Friday 12 May 2006

We Must Prepare for the Coming Crisis in Uzbekistan

This comment piece originally appeared in the Financial Times on 12 May 2006.


A year has passed since government troops fired on thousands of protesters in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan and, despite expressions of concern from western governments, little has been done to try to change the behaviour of the authoritarian regime of President Islam Karimov.

Tashkent has successfully blocked moves for an independent investigation of the Andijan massacre – despite earlier calls from the US, UK and European Union for an inquiry. Rejecting claims by human rights groups that more than 700 people died in the city on May 13 2005, the Uzbek government has adhered to its official death toll of 187 and blamed Islamic extremists for the violence. It is becoming awkward for western governments that espouse human rights and have a strong interest in regional stability in central Asia – particularly as Afghanistan, the focus of a big international reconstruction effort, is next door.