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Uzbekistan: A Case Of
Double Standard

By Ghali Hassan

22 May, 2005

Just imagine that up to 750 innocent people killed in Cuba after Cuban soldiers opened fire on peaceful demonstrations against the regime of President Fidel Castro. Would the U.S. governments and its allies support the demonstrators and condemned the brutality of the Castro regime? Chances are that the U.S. government and its allies will invade Cuba, and if successful will remove the Castro regime and replace it with a U.S-friendly regime.

In the case of Uzbekistan, the regime of President Islam Karimov is a U.S. friendly regime. “They shot at us like rabbits”, a teenager told The Washington Post in Andijan, where Uzbek government troops fired directly into a crowd of demonstrators killing hundreds. “Uzbek soldiers fired into a crowd, including women, children and their own police comrades begging them to stop shooting”, reported Reuters quoting eyewitnesses. “In the end hundreds of bodies -- including those of women and children -- filled the square”, an Associated Press reporter said. “At first, they shot them from machine guns mounted on their vehicles, and then soldiers followed on foot mercilessly finishing off the wounded, including women and children”, said a reporter for the Russian news organization Human rights observers in the eastern city of Andizhan said that up to 750 people have killed. Many people have fled the violence to neighbouring countries.

The violence took place as a result of protesters freeing as many 2000 businessmen and political prisoners, who have been “unjustly”, accused by the Uzbek regime and the Bush Administrators as Islamic “terrorists”. A common pretext used to suppress dissents and democratic rights by many governments around the world today. The main cause for the uprising is the brutal policy of Karimov’s government combined with mass unemployment and poverty.

As it is publicly known, the Bush Administration is happy to support the anti-government protests against governments that are not on good terms with Washington, but turn blind eye to pro-democracy protests against U.S. friendly despotic regimes. Following the massacre of innocent Uzbek women and children on Friday, the Bush administration blamed the demonstrators for what happened. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “We have had concerns about human rights in Uzbekistan, but we are concerned about the outbreak of violence, particularly by some members of a terrorist organization that were freed from prison”. The demonstrators, according to Dr. Kirill Nourzhanov, an expert on the region at the Australian National University, the demonstrators “were anything but Islamists. It's just ordinary folks who are fed up with President Karimov's authoritarian regime”. “Even by Central Asian standards the regime is extremely corrupt, very despotic and has done next to nothing in terms of reforming the economy”. “It's a genuine social protest”, he added. The attitude of the U.S. administration and its Western allies is consistent with the cliché of Western double standard to portray any democratic movement in pro-Western dictatorships as a brand of “Islamic extremism”.

The Bush Administration and most Western governments have close ties to the Uzbek government. Indeed, the regime of president Karimov is one of the Bush administration's closet allies in Central Asia despite the country's notorious human rights record. In 2002, the U.S. paid $79 million in aid for the country's military and police. President Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld have all personally met Karimov. Uzbekistan has the largest U.S. military base in the region from which the U.S. projects its imperial agenda.

According to the U.S-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) torture and police brutality are widespread in Uzbekistan. The country has no independent political parties, no free and fair elections, and no free media. In 2004, HRW released a 319-page report detailing the use of torture by Uzbekistan's security services. The report noted that Uzbek government was carrying out a “campaign of torture and intimidation against Muslims that had seen 7,000 people imprisoned, and documented at least 10 deaths, including one man who was boiled to death in 2002”, including Muzafar Avozov, who was boiled to death in 2002.

Furthermore, the Uzbek government plays host to U.S. torture of detainees through the widely used “extraordinary rendition”. A system of torture by proxy, where U.S. authorities send detainees to countries with poor human rights records where they are routinely tortured and abused. UN special rapporteur on torture, Professor Theo van Boven, denounced torture in Uzbekistan as “widespread and systemic”. Nevertheless, in December President Bush decided to keep giving aid to Uzbekistan despite the country's failure to meet U.S. conditions on human rights.

In analysing U.S. foreign policy of double standard, Noam Chomsky wrote: “When enemies commit crimes, they’re crimes. In fact, we’re allowed to expand them, lie about them, make up stories about them and so on, but surely to get angry and infuriated about them. When we commit crimes, they didn’t happen”. The “enemies” are those nations and governments who are not subservient to U.S. policy, and with whom the U.S. administration does not have “friendly” relations. Meanwhile, Uzbeks will continue to suffer and die in “friendly” Uzbekistan.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia.











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