Tania Gorucheva on Fri, 21 Feb 2003 18:15:08 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Stalin-ism in Central Asia & US's struggle for democracy

While attention of the world is chained now to Iraq and US's attacking
on it, there are the same type of totalitarian repressive corrupted
regimes are blossoming in the most of recently emerged Central-Asian
states, former USSR republics. In some cases it's even worse like in
Turkmenistan where Stalin-like methods now in use in the course of
struggle of its leader Niyazov with the opposition. Presence of US
forces in the most of these states, just used as a convenient
bridgehead between Afghanistan on the South and Russia on the North,
doesn't play any remarkable role in developing democracy there.
Numerous appeals of democratic opposition and human rights activists
from these countries finally provoked some kind of reaction.

Here are two texts to your attention.


Source: http://www.fergana.ru

Show Trials Like Stalin's in Turkmenistan


In a darkened public meeting hall, Boris Shikhmuradov's face shone from
a giant television screen. He spoke the words of his confession
haltingly. He wore no expression. His eyes were cast downward. "We are
a criminal group, a mafia," Mr. Shikhmuradov said, trance-like. "Among
us there is not one normal person. We are all nobodies. I am not a
person capable of running a country. I am a criminal, able only to
destroy it."

Mr. Shikhmuradov, a former deputy prime minister of Turkmenistan, was
admitting responsibility for an attempt on the life of the country's
president, Saparmurad Niyazov.

Mr. Shikhmuradov is one of 46 people who have been convicted of taking
part in a drive-by shooting on Nov. 25 that left Mr. Niyazov unharmed.

Many people in Russia and the West are calling this the most chilling
public witch hunt since Stalin's show trials of prominent Bolsheviks in
the 1930's, recasting the ritual in a strange new 21st-century way. But
Mr. Niyazov says it is part of the international campaign against
terrorism. In fact, the Bush administration has been working with
Turkmenistan since Sept. 11, using its airspace for flights to
Afghanistan, and shipping United Nations aid through its territory.

Mr. Shikhmuradov's confession was broadcast across Turkmenistan on Dec.
30 and shown on a movie-size screen in an auditorium in the capital,
Ashgabat. Then, one after another, viewers in the auditorium demanded
that the coup plotters be put to death. One man, identified in a
transcript of the spectacle as a Turkmen elder, demanded that they be
killed in a way "more agonizing than by firing squad." A young woman
demanded death for the plotters by stoning.

In the tape of both confessions and reaction, rebroadcast on Russian
television, Mr. Niyazov listened to the confession, brushed aside the
demands of the auditorium, and chose instead to commit Mr. Shikhmuradov
to life in prison. Since December, five other confessions have been
similarly broadcast in public.

Mr. Niyazov has run Turkmenistan, a gas-rich country of about five
million people wedged among Iran, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, since
1985, first as Turkmenistan Communist Party secretary, and after
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, as president.

Mr. Niyazov, 62, has fashioned a towering personality cult, adorning
buildings and statues with his image, requiring and renaming several
months of the year after himself and his family. But since the
shooting, events in Turkmenistan have taken a darker turn. Human rights
groups and the United States say some of the confessions appear to have
been produced by torture. Foreign ambassadors were barred from trials.
Family members have been rounded up.

"Power has crossed a psychological threshold," said Vitaly Ponomaryov,
Central Asian specialist at Memorial, a respected Russian human rights
group. "Niyazov is trying to draw an iron curtain. They are not afraid
of jailing for politics anymore. They are not hiding this."

The circumstances surrounding the November shooting are murky.
Opposition leaders - including Mr. Shikhmuradov, in a statement before
his arrest - denied any part in it and say Mr. Niyazov staged it
himself to eliminate his critics. Mr. Shikhmuradov sneaked back into
Turkmenistan in September, they say, simply to organize

But by Dec. 24, he was in custody. Four days later, he confessed. Mr.
Ponomaryov, who has been documenting the arrests, said that 67 people
were arrested in the case. Dozens of family members and friends were
also arrested, he said. 

"The police and security service have been working without breaks,"
said one Turkmen Ministry of Internal Affairs officer who was in Moscow
on a visit. "They are looking for people. They are using helicopters in
the north." The arrests and subsequent convictions have strained
relations with the United States.

A Russian-born American citizen was among those arrested, and Mr.
Shikhmuradov also made a call to the American ambassador in Ashgabat,
Laura Kennedy. The embassy the call but gave no details. The Turkmen
Foreign Ministry published an angry letter. 

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which
Turkmenistan is a member, likened the confessions to Stalinist show
trials. A State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker, cited "credible
reports of torture and abuse of suspects."

"There are so many analogies to Stalin's time," said Arkady Dubnov, who
writes abou Central Asia for the Russian daily Vremya Novosti. "The
trials are every day and go quickly. The results are always known
beforehand." He is among the accused but remains free, in Moscow.

Many of the men Mr. Niyazov is accusing worked with him closely during
the 1990's and helped build his personality cult. Mr. Shikhmuradov, 53,
was minister of foreign affairs

and later deputy prime minister for nine years. Another plotting
suspect, Khudaiberdi Orazov, ran Turkmenistan's Central Bank from 1993
to 1999. 

But by late 2001, many had resigned and fled. Working for an
increasingly paranoid Mr. Niyazov, they said, had become unbearable.
Mr. Orazov, in a telephone interview, said he

was present when Mr. Niyazov gave an order to beat a prisoner "until he
has to walk using a stick." He said ministers were made to fall on
their knees when asking forgiveness for a mistake. 

"He began to want people to feel humiliated in front of him, and then
he became part god," said Mr. Orazov, now in hiding abroad. "In Soviet
times he didn't show these characteristics. He hid them for a while.
But later they exploded to the surface."

For convicted prisoners in Turkmenistan, like Mr. Shikhmuradov,
conditions are difficult. Two men who served three-year sentences said
beatings were routine. Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, jailed after organizing
protests in 1995, said he saw cellmates beaten to death by the Omon
special police. He said he was beaten daily and raped several times by
police officers.


Source: http://eurasia.org.ru/


1st Session

H. CON. RES. 32

Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to human rights in
Central Asia


February 11, 2003

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN (for herself and Mr. LANTOS) submitted the following
concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on
International Relations


Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to human rights in
Central Asia.

Whereas the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, 
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan provided the United States with important
assistance in the war in Afghanistan, from military basing and overflight 
rights to the facilitation of humanitarian relief;

Whereas America's victory over the Taliban in turn provided important
benefits to the Central Asian nations, removing a regime that threatened 
their security, and significantly weakening the Islamic Movement of 
Uzbekistan, a terrorist organization that had previously staged armed 
raids from Afghanistan into the region;

Whereas the United States has consistently urged the nations of Central
Asia to open their political systems and economies and to respect human 
rights, both before and since the attacks of September 11, 2001;

Whereas Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan 
are members of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), both of which confer a range of human rights 
obligations on their members;

Whereas, according to the Department of State, the Government of
Kazakhstan harasses and monitors independent media and human rights 
activists, restricts freedom of association and opposition political 
activity, has engaged in selective prosecution of opposition leaders, 
and allows security forces to commit extrajudicial executions, torture, 
and arbitrary detention with impunity;

Whereas, according to the Department of State, the Government of Kyrgyzstan
engages in arbitrary arrest and detention, restricts the activities of
political opposition figures, religious organizations deemed 'extremist',
human rights activists, and nongovernmental organizations, and
discriminates against ethnic minorities, and recently conducted a flawed
constitutional referendum that will further concentrate power in the
presidency and weaken the role of civil society;

Whereas, according to the Department of State, the Government of
Tajikistan remains authoritarian, curtailing freedoms of speech, assembly,
and association, disappearances, and torture;

Whereas, according to the Department of State, Turkmenistan is a
Soviet-style one-party state centered around the glorification of its
president, which engages in serious human rights abuses, including
arbitrary arrest and detention, severe restrictions of personal privacy,
repression of political opposition, and restrictions on freedom of speech
and nongovernmental activity, and most recently has engaged in sweeping
arrests and summary convictions, as well as torturing of suspects, in the
aftermath of the attack on the President's motorcade and has refused to
cooperate with the OSCE fact-finding mission;

Whereas, according to the Department of State, the Government of Uzbekistan
continues to commit serious human rights abuses, including arbitrary
arrest, detention and torture in custody, particularly of Muslims who
practice their religion outside state controls, to severely restrict
freedom of speech, the press, religion, independent political activity, and
nongovernmental organizations, and detains over 7,000 people for political
or religious reasons;

Whereas the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
has expressed concern about religious persecution in the region,
recommending that Turkmenistan be named a 'Country of Particular
Concern' under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, and
that Uzbekistan be placed on a special 'Watch List';

Whereas, by continuing to suppress human rights and to deny citizens
peaceful, democratic means of expressing their convictions, the nations of
Central Asia risk fueling popular support for violent and extremist
movements, thus undermining the goals of the war on terrorism;

Whereas President Bush has made the defense of 'human dignity, the rule of
law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private
property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance'
strategic goals of United States foreign policy in the Islamic world,
arguing that 'a truly strong nation will permit legal avenues of dissent
for all groups that pursue their aspirations without violence'; and

Whereas Congress has expressed its desire to see deeper reform in Central
Asia in resolutions and other legislation, most recently conditioning
assistance to Uzbekistan on its progress in meeting human rights and
democracy commitments to the United States: Now, therefore, be it Resolved
by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the
sense of Congress that--

(1) the Governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,
and Uzbekistan should accelerate democratic reforms and fulfill their human
rights obligations, including, where appropriate, by--

(A) releasing from prison all those jailed for peaceful political activism
or the nonviolent expression of their political or religious beliefs,
including Felix Kulov in Kyrgyzstan;

(B) fully investigating any credible allegations of torture and
prosecuting those responsible;

(C) permitting the free and unfettered functioning of independent media
outlets, independent political parties, and nongovernmental organizations,
whether officially registered or not;

(D) permitting the free exercise of religious beliefs and ceasing the
persecution of members of religious groups and denominations not registered
with the state; 

(E) holding free, competitive, and fair elections; and

(F) making publicly available documentation of their revenues and punishing
those engaged in official corruption;

(2) the President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense

(A) continue to raise at the highest levels with the governments of the
nations of Central Asia specific cases of political and religious
persecution, and urge greater respect for human rights and democratic
freedoms at every diplomatic opportunity;

(B) take progress in meeting the goals outlined in paragraph (1) into
account when determining the level and frequency of United States
diplomatic engagement with the governments of the Central Asian nations,
the allocation of United States assistance, and the nature of United States
military engagement with the countries of the region;

(C) ensure that the provisions of the annual foreign operations
appropriation Act are fully implemented to ensure that no United States
assistance benefits security forces in Central Asia implicated in
violations of human rights;

(D) follow the recommendations of the United States Commission on
International Religious Freedom by designating Turkmenistan a 'Country of
Particular Concern' under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
and by making clear that Uzbekistan risks designation if conditions in that
country do not improve;

(E) urge the Government of Turkmenistan to respect the right of
imprisoned opposition leader Boris Shikmuradov to due process and a
fair trial and to release democratic activists and their family members
from prison, and urge the Government of the Russian Federation not to
extradite to Turkmenistan members of that country's political

(F) work with the Government of Kazakhstan to create a political climate
free of intimidation and harassment, including releasing political
prisoners and permitting the return of political exiles, most notably
Akezan Kazegeldin, and to reduce official corruption, including by urging
the Government of Kazakhstan to cooperate with the ongoing Department of
Justice investigation, and if convicted independent journalist Sergey
Duvanov decides to appeal his verdict, to ensure that due process will be
strictly followed in accordance with Kazakhstani law and international
standards of justice;

(G) work with the Government of Uzbekistan to address the serious concerns
about systemic torture documented in the reports of the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Torture and to implement recommendations made in the

(H) work with the Government of Kyrgyzstan to introduce changes in the
recently adopted constitution that would address concerns about
protections for human rights and balance of powers; and

(I) support through United States assistance programs those
individuals, nongovernmental organizations, and media outlets in
Central Asia working to build more open societies, to support the
victims of human rights abuses, and to expose official corruption;

(3) increased levels of United States assistance to the governments of
the Central Asian nations made possible by their cooperation in the war
in Afghanistan can be sustained only if there is substantial and
continuing progress towards meeting the goals outlined in paragraph


U.S. House of Representatives resolution

14 Feb 2003 

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