Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Forgetting a Massacre

This short piece appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 12 May 2010.

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Tomorrow, 13 May, marks the fifth anniversary of the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, when state security forces opened fire on mass demonstrations, killing some 750 civilians. The regime in Tashkent would like everyone to forget about it, of course, and they spent a long time after the event hunting down witnesses and threatening them and their families into signing false confessions in a series of show trials.

The EU's record shows they are willing to forget, dropping sanctions over the years without any of their initial criteria being met, including the call for an independent investigation into Andijan. There are important European voices bucking
that trend, of course, and hats off to MEPs Heidi Hautala and Niccolo Rinaldi who both took part in a roundtable on Andijan at the European Parliament last week and spoke out strongly. Sadly, these parliamentarians aren't running EU policy toward Uzbekistan.

Away from the official level, even some in the international non-governmental sector seem to have forgotten. The German press today
revealed that the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), perhaps the most influential foundation in Germany,has announced it will sign a memorandum of understanding with an Uzbek state-run agency for a new media project. The signing date is -- you guessed it -- tomorrow, 13 May.

Still, even for those who forget Andijan, fresh stories from Uzbekistan keep popping up that will keep the oppressive Central Asian state in the news. Just two days ago, there was a new investigation by the Spanish daily El Pais into dealings between the head of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta Estruch, and Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the Uzbek dictator and now Uzbekistan's ambassador to Spain. The El Pais article (English summary here) is worth a read for the paper's description of Karimova alone: "part Princess Diana, part Sarah Palin, part Bond girl, part Cruella de Vil".

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