13 May 2007

Supporting Pro-Democracy Movements

"The international community must put more pressure on [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov or there will be another Andijan."

Today's anti-government rally in Izmir [Credit: insurancebroadcasting.com]On the day that hundreds of thousands once again took to the streets in Turkey, we need to remember that today is also the second anniversary of the government massacre of pro-democracy protesters in eastern Uzbekistan.

This blog has monitored developments in Turkey as what happens there has the potential for having significant implications for both the direction of the European Union and the global conflict between moderate and extremist Islam. If we are serious about our desire to help promote democracy, then current human rights abuses in Uzbekistan should be of equal concern to us, as the country is of strategic importance to the future of the whole region.

When I worked in Central Asia, I often heard it said of the fertile Ferghana Valley in the east of Uzbekistan, the most populated area in Central Asia, that "Whoever wins the hearts of the people of Ferghana will win the hearts of the Uzbeks — and whoever wins the hearts of the Uzbeks, will win the hearts of the whole of Central Asia."  The West was wrong in 2005 to let Karimov play the disingenuous "war on terror" card and claim he was quashing Islamic extremists, just as the Foreign Office was wrong to censor the British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray when he attempted to raise concerns about widespread torture in the country.

If our Government's promises about developing a foreign policy with an ethical dimension are to mean anything, then we cannot continue overlooking such abuses. As we ponder what a truly ethical foreign policy would look like, it might be helpful to take a couple of minutes and watch this BBC news report recalling the Andijan uprising. We should be as determined that the blood of the hundreds of civilians killed there two years ago eventually leads to freedom in their nation as we are about the sacrifices still being paid daily in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Ben Rogers said...

I absolutely think we should be supporting pro-democracy movements. See a paper I wrote with James Mawdsley, at http://www.conservativehumanrights.com/newground/index.html -- and it is what the new Conservative Party Human Rights Commission is all about - see www.conservativehumanrights.com Also read Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy, and Ambassador Mark Palmer's Breaking the Real Axis of Evil.