OCT 14, 2011
Below is a speech by Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered Friday, October 14, 2011 in Normandy, France upon receipt of the de Tocqueville Prize prize bestowed upon him by M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, President of du Jury du Prix Tocqueville. Previous prize winners include Raymond Aron (1979); David Riesman (1980); Sir Karl Popper (1984); Octavo Paz (1989); Francois Furet (1991); and Daniel Bell (1999).
I feel truly honored to be here in Normandy to receive the prize named after the pioneering thinker from this beautiful region of France. Alexis de Tocqueville understood earlier and interpreted better than anyone the uniqueness of the American experiment – in its social, political and cultural dimensions. In 1831, his voyage to America was to a captivating but remote world – an undertaking more risky and less predictable than today’s explorations of outer-space – and his judgments are to this day remarkably prescient and incisive. To understand America, one still has to read and absorb de Tocqueville.
I am also deeply gratified by the presence here of President Giscard d’Estaing, who nominated me for the de Tocqueville Prize. President Giscard is a remarkable leader with a long-range vision for Europe no less ambitious in its scope than de Tocqueville’s evocative predictions for America. Europe today badly needs a compelling concept for tomorrow if it is to avoid a dangerous repetition of its recent past. Mr. President, I admire you especially for daring to provide it.
Finally, as an American of Polish origin, I have a special fondness for France – and especially for its enduring romance with historical grandeur, for its transcending political ideas, and for its alluring appreciation of the manifold dimensions of the truly good life.
I was struck on rereading recently de Tocqueville’s work how well he understood – 175 years ago – the essence and the distinctiveness of America’s emerging power, both as a novel social experiment and as a sovereign state. And also, alas, how well he anticipated the potential vulnerabilities of that historically unique country, which was taking shape as de Tocqueville journeyed throughout America’s vast and open spaces and pondered about its future.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, recently drew attention to the fact that Alexis de Tocqueville correctly perceived the major source of the peculiar genius of American society: its respect for what the French observer called “self-interest properly understood.” Stiglitz noted that everyone is motivated by self-interest in its narrow sense, but that de Tocqueville’s emphasis on self-interest “properly understood” was his recognition that early Americans uniquely also cared for everyone else’s self-interest. In other words, they instinctively understood that respect for the common welfare is in fact the precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being.
The foregoing observation is especially relevant to our understanding of the challenge facing contemporary America. Though a democracy, it is becoming a country of socially ominous extremes between the few super rich and the increasingly many who are deprived. In America today the top 1% of the richest families own around 35% of the entire nation’s wealth, while the bottom 90% own around 25%. It should be a source of perhaps even greater concern that the majority of all currently serving Congressmen and Senators, and similarly most of the top officials in the executive branch, fall in the category of the very rich, the so-called top 1%.
At the same time, though still a unique super-power, America finds it difficult to cope with the consequences of the increasingly accelerating global changes that are spinning out of control, both on the socio-economic and on the geopolitical levels. Socio-economically, the world is becoming a single playing-field in which 3 dynamic realities increasingly prevail: globalization, “internetization”, and deregulation.
Today instant financial transactions involving billions of dollars occur literally in seconds; often essentially speculative in character and unrelated to either technological innovation or new forms of employment, they create instant wealth on an unprecedented scale for only a few. Investments and employment opportunities abroad, guided largely by opportunistic self-interest, now transcend national interests.
Politically, that very same world – despite the seeming concentration of global power in the hands of the very few states with enormous economic and military capacity — is witnessing the dispersal of power. The West is declining because it lacks the will to unite, while the East is rising but also facing the danger of selfish rivalry and potential conflicts among its principal states. Neither existing national governments nor rudimentary regional arrangements are capable of providing effective discipline, not to mention asserting control, over the autonomous financial-economic universe so recently shaped by globalization, “internetization”, and deregulation.
The foregoing crisis of global power is further complicated by the appearance of the sudden phenomenon of mass political awakening. Most recently in the Arab world, the now universal reality of political awakening is the cumulative product of an interactive and interdependent world connected by instant visual communications and of a demographic youth bulge composed of the easy to mobilize and politically restless university students and the socially deprived unemployed present in the less advanced societies. Both groups resent the richer portions of humanity and the privileged corruption of their rulers. That resentment of authority and privilege is unleashing populist passions with explosive potential for unleashing large-scale international turmoil.
America’s ability to respond to this volatile world is complicated by another socio-political feature of the America that de Tocqueville presciently noted and of which he warned: public ignorance. When discussing the influence of the majority in America he wrote, “I know of no country where there is generally less independence of thought and real freedom of debate than in America.” That despotism of ignorance, which de Tocqueville said “leaves the body alone and goes straight to the spirit”, has the unfortunate effect of quite often diminishing the quality of political leadership in America. Again he wrote, “Some vexing effects are evident in the American national character. I think that the presence of the small number of remarkable men upon the political scene has to be due to the ever-increasing despotism of the American majority.”
Today, such “despotism” is manifested in the public’s ignorance of the world around it and in that public’s reluctance to demand and accept short-term and fairly distributed social sacrifice in exchange for long-term renewal. That same ignorance – or, more accurately, indifference – handicaps America’s capacity to deal with the external world, and specifically with the dilemmas to which I have referred.
The political remedies that are necessary for America to overcome its current domestic troubles are obstructed by yet another shortcoming that in 1835 de Tocqueville could describe only in general terms: namely, political gridlock and hyper-partisanship. Our political parties of today seem deserving of the criticism leveled by de Tocqueville against what he then called “small parties.” He wrote, “their character is imbued with a selfishness which obviously colors each of their actions…their language is violent, but their progress is timid and over-cautious. The means they employ are despicable …..” This current political stalemate must be overcome in order for America again to look outward with its customary historical confidence.
But such national confidence requires a broader strategic vision and a sense of historical purpose pointed towards an eventually global acceptance of the principle of “self-interest properly understood”. I do feel strongly that unchecked financial speculation has both economic and social consequences that urgently require wider and stricter national and international political supervision. Effective global political cooperation can only emerge out of a broader consensus – one that must be promoted both on a regional, and eventually, on a global basis.
For America, which is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power, that means – in my view – nothing less than a renewed and ambitious effort to give meaning to the notion of an Atlantic community – involving in the short-run both America and the EU – and in the long-run gradually also both Russia and Turkey. That America and Europe need each other is obvious – and that they share the same political values is especially important at a time when the world is suddenly politically awakened and seeking its own self-definition. Alas, only too often that search is focused on self-interest selfishly understood.
Hence a more ambitious strategic vision should not be limited only to America and Europe. In my soon forthcoming book, I argue that in the longer-run – in the course of the next 2 or 3 decades – it should be possible to engage Russia as well. Note what de Tocqueville wrote in 1835, when concluding Part I of his “Democracy in America”: “Today, two great nations of the earth seem to be advancing toward the same destination from different starting points: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans…All other nations appear to have reached almost the upper limits of their natural development and have nothing left to do except preserve what they have, whereas these two nations are growing.”
To be sure, he did note correctly the dramatic contrasts between America and Russia: Americans, with “freedom as their main mode of action”, would use their belief in the principle of self-interest and their common sense to occupy and civilize their vast continent, overcoming natural obstacles to build a strong American democracy. The Russians, with “slavish obedience” as their main mode of action, would employ the “soldier’s sword” at the command of “a single man” to conquer civilization. And he warned that while “the point of departure is different, their paths are diverse but each of them seems destined by some secret providential design to hold in their hands the fate of half the world at some date in the future.”
It is now clear that Russia’s destiny is no longer the exercise of control over “half of the world.” Rather it is how its can survive its internal stagnation and depopulation within the context of a rising East and a richer (even if perplexed) West. And that is why a western policy that encourages Ukraine’s closer ties with the EU is the essential precursor to as well as stimulus for Russia’s eventual closer engagement with the West. That may not happen under a President Putin, but the internal preconditions for democratic evolution in Russia are growing and, in my view, will eventually preponderate. Russians are more open to the world now than ever before.
The same strategic goal of a revitalized and larger West should also apply to Turkey. It is most desirable for three key reasons that Turkey should see its future as part of the West. First, Turkey’s internal democratization and spreading modernization is evidence that neither democratization nor modernization are incompatible with Islam. Second, Turkey’s commitment to peaceful cooperation with its Middle Eastern neighbors is consistent with the security interests of the West in that region. Third, a Turkey that is increasingly western, secular, and yet also Islamic could undermine the appeal of Islamic extremism and enhance regional stability in Central Asia not only to its own benefit but also to that of Europe and Russia. Additionally, a democratic, secular yet Islamic Turkey can be most influential in encouraging the Arab states towards stable democracy.
While of less immediate consequence for Europe, America’s longer-term role in the rising new East can be equally important – both in avoiding conflict and in engaging China and Japan in more active global roles. US policy in the new East must not be confined solely to a China-centric concentration on the otherwise mutually beneficial special partnership with Beijing; it must also encourage a genuine reconciliation between Japan – a democracy and America’s principal Pacific Ocean ally – and China, as well as seek to mitigate the growing rivalry between China and India. Only through a balanced approach and abstinence from mainland Asian conflicts can the US promote lasting stability in Asia and assist Asia’s own quest for social and political modernity.
Let me conclude by noting that the global role that I feel America should play ultimately depends on the capacity of its society to live up to the expectations that de Tocqueville so brilliantly and insightfully expressed 175 years ago. Like him, I too believe in the powerfully redeeming potential of America’s democracy. And I have especially in mind the universal relevance to the now politically awakened world of America’s early embrace of the revolutionary concept of “self-interest properly understood”.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DEAD SEA, Jordan
(Reuters) – Arab politicians and financiers at the World Economic Forum in Jordan called on Saturday for a huge injection of cash to narrow the inequalities that led to the Arab Spring revolts against authoritarian regimes across the region.
Days after the killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, senior figures said a home-grown version of the Marshall Plan was needed in the wake of the revolts, which have raised people’s hopes for swift economic improvements after decades of corruption and mismanagement.
The proposal was the most specific put forward by senior figures meeting at a luxurious Dead Sea convention center to try and chart a new economic course for the region after its most sweeping upheaval since colonial powers divided most of the Middle East following the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.
Under the Marshall Plan, large sums flowed into Western Europe to rebuild the continent, restore productivity and prevent U.S. allies from falling under the Soviet sphere of influence.
“I am afraid that Arab Spring could turn into an autumn if the issue of social justice is not achieved. A Marshall Plan is needed,” said Hassan al-Boraei, Egypt’s labor minister.
“The old model of relying on state employment and big projects is no longer viable,” Boraei said, adding that Egypt needed to find jobs for 950,000 people entering the workforce annually, with unemployment running at 12-17 percent.
Outrage against autocratic rule and associated nepotism and corruption sparked a democratic revolution in Tunisia in December that cascaded into what has become known as the Arab Spring.
So far, the revolts have toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, with mass protests continuing in Syria and Yemen, threatening their autocratic presidents.
“If the Arab Spring hopes to achieve anything it is to attain good governance. This does not necessitate only democracy and freedom but social justice, meaning economic policies that meet popular aspirations,” said Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.
Prominent banker Ibrahim Dabdoub said the proposed “Arab Marshall Plan” could be funded by Gulf petrodollars and regional development banks, as there is little hope for major funding from Western nations dealing with their own economic trouble.
“This region needs 85 million jobs … and a Marshall Plan with the help of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has become a pre-requisite of development,” said Dabdoub, a Palestinian who heads the National Bank of Kuwait, the country’s biggest lender.
Libya’s Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril was more skeptical about whether money alone would improve the region’s lot, saying “the problem of the Arab world is not a question of money but the management of money.”
Jibril also said on Saturday that Libyans should be allowed to vote within eight months to elect a national council to draft a new constitution and form an interim government.
Making a keynote speech at the conference, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad al-Thani said economic models had only benefited ruling classes and their cohorts, sparking the Arab Spring.
Qatar, an absolute monarchy with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, has played an international role beyond its tiny size by virtue of its natural gas wealth and ownership of the satellite al-Jazeera channel.
Al-Thani did not address the issue of funding but said Arab economic policies that rely on attracting investment in tourism and real estate while ignoring corruption and the need to raise productivity and education standards have largely failed.
In recent years Arab states have tried to emulate the ‘Dubai model’, encouraging the setting up of big holding companies tied with the ruling hierarchy that were awarded privatization deals and embarked on large property ventures while public corruption deepened and unemployment remained stubbornly high.
Asked about his advice for Arab rulers, al-Thani said: “Don’t fight to stay in your position. What sort of power (will) you have after killing your own people?”
Leader of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Aristóbulo Istúriz said that unions have prepared street protests
Ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) reported that the Venezuelan opposition sectors, supported by the foreign oligarchy, have prepared a destabilizing plan to be implemented in October, including street blockades and protests.
Leader of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Aristóbulo Istúriz said mainly trade unions and workers in the country will stage this type of action.
“Foreign actors are trying to ignite destabilization in the country. In October, they have prepared a wave of actions such as street blockades that will be staged by workers and trade unions. This shows that there is a foreign plan aimed at isolating and destabilizing Venezuela,” he said at a press conference held at the headquarters of the PSUV.
Istúriz called on the opposition not to continue talking about the health of President Hugo Chavez: “I believe that Chávez is driving them (the opposition) crazy and that they have no life electorally speaking. The president has demonstrated his strength amidst the situation he has faced.”
[SEE: The Halliburton Loophole ]
A British seismologist said Friday that two minor earthquakes in northwestern England “appeared to correlate closely” with the use of hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas from wells that has raised concerns about environmental and seismological risks in the United States.
The scientist, Brian Baptie, seismic project team leader with the British Geological Survey, said data from the two quakes near Blackpool — one of magnitude 2.3 on April 1, the other of magnitude 1.5 on May 27 — suggested the temblors arose from the same source. Cuadrilla Resources, a British energy company, was conducting hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations at a well nearby when the quakes occurred.
In fracking, water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well at high pressure to split shale rock and release trapped gas.
The company suspended its fracking operations shortly after the second earthquake, which, like the first, was barely felt and caused no damage. Paul Kelly, a Cuadrilla spokesman, said a report by several academic scientists on the quakes, commissioned by the company, should be released in a few weeks.
“We’re waiting for the independent report,” he said.
One possibility is that the British government, through the Department of Energy and Climate Change, might require modification to the fracking process.
Mr. Kelly said Cuadrilla Resources had drilled three wells — the only shale-gas wells so far in Britain — and had conducted fracking operations at only one.
Fracking is now widespread in the United States, and has been blamed by some landowners, environmentalists and public officials for contaminating waterways and drinking water supplies. Some critics have also said that the technology could cause significant earthquakes.
But Stephen Horton, a seismologist at the University of Memphis, said, “Generally speaking, fracking doesn’t create earthquakes that are large enough to be felt.” Even so, Mr. Horton said that after looking at the British Geological Survey’s analysis of the Blackpool earthquakes, “the conclusions are reasonable.”
Mr. Horton and others investigated a swarm of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, including one of magnitude 4.7, in an area of central Arkansas where fracking was being conducted. The scientists found that the earthquakes were probably caused not by fracking but by the disposal of waste liquids from the process into other wells. Those wells have since been shut down.
Mr. Baptie said that in the Blackpool quakes, the high-pressure injection of water during fracking may have reduced the stresses on a nearby fault, causing it to slip.
He said one question was whether even larger earthquakes could occur if the fracking continued. While he said that it might be possible to go from a magnitude 2.3 to about a 3.0, “the chances of getting a very large earthquake are negligible.”
By Nicole Gaouette
(Bloomberg) — The end of the long American war in Iraq will begin the test of what that effort has produced.
After almost nine years, $800 billion and almost 5,000 U.S. dead, President Barack Obama announced yesterday that the 39,000 remaining troops will be home for the holidays, “heads held high, proud of their success.”
They will leave behind a U.S. presence in the form of the world’s largest embassy, without a large military force’s protection, intelligence, supply chain and transportation. Diplomats will encourage peace and development in a largely Shiite Muslim Iraq that is divided by ethnic and religious tensions and sits on the fault line between Persian Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab world.
“This has profound implications,” said Mohsen Milani, chairman of the government and international relations department at the University of South Florida in Tampa, in a telephone interview. “It will intensify the competition for power inside Iraq, leave the Iraqi Shiites more dependent on Iran and the Sunnis on Saudi Arabia and leave the Kurds as orphans who probably will continue to align themselves with the Shiites.”
The U.S. pullout is “an unprecedented strategic gift to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Milani.
Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iraqi forces may not be ready to provide security and violence will likely rise. U.S. diplomats in Iraq face unprecedented demands. Iran, as a result, stands to gain.
“The reality is that this is not success,” Cordesman said in a telephone interview. “It certainly isn’t a drastic failure, but we are now facing a major power vacuum in Iraq and dealing with a power vacuum of this magnitude is a very serious matter.”
Republican critics such as California Representative Buck McKeon said that leaving now will make it harder for the Iraqis to stabilize their country.
U.S. troop levels in Iraq hit 90,000 in March 2003 with the invasion and increased to 148,000 that year, according to U.S. Central Command figures. The U.S. deployment peaked at 166,300 in October 2007, during the surge to curb the outbreak of violence in largely Sunni Muslim Anbar Province. The level is about 39,000 today, according to the Pentagon.
The administration proposed leaving a residual force of 3,000 troops in Iraq, if the Iraqi government were willing to extend them immunity from prosecution.
Kenneth Pollack, a director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said that number would have been too small to accomplish anything.
Iraqi hostility to the U.S. presence and “ferocious Iranian opposition” to it were all factors in the decision to pull all troops out, Pollack wrote in an analysis of the president’s announcement.
Obama said that talks on training and equipping Iraqi forces will continue, and his announcement doesn’t preclude the possibility that some American troops in Iraq might still be kept or return, especially if ethnic violence increases or Iran makes aggressive moves.
The U.S. withdrawal offers Iran an opportunity to form “a link to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” Cordesman said, increasing the possibility of a regional clash “at a time when we lack the budget to deal with a serious regional crisis.”
The U.S. blames Iran’s elite Quds Force for training and equipping Shiite militia groups in Iraq, said David Newton, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 1984 to 1988. It also has introduced anti-tank weapons into the country, Newton said in a telephone interview.
Administration officials said that reviews over the last seven to eight months have found that Iraqi security forces are ready to take on that challenge.
“One assessment after another about the Iraqi security forces came back saying these guys are ready, these guys are capable, these guys are proven,” Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said yesterday.
Newton said that, when the U.S. troops leave, they will take with them tools and resources that had been helpful to the Iraqi forces, including intelligence collection capabilities and equipment such as helicopter gunships.
“The Iraqis do have some special forces, but they’ve got a way to go,” Newton said, “Without the U.S. backup, in terms of intel collection, coordination, I think this will be pretty challenging for them.”
Those special forces will be overseen by a divided government without a functioning legislature or officials manning high-level posts, including that of defense minister.
History of War
Robin Wright, at the U.S. Institute of Peace, cautioned against the idea that withdrawal from Iraq will allow Iran to extend its influence. While both are both predominantly Shiite Muslim nations, they fought the Middle East’s deadliest war from 1980 to 1988, leaving 123,000 dead. They are rivals over religious leadership, identity, politics and territory, said.
“Yes, the Shiites have a natural link,” Wright said in a telephone interview. “But the nationalism and history also will be important in defining what happens to Iraq after the United States leaves.”
Newton concurred. “The Shias of Iraq, having waited so long to come to power, don’t want to hand it over to Iran,” he said.
Still, the withdrawal may intensify the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, said Milani. The Saudis blame Iran for fomenting unrest in majority-Shiite Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
The U.S. withdrawal will leave American diplomats in Iraq with new responsibilities and dangers. “The State Department is being asked to do things it’s never done before,” Newton said, including managing a huge contracted workforce.
With the troops gone, security for diplomats and facilities will be the responsibility of some 5,000 contract employees who probably will face increased violence and incidents of terrorism, Cordesman said.
U.S. intelligence officers who remain in Iraq and those contractors will no longer have the stream of information on potential threats that now comes from American military outposts around the country, said a U.S. intelligence official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Cities such as Kirkuk, with four linguistic groups, and Mosul, where there is long-standing friction between Sunni Kurds and Sunni Arabs, are most likely to erupt, Newton said.
In all, about 16,000 personnel will be assigned to the embassy in Iraq, about 1,700 of them diplomats, experts in fields such as business and agriculture and law enforcement officers, while around 5,000 will be security contractors to guard personnel and facilities including consulates, according to State Department figures.
The newly established Office of Security Cooperation in the Embassy will have a core staff of 160 civilians and uniformed military alongside 750 civilian contractors overseeing Pentagon assistance programs, including military training. They will be guarded, fed and housed by 3,500 additional contract personnel.
The security cooperation office will also operate out of 10 offices around the country, half of them shared with other embassy personnel. The embassy will have consulates in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk. The State Department will provide Iraqi police training with its own personnel.
“What’s unusual is the scale and the militarization of the foreign service” as it oversees the thousands of security personnel, Newton said. The agency will even run its own airline to shuttle staff around the country. “This is not the kind of thing that diplomats do,” he said.
–With assistance from Tony Capaccio, Viola Gienger and David Lerman in Washington. Editors: John Walcott, Steven Komarow.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at email@example.com.
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Source: Human Rights Watch
(Washington, DC) – United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should make clear to the leaders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan during her upcoming visits that improving their poor human rights records is a key component of their engagement with the US, Human Rights Watch said today.
Clinton is to visit Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, on October 23, 2011, and is expected to meet with President Islam Karimov and separately with Uzbek civil society activists. Her trip to the region will also include a stop in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, for similar high-level meetings.
“Washington should not allow Uzbekistan’s standing as a strategic partner to distort reality about the government’s deplorable record,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Secretary Clinton’s trip is a crucial opportunity to set the record straight and underscore Tashkent’s urgent need to end abuses.”
The visit to Tashkent is the first since the administration’s controversial movein September to lift longstanding restrictions on financial assistance, including military assistance, to Uzbekistan. The restrictions were imposed in 2004 because of Tashkent’s appalling rights record. News media reports following the move quoted Clinton as saying that Uzbekistan was “showing signs of improving its human rights record and expanding political freedoms.”
Clinton should press Uzbekistan to release wrongfully imprisoned rights activists, allow civil society to operate freely, end torture in its detention facilities, and stop the use of forced child labor, Human Rights Watch said.
Uzbek authorities freed a critically ill human rights defender, Norboi Kholjigitov, on October 14, in what was widely considered an advance gesture ahead of Clinton’s visit. The veteran activist was imprisoned in June 2005 following a conviction on politically motivated charges and was subjected to abuse in prison.
“Kholjigitov’s release is an encouraging development that could not have come a moment too soon for someone so critically ill,” Williamson said. “It shows that it’s possible for the US to get results if it presses for change and underscores the urgent need for Secretary Clinton to call for further improvements.”
The Uzbek government continues to hold at least 12 human rights defenderson wrongful charges. They are: Solijon Abdurakhmanov, Azam Formonov, Nosim Isakov, Gaibullo Jalilov, Alisher Karamatov, Jamshid Karimov, Abdurasul Khudainasarov, Ganihon Mamatkhanov, Habibulla Okpulatov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov, and Akzam Turgunov. Many other journalists and political activists remain behind bars for no other reason than their legitimate civil society activism.
Human Rights Watch called on Clinton to make clear, both in private meetings with Uzbek officials and civil society activists and in public statements, that aid concessions will be made only if there is measurable progress in human rights.
“Secretary Clinton should leave no doubt that the US government is seriously concerned about Tashkent’s lack of meaningful progress on human rights,” Williamson said.
Tajikistan’s record, too, is marred by serious abuses, which Clinton should raise with top officials during her visit, Human Rights Watch said.
The recent convictions of two independent journalists on what appear to be politically motivated charges related to their legitimate journalism work tops the list of concerns, Human Rights Watch said. On October 14, Urunboy Usmonov, a longtime BBC journalist, was found guilty of complicity in the activities of a banned religious extremist organization, Hizb ut Tahrir, apparently for failing to report on their activities. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but subsequently amnestied so will not be serving prison time. During his trial Usmonov alleged he was subjected to ill-treatment in custody, including being beaten and burned on his arms with cigarettes.
Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov is a reporter with the independent weekly Zuri Zindagi, who has been in prison since November 2010 facing multiple charges including insult and defamation, and was similarly convicted on October 14 and released under an amnesty. He has to pay a large fine and is banned from journalism for three years.
The government also has cracked down more broadly on media freedoms and restricted religious freedoms. A new “Parental Responsibility Law” requires parents to prevent their children from participating in religious activity until they reach age 18, except if they are enrolled in official, state-sanctioned religious education.
Torture is an enduring problem in the country’s detention facilities and is believed to have resulted in at least two deaths so far in 2011.