Uzbekistan Roundup

A second roundup for today, and probably the last one I’ll be doing now. I feel as though I now have enough background knowledge to be able to start blathering about things as they happen, rather than always looking backwards.
Same pattern as usual for Uzbekistan: first the international angle, then the domestic.


##International Politics
It’s impressive how much of Uzkeb diplomacy is still being affected by the Andijon massacre and its aftermath. After May 2005, when the violent suppression of a protest in Andijon killed several hundred people, the West ostricised Uzbekistan, triggering a realignment which has changed the political map of Central Asia.
China, on the other hand, was unconcerned by the human rights aspect, and shortly afterwards [welcomed Islam Karimov to Beijing](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/5/8AEC6277-B0A6-450A-8E08-CBCE0B4688B2.html) and dreamt up a $600m oil deal. This made particular sense, because China was able to paint the Andijon massacre as a crackdown on radical Islam.
The same is true with [Russia](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/05/4b5bbdb5-b278-471f-b8fa-1fa5dd4c46ca.html). Gazprom and Lukoil are moving deeper into Uzbekistan, and a November 2005 mutual defence pact between the two countries.
Through the SCO – an international grouping without Western involvement, and which is therefore much less hobbled by concerns about human rights – Uzbekistan has been deepening its relationship with China, and to a lesser extent with Russia.
As for other Central Asian states: relations with [Tajikistan](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/F4DDBAB6-7966-48BE-9A3E-30BBD79780B3.html) re bad – the two states have a long list of minor disputes such as Uzbekistan laying land-mines on the border, and allegations that each state is protecting terrorists and insurgents targetting the other. But there is no reason why Uzbekistan and Tajikistan couldn’t become much closer, if some practical reason emerged for them to be nice to each other.
##Domestic politics
Democracy? Ha! Uzbekistan is being criticised by everyone: [Germany](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/B48593C5-84DE-497C-BE0F-34830272616A.html), [Human Rights Watch](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/85D033E5-74CC-4AAE-866C-F3E015C39F85.html), the [Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/069312CE-91BF-4EB2-BD16-BE7BEF51D519.html) – plus [Craig Murray](http://craigmurray.co.uk/) and the rest of the usual suspects.
[Amnesty](http://www2.amnesty.se/uaonnet.nsf/senastezope/190EBE3885146EB4C12571920043E250?opendocument) has taken up the case of an ethnic Uighur detained in Uzbekistan, and may be at risk of extradition to China. This comes via [China Activist Weekly](http://chinaweekly.civiblog.org/), which I just discovered a couple of minutes ago. It’s dedicated to encouraging activism targetted at China – very worthy, and certainly deserving of promotion.
In a similar vein, [an official is jailed as a US spy](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/AC33B88A-A433-4DD1-A807-382A343ACA77.html), an [Irish NGO](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/0CCD89CF-6F38-4ECE-829D-64AA266A3041.html) gives $19,000 to an Uzbek NGO allegedly linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir, and another activist is [jailed without charge](http://rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/6/854AE3B6-3DA8-4BA5-98AF-640111725670.html)
Islam is pretty central to the political and cultural development of Uzbekistan. [New Eurasia](http://uzbekistan.neweurasia.net/?p=95) has been [posting](http://uzbekistan.neweurasia.net/?p=89) about it.
The rise of fear about political Islam, both internationally and within Central Asia, has made the Uzbek government see Islam in a very negative light. Previously uncontroversial elements like social work conducted by religious communities are now reinterpreted as fundamentalist threats to state authority. The fear and loathing is nothing compared to during Soviet times, when religion was forced underground.
However, as Nick points out, the Uzbek government crackdown on extreme Islam tends to also catch those involved in more moderate – and politically harmless – forms of the religion. More on this some time in the future, no doubt!

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