By ERIC WALBERG
Abdulkhalil was arrested in the fields of Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley in August of 2002. The 28-year-old farmer was sentenced to 16 years in prison – trying to "overthrow" the constitutional structures.
Last month his father saw him for the first time since that day on a stretcher in a prison hospital. His head was battered and his tongue was so swollen that he could only say that he had been kept in water for a very long time. Abdulkhalil was a victim of Uzbekistan’s security service, the SNB. His detention and torture were part of a crack down on Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation, an Islamist group.
Death By Boiling
Independent human rights groups estimate that there are more than 600 politically motivated arrests per year in Uzbekistan, and over 6,500 political prisoners, some of whom are tortured to death. According to the forensic report commissioned by the British Embassy in Uzbekistan, two prisoners last August were even boiled to death.
The US condemned these Uzbek repressions for many years. But since the 9/11, there was a rewrite of America’s strategic interests in Central Asia, the government of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan has become now Washington’s new best friend in the region.
USA is funding those that it once condemned. Last year (2002) Washington gave Uzbekistan 500 million US dollars in aid. The police and intelligence services, which the US Department of State’s Web Site says openly use torture as a routine investigations technique, has received US $79 million of this sum. As a fact, President Karimov was a guest of President Bush in March of this year.
They signed a declaration which gave Uzbekistan security guarantees and promised to strengthen the material and technical base of their law enforcement agencies. The cooperation grows. On May 12 of this year, NATO said that Uzbekistan will be used as a base for the alliance’s peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban, US support for the Karimov had changed from one, guided by short-term necessity into a long-term commitment based of America’s strategic requirements.
Critics argue that USA has overlooked humans right abuses to foster a police state whose borders give the Pentagon a vantage point into Afghanistan and into the other neighboring countries as they are in Islamist movements. The geographic hub of the US-Uzbekistan alliance is 350km south of the capital of Tashkent. Outside the town of Khanabad military base, the platform for America’s operations in Afghanistan and in the region. Interestingly, that the town of Khanabad was closed by the Uzbek authorities for many months to the Uzbek people. Journalists are not allowed, and all the streets in this strategic town and base now carry the names of New York City avenues. One Western source says that the Americans are going to stay there for decades.
This is welcomed by the present Uzbek regime, which welcomes America’s change of attitude as its own security forces continue to repress the population.
Attendance at mosques in most cases leads to arrests. There are many accounts of police brutality. Persons are beaten and held down on the ground while members of the Uzbek Security Service stuff incriminating evidence into pockets of those arrested.
The Ferghana Valley has been a base for Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which the US and Britain of course say that they have links to al-Qaeda.
The fight against the IMU has been used to justify the repression of Islamists or any other movement that is opposed to the present regime. Even the British Ambassador Craig Murray says that this movement fills the void of devastating poverty and regime brutality. The intense repression, combined with inequality of wealth and desperate increasing poverty, lack of reform, is creating Islamic fundamentalism.
Us gave $26 million to human-right groups here as a screen that it is fighting brutality.
Matilda Bogner of the Human Rights Watch’s office in Tashkent said: "I would deny that there had been any real progress". Hakimjon Nezemjon, 68, agrees. He became a human-rights activist after a morgue attendant brought him his eldest son, Nozemjon. He had been left for dead by the security service but was still alive, despite having his skull fractured. Nozemjon is now 33, but screams all night since they split his skull open.
He is now in an asylum Noredinov said. "People’s live are no better with US involvement, because with America’s help, Karimov is getting richer, stronger and extremely more repressive."
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