Thursday 24 November 2005

Blind to the "Butcher of Andijan"

This article originally appeared in the European Voice on 24 November 2005.


Uzbekistan Interior Minister Zakirjon Almatov is currently on an extended visit to Germany. Nothing strange or particularly newsworthy about that, you might think - until you realise that Almatov has been declared persona non grata by the EU. He is officially prohibited from visiting the EU, and yet, he is here all the same.

On 14 November, the Council issued travel bans on 12 Uzbek officials "directly responsible for the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force" in the massacre of hundreds of unarmed protesters in the east Uzbekistan city of Andijan on 13 May, 2005. The name Zakirjon Almatov tops the EU's travel blacklist.

The German Foreign Ministry defends its decision to allow Almatov to stay in the country despite the visa ban against him, saying it is acting "on humanitarian grounds", because he is receiving medical treatment at a clinic in Hanover. That must seem a cruel joke to the victims of the Andijan massacre. They know Almatov as "The Butcher of Andijan", a man who showed little humanity as he told protesters there would be no negotiations just before government troops started firing into the crowd.

Sunday 17 July 2005

Pakistan: Still Schooling Extremists

This is a piece I wrote with my Crisis Group colleague, Samina Ahmed, following the London 7/7 bombings, and which we published in The Washington Post on 17 July 2005.


Although investigations into the terrorist attacks in London are still at an early stage, it is already clear that at least one of the bombers attended a radical Islamic school, or madrasa, in Pakistan. For those in the West who believed President Pervez Musharraf's promises to clean up the militant religious schools, it is time to think again.

Shehzad Tanweer, who police say killed six people and himself on the Circle Line train near Aldgate station on July 7, recently spent as long as four months in a madrasa reportedly run by the avowedly militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba in Lahore, Pakistan. The madrasa and the organization operate freely despite an official ban on their activity since 2002.

Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, the link between Pakistan's religious education system and international terrorist organizations came under intense scrutiny. Musharraf clearly felt the pressure to be seen as doing something, and in January 2002 he gave a televised speech promising a series of measures to combat extremism by, among other things, bringing all madrasas into the mainstream. Musharraf pledged increased oversight of the religious schools through formal registration, control of their funding and standardization of their curricula.

The world welcomed those promises, but few then checked back to see if they were ever fulfilled.

Tuesday 14 June 2005

In Congo, 1,000 Die per Day: Why Isn't It a Media Story?

This was published in the Christian Science Monitor on 14 June 2005.


It's a maxim that what people aren't talking about is always a favorite topic of conversation. But it will make your head spin when applied to the media and the most deadly conflict in the world today. Western media generally do not cover the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but a media story is currently developing around the Congo - focusing, paradoxically, on how the conflict is not a media story.

I've lost count of how many journalists in the recent weeks have asked me, "Why aren't the media covering the Congo?"

With an estimated 1,000 people dying there every day as a result of hunger and disease caused by war, it is an appropriate question. But the extent of this coverage of noncoverage is reaching the absurd: print, radio, TV, Internet - they all want to know why they themselves are not writing articles and broadcasting programs about the Congo.