Bloggin The Stans
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Is There a Uzbekistan / Abu Ghraib Connection?
The United States is chastising Uzbekistan for torturing one of its prisoners, according to the LA Times
WASHINGTON — The State Department expressed concern Friday about reports that an Uzbek man was tortured before dying while in police custody. The United States "expects to see a swift, transparent and professional investigation" into the death of Andrei Shelkavenko, a department statement said. He is reported to have died on Tuesday in a detention center in the town of Cazalkent, 30 miles northeast of the capital Tashkent.
Now, according to a report from May 14th on Eurasianet, "Under the auspices of a 2002 strategic partnership agreement, specially selected Uzbek NCOs have received training at military bases in the United States. Many of these NCOs have returned to Uzbekistan, where they, in turn, lead the basic training of other non-commissioned officers."
We also know that "By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda"
So, what's the likelihood that Bush decided the Geneva conventions didn't apply to anyone we were fighting in Afghanistan, and then began boosting military support for a totalitarian regime in Uzbekistan "for support in the war on terror"? The MO was almost exactly the same as it was in Abu Ghraib. According to the Eurasianet article:
"According to one diplomatic observer in Tashkent, the NCO-training courses have allowed the Uzbek army to become "more inter-operable" with the US military. The training is emphasizing leadership skills. [...] Uzbek sergeants are trained to assume greater responsibility for the implementation of orders, leaving "the big picture" to senior officers, the diplomatic source said."
To be fair, we know that Karimov wasn't exactly a staunch supporter of the Geneva Convention beforehand, but then, the question becomes, why were we training his military to begin with?
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Kazakhstan's President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, "played down the significance of a case due shortly before a US court in which US oil consultant James Giffen is charged with passing more than 78 million dollars (65 million euros) in unlawful payments from US companies to top Kazakh officials".
Giffen's defense, according to Bloomberg News, is that the entire deal was approved by US Intelligence Services.
An American oil consultant charged with bribing leaders of the former Soviet republic Kazakhstan said he was in close contact with U.S. intelligence agencies and may argue at trial that they approved the payments.
Federal prosecutors in New York have charged James Giffen with paying two senior Kazakh officials $78 million in bribes to position himself as an intermediary to Western oil companies. This week he asked a judge to order authorities to hand over records that may show whether U.S. intelligence agencies knew about and approved the alleged bribes.
"The material sought here bears directly on whether Giffen was authorized by federal officials to engage in the acts with which he is charged," defense attorney William Schwartz said in court papers. Giffen was "in close and repeated contact with officials" at the Central Intelligence Agency, White House and State Department, Schwartz wrote.
America Training Uzbek Army
Under the auspices of a 2002 strategic partnership agreement, specially selected Uzbek NCOs have received training at military bases in the United States. Many of these NCOs have returned to Uzbekistan, where they, in turn, lead the basic training of other non-commissioned officers.
This is a common thing under the "War on Terror", we're training all sorts of crazy governments to "track down terrorists". The interesting twist: We used to train the Muhjadeen to fight Despotic Communists, now we're training Despotic Communists to fight the Muhjadeen.
Can Irony have a rimshot? Because if so: Ba-dum-dum CHING!
Curing Drug Addiction in Kyrgyzstan
By way of The Moscow Times:
Nazaraliyev said he has cured more than 15,000 addicts, and he claims that 80 percent of his patients do not return to drugs in the first three years after treatment. If true, this is a startling success rate, given that most drug therapies consider a rate of one in five cures as a success.
He said the U.S. government offered him a $1 million grant in 1995 to study his methods.
In a dim room at the clinic, a creepy and eerie scene shocks the visitor.
Two yelping men dressed in white, their bodies curved back and tense, with trembling arms outstretched, stood under brightly lit lamps, gripped in a paroxysm of stress and pain.
"You are human beings. Be proud of that. There is no longer any force on Earth that can make you turn to taking this filth again," Nazaraliyev said, swirling in his black tunic around the patients in trance.
It's an interesting story, at the very least.
The Argus has a good post on Sufism in Uzbekistan. One other thing I might mention, by the way, is that "Sufism" can mean anything anyone calling themselves a "Sufi" wants it to mean, depending on which part of the world they're in. In some areas, like Turkey, Sufism is a very liberal version of Islam- famous for its drunken poets, consorting with women, etc. In other places, it's autocratic and corrupt.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Speaking of Kazakhstan
The LA Times is running a series called The Politics of Petroleum, which is covering Kazakhstan.
Some of Washington's top political consultants traveled to this city in the summer of 1998 to huddle with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Their daunting mission: Convince the world that his oil-rich, authoritarian regime was actually a budding democracy.
This political SWAT team launched the opening salvo in a high-powered, high-priced lobbying campaign that seized on America's need for oil to win U.S. support for a government with a penchant for shuttering newspapers and manipulating elections.
The lobbying strategy is detailed in public records and copies of dozens of internal memoranda obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The campaign got results: It rallied supporters in Congress and helped win key concessions from the current Bush administration that allowed the release of U.S. aid despite continuing corruption and human rights problems.
And if you think this flood of money is helping the citizens of Kazakhstan, the UN would beg to differ:
In 1993, when it was first ranked as an independent country in a United Nations survey of quality of life, Kazakhstan rated 54th among 173 countries; by last year it had dropped to 76th among 175.
Some of the people involved in the Lobbying Process:
Kazakhstan assembled top U.S. legal, lobbying and public relations help in its campaign to win favor in Washington, including a number of high-ranking former officials, some of whom formed the "P-Group," a political SWAT team.
Michael K. Deaver, President Reagan's deputy chief of staff, recruited "third parties" to write newspaper opinion pieces for the public relations campaign.
Jay Kriegel, a former senior vice president at CBS Inc., was asked to keep key consultant James H. Giffen "regularly apprised" of P-Group activities.
James Langdon Jr., an energy lawyer and a leading fundraiser for President Bush. His firm did lobbying and legal work for Kazakhstan.
Dick Thornburgh, an attorney general in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, was hired by the Kazakh government to provide legal advice.
Reid Weingarten, a former Justice Department lawyer, wrote a letter to his old agency warning of risks to U.S.-Kazakh ties if prosecution of Giffen went ahead.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Wileys in Kazakhstan
A nice website set up by a family adopting a child from Kazakhstan. It's not exactly a travelblog or political, but it's a good story regarding the adoption process, which, really, you don't hear too much about.
Hot Stock Tip
Uzbekistan plans to speed up the privatization of the national holding company Uzbekneftegaz - a monopoly operator in the republic's oil and gas sector. A report from the Uzbek State Property Committee on the results of privatization in January-February 2004 and plans for the year says that "by the end of 2004 a an evaluation will be carried out a tender will be held to sell Uzbekneftegaz shares to foreign investors." - Interfax
It will be interesting, of course, to see who those "foreign investors" are. No doubt this is going to lead to an improvement in the Uzbekistan economy, but I'd be curious to see how much it helps the standard Uzbek.
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Blog NOT Closed
Just wanted to mention that the blog hasn't been updated mostly as a result of covering the Iraq Prison Torture issue over at my other blog ("And Then...") plus a lot of catching up after some traveling and work and a busy birthday week.
But, the blog is most certainly still in operation.
Winds of Change is a blog exclusively for Pakistan-related news. Worth a look.
Thanks to Upyernoz for the heads up.
Scary Turn For Turkmenistan
"Turkmen state workers who received their diplomas of higher education from schools outside of the country after 1993 have received a letter from the authorities notifying them that their degrees will no longer be recognized in Turkmenistan after 1 June. The letter notes they will be dismissed from their jobs as of that date, as well." Radio Free Europe
What's scary is that, basically, you're creating a class of people who cannot be employed, period. The educated class- and those educated in foreign countries- are in a rough spot, and this sounds a bit like the agenda of the Khmer Rouge.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov explains:
"There are about 5,000 Turkmen students who are studying abroad," Niyazov said. "Among them, there are honest as well as dirty people, too. If we don't have an agreement with those countries, students should be taught in our country."
Monday, May 03, 2004
Interesting article on Gerbils and the Plague in Kazakhstan.
"Plague outbreaks can be predicted by the rise and fall of the wild gerbil population in Kazakhstan, researchers have discovered. Their plague predicting model might also be applicable to other parts of the world where outbreaks are irregular."
I didn't even know that was where Gerbils came from.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Self Immolation in Central Asia
"In surveys, when we ask women to list their best qualities, they say they obey their elders, or they're quiet, or they love to work," said Marfua Tuhtahujaeva, the founder of the Women's Resource Center in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. "Young women are seen as laborers, and they just disappear in the household. "Most of our women are unhappy. One young wife told me, `The plow horse gets more attention than I do.'"
Doctors, government officials and social workers in the region believe more than a thousand women try to kill themselves through self-immolation each year. Two-thirds of them succeed. Statistics on suicide, when available, are considered unreliable because most attempts go unreported or get categorized as "household accidents." Kansas City Star
Pretty Harrowing Story in the above article, as well.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
Must Read Article on Uzbekistan.
When the IMU [Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan] invaded southern Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 1999, the group stated clearly that its ultimate goal was the invasion of Uzbekistan, the overthrow of President Karimov and his regime, and the creation of an Islamic state in its place. Leaflets from Hizb ut-Tahrir, now found virtually everywhere in Central Asia, call for the overthrow of the Uzbek government, regularly insult President Karimov, and call for the creation of an Islamic caliphate.
Vatanka said for these groups, the focus on the Uzbek regime could be simply the perception that Karimov represents the greatest threat to their goals of establishing a regional Islamic state. "If you look at Central Asia, Karimov is by far the biggest obstacle for anyone who had an Islamist, or pan-Islamist, agenda," he said. "If you get rid of this -- let's use their own terminology -- this 'snake,' then you could hope for some sort of domino effect. I think Karimov, his regime, the security apparatus they have in place, they are the most effective to tackle the issues of Islamism. And if you can get rid of them, or this particular government, then your chances of overthrowing a weaker government are better."
So now it seems like, the position that America is in, looking at Uzbekistan, is the classic rock and hard place. You destabalize Karimov, you give rise to the Caliphate of the IMU. We look the other way and let Karimov torture and round up Islamic Citizens because if we challenged him, we'd have an Islamist Revolution in the country.
Those Wacky Autocrats!
Greed, Abuses of Power and Human Rights? Find it in the "wacky news" section of Reuters:
ASHGABAT (Reuters) - Turkmenistan's autocratic president opened a gleaming new leisure center Monday, equipped with a swimming pool, air conditioning and even medical facilities -- all of it for horses. President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov showed foreign diplomats around the vast $15 million complex which includes an operating theater, a hippodrome and stables kept cool from the desert heat.
The new equine center, shown on state television, proved something of a contrast to conditions for many people in the gas-rich yet impoverished Central Asian state. Niyazov, officially known as Turkmenbashi or Father of the Turkmen, last week fired several ministers for failing to bridge huge salary arrears, which average little more than the official minimum wage of $70 a month and are regularly paid late.
Earlier this year he fired 15,000 nurses and medical staff -- likely to be replaced by conscripted soldiers -- in an unexpected shock reform of the national health system. But the horse complex, named Turkmenbashi after him, is equipped with modern X-ray and ultrasonic scanning machines in its state of the art equine operating theater.