Massacre in Uzbekistan

The White House’s instant response to news of the deaths of over 500 people killed by Uzbek troops in Andijan on 13 May was that they included ‘Islamic terrorists’. It took the BBC a few more days to discover that those resisting the Karimov regime were ‘Islamic militants’. This is consistent with a policy of support for this most vicious government, excusing everything it does for it is a member of ‘the coalition of the willing’. Uzbekistan is a strategic ally with a large US military airbase used in 2001 to bomb Afghanistan. It has oil and gas reserves and is adjacent to existing and proposed oil pipelines from the Caspian Basin and Middle East to China and the Indian Ocean. Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan and is less than one hour’s flight to Iran and China for US war planes. That is why the torture regime of Uzbekistan is supported by the US and British governments in their battle for global supremacy.

Just three days before the slaughter in Andijan President Bush was in Georgia praising a ‘beacon of liberty in the region and the world…a free and democratic Georgia’. And what is more, ‘You increased your troop commitment in Iraq five-fold’. US Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Powell and numerous congressional delegations have visited Uzbekistan. None ever called for freedom and democracy in Uzbekistan. The United Nations says there is ‘widespread systematic torture’ in Uzbekistan. The US is the Karimov regime’s chief financial backer.

The crowd that stormed the prison in Andijan to free 23 businessmen awaiting trial for ‘Islamic extremism’ were protesting against poverty and the repression meted out to keep them poor. Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, says that 60% of the population are based on state farms and paid poverty wages, $2 a month; they are effectively serfs. Children as young as eight are conscripted into the cotton fields to work 16 hour days picking cotton. Farm gate prices of cotton are as little as 4% of the farm gate prices paid in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

The Uzbekistan regime assists the traffic in opium and heroin from Afghanistan to Europe and the US. It traffics women to the Middle East to serve as prostitutes. There is evidence that opponents are boiled alive in oil. Tashkent airport receives the planes that bring in the CIA’s captives for torture, part of the process the US calls ‘rendition’. For opposing this and the British government’s use of information obtained in Uzbekistan through torture to gaol suspects, Craig Murray was smeared by the Foreign Office and dismissed by the British government from his ambassadorship.

Labour’s Foreign Secretary Straw has expressed ‘grave international concern’ and the United Nations’ human rights chief has also said he is concerned about the reports of the killings. Both called for an investigation. This splendid word ‘concerned’ will, they hope, suffice to cover up any embarrassment that the massacre may cause them. Meanwhile, everywhere the US military sets foot is bursting into flames.
Trevor Rayne

FRFI 185 June / July 2005


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