Office of Research
Foreign Media Reaction
May 18, 2005
UZBEKISTAN: 'STALINIST BRUTALITY' ATOP A 'PINNACLE OF POLITICAL MYOPIA'
** "Uzbeks will never forget" Islam Karimov, the "boiling butcher" and "disgrace of Andijan."
** Karimov, "unchallenged by Moscow" and "never criticized" by the U.S is "Bush's man."
** The "tottering tyrant" of Tashkent aids "western anti-terror"; controls bases, gold, oil and gas.
** "Islamic militancy" and "economic hardship" inflame the "dangerous deal" with Tashkent.
'Karimov's regime is so hideously brutal...so corrupt'-- Islam Karimov's suppression of protests with bloodshed and carnage in Andijan was denounced worldwide. Media recalled accusations of his "grisly human rights abuses, including torture, murder and boiling detainees alive" alongside Uzbeks' "popular hate" for Karimov's "state terror" tactics; writers noted, "under one of the most autocratic and repressive regimes existing today," he "controls all the media, and allows systematic torture on all prisoners." Russia's business-oriented Kommersant declared, "Uzbeks will never forget what Karimov did" using "brute force" in Andijan.
'Russia and the United States...share concerns' over Uzbekistan-- Negative attributions from analysts globally include "wickedness, ruthless, tyrannical rule, shameful, hypocrisy" et al in referring to Karimov's activities, and U.S.-Russian reactions. Overwhelmingly, worldwide media shared the center-left Irish Times' view regarding the "lukewarm reaction to the bloodshed and appeals for help from both the United States and Russia.” A Russian analyst asserted Moscow may "favor the Uzbek type of coercive ‘stabilization’." He then questioned its "wrong ideas" about "stabilty criteria," adding democracy sets "natural conditions for...real stability.” In concert, Austria's mass-circulation Kleine Zeitung stated "Bush remains silent."
The U.S. is scored for 'legitimating Uzbek President Islam Karimov'-- The UK's conservative Daily Telegraph opined, "America must ditch the Tyrant of Tashkent." Most writers echoed a South Korean observer's view "the unrest in Uzbekistan causes problems for the United States, which has considered President Karimov an important ally in its anti-terrorism campaign." They noted "half-hearted" or no U.S. criticism and identified Karimov as a "strong ally of Washington" who allowed use of an air base in the Karshi-Khanabad region to help fight the "terrorism war" in Afghanistan. Uzbek authorities hijacked the "terminology of America's war on terror" to control a "comparatively wealthy" country, declared UAE and Irish outlets.
Islamic extremists provide 'convenient justification for repression'-- Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times spoke for many observers in saying "repressive rule and economic stagnation" tied to "rampant corruption" led to "growing poverty" in a "rich nation." He held these ills rather than Islamic militancy to be at the "root of Uzbekistan’s problems." A UK commentator asked, "what drives support for this torturer?" And answered, "to provide the CIA and MI-6 with 'intelligence' ...linking the Uzbek opposition with Islamist terrorism and al-Qaida." A German outlet noted Karimov termed his moves against opposition a "contribution to the fight against terrorism." A Russian analyst countered, "Andijan is far from the most Islamized city in Uzbekistan and its residents have never aspired to Islamic values, let alone religious extremism."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 70 reports from 23 countries from May 14-18, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed by the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "The Blood Of The Uzbeks, Hypocrisy Of The West, And Last Great Oil Grab"
Johann Hari commented in the left-of-center Independent (5/18): "Uzbekistan's first uprising--the first of many--is right now being crushed by U.S.-trained troops and with U.S. funds, in return for access to the last great oil-grab in history. The Republican regime in the White House wants to be part of the global scramble for the final untapped stash of fossil fuels on earth, before the carbon-burning party winds to an end.... A strategic decision was clearly taken that, if this requires them to fund and fuel Karimov, the butcher of Uzbekistan--and inadvertently recreate the Middle East in Central Asia--so be it."
"He's Our Sonofabitch: The West's Support For The Uzbek Regime Exposes Its Destructive Reliance On Despots And Tyrants"
Jonathan Freedland wrote in the left-of-center Guardian (5/18): "When crowds demonstrated in Lebanon, Ukraine and Georgia, the Americans welcomed it as 'people power'. But the brave stand in Uzbekistan brought a different response. Washington called for 'restraint' from both sides, as if the unarmed civilians were just as guilty as those shooting them."
"Unfinished Business: In Uzbekistan, The World Is Wrestling With The Soviet Union's Legacy"
An editorial in the conservative Times read (5/18): "Washington has little to lose from a direct appeal to Mr. Karimov to step aside. Calling on him to create the 'pressure valves' that open political systems need, as Ms. Rice did yesterday, is too hopeful. The Uzbek leader is a tyrant who knows his underground opposition would overwhelm him given an opening, and has no intention of committing political suicide."
"Balance Of Power"
The far-left Guardian editorialized (5/17): "The U.S. should use its immense power more wisely to get the balance right between geopolitics and democracy. It and other western countries, including Britain and its EU partners, must do more to help the emergence of a legitimate democratic opposition -- so that people power in central Asia ends up wielded by the right sort of people."
"Winds Of Change Reach Central Asia: The March Of Democracy Will Not Bypass U.S. Allies"
The independent Financial Times opined (5/17): "It may not be long before someone quotes Franklin D. Roosevelt and argues that at least Mr. Karimov is 'our sonofabitch'. But such ruthlessness is bad policy in today's connected world. If the U.S. really wants to spread democracy and freedom, it cannot expect to exempt its tyrannical allies from the democratic movement it helped launch in the Middle East, eastern Europe and central Asia."
"Ready, Steady, Cook Up Reasons For Supporting The Boiling Butcher"
Columnist Martin Samuel remarked in the conservative Times (5/17): "We mould these little monsters such as Saddam, Karimov and General Manuel Noriega and they do our dirty work until such a time when it is no longer expedient, at which point we extract revenge and dress it up as a moral crusade; or enduring freedom. There are those who believe that, whatever its motives, the war in Iraq can be justified by free elections and the removal of Saddam. Yes, but only if that policy is consistent. If the coalition agenda is to spread democracy worldwide, then it cannot be in bed with a tyrant like Karimov. And if it is, then any good in Iraq is overpowered by the stench of death and hypocrisy wafting across from central Asia."
"A Region On The Brink"
The conservative Times editorialized (5/16): "The government's dreadful overreaction in opening fire on demonstrators will immeasurably boost support for radical groups across Central Asia. Neighboring Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, also ruled by repressive autocrats, should move swiftly to defuse tensions before violence erupts. And pressure must now be put on Mr. Karimov to change course before his country and the entire unstable but strategic region are engulfed."
"What Drives Support For This Torturer"
Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, commented in the left-of-center Guardian (5/16): "One of the uses of Uzbek torture is to provide the CIA and MI6 with 'intelligence' material linking the Uzbek opposition with Islamist terrorism and al-Qaida.... The information may be untrue, but it is valuable because it feeds in to the U.S. agenda. Karimov is very much George Bush's man in central Asia. There is not a senior member of the U.S. administration who is not on record saying warm words about Karimov. There is not a single word recorded by any of them calling for free elections in Uzbekistan."
"A Shameful Response To A Moral Outrage"
The center-left Independent observed (5/16): "This carnage has drawn only half-hearted criticism from London and Washington. The reason for their reticence, of course, is that ever since 11 September 2001, President Islam Karimov has been an enthusiastic ally of the U.S.-led war against terrorism, of which we are a part, and--manning the watchtower on the border with an unstable Afghanistan--his services in repressing Islamist militants have earned him indulgence from his Western friends."
"America Must Ditch The Tyrant Of Tashkent"
The conservative Daily Telegraph had this to say (5/16): "[President Karimov’s] implacability is partly explained by the attitude of the U.S. State Department. The Americans sponsored opposition movements in Georgia and Ukraine, and Congress recently voted a £40 million grant for pro-democracy activists in Belarus. But when it comes to Uzbekistan, Washington is shamefully equivocal. The Administration is calling for restraint on both sides, even though there is ample evidence that the security forces have been firing into unarmed crowds."
"Tension In Tashkent"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (5/14): "In Georgia this week, Mr. Bush praised the 'Rose Revolution' of 2003 as an exemplar of freedom. Washington should now apply its strategy of promoting democracy with greater vigor to Tashkent. Otherwise, it may find that a region previously remarkable for its lack of religious ardor may embrace Islamic radicalism. By overthrowing President Askar Akayev in a popular uprising in March, Kyrgyzstan sent a warning to Central Asia of the danger of corrupt and repressive government. America, of all countries, should be aware of its import and adjust its policy accordingly."
FRANCE: "Of Rebels And Tyrants"
Patrick Sabatier noted in left-of-center Liberation (5/18): “Uzbekistan is far and its fate appears disconnected from Europe’s concerns. Wrongly, because it is the most populated country in Central Asia and the keystone of a dangerous region.... Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran, the Arab-Muslim world, but also the U.S. are fighting for influence in the latest round of the Great Game. Karimov is a tyrant, but his enemies, Islamic radicals linked to the Taliban and Bin Laden’s network, are just as bad.... Yet the tyrant can count on non-interference from all those who are at war against Islamic terrorism: China, Russia, and the U.S. No one will hear Bush call for a democratic crusade in Tashkent. He does not want a revolution similar to the ones in Georgia, Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan.... It is probably because, like Roosevelt when he spoke of Stalin, Bush no doubt thinks Karimov is ‘an S.O.B. but he is our S.O.B.’ In this Great Game, cynicism may seem like a trump card. But only until the tyrant falls, toppled by the rebels who will then turn against those who stood by idle.”
"What Is Behind The Attacks In Andijan?"
Semih Vaner of CERI (Center for International Research Studies) wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/16): “What is certain is Islam Karimov’s all-repression approach, and NGOs are bringing this to the attention of the international community.... His opponents explain that the absence of democracy opens the way to protest movements of a strictly Islamic nature.... Of all the regional powers, the one weighing in the most in Uzbekistan is Russia.... The U.S., which considers that Karimov’s regime is the first to have benefited economically and politically from the fall of the Taliban regime, is concerned over the alarming lack of human rights in Uzbekistan and is threatening to curtail its military and economic aid.... There is a debate over the new U.S. political approach in the region, coming from Russia for the most part, and implying that ‘managed conflicts’ is a policy that aims to weaken potential enemies, in this instance Russia and China and that U.S. intelligence, but also European intelligence, are involved in this new regional ‘great game.’
"Repression In The Name Of ‘Islamic Threat’"
Lorraine Millot observed in left-of-center Liberation (5/16): “It is perhaps time to acknowledge that the use of brute force is only triggering the birth of new clandestine Islamic cells. The U.S., which is increasingly present in the region, and which has certainly understood this phenomenon, has recently encouraged a ‘democratic revolution’ in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. These recent interventions, in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, are forcing the U.S. today to prove that ‘promoting democracy’ in former Soviet Union countries can help to resolve serious crises.”
GERMANY: "Disintegrating Fringes"
Karl Grobe asserted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/18): "For two reasons, Russia is interested in being present in Uzbekistan: First, to keep another partner in the fight against terrorism; second, to prevent the U.S. from entering the states on the territory of the former Soviet Union. In the first case, the leadership around Vladimir Putin copied the interpretation of the Tashkent regime that Islamism is the real danger, something that fits the justification ideology for the war against Chechnya. In the second case, the Kremlin leadership considers itself the object of encirclement by means of an unfriendly takeover from 'the near proximity,' which in reality is no near proximity. The periphery of the former empire is beginning to play no longer any role in this perspective. Following the Baltic states, Georgia, Ukraine and probably Kyrgyzstan now Uzbekistan? There is one characteristic for this way of thinking: the former Soviet republics remain objects of Russian thinking and acting."
"Claim And Reality Differ"
Right-of-center Fuldaer Zeitung opined (5/18): "If evidence was still necessary to demonstrate how far claim and reality of U.S. foreign policy differ, then the past days of revolt in Uzbekistan offered illustrative material. How credible is a policy of the Bush administration if a fine distinction is being made between 'good' revolutionaries in Georgia and Ukraine and 'bad,' allegedly Islamic, revolutionaries in the Uzbek Fergana Valley? The answer is not very favorable for the Americans. Like often before, the superpower has apparently gotten involved with dubious despots, which it cannot drop without jeopardizing all U.S. soldiers deployed in Central Asia. But it is less this cooperation with dubious partners, who are making Bush so assailable, but rather this hypocrisy with which pure power policy and geo-strategic alliances, which may even be necessary, are sold to the global public as an export of democracy."
Jasper von Altenbockum noted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/17): "With brute force, Uzbek President Karimov crushed a revolt in Andijan.... He thus continues to remain loyal to his governing style, which is all the more dependent on state-organized terror, the longer his rule over Uzbekistan lasts.... But not only the government in Tashkent is now forced to justify its activities. Over the past few years, Karimov was able to hide from his critics behind Washington's back, which (like Germany) is dependent on the country as a base for supplies for the forces in Afghanistan. The western anti-terror alliance tried to steal away from its responsibility by forcing the Uzbek potentate to initiate reforms, but to no avail, as the latest events showed and without any consequences, apart from cautious economic reforms. The fact that Great Britain is the first western country to protest is not without its irony. The government in London fired its ambassador to Tashkent because he was not tired of complaining about Uzbek torture which helped western intelligence services to get 'information.'"
"Karimov, Unable To Initiate Reforms"
Rudolph Chimelli argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/17): "Uzbek President K karimov has not forgotten anything but not learned his lesson. He reacts to opposition in a way he reacted as party leader of the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and as a member of the Politburo in Moscow: with brute force…. He belongs to those despots who prefer to deal with terrorists rather than to enter into talks with an opposition that is willing to talk. But Islamic extremism is only a marginal reason for the bloody unrest in the Fergana Valley. Not only religious zealots detest Karimov's regime but also the large majority of people, and the intellectuals…. With the exception of Turkmenistan, which sits in the same row as North Korea with its primitive personality cult there is not other regime that is more unable to initiate reforms than the Karimov regime. Karimov recently left the Guam group in which several other nations wanted to form a counterweight to the Russian dominated CIS. Rumors are that he now wants to sign a treaty for collective security with Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan."
"Dangerous Deal With Despots"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg noted (5/17): "The West should now be alarmed not only because of the numerous civilians who fell victims to the bloody crushing of the revolt…. The example of Uzbekistan shows in an alarming way the limits of alliances, which the United States concluded in the 'fight against international terrorism.' They are the dangerous gray in U.S. President Bush's black and white picture. Apart from the free world and the 'axis of evil,' there has been a strategic, mainly Asian, axis since 2001: In addition to Pakistan, there is Uzbekistan and in parts also Russia. In Uzbekistan, we can now recognize a scheme of Central Asian policy of its most bloodiest side, a fact to which the West has thus far remained silent, but which it has at least accepted approvingly: the state power stigmatizes the opposition and considers any resistance as anti-Islamic or terrorist. The moves against the opposition are labeled as a contribution to the fight against terrorism. In Uzbekistan, there are almost no indications of efforts to set up a religious state. The United States, whose president usually has a sensitive relation with democracy and freedom, has restrained his criticism of autocratic President Karimov, since the country is too important as a key basis for U.S. forces and its allies. Contrary to the U.S. freedom rhetoric, it pins its hopes in Uzbekistan mainly on stability.... Now Uzbekistan is showing the price which a deal with despots has, for, since 9/11 the definitions of freedom and the rule of law are easily overstretched."
ITALY: "Bush Doctrine To The Test"
Massimo Introvigne opined in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (5/17): “We mustn’t hide it: a strong debate on Uzbekistan is taking place within the U.S. Administration.... Certain influential neo-cons like Daniel Pipes, who fear the presence of ultra-fundamentalist Muslims in the coalition that wants to oust Karimov, are speaking out that after all it is better to keep the Uzbek president, rather than to risk the possibility that Muslim extremists take over in Tashkent. Secretary of State Condi Rice doesn’t seem to agree, but a lobby of friends of Putin is pushing for Daniel Pipes’ view.... Certainly, the United States has an interest, the right and perhaps even the duty to ask the insurgents who want democracy in Uzbekistan to repudiate terrorism and to exclude from politics the forces tied to Al-Qaida. To go along with Pipes’ fears, and to prefer that the dictator Karimov be kept in power, would mean to disappoint the aspirations for democracy of millions of Muslims, and to clamorously and incomprehensibly dismiss the entire Greater Middle East Initiative.”
"The Islamic Fuse In Central Asia"
Renzo Guolo remarked in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (5/16): “These are difficult days for Washington on the Islamic front. Persistent violence in Iraq...has obliged Condoleezza Rice to claim that the rebels cannot be defeated with weapons alone, but only with a strong political alternative.... The strategy of the ‘new containment’ must now face up to emerging Afghani malaise and the Uzbek revolt.... The protests that yesterday rocked various Afghani regions, caused by the alleged desecration of Islam’s holy book at Guantanamo, revealed strong opposition to U.S. policy and the Taliban’s widespread ability to mobilize [publics]. The protests also demonstrated how little the Americans learned from the Abu Ghraib experience. The fight against Islamic terrorism...must be conducted by avoiding all gestures that could be taken as a religious offense by Muslims.... Washington should know well that the symbolic dimension of the battle is just as important as the military one.... Washington’s difficulties have recently spread to the heartland of Central Asia.... The Americans continue to maintain an important presence in Uzbekistan. The air base in Khanabad allows them to preside over an area that is strategically decisive both militarily and in terms of control over immense local energetic resources. In the coming years, this area will play a decisive role in the competition for hegemony between current and future superpowers--U.S. and China.... The Islamic revolt in Uzbekistan poses serious problems for Washington. After supporting the velvet revolution in Kyrgyzstan, America must turn its gaze elsewhere when it comes to Tashkent. Given the lack of a trustworthy opposition, the country’s geopolitical stability takes the front seat.... If the analysis which furnishes the basis for Bush’s doctrine--according to which dictatorships in Muslim countries give rise to the reproduction of Islamic movements--is still valid, then it will be an arduous undertaking to defend Karimov, in the name of stability.... An important game is being played out in Uzbekistan regarding the fate of the theory of exporting democracy, as well as the Islamic world’s perception of the West.”
RUSSIA: "The U.S. Careful Not To Spoil Relations With An Ally"
Yelena Shesternina stated in reformist Izvestiya (5/18): “Human rights activists in the U.S. demand that Bush condemn Karimov’s actions. But the President prefers to remain silent on that subject. Clearly, Washington is reluctant to harm relations with a key ally, the name it gave to Uzbekistan shortly before the Afghanistan operation. That explains the less than categorical tone of its references to a need to observe human rights. The Americans have to be careful about what they say and how they say it.”
"Andijan Is Another Stalingrad"
Mikhail Zygar argued in business-oriented Kommersant (5/18): "Orange revolutions’ are the most painful topic for post-Soviet leaders in a ‘risk group.’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserts that Andijan has nothing to do with ‘color revolutions.’ He must be right. Andijan has set a precedent to show that an ‘orange revolution’ is not invincible, marking an end to the ‘orange’ rampage. Andijan is a new Stalingrad instilling confidence in presidents that the ‘orange’ enemy will be crushed. Russian support for Tashkent and its war on terror is indicative of many leaders hailing the Andijan shooting. It is as if Islam Karimov showed how one should act when the enemy breaks into one’s home. The question is, do they realize that Andijan is not the end of the story? The events in Uzbekistan are just the beginning, and it is anybody’s guess what is going to happen to the current Tashkent regime a year to a year and a half from now. ‘Flabby liberals’ Kuchma and Shevardnadze have been able to stay in their countries. Askar Akayev will be back home after a while, too. But you can’t be sure about Islam Karimov and his followers.”
"The Battle Of Tashkent"
Vladimir Bogdanov commented in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (5/17): “As he claims the threat of Islamic extremism to justify the crackdown on the opposition, President Karimov risks turning off moderate Uzbeks and provoking stronger support for real extremists. The Uzbeks, a tolerant and moderately religious people, felt they couldn’t take any more of corruption, repression, and poverty. The state getting as tough as opening fire on demonstrators may result in stronger support for radical groups across Central Asia.”
"It’s Only The Beginning"
Sergey Luzyanin said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/17): "Karimov’s regime is in for hard times. Regime change is likely to take the form of a stiff armed uprising in several locations, possibly splitting the country. One thing is certain: the events in Andijan will have a follow-up elsewhere on a different scale. The rebellion may get crushed again, but the domino effect will continue. The process of political elite renovation is inevitable and will proceed in various forms. Sweeping all regimes, including Turkmenistan, it will be complete within 5 to 7 years.... By supporting the Uzbek authorities’ toughness, Russia gives cause for the international community to suggest that it may be just as ruthless in trying to prevent a revolution in Central Asia.”
"Karimov’s Regime Doomed"
Arkadiy Dubov stated this in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/17): "With the kind of popular hate for Karimov’s regime in the country, it doesn’t take 'imported’ volunteers to mastermind resistance to it."
"Turbulent Times In The Fergana Valley"
A. Safarin commented in Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (5/17): "Apparently, the current crisis in Uzbekistan is over the hump. What happened in Andijan, at least some of it, was imported. Revolution didn’t come off, as the government ordered troops into the city.... As expected, international ‘well-wishers,’ have cried out against perpetrations.... We didn’t hear from them in October of 1993, when Russia’s legitimate parliament was fired upon. Nor did they object last year, when the U.S. army rolled over Fallujah in Iraq, destroying everything in its way, including hundreds of women and children.... The West is finding itself in an ambiguous situation. On the one hand, Uzbekistan doesn’t fit into its democratic standards; on the other, it has offered bases to NATO. The West is ready to pay for the bases in dollars and turn a blind eye to President Karimov’s suppression of opposition parties and the opposition press."
Reformist Izvestiya editorialized (5/16): “Any post-Soviet regime obstructing the development of democratic institutions and market economy is extremely unstable. Therefore, the authorities in CIS countries, in most cases, have to grapple with popular protests against economic injustices, sham democracy, and new rulers with an old mentality, things that are hard to put down to foreign special services and extremists.... Relying on regimes that never change rulers does not mean relying on stability. The events in Uzbekistan are no warning to Russia, of course, as the situation in this country is basically different and does not suggest the possibility of anything like a ‘velvet revolution.’ Yet they are a signal that Russia lacks an effective CIS doctrine. To have a true strategy, foreign policy officials need to face reality and develop a new realpolitik.”
Semen Novoprudskiy said in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/16): “Public statements by Russian diplomats on tragic events in Uzbekistan show that our authorities are not quite aware of the situation in post-Soviet republics and have wrong ideas about the stability criteria of political regimes. Yesterday’s statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling the Andijan tragedy a provocative act by Taliban-type criminal groups is a graphic example. The truth is that responsibility for what happened lies with the regime and nobody else. Stability based on the total suppression of human rights and freedoms and the dire poverty of the population is not stability but rather a powder keg that can go off any moment. Official Tashkent invariably refers to antigovernment protests, including hunger strikes, as acts by Islamic extremists and poses as the only surviving stronghold of the secular state. But that is a lie--Andijan is far from the most Islamized city in Uzbekistan and its residents have never aspired to Islamic values, let alone religious extremism.... Every regime change in a post-Soviet republic catches Moscow by surprise and causes it to engage in speculation on ’velvet’ revolutions funded by Western NGOs. This stems from attempts to substitute a stable and dominant position of the ruling clan for a stable development of the country. Moscow, which seems to favor the Uzbek type of coercive ‘stabilization,’ must realize that democracy, the appointment of all bodies of power by election, and the rotation of leaders, as determined by the constitution, are natural conditions for maintaining real stability.”
"Uzbeks Will Never Forget What Karimov Did"
Andrey Kolesnikov commented in business-oriented Kommersant (5/16): “He did it. By ordering shooting, the Uzbek president sentenced himself to an early resignation, to say the least. It will be the happiest ending for him. Uzbeks will never forget what Islam Karimov did. They were not particularly fond of him even before Andijan, but had some light-minded illusions. The illusions are gone now, too. Mr. Karimov tolerates no opposition and views stability simply as everyone keeping quiet. He has dealt severely with all kinds of opposition, from the democratic to the religious to the economic to the local. His regime turned tyrannical last Friday. Supporting him from Russia is as suicidal as representing him inside Uzbekistan. To know that some people in the Kremlin don’t see that feels discomforting. Shameful even.”
"Karimov Stupid. Kremlin’s Policy Primordial"
Vladislav Inozemtsev stated in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/16): “Using force against unarmed people is the pinnacle of political myopia. President Karimov engages in stupid self-delusion by claiming that the situation is getting back to normal. But that is partly due to him having no way out--he has burnt all his bridges, including those on the border with Kyrgyzstan. Russia’s primordial policy impresses even more. Clumsy lies have become Moscow’s trademark. But more striking than that is its inability to think and look ahead. Uzbekistan is a vivid illustration. Russia has lost Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The Americans have set their sights on Belarus, and Moscow can’t stop them. Russia is less democratic than the Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia. Its relatively liberal regime looks attractive only to people in Central Asia terrorized by their governments. It was not for nothing that members of the Andijan uprising asked President Putin for mediation. That their appeal fell on deaf ears was a gross mistake.”
AUSTRIA: "A Cumbersome Friend"
Jana Patsch commented in mass-circulation Kurier (5/18): "No politician is giving U.S. President Bush more sleepless nights these days than Uzbekistan's long-term head of state Islam Karimov.... Over the years, Karimov succeeded in transforming his country into a police state and the people of Uzbekistan have become increasingly destitute. This frightening poverty is seen as the real trigger for the recent unrest. Karimov has never made a secret of the fact that he has armed himself against any possible uprising. The brutal clampdown of his troops on demonstrators last week can't have come as a surprise to anyone. It will be difficult for the U.S. now to distance itself from the dictator. All the more so, since Moscow is evidently backing Karimov. Bush knows only too well that Karimov will land safely in Putin's arms, should he decide to drop him."
"Disgraceful Signals From Brussels"
Martin Stricker wrote in independent provincial Salzburger Nachrichten (5/18): "It is absolutely clear who is responsible for the hundreds of dead in Uzbekistan. President Islam Karimov is a dictator, and everything in the country happens on his orders. He was in Andijan himself, directing the operation, justifying the mass murder as part of the war against Islamists. London and the USA have both condemned the regime in Tashkent. They've called for reforms and are putting Karimov under pressure.... And the EU? The group of states that likes to see itself as the guardian of human rights, and that entertains a partnership agreement with Uzbekistan?.... Other than that there was no need for action on the part of the EU as yet. But how many deaths does it take for the EU to act? A thousand? Two thousand? Brussels is putting on a truly disgraceful performance on the international stage here."
"Unrest In Central Asia"
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer commented in liberal daily Der Standard (5/15): "It was only a question of time until the fire spread to the United States' favorite dictatorship in the region.... Who exactly might be swept to power by the unrest in Uzbekistan is unclear. Little is known about what motivates the men whose arrest triggered the uprising, and...the Islamists will not necessarily be the ones who profit from the revolution."
"Bush Remains Silent"
Foreign editor Ernst Heinrich opined in mass-circulation provincial daily Kleine Zeitung (5/15): "A President like Karimov, who rules his country with Stalinist brutality, who has opponents tortured and incarcerated by the thousands, and who is now setting his army on his own people, should cause outrage all over the world - and in the U.S. in particular. But Washington is silent. No wonder: Karimov is George W. Bush's most important ally in Central Asia.... His fall could bring the Islamists to power in Uzbekistan, which would definitely not be in Washington's intention. Which is why the self-styled global policeman is content with merely watching this dictator's madness--silently and inactively."
"The Disgrace Of Andijan"
Foreign affairs editor for centrist daily Die Presse Christian Ultsch stated (5/17): "Uzbekistan's' regime must not get away with this. The EU has to launch sanctions, despite the U.S. policy of placating Russia.... The massacre of Andijan has to be solved completely. Should the order to shoot have come from the top, international sanctions against Karimov's regime are necessary. It would be a disgrace if a crime such as this went unpunished."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Rice On Uzbekistan"
Ivan Hoffmann commented on the Czech Radio station with the largest listenership (5/17): "Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice yesterday commented on the killings of demonstrators in Uzbekistan saying that 'this country needs reforms....' The upheavals in Uzbekistan pose a sensitive problem for the U.S. It is not simple to be stern with one’s ally; on the other hand, it is not possible to support the ally in something that can be viewed by the public as a criminal act.... It can be practical to have a dictator as ally; there is no danger that strategic agreements would be recalled because of lost elections. However, there’s always the danger that a dictator who holds six thousand political opponents in prison will one day hang on a lamp post and all agreements would become scraps of paper. Supporting an ally who orders shooting at demonstrators is just as risky as calling on him to release political prisoners. The dilemma a politician faces is not to judge whether it is right or wrong to shoot at people but to judge for how long the dictator can keep his position. Therefore, however Rice’s comments on the massacre seem off mark, she can indeed talk only about the need for reforms, since she does not yet know how the situation in Uzbekistan will develop."
IRELAND: "Boiling Butcher's Bill Is Paid For By Bush"
Martin Samuel held in the populist, center-right Irish Independent (5/17): "Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan, boils people alive. Why? For the same reason Saddam Hussein put his enemies in a shredder: because, at the time, he could. When the West is your pal you are able, quite literally, to get away with murder.... Karimov's Uzbekistan is the absolute market leader in torture right now.... Uzbek troops opened fire on an unarmed crowd of protesters on Friday in an act of such brutality that the world finally woke up to the wickedness of the war on terror's new best friend.... Karimov may be a vicious, murdering, malevolent despot, but he is our vicious, murdering, malevolent despot so, like Saddam, he can boil, shred and gas away until we tire of uses for him.... So the freedom the precious coalition claims to be exporting around the world is not true freedom at all.... There are those who believe that, whatever its motives, the war in Iraq can be justified by free elections and the removal of Saddam. Yes, but only if that policy is consistent. If the coalition agenda is to spread democracy worldwide, then it cannot be in bed with a tyrant like Karimov. And if it is, then any good in Iraq is overpowered by the stench of death and hypocrisy wafting across from central Asia. As it stands, the War on Terror finds an exalted place in its ranks for a man whose idea of government is a dissident casserole."
The center-left, daily The Irish Times editorialized (5/17): “The outbreak of violence in Uzbekistan will be watched anxiously in capitals as far away as Moscow, London and Washington. Precise details of the events which led to the killing of protesters by Uzbek troops and the exact number killed are still sketchy but that is to be expected in a country whose government practises extreme repression and which has no regard for freedom of expression or a free press.... There is considerable evidence however, that the protest had its origins in years of frustration over growing corruption and the widening gap between the Uzbek governing elite and the rest of the population. The country is comparatively wealthy with large, valuable deposits of oil and gas but corruption and mismanagement mean that poverty is on the increase. The Uzbek people are afflicted with a president, Islam Karimov, a former communist leader, whose approach to government is unashamedly Stalinist.... Mr Karimov's tyrannical rule will be unchallenged by Moscow but the killings will make it an acid test for the U.S. administration. Mr. Bush has never criticised Mr Karimov's government, mindful as he is of the very useful U.S. military base in the country, not to mention its strategically-important energy resources. But the White House, along with other western governments, can ignore it no longer and must put pressure on Mr. Karimov to let his people enjoy the freedom and prosperity that is their right.”
"Further Uprisings Reported After Uzbek Massacre"
Chris Stephen commented from Moscow the center-left, daily The Irish Times (5/17): “The spreading of this uprising will remind many of the overthrow of the Kyrgyz government three months ago.... But Uzbekistan's fighting indicates the government is taking a much tougher line. President Karimov has rushed extra troops to this impoverished region, and the main road from Andijan to the border was blocked.... Uzbekistan has been hit by violence during the past year, with a series of bomb blasts in the capital Tashkent being blamed by the government on Islamic terrorists [while]...international aid officials are struggling to get supplies of food, medicine and tents to the Kyrgyz border. They are hampered both by the isolation of this landlocked country and by the lukewarm reaction to the bloodshed and appeals for help from both the United States and Russia.”
"Uzbeks Hit Out At U.S. Backing For President"
Deirdre Tynan provided this view from Kara-Suu in the left-of-center, daily Irish Examiner (5/17): “Traumatized refugees last night slammed the Bush administration for legitimating Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Thousands of civilians are reported dead in the country after three days of violence and hundreds are reported to be trying to flee to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.... Uzbekistan, often touted as the most brutal post-Soviet regime, became a key ally in the War in Terror in 2001 allowing America to open an air base. The country has been accused of a series of grisly human rights abuses, including torture, murder and boiling detainees alive. The U.S. has urged Uzbekistan to act with restraint.’
KAZAKHSTAN: "Open Lessons Of Andijan"
Nikolay Kuzmin, senior analyst of the Political Research Foundation, Perspektiva, had this to say in official daily Kazakhstanskaya Pravda (5/17): "All countries, especially neighbors, are interested in the socio-political stability of Uzbekistan. What can be done to provide this stability? How can the U.S. help Uzbekistan? Open another military base on its territory? At the time the American military bases were deployed in Khanabad, it was declared a factor of stability in the country.... What can Kazakhstan offer to Uzbekistan? It can offer a realization of the Central Asian Economic Cooperation project… Thus, to provide a secure future and stable economic development, Kazakhstan today not only can, but also is obliged to participate in strengthening its influence in countries of Central Asia along with international centers of power (the U.S., Russia, and China)… Kazakhstan is not only interested in the political stability of the region, but also in the liberalization of the economy and more open markets in these countries, as well as democratic development and human rights’ observance."
"Andijan--Victory Or Defeat?"
Ravil Usmanov articulated his views on events in Uzbekistan in the pro-government daily Liter (5/17): “Washington responded in a uncommonly low key way on events in Andijan: 'We are concerned about the outbreak of violence, in particularly the release of some members of a terrorist organization. And we urge both the government and the demonstrators to exercise restraint at this time. The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government, but that should come through peaceful means, not through violence'… Thus, we can guess that the United States allowed Islam Karimov to respond to violence with violence. More interesting is the position of the United States, which usually reacts more nervously to events that have even less to with 'violating human rights' than what happened in Andijan… A trap is being set for Islam Karimov by allowing him to use force against people, who obviously have nothing to do with religious extremist movements, so that afterwards they can start compiling evidence for a court proceeding in The Hague."
NETHERLANDS: "9/11 Made Karimov A U.S. Partner"
Influential independent NRC Handelsblad analyzed (5/17): “Washington and London condemned the bloodbath in the Uzbek town of Andijan and the actions by the Uzbek President. But for the past few years, dictator Karimov has been an ally.... Madeleine Albright had made personal efforts to free a number of democracy and human rights activists from Karimov’s prisons. But after 9/11 the American policy, followed suit by the British, changed drastically: the Americans started their war on terror and needed the Central Asian republics.”
"The Watchdog That Bites Too Hard"
Influential liberal De Volkskrant editorialized (5/18): “Uzbek leader Karimov is seen as a watchdog against terrorism but his repressive regime has become a breeding ground for terrorism.... Both Russia and the U.S. are very embarrassed by the bloody suppression in the eastern part of Uzbekistan. Even though both Moscow and Washington have condemned the death of hundreds of citizens, they can also not wait for authoritarian Uzbek President Karimov to restore order.... There has been no international pressure on Karimov to resign or to call new elections because he is a loyal partner in the fight against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.”
"Bush And Uzbekistan"
Influential independent NRC Handelsblad declared (5/17): “The revolt in the former Soviet republic Uzbekistan has been put down with the use of force. It is unclear what exactly took place in Uzbekistan in the past few days but fact is that the army shot at demonstrators killing many civilians.... Uzbekistan is important because of the role the Americans gave it to play in the fight against terrorism. Dictator Karimov is an ally of President Bush who, in his capacity as freedom preacher, would also like to see obscure republics such as Uzbekistan become democratic.... The American uneasiness about the double standard is evident. The question that comes up is: what would be more important to Washington? Supporting a democratic movement in Uzbekistan or supporting a dictator who helps catching terrorists even if he is doing that because it serves his own personal interest.... Bush cannot avoid his (shared) responsibility in Uzbekistan. The situation is a little more complex than Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated when he said the violence was an Uzbek domestic matter. It is not just that, and this notion should be reason for Bush to take action and for Karimov to be cautious."
POLAND: “The Price Of Blood”
Leopold Unger wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (5/17): “The situation in Uzbekistan is so explosive, Karimov’s regime is so hideously brutal and his satrapy so corrupt that when things break loose, what happened in Ukraine and Georgia--or even in Kyrgyzstan--will look like a walk in Hyde Park. Russia and the United States, the two countries that share concerns over the crisis in Uzbekistan, are also responsible for it. The two super powers have tolerated Karimov’s way of ruling: six thousand political prisoners, torture, blackmail, muzzling media, bribery--Russia, [reacting] with understanding; the United States, with a slight frown. For Russia, the policy of saving what remains of Russia’s influence over what was left of the empire is more significant than Putin’s resentment of Karimov.... The U.S. chapter of the Uzbek epic is even more embarrassing.... Washington turns a blind eye to Karimov’s abominable actions because Uzbekistan has been America’s strategic partner since September 11, 2001.”
ROMANIA: "Anger Is Smoldering"
In the independent daily Jurnalul National, journalist Ana Ilie opined (5/17): “It seems, though, that Karimov’s favorite politics of harshly stifling any opposition turns against him this time. Even if Andijan...seems to be reduced to silence now...the anger against the Tashkent regime is smoldering.”
"Revolution Bursting Out"
Military analyst Radu Tudor penned in the independent daily Ziua (5/17): “Revolution has burst out in Uzbekistan.... It was only a matter of time until the wave of democratic uprisings reached the borders of China. [Islam Karimov is] tacitly accepted by the West for his support in the fight against terrorism. But what the small dictators of Central Asia did not understand is that, by accepting military bases in the area, they have not earned themselves a peaceful tyrannical rule with Washington’s approval. On the contrary: they have set themselves on democratic fire.”
"The Uprising In Uzbekistan"
In the independent daily Gardianul, journalist Irina Moldovan opined (5/17): “The uprising in Uzbekistan puts Washington in a difficult position. The Bush administration is well known for its habit of intervening in favor of the democratic revolutions in the former Soviet republics. In this case, however, the White House cannot follow the same pattern, because the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, is an important ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. For this reason, Washington has appealed to both parties involved to solve the conflict peacefully.”
Viorica Marin wrote in independent Adevarul (5/14): “Relations between Tashkent and Washington have grown cold lately. The U.S. has reduced its financial aid to Uzbekistan, thus taxing Karimov for his failure to observe human rights and for setting limits to democracy. Seeing that the Americans have asked for democracy, the Uzbek president turned to Moscow and criticized the West for getting involved in ‘orange’ revolutions in the former Soviet states.”
SPAIN: "Uzbek Powder Keg"
Independent El Mundo editorialized (5/15): "It's not the first issue, but it is the most serious of recent years in the most populated (Central Asian) Republic, one of the poorest in spite of its natural resources and with the strongest military forces in Central Asia. To maintain himself in power, the dictator has forbidden any opposition...controls all the media, and allows systematic torture on all prisoners.... All this with the complicity and silence of the U.S. and Great Britain, who since 9/11 have military bases in the country and take advantage of the information obtained in Uzbekis prisons on the war against al-Qaida."
TURKEY: "Uzbekistan Is The Toughest Nut"
Nuh Gonultas commented in the conservative-sensational Dunden Bugune Tercuman (5/17): “Uzbekistan has a cruel leader who seems unwilling to transfer his authority through peaceful means. Karimov’s brutal methods to break the riot in Andijan, which has claimed between 50 and 500 lives, show his true character. Washington will find it very difficult to lay the groundwork for a ‘civilian coup’ in Uzbekistan. Kerimov has already closed down the office of George Soros and deported some American citizens. The recent incidents also prove that Karimov is determined to retaliate brutally in the face of any attempt to bring about a ‘civilian coup.’ … Karimov’s political record in Uzbekistan is anything but clean. He even extended his term in January 2002 by arranging a fake referendum. Karimov has used every method available to him to remain in power, including becoming a close partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism. Given the current circumstances, Uzbekistan seems to be the toughest nut to crack for those who want to provoke a ‘civilian coup.’ Nevertheless, history tells us that there is an end even for the most brutal of dictators.”
"Karimov Has Solid Support"
Haluk Ulman wrote in the economic-political Dunya (5/17): “Secretary Rumsfeld praised Uzbekistan’s role highly when the U.S. launched its global campaign against terrorism with the operation in Afghanistan. The former Soviet Republics, particularly Uzbekistan and Krygyzstan, are very important for Washington, because they constitute a basis for American policy in Asia.... Kyrgyzstan has given over its Manas base for the use of the U.S., and President Akayev maintained excellent ties with Washington. Washington, for the sake of the military base, turned a blind eye to the blatant human rights violations in Kyrgyzstan. A similar thing can be seen in Washington’s apparent disinterest in the Andijan riots and Karimov’s mistakes.... The military bases in Uzbekistan continue to make a great deal of impact on Kerimov’s ability to continue his rule. The Europeans complain about the country’s poor human rights record and take some measures, but the U.S. administration keeps silent. The State Department characterizes Uzbekistan government as ‘stable and moderate.’ This is due to the fact that the U.S. military needs the bases in Uzbekistan.”
"A Flower That Did Not Bloom"
Erdal Safak commented in the mass-appeal Sabah (5/15): “Recent events in Uzbekistan cannot be viewed as another democratic revolution. This is mainly due to the lack of organized opposition and the ban imposed in Uzbekistan on the Soros Foundation. Moreover, Uzbekistan is not having an election, and President Karimov is able to control the army and police force.... Nevertheless the uprising in Andijan came as no surprise. It had been expected, so Karimov had taken certain measures to counter the demonstrations before they even started. For instance, he ordered the security forces to respond as harshly as possible. He also ensured Russian support against the possibility of another ‘velvet revolution.’... The U.S. reacted immediately by taking the side of protesters in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. But the U.S. was silent about the incidents in Andijan. First of all, Uzbekistan has strategic importance for the U.S. by virtue of the two U.S. military bases established there. In addition, the rioting groups are radical Islamists of a kind that the U.S. opposes. Given the circumstances, Karimov is secure, at least for the time being. But we had better keep an eye on the other ‘candidates’ for ‘velvet revolutions’--Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.”
"Social Unrest In Uzbekistan"
Yilmaz Oztuna observed in the conservative-mass appeal Turkiye (5/16): “Although the Tashkent government presented the riots in Andijan as a revolt by religious fundamentalists, the issue goes much deeper than that. Andijan is the capital of the Fergana Valley, which is the area of the world (after Istanbul) most densely populated by Turks. Turkey is not against Uzbek leader Karimov’s efforts to bring all of the Turkic republics together under one umbrella. Turkey also understands Karimov’s efforts to protect his country against a Sharia regime. But it is not right for a person who has a communist background to have such deep concerns about religious fundamentalists. Steps he has taken--closing Fethullah Gulen’s schools, limiting the number of the Uzbek students being educated in Turkey--are unnecessary measures created by an unjustified suspicion. Karimov realized the problems in Afghanistan at an early stage, and he even allowed the U.S. to establish military bases in his country. Washington did not approve of the incidents in Andijan. In short, all of the Turkic republics--including Uzbekistan--need more democracy.”
TURKMENISTAN: "With Death Toll Nearing 700, Uzbekistan May Shake The Entire Region"
Pro-government anti-U.S. Ashgabat News Central Asia concluded (5/16): "The death toll as a result of indiscriminate firing by Uzbek law-enforcement agencies.... The law-enforcement agencies shot to kill and, in some cases, pursued and killed the demonstrators who were running away from the scene of the protest.... Severed limbs and crushed bodies could still be seen on the streets of Andijan.... The Andijan episode is far from over and there is a strong likelihood of an spillover effect to other towns. The situation in Uzbekistan demands honest and dispassionate analysis.... Popular discontent in Uzbekistan has reached a critical mass and there is no denying the truth that the ugly circumstances cannot be wished away.... Even though Washington would be quite receptive to the claims that Islamic extremists are stirring the trouble in Uzbekistan, the present unrest is a kind of truth serum that has forced many to come out with what is in their heart of hearts.... Confusing and ever-changing laws in Uzbekistan have made the life of ordinary people extremely difficult in the country. There is desperation--and desperate people can do anything.... The Andijan violence may not have come to an end. The next week or so will be crucial and most of it will depend on how the Karimov regime decides to handle the situation. The ingredients are in place for a countrywide uprising.... The present situation has the potential to spread in all directions and the world community must act now before it is too late."
QATAR: "Economics At The Heart Of Uzbekistan’s Woes"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times asserted (5/14): "An uprising in the eastern Uzbekistan town of Andijan yesterday was the latest sign of continuing unrest in the country, which has suffered repressive rule and economic stagnation since the collapse of the Soviet Union 14 years ago. Last night, troops were reported to have crushed the rebellion and there were claims that many people had been killed. However, the country’s worsening problems and the fact that this was one of several popular uprisings suggest that there is more trouble ahead. Uzbekistan seems unlikely to follow in the path of pro-Western revolutions, such as those in Georgia or Ukraine. However, its people will be watching the democratic developments in neighboring Kyrgyzstan with interest. The Uzbek government under President Islam Karimov says that it is engaged in a struggle against Islamic extremists but that claim should be treated with caution. It offers a very convenient justification for repression to a regime that is allied to the U.S. in its 'war on terror' and welcomed American forces on to its land. Karimov, a former communist official, has ruled Uzbekistan since independence. Events elsewhere in the former Soviet block suggest that historically the immediate post-Soviet rulers represent a transitional phase in their countries’ histories. Karimov, like many of his peers in other post-Soviet states, believed that he could make the country his personal fiefdom. Increasingly, such aspirations have turned out to be illusions. Yesterday’s brief revolt was triggered by charges laid against 23 men, many of them businessmen, who were accused of conspiring to create an Islamic state. Their arrests closed down their companies and put hundreds of people out of work. What was unusual about the subsequent unrest was that the demonstrators seized public buildings, freed prisoners and took hostages. It was far more threatening to the regime than a simple demonstration would have been, as it could have inspired similar takeovers elsewhere. However, the participants do not seem to have been following any particular political program. In the past, Uzbekistan had a distinguished role in the Arab-Islamic empire, when Tashkent was renowned as a city of science and learning. It is natural for its people to draw close to their Islamic heritage, particularly in times of economic hardship and when there is no political opposition. That does not necessarily make them Islamic extremists. The Uzbeks know their country is rich. It has large oil and gas reserves and is one of the world’s top 10 gold producers. Yet, they are impoverished, their lives have been getting harder and the government offers no hope of change or improvement. It is that, rather than Islamic militancy, which is at the root of Uzbekistan’s problems."
UAE: "Silence Is Not Always Golden"
The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News commented (Internet version, 5/16): "The U.S.could lose a lot of goodwill--and all for the want of its Uzbek air base. There was never any need to prove that U.S. foreign policy post 9/11 lacked coherence. But if there were any enclaves left, who still believed that Washington knew how to conduct foreign affairs, Uzbekistan would surely cure them of their naiveté. Washington's silence as people demand greater freedoms from a brutal communist dictator is bewildering. A strategic air base, used by U.S. forces, is given as the reason that the Bush administration seems lost for words of criticism. If that is so, the U.S. is short-changing itself. Air bases can be built anywhere and, besides, they are never worth the international cost of remaining silent in the face of oppression. The Uzbek authorities are hijacking the terminology of America's war on terror to excuse the excesses of the security forces. If this continues, America is in danger of keeping an air base but losing something far more valuable than planes or bombs in its campaign against terror international goodwill."
"Terror In Tashkent"
The expatraite-oriented English-language Khaleej Times held (Internet version, 5/16): "Uzbekistan is burning. The sheer brutality with which the Uzbek regime has dealt with the spontaneous anti-government protests over the weekend should leave no one in doubt as to what the Uzbek people have been going through under the regime. Uzbekistan under Islam Karimov is a state in the mold of the former Soviet Union--tyrannical, utterly ruthless and typically Stalinist. Keeping in with the true Stalinist traditions, the Uzbek regime has cracked down on peaceful protests mowing down hundreds of unarmed demonstrators.... Karimov has been presiding over a hopelessly corrupt, undemocratic and totalitarian regime. Although with the fall of Soviet Union, Central Asian and east European states gained independence, the unhealthy influences of Stalinist era continue to have a sway over the former Soviet republics. As in other central Asian republics, the political leadership in Uzbekistan has simply transitioned from Soviet era to a so-called democratic republic without shedding its autocratic mindset and practices of a police state.... Those questioning the regime’s policies and practices are routinely jailed. Human rights are trampled as a matter of course. Elections are held but true to good old-fashioned totalitarian traditions, they are orchestrated to perpetuate comrade Karimov’s regime. It’s not as if all this is not known to the international community. But since the big powers, U.S. and Russia, have a stake in Uzbekistan, the West goes to great lengths to keep the rule of terror in Tashkent out of global spotlight. It’s these dual standards that perpetuate Karimov’s oppressive rule. But not any more. The winds of change that have been sweeping the region--from Georgia to Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan--are sure to bring down the regime in Tashkent sooner than later. Karimov is trying to play on the U.S. concerns on terrorism by blaming the weekend violence on ‘fundamentalists and terrorists’. However, the West would do well to avoid helping the tottering tyrant. It’s people’s power that is at play in Uzbekistan. The international community should help the people of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states. It’s time for the terror rule in Tashkent to end."
JAPAN: "Repercussions Of Unrest In Uzbekistan"
An editorial in the business-oriented Nihon Keizai observed (5/17): "Bloody clashes between Uzbeks and government troops have reportedly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Anti-government uprisings have toppled the governments of former Soviet satellite states, including Georgia and Ukraine, since 2003. Will the same fate befall the Karimov regime of Uzbekistan, which borders on Afghanistan and is situated at a strategic location to fight terrorism? Uzbekistan's instability will have a tremendously negative impact on the U.S., China and the rest of the international community which are engaged in the war on international terrorism."
"Bloodshed Caused By Authoritarian Politics"
The liberal Asahi editorialized (5/16): "Uzbek troops put down an anti-government uprising, reportedly killing or injuring hundreds of citizens. The Uzbek situation remains sketchy because of limited outflow of information. But the situation is expected to change for the worse, as anti-government movements are growing among citizens, many of whom are protesting against the government troops' firing of machine-guns into a huge crowd, killing at least 500 people. The Karimov government said some Uzbeks rose in revolt under the influence of Muslim radicals. But it is more likely that the Uzbeks' backlash is directed at President Karimov's authoritarian rule, rampant corruption and slow progress in economic reform for the past 16 years--since Uzbekistan's independence from the former Soviet Union. Fundamental principles of democracy--freedom of speech and fair elections--have yet to take root in Uzbekistan. The restoration of Islam, which was long oppressed by the Soviet Union, is also complicating the country's democratization."
SOUTH KOREA: "Bloodshed In Uzbekistan"
The independent English-language Korea Herald editorialized (Internet version, dated 5/17): "It is regrettable that the demonstrations in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan which started the same day President Roh ended his two-day official visit to Tashkent turned into a bloodbath leaving an estimated 500 people dead. President Roh agreed with Uzbek President Islam Karimov on enhancing economic cooperation in the area of energy and resources but the central Asian country, where some 200,000 ethnic Koreans reside, is feared to remain unstable, threatening implementation of agreements reached through the summit contact. Watching the Uzbek situation, we are reminded of the Gwangju pro-democracy uprising, which took place 25 years ago this week. As in Korea in 1980, the demonstrators have been mercilessly suppressed by the military and there appears little possibility that the authoritarian regime of President Karimov will be overthrown despite so much sacrifice, although the protesters in Uzbekistan are apparently encouraged by what happened in neighboring Kyrgyzstan where, in March, President Askar Akayev was brought down by a series of demonstrations. It is unfortunate that the former Soviet republics in Central Asia are still characterized by widespread public discontent, suppression of political dissent, economic stagnation and corruption. In Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the present leaders have extended their rule with authoritarian methods. We hope the tragedy in Andijan will become the seed for the growth of democracy in the country and the Central Asian region. The unrest in Uzbekistan causes problems for the United States, which has considered President Karimov an important ally in its anti-terrorism campaign. For the time being Washington takes the ambiguous stand of asking both government and demonstrators to exercise restraint. Korea has had added interest in the region because of the presence of ethnic Koreans and the economic cooperation potential there, but President Roh's visit to Tashkent last week was ill-timed."
THAILAND: "The Big Trouble With Uzbekistan"
The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (5/18): "The brutal actions by Karimov, a strongman with roots in the Soviet era, should cause unease among members of the international community, especially nations taking part in the U.S.-led global war on terrorism. They cannot associate themselves too closely with such a man without alienating Muslims, whom they are trying to win over. At the same time, they are loath to see him fall, particularly at a time when Islamic militancy is on the rise.... The current lull in the fighting may look like a reprieve for Karimov's government, but tension continues to simmer under the surface. Many people have been unable to resist comparing what is happening in Uzbekistan with the popular uprisings that led to the overthrow of governments in neighboring countries like Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Georgia, which featured minimal civilian casualties. As things stand, it is very unlikely that Karimov, who has opted to respond to the protests with a violent crackdown, is going to leave the scene without putting up a fight to the bitter end. Then again, could there be some hope of political reform in Uzbekistan to pave the way for greater participation in the political process--if not outright democracy?”
PAKISTAN: "Massacre In Uzbekistan"
The center-right national English daily, The Nation editorialized (5/17): "After the brutal use of force in Andijan by the security forces on Friday that a reliable doctor confirmed caused the deaths of around 500 people and injuries to 2000 others, violent demonstrations have spread to other towns of eastern Uzbekistan protesting mainly dire economic conditions and widespread corruption under one of the most autocratic and repressive regimes existing today. Government forces were reportedly fighting militants in Bogishonol and Pakhtabad, where a human rights group claimed 200 others lay dead.... The scenario reflects what Uzbeks have to go through in life, albeit in a different way. Another way of eliminating the people was cited by a protester, who survived the carnage at Andijan, as 'our relatives started to disappear'. Authoritarian order is not new to the people. They have lived under it during the long Soviet occupation. Although they could not think of expressing dissent on any issue at that time, in several ways things were different.... The regime, led by Islam Karimov, is a strong ally of Washington that acquired from him an air base in the Karshi-Khanabad region to help fight its so-called terrorism war in Afghanistan. As the base lies at a convenient distance of 145km from the Afghan border, the U.S. could not be accused of instigating any change in Tashkent, unlike Bishkek, and is urging restraint on both protesters and government 'restraint."
"Mr. Karimov’s Repressive Uzbekistan"
The liberal, English-language Daily Times stated (Internet version, 5/16): "The military crackdown last Saturday in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan, which has left hundreds dead, raises very important questions about the political systems in place in that country and other Central Asian states. President Islam Karimov has blamed Islamic extremists for the violence and denied responsibility for the bloodshed; the people have a different story and say that they are living under an oppressive and repressive regime. Such is the chasm between the citizenry and the state that while independent sources put the number of casualties in the high hundreds, the latter claims the figure is only a fraction of that. President Karimov rules with an iron fist. The country has not had a whiff of openness since it broke away from the Soviet Union. In the wake of September 11 2001, Mr. Karimov has found the space to crack down on Islamist groups and sell his methods on the basis of a threat to Uzbekistan’s integrity by the Islamists. This is a self-serving argument in the sense that while there is an Islamist presence in Uzbekistan, much of that presence and its relevance is owed to Mr. Karimov’s repression. If the repression continues, the violence and Islamist threat will increase. There is a need to handle the situation with much greater sophistication than Mr. Karimov or his government has shown so far. Also, the issue of openness is not just related to the Islamists. The broad range of human rights activists and other secularists are all opposed to Mr. Karimov’s policies. It is a measure of the people’s desperation that they chose to face the bullets rather than slink away and accept life under Mr. Karimov."
CANADA: "A Choice For Bush"
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press observed (5/17): “Something happened in Uzbekistan last week. What it was exactly and why it happened remains uncertain, but what is known is that it was bloody and hundreds of people were killed. The government of President Islam Karimov blames Islamic extremists for the violence, claiming they began riots in the city of Andijan.... It may be Islamist terrorists, as Mr. Karimov claims. Uzbekistan is an important regional ally of the U.S. in the war on terror, providing U.S. forces with an important air base--and with locations where terror suspects can be ‘rendered,’ held without the kind of due process that would be required in the U.S. It is the kind of relationship that al-Qaida might well want to destabilize. Secretary Rice said yesterday that Washington was ‘still trying to understand’ what is happening in Uzbekistan. What appears to be happening--what America's British allies believe is happening--is that the surge of democracy that the Americans started in Afghanistan and Iraq, and which most recently erupted in Kyrgyzstan, now threatens Mr. Karimov in Uzbekistan. Whatever the truth, it is driven by Mr. Karimov's increasingly brutal oppression. The danger now is that the U.S. will put its tactical interests ahead of its strategic ones. The Uzbek base is important, but it is less important than the long-term interests of Central Asia, where the days of the dictators appear to be numbered. During the Cold War, a succession of U.S. presidents abandoned basic principle for short-term gain. It was a policy that spread chaos and undermined morality, often for little benefit. The Angolan civil war, a Cold War proxy conflict, lasted more than 20 years with no advantage to either of its superpower sponsors. President George Bush now has a choice. If he hopes to preserve the integrity of his vision of global democracy, he can't ignore the brutality of Uzbekistan because of the utility of a single air base.“
"Uzbekistan The Next To Fall"
Professor of international business at York University's Schulich School of Business and a director of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, Charles McMillan observed in the leading Globe and Mail (5/17): "The recent violence and protests in Uzbekistan, the most populous state in Central Asia, is now part of a growing fork in the road for dictatorships everywhere. Before the global impact of TV, e-mail and foreign travel, dictators such as Uzbek President Islam Karimov could rely on a combination of three classic ways to hold on to power: a demonstrable foreign enemy (such as U.S. capitalism or, more recently, Islamic extremists); an efficient police apparatus; and total control over the means of production. Not any more.... Among the ex-Soviet states, Uzbekistan belongs to a little known group that includes Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. Two of these countries have shifted to the democracy camp, with vastly more press freedom, new NGO involvement for democratic training, and open courtship from the White House, helped by President George W. Bush's recent visit to Tbilisi. The group is now split amid challenges to the repressive governments of Belarus, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan for their blatantly rigged elections, as contrasted with the growing democratic openness of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.... But no dictator can dominate a country as big as Uzbekistan with a population so educated and with the presence of a U.S. military airbase, in Tashkent. How far the population is prepared to move to protest, with violence if necessary, will keep people awake at night in the White Houses of Moscow and Washington. But Mr. Karimov's days are numbered."
ARGENTINA: "A New Tienanmen Square"
Claudio Uriarte, leftist Pagina 12 international columnist, opined (5/15): "Can last week's bloody upheaval in Uzbekistan be compared with those rebellions that succeeded in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan? Maybe, but making three important differences: first, that unlike Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, the revolt in Uzbekistan is not only rejected by Russia, but also by the U.S.--a new and strong military and economic weight in the area. Second, the revolt in Uzbekistan seems to have an important Islamic content, distant from the Western democratic inclinations of the others. Third, that an Islamic explosion in the area is the last thing all players of involved States wish to see, because the region is a brewing pot for anti-Russian and anti-U.S. Islamic resentment that might undo what has been done in Afghanistan.... In fact...the comparison has less to do with the recently triumphant revolutions and has more points in common with the bloody repression against pro-democratic Chinese at the Tienanmen
Square in 1989, which was supported by all those powers that had some weight at that time--despite largely symbolic arms embargos. An Islamic outburst in Central Asia would not only complicate the U.S., but also China and Russia, where the danger of Islamic radicalism is activated (Chechnya) for example, or dormant (Western China). And, in truth, despite Bush's pious admonitions, the revolt against a despot (and Uzbek leader Karimov is certainly one of them) doesn't automatically guarantee freedom and democracy."
"Land Of Dictators And Warlords"
Telma Luzzani, leading Clarin international columnist wrote (5/15): "What's behind the popular rebellion in Uzbekistan? First, the exhaustion of a famished people tyrannized for over 15 years by one of the world's bloodiest dictators: Islam Karimov.... But hunger and a stifling authoritarian grip don't explain everything. Behind the manslaughter there's also the fight for power between warlords and the fight for the drug deal.... The cases of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan respond to domestic crises (the former, with an extremely weak government and the other, because of an extremely strong one) and the mafia-style fight between clans.... The other factor is that, since the fall of the Soviet Union, large extensions of Central Asia, such as the Fergana valley, are liberated territory without control or authority.... Friday's Uzbek rebellion took place only 100 kilometers away from Osh, the Kyrgyz city where, in March, other protest rallies toppled their government. It's also a place for the trafficking of drugs, arms and people, and also a center for the recruitment of young people without jobs and a future who think about installing a theocratic State."
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|