Asia News and Analysis
Excusing tyranny breeds distrust and violence: Supporting dictators belies ‘progress’ on democracy and human rights By Abid Ullah Jan
08/18/05 “ICH” — — Neither the tyrannical regimes in the Muslim world appear over night, nor the stories of the horrors they perpetrate new for the champions of democracy. Dan Gardner from Ottawa Citizen writes that in September 2003 an Uzbek woman, Nazira Haitov, told him: “Two police officers came to our house at six o’clock in the evening. They said, we’re only going to check you guys, then you’ll be home. Nothing will happen to you.”
By the morning, one son was dead. The other was crippled for life. For reasons known only to themselves, the police had suspected the boys of being “Islamic extremists” and subjected them to a popular interrogation technique called “the helicopter”: With the suspect lying flat on his back on a concrete floor, officers seize his shoulders and legs, heave him up in the air and let go.
This is one story from one country under the most favored dictator of the Western regimes: Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic in central Asia that only recently burst into the headlines with reports of civil unrest and bloody reprisals. But the story died down as if nothing has happened. Imagine if the Taliban had butchered 500 unarmed protesters in the street. Remember the never ending interviews with women from Afghanistan who didn’t want to wear burqa. Did any of the journalists now bothered to interview any of the more than 2,000 who were badly wounded in Andijan. As reports of armed clashes and many more deaths in the region bordering Kyrgyzstan continue to emerge, silence deeps in the West.
The spark that set off this explosion was one small act of the sort of repression seen every day in many of the Muslim countries where dictators are in charge with the full support and protection of the US and its allies. Just like Musharraf regime’s arresting 300 people soon after 7/7 before the UK police could arrest a single suspect, twenty-three men were arrested on what people in Andijan knew were trumped-up charges. A crowd swarmed the prison where the men were held and emptied the cells. Protesters surged into the city centre. And the government of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s dictatorial president, responded with the thoughtless repression that has been its hallmark since the country gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The reason for the West’s supporting such tyrannical regimes is clear in the words of Dan Gardner of Ottawa Citizen: “Despite decades of official Soviet atheism, Uzbekistan and its neighbors maintained their Islamic identities, and independence brought a surge in religious feeling.” This twisted fact is supported with the conjecture that “Islamist extremists” arrived to “spread the dream of a caliphate restored by armed struggle.” Western analysts became accomplice in their government’s crime of supporting these tyrannies with their wrong assessment and conclusions that Terrorist attacks and “militant assaults became a real threat.” This belies the fact that in most countries of the region, including Uzbekistan, such imaginary attacks have remained rare.
On the behest of its Western supporters, the Karimov regime responded with a war on faith, just like Musharraf in Pakistan, the Turkish Generals in Turkey and Mubarak in Egypt. Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan are two ends of the tyrannical spectrum supported by the US and its allies. These two extreme expose the double standards of hypocrisy of the modern day fascists. Saudi Arabia is practicing since decades what the Taliban tried to do in Afghanistan. Yet Saudi department of Amr-bil-maroof wa Nahi-anil-munkar is not considered a problem for the US because Shari’ah in Saudi Arabia is neither a threat nor violation of human rights. The concept of Khilafah, however, is a threat. Why? The reason is clear. The US has no problem with any human rights violation and it is hardly concerned about implementation of Shari’ah. All it is concerned about is independence. Like the secular bulwarks in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and other places, as long as the religious Saudis remain subservient to the US, they are free to do anything they may like. It proves that Islam and Shari’ah are the pretexts. The enemy is independence and Muslim self-rule.
It hardly matters if human rights groups estimate that Uzbekistan’s jails are holding 6,500 political prisoners or if they don’t have access to such statistics in Saudi Arabia. The standard charges are “anti-government activities” and membership in an unapproved organization. So, anything that goes against the Western approved tyrannies is a crime.
After Sept. 11, 2001, all Muslim dictators and kings loudly claimed they had warned the United States about the terrible threat of “Islamist terrorism” but were rebuffed by officials more concerned with the trivialities of human rights than defeating “a mortal danger.” Now, they said, their governments and the United States would be allies in the war on terror.
Mr. Karimov and Musharraf got his alliance. Saudi regime got a few more years of approval and protection. The Americans got their bases and the suffering masses could hardly see the millions of dollars in aid. American soldiers train local troops and substantial evidence now indicates the U.S. sends terrorism suspects to these countries for interrogation. Mr. Karimov even met Mr. Bush in the White House. For Musharraf it is a routine to come to Washington for pilgrimage.
Officially, of course, the U.S. continued to be concerned with democracy and appalling human rights record in these allied tyrannies. But the words got softer and sounded distinctly hollow.
A steady stream of high-ranking American politicians visited these regimes to meet with their most favored dictators, but when they were asked about human rights at press conferences, they would only repeat that naturally they were concerned but also encouraged by “signs of progress.”
What were these signs? One of the most frequently cited in Uzbekistan for example, was the fact that the torturers’ of Mrs. Haitov’s sons were actually charged and sent to prison — something that had never happened before. But those touting the case ignored the fact that the boys were tortured in October, 2001, a time when Tashkent was full of foreign reporters sitting around waiting for the invasion of Afghanistan. Knowing it faced a public-relations disaster at the very moment it was making overtures to the West, the regime charged the — undoubtedly bewildered — cops within 24 hours.
But it was not to be repeated. Today as then, torture is routine and unpunished.
In his second inaugural address, Mr. Bush declared, as he has on many previous occasions, that the West cannot achieve peace and stability by making deals with tyrants.
As he said then, repression breeds violence. What we are seeing in Uzbekistan is a textbook demonstration. The simmering rage in other countries awaits horrible events than what we witnessed in Andijan.
Those in the West who wish to excuse rather than confront the tyrannical regimes of most favored dictators will then dismiss questions about human rights with the “signs of progress” mantra. But if majority of the public in the West believes what they say, that will not be good enough.
If they believe what he say about freedom and democracy and human rights, they will read words of their presidents written in blood on the streets of Andijan and treat their own and Muslim dictators as the tyrant they are.
Abid Ullah Jan <email@example.com> is the author of The End of Democracy and A war on Islam?