team Karimov landed a rare spot in the news for boiling dissidents to death.  In 2005, President Karimov asked security forces confronting protesters in the southern city of Andijon to wait for his arrival from the capital of Tashkent so he could personally witness and coordinate their massacre.  An estimated 700 to 1200 Uzbeks were slaughtered.  “People have less freedom here than under Brezhnev,” a U.S. official admitted.  [snip]

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John Kerry woos Uzbekistan’s dictator

November 5, 2015

#Uzbekistan an important partner in bringing peace, prosperity to Central Asia.  Good discussion w/President Karimov                          ==Secretary of State John Kerry on Twitter 11/1/2015

uzbekistanU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has just returned from a tour of Central Asia, trying to woo leaders of countries under the political influence of Russia and the economic influence of China.

This means tip-toeing around the issue of human rights, particularly in Uzbekistan.  Carol Morello of the Washington Post noted that the State Department’s own reports accuse the Uzbek government of corruption, forced labor, torture and detention of hundreds of political prisoners.

The United States government once sanctioned Uzbekistan for human rights violations, but these sanctions were lifted in 2011 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reward Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s long-time ruler, for supporting the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

Kerry said last weekend that there is great potential for increased cooperation between the U.S. and Uzbekistan on trade, security and the environment provided Uzbekistan improves its human rights record.

I doubt that Kerry will press Karimov about the torture of dissidents so long as there is a chance of detaching Karimov from Russia.   Certainly Vladimir Putin will raise no such concerns.

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Turkey backs Uighur rebels in China

July 12, 2015

The Uighurs are a Muslim people who live in China’s western Xinjiang province—what used to be called Chinese Turkestan, just as what we now call Central Asia used to be called Russian Turkestan.

The Turks in Turkey once inhabited the same region, before they migrated into western Asia and conquered the Byzantine Empire, the Balkans and most of the Arab world.

china_urumqiPeter Lee reported on his China Matters web log how the Turkish government is trying to assume the leadership of the Turkish world and, as part of that, has issued Turkish passports for Uighur rebels.   I think this comes under the heading of starting fights you are not prepared to finish.

I sympathize with the Uighur people who, like the Tibetans, are being engulfed by Chinese settlers, and with the people of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia who live under oppressive dictatorships.

In the same way, I sympathized with the brave Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956.  But the United States was not willing to go to war with the Soviet Union on behalf of the Hungarians, and risk the devastation of North America, Russia and Europe, including Hungary.  So it was irresponsible of Radio Free Europe to incite them to rise up, and I think Turkish policy (which I hope the US government is not encouraging) is irresponsible now.

LINKS

Uighurs Edge Closer to Center of Turkish Diplomacy, Politics and Geopolitical Strategy by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Turkey’s “Passports for Uighurs” Scheme Continues Its Messy Unraveling by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Why China and Russia draw closer together

May 29, 2014
One possible pipeline route

A possible gas route

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.
    ==Donald Rumsfeld

In April President Obama visited nations on the rim of eastern Asia to reassure them of U.S. support against China, whose government has aggressively laid claim to islands in the East China Sea that these nations regard as their territory.

China’s response has been to strengthen its ties with its inland neighbors, especially Russia and Russia’s client states in central Asia.   Last week China announced a $400 billion deal to buy natural gas from Russia.

At the same time President Xi Jinping called for greater military co-operation among China, Russia and Iran.

Another possible route

Another possible route

Guests at the Russian-Chinese conference included Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Nasr al-Maliki of Iraq and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.  Ironically, their presence together was made possible by the U.S.-backed regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If Saddam Hussein were still in power in Iraq, he would not be found in the same room with a leader of Iran.  And the Taliban in Afghanistan, before the invasion, were much more anti-Russian than anti-USA.

Pepe Escobar, who has long reported on these developments for Asia Times, says that the most important event of the 21st century will be the economic integration of the Eurasian continent.

Many things could go wrong with this.  Just because something is announced doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen.  But I don’t have any specific reason for doubting this will come true.

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China, Russia and the future of Eurasia

May 19, 2014

centralasian_pipelines

When the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, European and American Marxists were surprised.  Marxist theory said Communism would come first to the most economically advanced countries.

But Bertrand Russell, in The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, wrote that Russia was the only country in which a Communist revolution could have taken place, aside from the USA.  A Communist revolution in Germany, France, Britain or some other country would be soon been destroyed by invasion or economic blockade of the capitalist countries.

The same was true of China, another country where a Communist revolution was not supposed to occur, but which has become, or is well on its way to become, the world’s leading economic power.  Russia and China are members of the BRICS bloc, a loose association which also includes Brazil, India and South Africa.  These rising nations see themselves as an alternative to the old G-7 group, consisting of  the USA, Canada, Britain, France, German, Italy and Japan.

Pepe Escobar, a roving foreign correspondent for Asia Times, interprets U.S. foreign policy as a doomed attempt to prevent Russia and China from dominating the heart of Eurasia, which he calls “Pipelineistan”.

While the USA has sacrificed its industrial base to financialization and militarization, China and Russia have been building up their energy infrastructure in the part of the world that is least vulnerable to American air and sea power or to blockade.  China is working on roads, railroads, pipelines and fiber optic networks that will reach across central Asia and Russia all the way to Europe, and negate U.S. control of the sea lanes.

Escobar wrote:

Embedded in the mad dash toward Cold War 2.0 are some ludicrous facts-on-the-ground: the US government, with $17.5 trillion in national debt and counting, is contemplating a financial showdown with Russia, the largest global energy producer and a major nuclear power, just as it’s also promoting an economically unsustainable military encirclement of its largest creditor, China.

Russia runs a sizeable trade surplus. Humongous Chinese banks will have no trouble helping Russian banks out if Western funds dry up.  In terms of inter-BRICS cooperation, few projects beat a $30 billion oil pipeline in the planning stages that will stretch from Russia to India via Northwest China.

Chinese companies are already eagerly discussing the possibility of taking part in the creation of a transport corridor from Russia into Crimea, as well as an airport, shipyard, and liquid natural gas terminal there.   And there’s another “thermonuclear” gambit in the making: the birth of a natural gas equivalent to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that would include Russia, Iran, and reportedly disgruntled US ally Qatar.

The (unstated) BRICS long-term plan involves the creation of an alternative economic system featuring a basket of gold-backed currencies that would bypass the present America-centric global financial system.

via TomDispatch.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey for the link)

Unless either China or Russia changes course, the future of Russia is to be an energy and raw materials hinterland to China, the world’s leading industrial power.  It should be needless to say that this is not a development I welcome.  I would not wish anyone I care about to live under China’s or Russia’s authoritarian governments.

What should the United States do about this?  We should be building up our own country’s industrial strength rather than trying to prevent the rise of other nations.

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Target cotton picked by Uzbek slave labor

October 7, 2013

The former Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan in Central Asia each year drafts children who should be in school to work in its cotton fields.  A hundred companies, including Target, have pledged not to buy slave-picked Uzbek cotton, but Target buys from the Korean conglomerate Daewoo, which, according to activists, buys about 20 percent of the crop.

The writers of this article describe the conditions under which Uzbek cotton is picked—a six-year-old crushed under a load of cotton, a 16-year-old killed by touching a live electric wire, an 18-year-old beaten to death for leaving the field without making his quota—and they call upon Target to police its supply chain.

Tiffany's Non-Blog

Just days ago, a 6-year-old boy suffocated under a load of cotton during this year’s cotton harvest in Uzbekistan.

Men, women and children forced to pick cotton will continue to suffer threats, injuries, and worse, if this form of modern slavery continues in the Uzbek cotton fields.

TAKE ACTION NOW: Call on Target to stop doing business with companies that support slavery in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan. 

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“A young woman died because of cotton. Who is responsible for her death?” – witness to Makhlie’s death1

Makhlie should have been in a classroom days ago when the Uzbek school year began. Instead, she and her classmates were working in the cotton harvest in the fields of Uzbekistan where an accidental brush with a live electrical wire stopped her heart. She was only 16.

Makhlie should never have been in that field picking cotton, but the Uzbek government…

View original post 388 more words

The geography of pipelineistan

March 28, 2013

Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times in Hong Kong writes about what he calls “Pipelineistan”—the region in the heartland of the Eurasian continent where China, Russia, the USA and other powers are jockeying for control of oil and gas resources and pipeline routes.   I like maps, and spent a couple of hours yesterday doing Google Image searches of maps of the region, and here is what I found.

The first map shows the recently-opened 5,400-mile natural gas pipeline, connecting China’s resource-rich, majority-Muslim Xinjiang western region with its manufacturing centers in the east.  It is the longest natural gas pipeline in the world.

1. china-east-west-gas-pipeline

Next is a map of China’s oil and gas pipelines reaching into Central Asia.   The longest is 1,100 miles, and their combined reach is 2,000 miles.  Notice the extension to the border of Iran.

2. china-central-asia-gas-pipelines

While China’s economic expansion in the post-Mao era has been mostly peaceful, the Chinese in Central Asia work with some of the most vicious tyrannies on the planet, as do the governments of Russia and the USA.  Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, for example, is a killer and torturer on a scale exceeding Saddam Hussein.

Next is a map showing China’s land and sea access to energy resources, which shows why the Chinese government prefers pipelines to vulnerable sea routes.

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Human rights in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

June 19, 2010

Why Do I Care? (6/15/10)

My morning newspaper on Page 5A has an article about a massacre of Uzbek people in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. It has lesser play than an article above it about the killing of an Israeli officer by Palestinian gunmen. Ordinarily I would scan the article, sigh, and think about something else.

The reason I don’t is that I have a friend who was born in Uzbekistan and immigrated to this country from Russia more than 10 years ago. She phoned me yesterday, very distrait, and told me about e-mails from Uzbek friends telling of old people being slaughtered, little girls being raped and a university, built by Uzbek people out of their own contributions, being razed to the ground.  The AP article in my newspaper tells of hundreds of people being killed and 100,000 people being turned back at the border of Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyztan and Uzbekistan are two majority-Muslim countries in central Asia formerly part of the old Soviet Union. It is hard for me as an American to imagine what differences Kyrgyz and Uzbeks could have that would motivate one of them to engage in large-scale killing of the other.

Uzbekistan is ruled by a cruel dictator, Islam Karimov, whose specialty is having his political opponents boiled alive. Uzbeks make up about 15 percent of the population of Kyrgyztan and about half the population in the southern part of the country. Most of them supported the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April. The interim government has accused him of instigating the riots, but he denies it.

It is something that is much worse than what Israelis and Palestinians are doing to each other at the moment, and there are many other situations in the world, for example in Africa, that are just as bad or worse. I think of them much less than I do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because I don’t feel personally connected to those countries. But this seems real to me because I only have two degrees of separation from the victims.

My friend asked me to post something on my web log, which I am doing even though I don’t see how I can help the situation.  The United States and the Russian Federation both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan, and they are important to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. The United States is sending humanitarian aid; this doesn’t really address the situation, but I don’t see what else to do. I make annual donations to Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders, but this doesn’t really address the situation either.

Why do I care? (6/19/10)

People in the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan are different from me.  They speak a different language.  They dress differently. They have a different religion. The very word “Uzbek” has a funny sound to American ears.

The only thing is, they are human beings.  They have as much inherent dignity and worth as I do.  They have as much right to live peacefully in this world as I do.  The killing of an innocent person in Uzbekistan is as great a tragedy in the cosmic scheme of things as my death or the death of someone I love.

Recently I read news accounts of a massacre of Uzbeks in the neighboring central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. It is one of many horrible things going on all over the world, but I happen to have a good friend who was born in that part of the world. She has been in touch with what’s going on by text message and cell-phone. She tells of terrible stories of old people being murdered, young girls behind raped, people being driven out of their homes. News accounts (as of June 19, 2010) tell of 400,000 people being made refugees and more than 2,000 people murdered. My friend Oidin said the number is much higher.

She says this is the latest in a series of killings instigated by the Kyrgyz government, much like the pogroms against Jews under the Tsars of Russia. She blames the present Kyrgyz government’s Russian advisers and also the Obama administration; both the Russian Federation and the United States have strategically important bases in Kyrgyzstan.

Click on the following links for continuously updated information on central Asia.

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Human rights in central Asia

June 15, 2010

Central Asia is not often in the American public eye, but the region has some of the world’s most vicious dictatorships, the U.S. government is involved in the region, and the oppressed people of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries have the same right to justice as people anywhere.

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Why Do I Care?

News

Ali Feruz: Deportation reprieve for Uzbek journalist in Moscow by Sarah Rainsford for BBC News (August 2017)

Eurasia’s Latest Economic Reboot Can Be Found in Uzbekistan by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes (September 2017)

Sources of Information

EurasiaNet

Choihona: independent news of Uzbekistan

Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan

Cotton Campaign: End Forced and Child Labor in Uzbekistan

Human Rights Watch reports on Kyrgyzstan

Human Rights Watch reports on Uzbekistan