Posts Tagged ‘Uzbekistan’

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

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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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A tyrant is dead, a tyranny continues

December 4, 2016

Hat tip to O.

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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Islam Karimov: death of a dictator

September 3, 2016

Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, who died a few days ago, was a ruthless dictator comparable to the Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

uzbekistan-C-Asia-MAPA holdover from the Soviet era (appointed by Mikhail Gorbachev, no less), Karimov was known for his repression of the Muslim religion and of dissent of all kinds, and for forced child labor in cotton fields, his country’s chief export industry.

Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, said growing a beard or being seen praying five times a day could be enough to get you thrown in jail or to “disappear” mysteriously.

Yet Karimov was courted by Russia, China and the USA as an ally against radical Islamic terrorism.   Uzbekistan was an important transit point for supplies going to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

What should US policy have been?  Should our government be like China’s, which scrupulously refrains from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, no matter how odious their governments?

Or should the US have armed Karimov’s opponents, as was done in Libya and Syria, to being about a change in the regime?

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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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Aral Sea, once world’s 4th largest lake, dries up

October 4, 2014

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Aral Sea in 2000 and in 2014

Satellite photos of the Aral Sea in 2000 and in 2014

The Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth largest lake, has dried up.  NASA satellite photographs show what has happened.

Once the Aral Sea supported 24 species of fish, according recent articles in The Guardian, and was surrounded by fishing villages and lush woodlands and wetlands.

In the 1950s, the Soviet government began to divert water from the two main rivers feeding the Aral Sea to irrigate cotton crops in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the water level began to fall.  Uzbekistan still uses large amounts of irrigation water for its cotton crops.  NASA scientists see little hope that sea levels would recover in any case.  Lack of rain and snowfall, possibly related to global climate change, also are a factor.

Although the rivers feeding the Aral Sea are fresh water, the Aral Sea itself is salt water.  The Guardian reported that the drying up of the Aral Sea exposed the bottom, which is covered with salts and with fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide residues that were washed into it over the years.

The fishing villages have disappeared, and people in the vicinity reportedly suffer serious health problems from wind-borne toxic dust from the lake bottom.

Kazakhstan built a dam in 2005 which evidently has saved a tiny portion in the north.

All this is an example of what happens when you tamper with natural systems—or any complex system—without considering the consequences.

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The Eurasian scene: Links & comments 9/15/14

September 15, 2014

Russia fears the eastward spread of the ‘jihadist cancer’ by Vitaly Naumkin for Al-Monitor.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has, according to this writer, established a stable government in the area it controls.  ISIS successfuly operates oil wells, sells oil in international black markets, provides jobs and keeps order, at least for those willing to submit to its rules.  Its horrible atrocities frighten poorly-disciplined and poorly-motivated troops of its enemies.

The Russian government is worried about the growing power of ISIS, especially in Syria.  Unlike the United States, Russia supports the Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian regime.  Moscow hopes for success of all-Syria peace talks, but is prepared to support Syria’s government by any means short of sending Russian troops.

Uzbekistan: Rattled by Russian Expansionism, Tashkent Looks East by Joanna Lillis for Eurasia.net.

Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s tyrannical ruler, worried that the Maidan protests in Ukraine would encourage would-be protesters in his country.  But now he’s more worried about the precedent set by Russian incursions in Ukraine.

Too offset Russia, Karimov is strengthening Ukraine’s ties in China, other east Asian countries and the Persian Gulf states.  This is a blow to Vladimir Putin’s hopes of creating a Eurasian Union, a Russian-dominated economic union of former Soviet nations to offset the European Union.

China’s Island Factory by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes for BBC News.

China is building artificial islands on reefs in the South China Sea in territorial waters that also are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.  These islands will become offshore Chinese air bases and naval bases.

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

Mideast struggles: Links & comments 9/29/13

September 29, 2013

Is Iran Out of the US War Queue? Twilight of the Hawks by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.   Hat tip to Jack Clontz

General Wesley Clark said that, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he was told by a friend in the Pentagon that the Department of Defense had a list of seven countries it intended to invade—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.  Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the other architects of that plan are no longer in government, but it does seem as if that, at any given time, the United States government is debating war with one or another of the countries on that list.

Juan Cole is optimistic about peace negotiations with Iran.   I hope he’s right.   There is no basic conflict of interest between our two countries.  We Americans of course would like to have cheap oil, but no Iranian government is going to give its oil away.  Even the Shah of Iran, who was installed by the CIA, eventually nationalized Iranian oil and supported OPEC.

How Bashar al-Assad Destroyed My Country by Omar Ghabra for The Nation.

A Syrian-American recalls how the Assad government in 2011 murdered and tortured non-violent protesters who demanded a democratic government and respect for human rights.   His article illustrates President John F. Kennedy’s saying, that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

Where did Syria get its Chemical Weapons in the First Place? by Jannis Bruhl of ProPublica for Informed Comment.  Another hat tip to Jack Clontz

Evidently Russia supplied the poison gas weapons, but essential chemical supplies also came from Germany and other European countries.

Putin to the Rescue by David Bromwich for the London Review of Books.

Barack Obama thoughtlessly says things that come back to haunt him.   That’s one reason the wily Vladimir Putin outsmarted him in the Syrian crisis.   You would think that someone who is as determined as President Obama to prevent leaks of embarrassing information would be more self-disciplined about his own words.

Seymour Hersh on death of Osama bin Laden: ‘It is one big lie; not one word of it is true’ by Lisa O’Carroll for The Guardian.  Hat tip to Daniel Brandt.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is my age (76) and still going strong.  People like him make me feel as if I’ve wasted my life.

Uzbekistan’s Karimova Tillyaeva reveals rift in ruling family by BBC News.   Hat tip to Oidin.

The jet-setting daughters of Uzbekistan’s dictator Islam Karimov, who both play roles in the government, haven’t spoken to each other for 12 years.   As celebrity gossip, this is amusing, but I don’t think that the poverty-stricken, repressed people of Uzbekistan find it so amusing.

Slavery is not a thing of the past

June 20, 2013

We think of slavery as a thing of the past, but it isn’t.  The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 21 million people around the world in different kinds of forced labor.  And it isn’t just backward countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

The U.S. State Department issued its annual report on forced labor and human trafficking on Wednesday.  The Guardian reported

China is criticized for perpetuating human trafficking in 320 state-run institutions and the widespread domestic trafficking of girls and women into forced prostitution. In Russia, an estimated 1 million people are exposed to exploitative labor, including forced labor used in the construction of the Winter Olympic park in Sochi, according to the report.

The government of Uzbekistan continues to force older children and adults into slave labor in its cotton industry, the US state department says, and the country “remains one of only a handful of governments around the world that subjects its citizens to forced labor through the implementation of state policy”.

via The Guardian.

Uzbekistan is noteworthy because coerced labor for production of cotton is government policy.  Uzbekistan has been dependent on its cotton industry since the days of the old Soviet Union.  Here is a report from a human rights organization.

Child cotton pickers in Uzbekistan

Photo by Thomas Grabka

In 2012, the Uzbek government mobilized the forced labor of over a million children and adults. Regional authorities enforced state cotton quotas on farmers, under threat of taking their land.  While there was not the nationwide shut-down of primary schools, authorities mobilized children ages 15 to 17 nationwide and younger children sporadically.

Children forced to pick cotton worked excessive hours, conducted arduous physical work in hazardous conditions and under threat of punishment, including expulsion from school.  Government employees – including teachers, doctors, nurses, and soldiers – and private business employees were forced to pick cotton under threat of dismissal from work, the loss of salary, pensions and welfare benefits.  Authorities extracted fines from those who failed to meet their cotton quotas.

This spring, the Uzbek government is again mobilizing children as young as age 10 and adults to plow and weed cotton fields.  On April 19, the deputy governor of Namangan region beat seven farmers for planting onions instead of cotton.  As is the case each year during the fall cotton harvest, the forced labor of government employees is once again disrupting the delivery of essential public services, including health care and education.

via Cotton Campaign.

Secretary of State John Kerry should be commended for allowing the report to go out, even though it embarrasses powerful countries such as Russia and China and U.S. allies such as Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.

Congressional law allows for targeted economic sanctions against countries that practice or tolerate slavery, forced labor and human trafficking.   I don’t think this is likely anytime soon, but to name them and shame them is more than nothing.

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Links for weekend browsing 5/31/13

May 31, 2013

Here are links to articles I found interesting, and you might find interesting, too.

Our American Pravda by Ron Unz.

The publisher of the American Conservative writes that many important news stories are ignored by the major U.S. newspapers and broadcasters, including the mystery of the 2001 anthrax attacks, evidence that American POWs were left behind in Vietnam and charges by an FBI whistleblower of a high-level espionage ring.  Ron Unz says you need to use the Internet to find the real news.

Postal service is on its last legs, with little help in sight in the Los Angeles Times.

OC&LpostofficeAs a government corporation, the U.S. Postal Service has the worst of both worlds—a requirement to make a profit, but no freedom of action to do the things necessary to make a profit.  Even so, the USPS might be able to survive if not for the requirement that it fund retirement benefits 50 years in advance—far longer than the USPS is likely to be in existence, unless things change.

At Universities, Too, the Rich Grow Richer by Lawrence Wittner.

Graham Spanier, the president of Pennsylvania State University, received $2.9 million in salary for the 2011-2012 academic year, the year he was forced to resign in disgrace over the Penn State pedophile scandal.   He is an example of how state universities reflect the U.S. trend to huge compensation packages for top executives, wage stagnation for middle-level workers and a growing number of low-paid temporary workers (adjuncts) at the bottom.

Why is the FBI helping a monstrous dictator? by Ted Rall.

A cartoonist and syndicated columnist asks why the FBI has arrested an opponent of Uzbekistan’s corrupt and hated dictator, Islam Karimov, who has massacred his own people and literally boiled opponents alive.  Karimov was so odious that the Bush administration severed relations, but the Obama administration restored the connection, because of Uzbekistan’s strategic location and Karimov’s help in prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

Covert U.S. propaganda for Uzbek dictator

November 30, 2011

David Trilling in Foreign Policy magazine described the Obama administration’s support for one of the world’s most cruel dictators.  His article told how the U.S. Department of Defense finances covert propaganda via the Internet in support of the Karimov regime through its subcontractor, General Dynamics.

Gas-rich Uzbekistan, the most populous of the formerly Soviet Central Asian republics, has been ruled since before independence in 1991 by strongman President Islam Karimov, who is regularly condemned in the West for running one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt regimes. 

Freedom House gives Uzbekistan the lowest possible score in its Freedom in the World report, while watchdog groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on widespread torture and forced child labor. 

The respected Russian human rights group Memorial says Karimov holds more political prisoners than all other post-Soviet republics combined, often through an “arbitrary interpretation” of the law.  The overwhelming majority of those convicted are somehow linked to Islam.  Memorial has found that thousands of “Muslims whose activities pose no threat to social order and security are being sentenced on fabricated charges of terrorism and extremism.”

Nonetheless, with Pakistani-American relations at a desperate low, Washington now seems more eager than ever to make overtures to Tashkent. In the past, Karimov has responded to U.S. criticism by threatening to shut down the supply route to Afghanistan.  In 2005, after Washington demanded an investigation into the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the eastern city of Andijan, he closed the American airbase at Karshi-Khanabad. 

So Washington’s expressions of disapproval have given way to praise. In September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautiously commended Tashkent for its “progress” on political freedoms, and, more significantly, President Barack Obama moved to end restrictions on military aid, in place since 2004. Then, during an Oct. 22 visit to Tashkent, Clinton thanked the Uzbek leader in person for his cooperation. A State Department official traveling with her said he believed Karimov wants to leave a democratic legacy for “his kids and his grandchildren.”

Source: David Trilling | Foreign Policy.

 This is an example of both the militarization of U.S. foreign policy and the privatization of the U.S. military.  Relations with Uzbekistan are a part of foreign policy and should be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State, but this has been taken over the U.S. Department of Defense and a private armaments manufacturer.  Note, too, that the pro-Karimov propaganda is directed at the world public, including the American public, which is being led to believe it comes from an objective source.

All this is necessary, it will be said, in order for the United States government to project its power on a global basis—in other words, for empire.  But as the United States becomes an empire, it ceases to be a republic.

Click on Propagandistan to read the whole article.

Incidentally, General Motors Corp. has opened an engine plant in Uzbekistan.  It will employ 1,200 workers.  Click on GM Opens Plant Where Clinton Talked “Rights” for details.

Click on Choihona for news updates on Uzbekistan.

Click on Human Rights Watch for more on Uzbekistan.

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