:: May 2005 archives ::
May 31, 2005
[Thinking-East] CA/NA - American bikes across Siberia to fight slavery
From the iAbolish e-newsletter...
This Saturday, May 28th, Andrej Mucic, an amateur cyclist and Home Depot employee, will embark on a journey of 7,000 miles over 100 days through Siberia, Russia. Andrej will bike through the harsh climate and abrasive terrain of the Siberian tundra in order to raise $10,000 to benefit the American Anti-Slavery Group. To donate, visit www.SiberiaRide.com.
His grueling course will begin at Magadan, known as the Portal to Hell, the notorious first stop on the way to the gulag slave camps of the Stalinist era. He will bike 1,000 miles over nearly impassable roads to Yakutsk and on to a remote village called Suntar, where roads vanish and maps are of little assistance. From there Andrej heads south to the Lena River and will follow a path along its northern bank for 1,000 miles. The road picks up again in Ust-Kut, and Andrej will continue along to his final destination in St. Petersburg. What motivates someone to undertake this tremendous challenge? Burning moral indignation against slavery, and a powerful motivation to support the work of AASG.
Check out www.SiberiaRide.com for more information and to support Andrej's Siberian Freedom Ride by making a donation.
As a small non-profit organization, the American Anti-Slavery Group relies on concerned individuals like you for financial support. Your donation is urgently needed to continue our work to abolish modern-day slavery. Below are just some of the projects your donation will support.
Slave Rescue : Through working with Christian Solidarity International, we are able to pay or barter for the release of slaves. $36 will cover the costs of a survival kit for a fomer slave; $50 will free a mother or child and feed them for a month; $100 will feed a family of five Sudanese refugees for two months. How many slaves will you rescue?
Empowering Survivors : We train and support former slaves from around the world to speak out about slavery at anywhere from Congressional hearings to high schools and universities across the U.S. These survivors need your support to get their message out.
Grassroots Activism: By organizing rallies, supporting Sudan divestment in state legislatures, raising awareness on university campuses, and petitioning foreign governments, we are leading the grassroots abolitionist movement in the U.S., but we need your contribution to strengthen this movement.
May 30, 2005
[Ben] Web - Carnival of Revolutions
Thinking-East will host this event in the first September week. Also, we're currently overhauling the site, the blogs, and ... everything! Keep your eyes peeled for us in June 2005, lots to come.
May 29, 2005
[Ben] CA - Some weekend updates
Olesya started posting in the forums - pondering about Solzhenitsin's book "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and its relevance to contempory Uzbekistan.
If Western support has made Karimov into who he is, the rules of logic support the idea that the West can also finish him off.
An interesting article on Chinese-Uzbek relations in the Pravda:
China's stance on the events in Uzbekistan is based primarily on the "Kyrgyz experience." Beijing is interested in maintaining its positions in Central Asia. "China used Kyrgyzstan as a "model country" of sorts for strengthening its economic influence in Central Asia," said Mr. Grozin. According to him, the groups that seized power in Kyrgyzstan mostly share the anti-Chinese sentiments and Beijing could not but worry about the situation. China does not want any new "velvet revolutions" in Central Asia.
The Kazakh ambassador is interested in the conditions in the refugee camps near Jalalabad, where a friend of mine is coordinating relief measures.
There is a great interview with acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Kommersant.com. Bakiyev talks about his alliance with Kulov (which is both tactical and strategic), the upcoming elections (which I will be observing, fingers crossed), the events in Uzbekistan and a potential Russian military base near Osh. Much to chew on, a must-read for Kyrygzstan fans. Also on Kommersant.com, an interesting analysis about Kyrgyzstan with a Bakiyev/Kulov duo:
Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a highly experienced economic manager, will be in charge of the security and foreign policy of the country, whereas Felix Kulov, a special service veteran, will determine its economic policy. In the opinion of leading politologists, this may be fraught with serious complications. It would be better if Bakiyev was the prime minister and Kulov the president.
The wider Caspian region:
The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline was inaugurated some days ago. Pravda has the geopolitical conspiracy piece, Blogrel has posts on the pipeline from an Armenian perspective (and also looking at Azerbaijan here), and Nathan has some bits, too.
There is a new blog on Mongolia: "New Mongols" will be on my reading list. Very promising!
May 27, 2005
[Schwartz] ME - Memorial Day weekend updates
Horatio, something is rotten in the state of Egypt...
The Egyptian people have approved constitutional changes that open the way for multi-candidate presidential elections. According to official results 83% voted in favor for the changes. 54% of total registered voters went to the polls--not a heart-stopping turn-out, it's true, and in fact too reminiscent of past American turn-outs (we're lucky to get over 45% of the electorate), but decent nonetheless. [You might enjoy this BBC Online interactive graphic, How Democratic is the Middle East?]
Six opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, had called for a boycott of the referendum. They say that the amendments contain too many constraints for anyone to effectively challenge President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called on Egypt to investigate what it labels state-sponsored "plainclothes" (mukhbarat) police brutality against opposition demonstrators. The Human Rights Watch reports,
In Egypt, police and supporters of the ruling party attacked scores of pro-reform demonstrators and journalists yesterday, Human Rights Watch said today. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must appoint an independent judicial panel to conduct a thorough investigation into these attacks.
Yesterday in Cairo, plainclothes security agents beat demonstrators, and riot police allowed—and sometimes encouraged—mobs of Mubarak supporters to beat and sexually assault protestors and journalists.
The BBC Online quotes George Ishak, spokesman for the Kifaya opposition movement: "We were shocked when our members were beaten and dragged on the streets. Some female colleagues were subjected to humiliation of a sexual nature."
If you are an Egyptian university student or youth activist in the age-range 18-28 and would like to correspond for Thinking-East, please contact me: te.schwartz at gmail.com
Meanwhile, in Iraq, a huge deployment of Iraqi soldiers is expected as early as next week. Iraqi Minister of Defense Saadoun ad-Dulaimi announced plans for more than 40,000 Iraqi soldiers to be deployed in Baghdad in a massive operation to hunt down insurgents. Mr. ad-Dulaimi said the capital would be split into seven areas of operation, and warned that security measures would be far more strict than had been seen before.
"We will also impose a concrete blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet around an arm, God willing. No-one will be able to penetrate this blockade," Mr. ad-Dulaimi said. Mobile checkpoints shall also be used, the hope being that this will stop suicide bombers getting to the markets and the busy streets, where many people have been killed.
The operation may also be expanded to include other major cities.
I'm concerned. He's going to cut off Baghdad with a concrete barrier? And is he considering Mosul, Kirkuk, Sulaymeniah?
...I know it's supposed to sound like a "mop-up operation," but this is really sounding a little like the beginnings of a civil war. Think for a moment: a military occupation of Baghdad.
I don't want to be an alarmist. The perhaps Iraqis may have more success than the Americans did in Fallujah. After all, just as you would send an American to catch an American, send an Arab to catch an Arab. This time the soldiers can speak the language and understand cultural sensitivities, should know the likely hide-outs, etc.
But even if it doesn't erupt into civil war, this move could nevertheless become a bloodbath, and for several reasons. Arabs are not known for their military restraint (but then again, who is?), and the insurgents must see Baghdad as their prize. And what would happen if Mr. as-Sadr's boys get involved (again)? Finally, will this really solve the problem, or just rev up the wheel of vendetta which has spun so much, so bloodily, so pointlessly in the Middle East?
Finally, I find it funny how Mr. ad-Dulaimi's idea seems to mirror so closely the thinking of the Israel Defense Force's re-occupation of Palestinian Authority territories. Checkpoints? Concrete walls? Hmmm... Honestly, it is a vastly different situation in Iraq than in the Holy Land, but the devil in me can't help but chuckle.
Bush has pledged aid to the Palestinians--$50 million, in fact, paid directly to the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas is the first Palestinian leader to be hosted by Mr. Bush.
The new aid is part of a $350m package earmarked for the Palestinians. The money is supposed to go to fund housing and infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the BBC Online covers HAMAS's bid for power in Palestinian society.
If you are an Iranian university student or youth activist in the age-range 18-28 and would like to correspond for Thinking-East, please contact me: te.schwartz at gmail.com
This weekend I'll be going down to Philadelphia to be with my lovely, so I won't be making any updates until at least Tuesday, May 31st.
May 25, 2005
[Ben] UZ - Crisis Group Andijon report
The Crisis Group (name changed from International Crisis Group) has just released its report on the Andijon 'Uprising'. Probably lots of interesting stuff in the document. It is until now the most complete analysis of the events around the 13th of May. The policy recommendations in the executive summary are, well, spicy:
If President Karimov continues to block such transparency, governments will need to ask themselves whether the only way to avoid being tainted themselves by association with the Uzbek government, and to shock the Uzbek authorities into reform before it is too late, is to pull back their assistance and begin to distance themselves from the regime.
[Ben] OIL - Baku-Ceyhan inaugurated
UPDATE: I want to think more about the financing. See below
After more than 10 years of construction, the first drop of oil from the Caspian Sea reached the Mediterranean.
Wednesday's inauguration at the Sangachal oil terminal near Baku was attended by presidents from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Turkey.
US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman also was present at a ceremony where the taps were turned on.
It is not just BP that built the pipeline:
The shareholders of the BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) consortium are British Petroleum (30.1%), the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (25%), Unocal (8.9%), Statoil (8.71%), TPAO (Turkish Petroleum, 6.53%), Eni (5%), Itochu (3.4%), INPEX (2.5%), ConocoPhillips (2.5%), Total (5%), and Amerada Hess (2.36%).
The throughput capacity of the pipe will be at around 1 million barrels per day, or 50 million tons of crude per year. The CPC pipeline from Tengiz to Novorossiysk is currently operating at 600.000 bbl/d, but will transport around 1.34m bbl/d by 2015.
The BTC-pipeline has been subjected to a large degree of controversy. Many people doubted that it was a corporate decision at play - more likely, they thought, it was a political effort that led to today's inauguration. In order to circumvent strategic adverseries North (Russia) and South (Iran) (also East: China), the US allegedly lobbied until BP would agree to build it.
Critics hold that Azerbaijan's oil resources would not have made feasible such a daring investment. Now that the Kazakhs plug in (via tankers across the Caspian) this is looking well different. Also, BP made clear from the beginning that it would not only transport oil via the pipeline but also gas. With no public guarantees or subsidies, the financing is exclusively undertaken by the shareholders. This undertaking was deemed profitable, and no political pressure would have been needed for the consortium to proceed.
I read in the Armenian Weekly that, contrary to my words above, there have been massive subsidies:
He [Ambassador Morningstar] also revealed that in order to make the project more feasible, the US government did, in fact, make financing available from governmental agencies such as the US Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. He noted that after the Turkish government guaranteed that the cost for the Turkish section would remain close to its estimate of $2.4 billion, BP Amoco and the other countries of the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium broke ground on the pipeline in September 2002.
Anyone who knows more on that issue is welcome to post in the comment.
Related posts on this blog:
Background #3.1: Das Kaspische Meer (German)
May 24, 2005
[Ben] Mon - Updates Elections
As stated before here and here, it was very likely in advance that former premier Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the ex-communist MPRP was to win the Mongolian elections that were convened two days ago. While the presidency is largely symbolic, Mr Enkhbyar will still have chances to make a difference. The absence of any party majority in the 76-seat Great Hural makes him an important power brokerer. The MPRP party secretary, Y. Otgonbayar, said yesterday that "this election victory will help us to implement many of the programmes that we are planning".
The resurgence of the Communists should not worry anyone. Like so many ex-communist parties in the former Eastern bloc, the Mongolian version is similarly tamed and committed to free market values, recasting itself as a reformist social democratic party.
Mongolia's UB Post, the only English-speaking weekly news outlet in Ulan Bator, only reprinted a story of the BBC but will probably have an individual analysis, soon. However, there are some interesting comments underneath the preliminary election coverage that clearly indicate the disappointment of the young and bright English-speaking fraction.
"Too much nostalgia for communism won this election. People want things handed to them for free. They're not willing to take the risk, sacrifice, or work towards a reward", or "Why do these communists always win? Why can't Mongolians choose the new and younger minds? It truly is a sad story" -- While not being representative, these remarks show that there is a discontented "wave of Western-educated young Mongolians".
May 23, 2005
[Olesya] UZ - OSCE on the situation in Andijon
There have been two important announcements made by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Dr. Dimitrij Rupel, and the Head of the OSCE Centre in Tashkent, Ambassador Miroslav Jenca, regarding the situation in Andijon.
Kyrgyzstan seems to be getting more and more credit and recognition for their tulip revolution which is now turning into a model the rest of Central Asian states should follow. I wonder if our government has got anything to say in response. I guess the resolution of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis "On the formation of an independent commission of the Oliy Majlis for the investigation of the events in Andijan" of 23 May 2005 (which can be found in Russian on www.uza.uz) is a kind of "attention-getting device" used by our government to show to the rest of the world that they can actually deal with our "internal" problems on their own. As always though, the actual meaning of the word "independent" never gets reflected on the composition of the commission. I can't help but describe the "highly-qualified" members of the Commission as a bunch of narrow-minded, demoralized individuals.
Much still remains to be seen as regards the concerted position of the larger international community on the whole issue but it would still be a lot nicer if the Russian government could express some doubt and concern over the legitimacy of the use of force by the Uzbek government during the said events. Sadly, Russians keep confusing the Andijon situation with the Chechen conflict and the many terrorist threats they confronted in the past. So far I have only seen some very nasty signs of approval being manifested by the Russian Parliament and their ministries.
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Sassōn forgive me
October 31st, 2004: I wasn’t supposed to be in Lūd that night.
Lūd is a terrible, desperate place. I’ve sometimes heard Palestinians from the Gaza Strip refer to it as “hell.” There are sections of the city where the houses are constructed of stapled aluminum siding and dried mud. The more civilized sections of Lūd and its sister city Ramle are fortresses. Most residents live in giant concrete blocks. The city elite (cops, politicians, and drug dealers) live in walled mansions. Lūd’s dealers pioneered “ATM drugs”: the junky walks up to a tiny slit in the wall of his or her dealer’s mansion, deposits some shekels, and out pops their heroin...
Since July I had been working in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam, the Middle East’s first and only Jewish-Arab cooperative village, situated in the war-torn Latrūn region, near Lūd. The cooperative’s Palestinian and Israeli founders dreamt of establishing, amidst the ruins of Maccabee forts and Crusader castles, rusting husks of exploded Israeli tanks and the ghosts of Palestinian villages, a sacred “Oasis of Peace.”
My boss at the cooperative granted me a four-day leave to do some travelling. I first rode northward, on Highway 6, Israel’s main road that starts in Elat, slithers along the Green Line and ends somewhere just south of Lebanon. My car passed Qalqiyah and Tulkarem. Minarets peeked out over the top edge of the Separation Wall, and tendrils of black smoke from burning tires licked the blue sky.
I spent two nights and a day in Kufr Manda, a poor farming village of Palestinian citizens of Israel located in the southern Galilee region. I made excursions to Nazareth, a dumpy city if ever I saw one, and to tiny Kufr Kana, one of the last settlements of the Shirkas. The Shirkas once administered all the Holy Land for the Ottoman Turks. Today, they sell Nike and Reebok shoes.
Friday, I hitch-hiked westward, across verdant kibbutz farms and booming Jewish towns, to the eternal Acre. I spent a day in the impoverished Old City of Acre, a granite cube of ancient history that sticks out into the Mediterannean, defying the sea. The spidery cracks and musket bullet holes in its immortal walls are a message: ‘‘What is time? Not even Napoleon could defeat me.”
The next day, I went to mountainous Haifa, the prophet Elijah’s old hang-out. I breathed in the brisk winds that whisked through the city’s steep streets and strolled the luscious Bahai gardens. Then, that night, I hopped onto the train for Latrūn.
Turned out to be the wrong train.
Several hours later, deep into the night and even deeper in the Negev desert, I sat with two security guards in the railway terminal of Beer Sheva. One guard was a newly immigrated Russian; the other, a second-generation Sepharadi. They had just finished their mandatory military service. They both served in Gaza, protecting the Israeli settlements there.
“I once saw a terrorist with a rocket,” the Russian said. “I shot him.”
“I ran over an Arab with my tank,” the Sepharadi said. “I don’t know if he was a terrorist.”
They both grinned with a savage joy. The Russian was twenty-four; the Sepharadi, twenty-one.
I hitched a ride with the train conductors, many of whom lived in and around Latrūn. Their tiny white Citreon zoomed across the dark desert, northward on Highway 6. Looking out the car window at the utter flatness of the black sands, I wondered if we were riding alongside the sea. But then the ruby glow of Gaza reminded me just how far away from everything I really was.
They dropped me off in Lūd, early in the morning. I knew the city’s reputation, and immediately set about finding a taxi to get me the hell out of there. But no driver would take me back to Neve Shalom for anything less than 80 shekels. After all my travelling, I had very little cash on hand. I was stuck... until one driver took mercy on me. He had me split the fare with another customer, a giant Sepharadi man named Sassōn.
Sassōn was really giant: as round as a granite boulder, as heavy and intimidating as a bear. He struggled to get into the taxi, so the driver and I helped him into his seat. He tried to eat a falafel he had just purchased, but the sandwich disintegrated in his hands—which were cut and bleeding. The driver and I looked at each other. We asked Sassōn what happened to his hands, but he only whimpered for his falafel. That’s when I noticed the stench: this bear of a man had soiled his sweatpants.
Minutes later, I returned to the night road. First we drove back onto Highway 6, then veered off into dark dirt paths which zig-zag throughout Latrūn’s farmland. It was sometime during cotton season. Everywhere stalks with puffy buds of cotton rustled in the midnight breeze.
The driver decided to take Sassōn to a hospital, but first the bear-man should go home and get cleaned up.
Sassōn lived in one of the many moshavs of Latrūn. Decades ago, when the State of Israel was just a newborn, waves of Middle Eastern Jews flooded the country. The world has often seen the United States as a land “where the streets are paved with gold”; for the Sepharadim, this mythic land of opportunity is Israel. But the Jewish State was created by and for Ashkenazim, European Jews. What was to be done with these dark-skinned, Arabic-speaking immigrants? The answer: concentrate them in Ramle, Lūd and Latrūn, the No Man’s Land, a region devastated by the 1948 war. Stick them in hastily built concrete huts and make them til the soil for their livelihood. Thus were born the moshavim, the Jewish shantytowns of Israel.*
Many moshavs have since clawed up from impoverishment, becoming middle class towns and suburbs. Not Sassōn’s. The houses were boxes on stilts, the road was ruined, and even the trees seemed twisted and bent from poverty.
The taxi pulled up to Sassōn’s concrete box. He stumbled out, rang the doorbell. An angry thirty- or forty-something man opened the door.
“His brother,” the driver whispered.
The man screamed at Sassōn and punched the door. Sassōn didn’t seem to notice. He quietly shuffled into the house, and the door closed. The driver and I chit-chatted for a few minutes.
“I’ve known Sassōn for many years,” he said. “He is crazy. This happen to him when he was soldier.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are many of us who get crazy. Israel takes care of them.”
“Why haven’t I ever heard about them before?”
He smirked. “They are, how do you say? They are patriots. Israel takes care of them, and in exchange, they say nothing.”
He glanced at me. “You should ask Sassōn about himself. He likes to tell his story.”
The door re-opened. Sassōn, wearing a new pair of sweatpants, shuffled out. The brother appeared behind him, arms crossed, scowling at the meek bear-man. A woman timidly peered over the brother’s shoulder. The brother, noticing her, yelled and slammed the door. Sassōn climbed back into the taxi (with our help) and we drove off.
Sassōn looked at me with two round eyes and asked in Hebrew, “Are you Jewish?”
“Half,” I answered in my broken Hebrew. “My father is Jewish.”
“You are good. Don’t let anyone tell you different because you are a Jew.” Tears welled up in his eyes and streamed down his cheeks. “Do you like Israel?”
I had seen many awful things in this country. Did I like Israel? I sat back and thought about this: did I like Israel? No... Yet, I cared for Israel.
“Israel is a good place,” Sassōn said. “It is the only place where Jews can be Jews.”
And then he began to tell me about himself: “My parents were from Morocco and Iraq, but I was born here. I served in the army in 1973. I was in the Golani unit.”
His chest swelled with pride.
The driver explained in English: “He was, how do you say? He was commando.”
Sassōn continued: “I killed hundreds of Arabs. I sneak up to them with my knife and,” he ran a chubby finger across his throat. “Not only in Golan. I was in the Suez, too.”
He gazed blankly at the floor. The driver and I waited. Then: “I stopped being myself in the Golan. It was night. I was sneaking and I saw the Syrians line up a hundred Israeli boys and... shoot them all dead. I stopped being myself then.”
The taxi came to a halt. We were at the Kibbutz Nachshōn junction, where the well-lit highway met the shadowy road that snaked up an ancient hill to Neve Shalom. I could see the “Oasis of Peace,” about an hour’s walk away, atop the hill’s crest. Beside it rose the tel of al-Latrūn, upon which sat the ruins of the Crusader fortress that gave the region its name. Salahadin and Richard the Lionhearted fought there, as did Israel and Jordan a millennium later.
The hospital was too far out of my way, the driver explained. He would take Sassōn by himself. I turned to the bear-man, who smiled like a child. He extended a quivering, bloody hand to me. Between his fingers was a paper, upon which he had scrawled his name and phone number. I promised to give him a ring sometime, and then stepped out of the taxi. I then watched the taxi drive away.
I was alone. The moon was as full and bright as a newly minted shekel. Somewhere in the night, jackals howled and the radio of Bedouins broadcasted a woman’s voice. She cried out to the universe, wailing the sorrow of generations upon generations upon generations. With her wail echoing in my ear and the moon illuminating my way, I grabbed a board of wood and began the long walk back to where I had to go.
I never phoned the bear-man. I never intended to. And sometimes, when I am alone on a dark road in New York or Philadelphia or London or wherever, I find myself thinking: O Sassōn, please forgive me...
*Alot of good information on moshavim can be found here.
May 22, 2005
[Ben] Mon - Mongolia votes
The polls closed, and everything looks like Enkhbayar is set to win the presidential elections. Turnout was historically low. Results are expected for Monday.
From the IHT:
‘‘It’s good to be old, because people come out and take our vote,’’ said Batsukh Tseveenchimed, 62, as she offered bread and tea to the six poll workers — including opposition party monitors — who descended on her tent.
Opposition parties complain that ruling party members still dominate the local election commissions, which register voters and run polling stations.
Activists demonstrated in the capital, Ulan Bator, this month, demanding that the election bodies be dissolved. They said they would be watching for possible voter intimidation.
It seems that the ex-communist MPRP's candidate Enkhbayar is set to win, amidst what observers call a widespread nostalgia for communism:
ITAR-TASS is having a pretty stereotypical view of how an elections in Mongolia should look like (though their correspondent actually sits in Tokyo...):
Several dozen thousands of Mongols are heading on Sunday horseback and on camels for polling stations which are dispersed in vast steppes.
May 21, 2005
[Ben] Uz - Updates on Andijon
The massacre of Andijon happened a week ago, time for a round-up of some interesting stories online.
Tensions remain high in Karasuv, but there are signs that the situation might normalise: "The situation eased around midday as Uzbek forces allowed traders to cross the bridge, one of two destroyed by Uzbekistan in recent years in a clampdown on trade with Kyrgyzstan."
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan rejects a UN inquiry:
"Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, said: "[Karimov] said he had the situation under control and was taking every measure to bring those responsible to account and didn't need an international team to establish the facts."
Engagement, disengagement, sanctions? What is appropriate? The opinions on that differ strikingly, some call for open talk and harsh criticism (others even sanctions), Nathan over at the Registan disagrees. Disengagement might be out of the question. But how can engagement be more effective? Check Olesya's article concerning this central issue.
Very much overlooked in the ongoing debate (and that's where my studies come in) is an economic angle. Pro-democracy? Islamist? Well, says SOAS prof Deniz Kandiyoti, actually the massacre in eastern Uzbekistan is rooted in the impact of the country’s post-Soviet economic collapse on its citizens. His article over at openDemocracy is definitely worth checking out.
The recent spotlight on Uzbekistan and the increased media coverage reveals one fact: There are quite many people out there who don't have clue about the region. That's not bad, as long as they don't explain the games behind the curtain to us. Johann Hari, columnist for the UK Independent, gets almost everything wrong in his simplicist analysis. Nathan and Tim respond.
[Schwartz] Iraq - Mystery of the Saddam photos
[In the interest of good taste, and out of respect for our Iraqi readers and correspondents, I shall not be re-printing the infamous photographs on this blog.*]
Yesterday the New York Post (not my favorite newspaper by far) made an interesting suggestion:
The Sun said it received the pictures from a source in the U.S. military who hoped the release of the pitiful pictures will deal a blow to the lingering Iraqi insurgency.
The Pentagon seems to be of a different opinion. Today the Post reports today,
The Pentagon yesterday launched an investigation into who photographed Saddam Hussein in his underwear at a U.S-run prison in Iraq.
The sensational snapshots of the former tyrant, published in yesterday's Post and the London Sun, violated Pentagon regulations and Geneva Convention guidelines.
*Yet, I must admit, I find the predicament of Saddam Hussein, while ironic and justified, strangely fascinating: what is it like for him to have gone from all that power to such decrepitude? to have his sons shot dead? his macabre dreams dashed? and all his might and terror stripped from him? Here we see a man who had palaces built in his honor now huddling in the cold on a plain cot.
The New York Post quotes The Sun's "defense editor," Tom Newton Dunn: "[Hussein and his accomplices] are just old men now, and seem to have acceped their day is over. They're just waiting out their fate. Most of them know that means the gallows."
Truth be told, I've always been fascinated by dictators-turned-powerless. I recall reading when I was younger about a South American dictator who, after a coup de tat, is now living out his existence somewhere in Central America. He owns a computer hardware shop and lives in the upstairs apartment. The Ben Kingsley character in the film, House of Sand and Fog, also fascinated me in the same manner (though, all the characters in that story fascinated me, and it's a great damned movie--go watch it!) The fate of the Thanos character in the graphic novel The Infinity Gauntlet also always moved me. Unlike the old South American dictator or Kingsley's character, Thanos gains a kind of serenity within himself at the end of the story.
One would hope Hussein's is a humbling experience, though by most accounts, Hussein seems himself as ultimately justified by God. Thus is the severity of his megalomania...
May 20, 2005
[Schwartz] EU - Germany urges Turkey to take responsibility for Armenian Genocide [late post]
April 29th, 2005: Turkey edges towards Armenia ties BBC Online
April 24th, 2005: Armenians remember mass killings BBC Online
April 21st, 2005:Berlin urges Turkey to take
responsibility for massacres Expatica Online
All parties in the German parliament have agreed key points of a resolution which will tell Turkey to "take historic responsibility" for the 1915 Armenian genocide. However, they aren't using the word "genocide." The draft resolution being debated in Germany's parliament does not use the word "genocide" but rather refers to the "expulsion and massacres" of Armenians under the Ottoman Turks in 1915 as part of ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the killings.
[Thanks to Ben for alerting me to this article.]
In Thinking-East's Issue 3, scheduled for publication May 31st, 2005, you can read my interview with Yair Auron, the world's leading expert on the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish reaction (who also happens to be a recent resident of the Oasis of Peace.)
I don't yet know what was Turkey's response. Turkey tends to be very sensitive about this issue, and won't even like the use of the word "massacre." Whoever wrote this explanation in the Wikipedia did it very well:
Soon after the Armenian massacres, the world was well aware of the "extermination of the Armenians", which was openly discussed by Turkish government officials, and trials of Ottoman officials were held in regard to the events, after a period of quiet, a new policy of silencing and what is called as denial began. Eventually, a policy that is considered by many historians as official state denial emerged. Mention of Armenian Genocide almost anywhere in the world was met with rebukes from Turkish ambassadors, while mention of it in Turkey itself led to jail terms or worse on many occasions — often prosecuted under a law against inciting ethnic hatred.
Turkey began to spend large amounts of money on lobbying firms in Washington D.C. to counter genocide allegations, and improve its image. It also began to spend large amounts of money on endowed chairs of Turkish or Ottoman history in different U.S. universities which had conditions that the professors who were hired must be on "friendly" terms with Turkey. Some of their efforts to establish such chairs were met with student and public resistance and not all were eventually successful in being beforehand armenian counterpart establishments.
The campaign of what is called as denial has met with mixed success. Some governments, notably Turkish allies the U.S. and Israel will not officially use the word genocide to describe these events, though some government officials have used it personally. Many newspapers for a long time would not use the word genocide without disclaimers such as "alleged". A number of those policies have now been reversed so that even casting doubt on the term is against editorial policy, such as the case is with the New York Times. In recent years the number of governments recognizing the event as genocide officially has grown, despite threats of economic retaliation from Turkey. Two recent examples are France and Switzerland. Turkish entry talks with the European Union were met with a number of calls to consider the event as genocide, though it was eventually not a specific stipulation.
The most recent move by the Turkish government in this regard was for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the main opposition party Deniz Baykal to hold a press conference in March 2005 inviting Armenian historians to meet with historians from Turkey to find out what happened, and called on Armenia to open its archives. This was met with a response from the Armenian Foreign minister that the world already knew what happened, and that Armenia's archives were always open.
Turkey has never established diplomatic relations with Armenia and has closed its land borders with Armenia. Armenia has declared repeatedly it is ready for relations and an open border without preconditions but denied to withdraw its own troops from occupied Azerbeijan. Turkey claims that it would support the occupation of Nagorno-Karabagh by opening his borders.
The Wikipedia entry also has a timeline.
I'll keep you updated...
There are a number of Turkish scholars who support the theses of genocide, including turkish historians Ragip Zarakolu and Ali Ertem, as well as Taner Akçam and Halil Berktay. Despite being protested strongly by some Turkish nationalists. Orhan Pamuk, a famous Turkish novelist, has also recently told the swiss press that he believes that a million Armenians and 30,000 kurds were killed in Turkey.
The reason why some Turkish intellectuals accept the theses of genocide, lies behind three important points. First, the fact that this organization members were criminals, and that those criminals were specifically sent to escort the Armenians, for them is enough evidences of a government criminal intention. Second, the fact that not only the Armenians living in the war zone were removed, according to them this plays against the theses of military necessity vehiculed by the Ottoman government. Thirdly, according to them, the theses of simple relocation does not make sense, because there was no dispositions taken suggesting a “resettlement,” which could mean that the government didn't expected Armenians would survive. Dr. Taner Akçam, a Turkish specialist, write about this point: “The fact that neither at the start of the deportations, nor en route, and nor at the locations, which were declared to be their initial halting places, were there any single arrangement, required for the organization of a people's migration, is sufficient proof of the existence of this plan of annihilation.”
Those Turkish intellectuals believe that 800,000 or more Armenians lost their lives during the events.
[Elnura] Kyr - Uzbek embassy protest
A group of students from the American University Central Asia has initiated a protest called “Stop violence against the people of Uzbekistan” in front of the Uzbek Embassy in Bishkek yesterday. I was part of the group and one of the initiators. Members of peaceful resistance movement KelKel and Students’ Union of Kyrgyzstan (where I currently act as deputy chair) joined us too. We painted our faces to express sorrow and desperation, taped our mouths and tied hands to show that Uzbek citizens are restrained from doing anything to improve their lives. We also put flowers in front of the Embassy in the memory of those who were killed by the government forces. Two of our members were military uniform and held a long rope in front of us to show that Uzbekistan is a police state.
Here are some of the photos I took. There is an Uzbek news web site where you can see all pictures.
More pictures in the extended entry.
[Ben] Mon - Will he make it?
Badarchiin Erdenebat, head of the Motherland Party and former defence minister of Mongolia (...and active businessman), will run for presidency. People assumed he will run long ago, but now it is official.
However, he has got a long way to go. While Mongolei.net reports that top-favourite Nambariin Enkhbayar's chances for election dropped from 40 to 37 percent, his top contender Enkhsaihan's chances increased lightly, according to the same source. But, one should not underestimate the new entrant:
'Erdenebat was the best in the debates. He spoke like a president,' Bayaraa, a professional driver in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, said on Thursday, echoing others in the television audience.
And, there are already protests heating up in the capital Ulan Bator against the General Election Commission. Apparently, they printed some extra 80,000 voter IDs allegedly given to Enkhbayar's voters.
I am stunned about how professional the websites of the candidates and the Mongolian parliament are.
On a general note:
The economy rebounds:
Mongolia's economy grew 10.9 percent in 2004, up from 5.5 percent the previous year, according to government figures, as the country rebounded from droughts and famine in 2000 and 2001 and attracted mining investment from the likes of Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.
...while poverty persists:
But a third of Mongolia's 2.5 million people still live below the poverty line in a nation about three times the size of France.
The UNDP Human Development Report 2003 Mongolia is here, containing lots of useful information for the interested reader. Interestingly, the UNDP's Human Development Index surpassed its 1990 level in 1999, making it one of the few countries in the wider Central Asian region to regenerate improvements in living standards vis-à-vis the Soviet period.
See also yesterday's post.
May 19, 2005
[Ben] Ru - Beslan trial
Last September, a raid by insurgents on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, left 330 people, many of them children, dead. Now, some eight months later, the only surviving hostage-taker, Nur-Pashi Kulayev (a 24-year-old Chechen carpenter), has gone on trial now, facing nine charges (including murder, banditry and terrorism).
After guards escorted Kulayev into the courtroom, several woman started crying and yelling. One woman tried to walk up to the cage to show Kulayev a newspaper page with dozens of color photographs of dead children.
However, Mr Kulayev has pleaded not guilty, claiming that he was forced to participate in the attack, against his will. With a quiet voice, he confirmed that he is from the Chechen village of Engenoy (Noshay-Yurtowsky region). He says that he is married with two children, aged one and two.
Outside of the court, women held up photos of their killed children. Echo Moskvy reported that one mother who lost her daughter and her grand-daughter demanded: "One does not have to pass a sentence on him. One should tear him to pieces."
Something that I didn't know before: According to the Russian judiciary, there was another terrorist group on stand-by in neighbouring Ingushetia, ready to take over another school in case the Beslan group had been halted.
There is extreme pressure on the court in this case. The Russian people, and particularly the people of Beslan will want to see concrete proof that the perpetrators of this atrocity are not only being brought to justice, but are being punished. I have no idea whether Kulayev actually was press-ganged into service or not, but I hope that the court will take this opportunity to investigate his claims fully, and not brush them under the carpet in its desire for a quick verdict.
[Schwartz] USA - Ahhh fame but alas, no fortune (yet)
"The writer who draws material from a book is like one who borrows money only to lend it." "We demand freedom of press and freedom of speech, although we have nothing to say and nothing worth printing." --Khalil Gibran
I've been busy. My well-known piece, There must be peace between symbols, was published in The Journal News, which services Westechester County in New York, on February 12th, 2005. I recently tweeked this essay and have re-submitted to the New York Times and TIKKUN Magazine. Expect this (slightly) updated version in Thinking-East's Issue 3.
A piece published currently on Thinking-East, written shortly after Yaffir Arafat's death and burial, The 21st Century Palestinian, was published in the Winter 2005 issue of The Nonviolent Change Journal.
Unrelated to the Mideast but making (a very generalized) reference to the broader "Third World" and its perspectives on America, April 7th, 2005 I had a letter published in The Journal News regarding the Terri Schiavo controversy.
Before that, on March 23rd, 2005, I presented "The 50 Years War: An American Student's Perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" for the Diplomat-in-Residence Program at La Salle University in Philadelphia. I've wanted to make more presentations, especially about my time in the Oasis of Peace and about my "Symbols" article, but personal matters have derailed me (see the bottom of this entry.)
I don't usually enjoy self-promoting so shamelessly, but Ben's done a pretty good job of logging the rest of our crew's periodic accomplishments (those off chances when we realize our delusions of grandeur...) Click on "continue reading" [also: personal news for yours truly at the bottom of this entry.]
Ben has published a 3-part behemoth of an article about the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (in German).
He also has published something in the Spirit, official publication of the School of Oriental and African Studies-- where we met, by the way (check out this other ancient blog entry.) He also had this great Thinking-East article published in the Spirit a few months back.
New to the crew is Olesya. Welcome! Expect good things from her. She is a profound and dark thinker. You really should read her discussion with Ben, The sky is so big and our lives are so small, about life in police states, as well as her uncompromising vision of Uzbek society, A very Uzbek game, a very Uzbek show.
And good news for Nathan over at the Registan. He was just interviewed by the BBC (wow!) You can find a link to the interview here.
In other news...
For those of you who don't know, a long-brewing crisis within my family finally exploded on May 9th. I have since removed myself from the old Schwartz house, where I had been staying when I returned from Israel-Palestine in February. I am currently looking for accomodations for the remainder of my time in Yonkers.
June 24th-26th, I relocate to Philadelphia, to be back in the arms of my lovely, Chon, and to begin an internship at the City Paper. All in all, I'm feeling good. I have been blessed with truly loyal friends and loved ones. I may be houseless, but I am not homeless.
I am in need of a good weekend/late weekday job to get some income (the internship is unpaid), so if you know of anything, give me a holler at te.schwartz at gmail.com (BTW many thanks to Ben for setting up this Gmail account for me, as my Thinking-East e-mailbox has been seriously malfuctional for a while due to my nomadic behaviors.)
Also, I shall soon update my huge photo-entry, Hail and Farewell, Holy Land, which currently resides in a perpetual state of "under construction" wayyy down the blog's archives.
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Oasis of Peace Spring '05 agenda
Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam coming events for Spring 2005
by Dorit Shippin
Click on "continue reading" for the schedule. You can also click here.
Two NSWAS delegates tour Britain
Between May 18-25 Daoud Boulos and Ruth Schuster represented the Village at the invitation of the British Friends of NSWAS. While there, they took place in a number of important events. On Monday May 19 they were invited to speak before some 60 MPs at the House of Commons - a great honour skillfully arranged by British Friends Chair Jenny Nemko.
On May 20, they were invited to the Oxford City Council. Two city council members, Craig Simmons - a Jew and Fiyaz Mughal - a Moslem, were active in proposing a friendship link between NSWAS with Oxford. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Councillor Craig Simmons said, "There is only so much a local council can do to influence international affairs, but we felt that by proposing that Oxford twin with the village we would be highlighting what can be achieved when Arabs and Jews lay down their arms and start talking."
We hope that the friendly relations between our two cities will grow into a formal twinning.
Ruth and Daoud had many other engagements in Britain, including a meeting with the steering committee of the Quakers in Oxford, where a plan to start an Oxford chapter of the British Friends of NSWAS is being set in motion.
مدرسة السلام في واحة السلام
בית הספר לשלום בנווה שלום
School For Peace
The Doumia Sakina
The activities are themed according to three main topics:
“ Culture, society and tradition” In this program we will study our respective traditions and religions with a critical view while contemplating the values of pluralism, social justice and understanding of the “other’.
“Peace begins here” A series of meetings for activists in social change, human rights and peace. We will study and practice the art of mindfulness as taught by Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who leaves and teaches in Plum Village-France. More...
The circle of reflection on: “Truth and reconciliation” This program is presented in cooperation with the Palestinian - Israeli “Families forum”. In these seminars we will research the sociological and psychological conditions for a process of reconciliation to take place between Palestinians and Jews.
Chronological activity list
All activities take place in NSWAS at the location designated for each:
Monday April 18 at 20:30 (municipal building conference room):
“Radical social views in the traditional Passover Haggada, contemporary haggadot and midrashim on the Exodus.”
With Rabbi Dr. Einat Ramon of the Shechter Institute
Tuesday May 3 from 14:00 - 20:00 (White Dove Hall):
“Peace Begins Here”
Study and practice of “being peace” with Sister Jina, Abbot of Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France (the meditation centre of Thich Nhat Hanh), accompanied by dharma teacher Sister Bich Nghiem, also from Plum Village.
Friday May 6 from 10:00-16:00 (Auditorium):
“The role of historical truth in The Palestinian - Israeli conflict”
With Muhammad Ali Taha, writer and educator, chair of the committee “commemorating the “Nakba”. Dr. Yair Boymel, dean of the history department at the Oranim Academic College of Education. The presentations will be followed by a facilitated dialogue workshop.
Tuesday May 17 at 20:30 (White Dove Hall):
“Palestinian Liberation Theology”
With Rev. Dr. Naim Atic of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem.
Friday June 3 from 10:00 - 14:00 (in the Club House (Moadon):
“Common destiny and the limits of identity”
With Prof. Dan Bar-On, of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev and journalist Nazir Majali.
Friday June 10 and Friday July 10 (Moadon):
“Peace is every step”
Two days of practice in the art of “mindfulness” for activists in peace and social change.
Wednesday July 6 from 18:00 - 22:00 (White Dove Hall):
“Truth and reconciliation”
A screening of two documentaries, one based on the Palestinian Israeli conflict, and the other on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa: “My Terrorist”, directed by Yulie Cohen Gerstel, 2002 (58 minutes) “Long Night’s Journey into Day”, directed by Producer/Director: Frances Reid, Director: Deborah Hoffmann, 2000 (94 minutes) Following the screenings we will conduct a panel and discussion.
London: A concert for peace in the Middle East
Tuesday 31st May 2005.
St John’s Smith Square, London SW1
London Mozart Trio
Schubert Piano Trio in E flat major D.929
Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A minor op.50)
Tuesday, 31st May at 7.30 pm
Tickets available from St John’s box office: 020 7222 1061
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Gaza troubles
The fragile truce in Gaza is teetering on the brink. Palestinian militants fired more qassam rockets into nearby Israeli towns. In response, Israel launched an air strike in the Strip, the first in three months. There were also gunfire exchanges between Palestinian militants and "Israeli civilians" (the American news description), i.e., settlers.
Palestinians fire rockets into Israel (check out the photograph; yikes!) -- Haaretz
Israel to aim for 'restraint' in response to shelling -- al-Jazeera
Israel carries out first airstrike, in Gaza, in 3 months of truce -- New York Times
Nitzanim offer extended for one week, 430 families said interested -- Haaretz
The test has already begun -- Haaretz editorial
But when the disengagement's opponents feel that they are winning in their struggle against the police and the court authorities, when they feel they can break the law, beat police, block roads and come out of it all unharmed, they will only become more extreme, and raise the stakes. Others might understand that it is possible to get away with the murder of a prime minister or blowing up the mosques of the Temple Mount.
Three months before the disengagement, the police, courts and the other authorities must turn their policies around completely, to show us that the rule of law has not been bankrupted and will not be defeated in the upcoming fateful test.
In other news:
New Palestinian electoral law passed -- al-Jazeera
Under the new electoral law passed on Wednesday, two-thirds of the legislators would be chosen in district voting, but Abbas wants all lawmakers to be chosen from party slates.
(The Palestinian electoral system -- al-Jazeera)
Coming soon: a note on news sources.
May 18, 2005
[Ben] KG - For your reading pleasure
It's in PDF format and in b/w (so is the magazine). It's a pretty general Kyrgyzstan story, titled: "A Kyrgyz Déjà-Vu"
It features Elnura's pictures, too.
Tell me what you think.
[Ben] Mon - Elections on Sunday
Meanwhile, in Mongolia, final preparations for the elections on Sunday the 22nd of May 2005 are underway. There are about 1.5 million eligible voters, turnout is expected to be high.
Interestingly, nomadic herders will be able to cast their ballot thanks to mobile polling stations that will be transported to remote places.
We are also reminded that not long ago in March this year, we saw protests in the capital Ulan Bator. However, they had a distinctly different taste than recently witnessed events in Kyrgyzstan.
Basically, the JSCM was started by the emerging wave of young Mongolians returning home after getting education in the West. Once back, they discover that the rampant corruption, political nepotism, established business/government/family networks make their knowledge and skills irrelevant.
This is the BBC story from back then.
Some more technical information here.
[Ben] Uz - New article on T-E.Net
Abdujalil Abdurasulov from Jalalabad in Kyrygzstan sends in his thoughts on the Andijon Crisis:
The very language used to describe events in the eastern part of Uzbekistan is absurd: "Terrorists", "extremists", "boeviki" (A word used to describe Taliban in Afghanistan or rebels in Chechnya).
Such language constructs a perception that would justify brutality used to suppress the demonstration. Such rhetoric attempts to exonerate Uzbek military that opened fire on civilians who were crossing the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border near Karasu.
Make sure you read the whole piece and get a discussion going in the forum.
[Olesya] UZ - The show must go on…
It seems that the news blockade has been lifted and I can now access Russian websites. The President's latest statements left me absolutely speechless... I would naturally expect the government to continue playing its old game but this time the overacting stands out more vividly than ever before. However, it seems they’ve abused way too many rules over the past few days. I just wonder how much more of this bull we can take.
Certain rumors are being circulated regarding the actual number of casualties during the May 13-14 incidents. Some people say now that there were as many as two thousand and upwards. There are also dreadful details about human bodies being piled in the middle of Andijon’s park and buried somewhere in the vicinity of the park. I don’t know whether it’s true but people have also been saying that if paid 2000 soums taxi-drivers will take anyone interested and show them around the city where the tragic scenes took place. A sick curiosity of some kind.
Most people in Andijon have gone to work today. This basically means that the government wants everyone to forget about what happened and get back to ‘normal’ life. I doubt it can be done so easily though.
May 17, 2005
[Ben] Uz - a poignant analysis
Nathan from The Registan has written a piece for my former employer, openDemocracy.net. All those who are puzzled about the events in Andijon that took place over the weekend will enjoy reading the piece, as it is hitherto one of the more complete analyses of the crisis.
I very much liked the last paragraph, reminiscent of the - at times naughty - discussion around engagement, disengagement, and Craig Murray:
Instead, the west must make crystal clear to the government in Tashkent that there are diplomatic consequences for a regime that massacres its civilians, while offering strong incentives for reform. This combination of criticism and engagement is the only way that the west can make a positive impact in Uzbekistan. There are no short cuts.
The question at stake is about the appropriateness and effectiveness of a "naming and shaming" policy in the context of Central Asian human rights violations.
It seems to me that availing oneself of the responsibility to prevent certain wrongful acts, as Mr. Murray suggested that the United Kingdom do, would in itself constitute an act of complicity with dictatorship for it does not in any way make the life of the oppressed easier. Instead, it aggravates the situation.
[Dildora] Uz - An appeal from Osh!
This has just reached me. Please distribute as widely as possible. Ben
My name is Dildora Khamidova. I am an ethnic uzbek living in Kyrgyzstan and currently a master student in OSCE Academy in Bishkek.I can't just be a passive observer when a thousands of innocent women, children,peaceful population of my historical homeland is being killed. Just recently the horrible protests took place in my country-Kyrgyzstan, thanks Allah the force was not used against peaceful population compared to the current developmens in Uzbekistan(Andizhan), which seem to be accelerating. Therefore, on the behalf of the Community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan I express our deep concerns regarding the bloody events that continue to take place in Uzbekistan. I kindly ask you to distribute this information as widely as possible among OSCE online world news agencies. We want peace in Central Asian region!!! Let our voices be heard by international community.
Master student of OSCE Academy.
Of the Community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan
May 16, 2005
We are deeply touched by the bloody events in Andijan and hereby express our deepest condolences to relatives and next of kin of those who have perished and suffered during these events in the Uzbek south.
We deem certain that the events on 13 May that left so many innocent civilians killed, were provoked exclusively by the authoritarian policy of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and those around him. Islam Karimov has been employing the policy of complete human rights violation, oppressing freedom, repressions, demolition of free mass media, restricting trade and businesses and exiling dissidents.
The power-wielding bodies of Uzbekistan have used firearms against peaceful and unarmed people who were merely speaking out against the oppressive policy of Karimov. He had had all the chances, opportunities and possibilities to regulate the latest events in a peaceful way. However, in spite of this fact, he has preferred to employ violence and bloodshed.
The community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan urges the international community and human rights organizations in Uzbekistan to force the Uzbek authorities to face the fact of shooting to death peaceful and unarmed civilians as a result of acts and orders from state authorities and not as a result of provocation from terrorist or radical Islamic groups that are being accused of organizing and fulfilling the seizure of the prison and all other events thence unfolding in Andijan.
Islam Karimov's office has lost any type of legitimacy and moral right to rule over and represent the Uzbek nation. We find Islam Karimov personally guilty and responsible for bloodshed in Andijan on 13 and 14 May, 2005. We also find him guilty in sufferings of the overall Uzbek nation that it had undergone for 15 years of his dictatorship regime's ruling. We think that Karimov is a criminal after what has occurred both throughout his reigning period and the recent events in Andijan, and that he will stand before just court sooner or later. We also think there is no any imaginable excuse for officials, officers and soldiers who opened fire at children, seniors and women. They had the choice to disobey orders in this case!
Along with other democratic forces both in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and beyond, we are urging the international community to immediately condemn Islam Karimov and his surrounding for using arms and violence against peaceful rally participants and innocent civilians, up to seizing diplomatic ties with official Tashkent.
We are urging all democracy-oriented groups within Uzbekistan to unite and adhere to non-violent means of fighting for democracy and freedom. The example of our country - Kyrgyzstan - suggests that democracy and freedom must be achieved via exclusively peaceful ways and methods with no violence or repression or whatsoever of this type being employed for doing so.
The community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan was established in autumn of 2004 by young Uzbek-speaking Kyrgyz nationals who now live, work and study in different parts of the world. In spite of the fact that the bigger part of our community is away from our motherland at the moment, we attentively follow all processes there and do not remain as idle observers. We are deeply affected by everything that has to do with Kyrgyzstan.
Our aim is involving the youth in Kyrgyzstan, especially its Uzbek-speaking component, into the life of our country via exchanging information on events both at home and abroad; stimulating and encouraging open discussion of problems in our country and the role of ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan in resolving those.
Our activities are also aimed at increasing the knowledge of visitors/tourists in history, culture, traditions, the linguistic heritage, values and hopes of Uzbek-speaking Kyrgyz citizens.
The community of Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan does not have narrow nationalistic or religious aims; it neither supports political parties and/or public unions nor vice versa; it is not financed by concealed and/or illegal sources.
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Israel spying: "Dog bites man"
An excellent Haaretz readers' column regarding the AIPAC scandal. I like this American reader's comment: "Israel spies on the U.S.? Where's the story there? It's like 'Dog bites man.'" Oooo he's got chutzpah!
But he's right. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you...
[Thinking-East] TV - We'll be watching this tonight
If you are in the United States, tune into the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) tonight at 21:00 (9 EST) for "Frontline/World: Lebanon and Syria; Liberia," two 30-minute dispatches from reporters in Lebanon and Liberia report on the youthfulness of the Cedar Revolution and peace in the African coast.
This New York Times reviewer writes,
"[These segments] show that there can be grass-roots idealism among a new generation of nation-building survivors. Given the destruction they have endured, these idealists in Beirut and Monrovia seem like seedlings sprouting from a forest fire's charred floor."
Obviously these themes interest us over at Thinking-East, as we are a student/youth organization and, by the demand of history, have focused alot of energy covering the ongoing phenomenon of the "colour revolution", pro-democracy activism, and conflict and peacemaking. (Check out our coverage of the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan.)
Thinking-East Editor Christopher Schwartz is working on a special article regarding our generation's "hidden revolutionary potential"--and he doesn't mean "revolution" in the old Marxist sense of the word, nor the neo-Conservative "domino theory."
Click on "continued reading" for the full review (copyright, New York Times)...
Trouble Spots Where Hope May Have A Foothold by Ned Martel, New York Times, Tuesday, May 17th, 2005.
Two 30-minute back-to-back dispatches from Lebanon and Liberia tonight on PBS document some actual optimism, a strain of good vibes rarely recorded in urgent public-broadcasting reports from these places, which usually command attention for intractable violence, not high hopes.
The segments, on ''Frontline/World,'' show that there can be grass-roots idealism among a new generation of nation-building survivors. Given the destruction they have endured, these idealists in Beirut and Monrovia seem like seedlings sprouting from a forest fire's charred floor.
The segments, however, don't resort to flowery imagery, and the two lead reporters, Kate Seelye and Jessie Deeter, each stare down threats to their well-being and speak in that mournful monotone, so common to war correspondents, that suggests a communal effort to keep calamity at bay.
In her more personal account of life in Lebanon, Ms. Seelye, the daughter of a former United States ambassador to Syria, begins her report with a bang. Last February, an explosion killed Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, and she watches the smoky aftermath from her balcony. ''He represented strong Lebanon, international Lebanon,'' one mourner tells her on the street. Ms. Seelye blames Syria for this and other ruinous acts that have prolonged Lebanon's civil strife.
While difficult to doubt, the correspondent never presents much evidence against the Syrians, whose ''intelligence officers,'' she says, have looted many Lebanese industries. At a news conference, she boldly confronts the nation's justice minister over his inability to stop such corruption and, with a forcefulness that belies her diplomatic upbringing, asks if he shouldn't just resign.
Her insistence comes off as showboating as those she interviews defer to her good name and regal bearing. But obviously, she knows what she is asking about, and her sense of adventure serves the program very well: she visits the outer edges of Lebanon to make sure that Syrian tanks are rolling toward home. Then, after capturing a sense of the police state inside Syria, she ventures to its eastern border. Sand walls divide Syrian guards and American troops camped out in the Iraqi desert.
A pro-democracy movement helped to hound Syrians out of Lebanon, and the threat of American intervention has Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, working to keep his name off a watch list of regimes worth changing. Ms. Seelye never reaches the Syrian leader, only his defensive spokeswoman, who insists that there can be no comparison between him and Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Assad is not producing nuclear weapons or hiding a massacre of domestic enemies, the spokeswoman says.
But the Syrian-backed Hezbollah must been seen as either a threat to Lebanese stability or a new partner in the tough tasks of democratization, and Ms. Seelye's reporting emphasizes that amid the new nationalist euphoria, ethnic discord could still pull the nation back into its bloody past.
In Liberia, the recent history of carnage is even more extreme, but antagonists in the military and in the rebel forces have recently learned to live with each other, as if the last decade of civil warfare had not seen 200,000 citizens slaughtered. The West African nation is now overseen by United Nations peacekeepers, commanded by Daniel Opande, a onetime Kenyan general, who persuades leaderless rebels to swap their AK-47's and ammunition for identity cards and a $300 nest egg. Mayhem is all that these teenage guerrillas have known, and now, as the documentary makes clear, they literally pine for the calm of an education, or at least an adolescence, so that they can reorder their traumatized brains.
Ms. Deeter's reporting is less personal than Ms. Seelye's but just as determined as she visits and revisits several Liberian locales over the course of a year. One rebel, who cagily calls himself Wolfcatcher, tells her of his plan to become a journalist. Upon her return, Ms. Deeter persists till she relocates Wolfcatcher in happier circumstances, employed in Monrovia (where unemployment is 80 percent), proving what a difference a year -- and some international intervention -- can make.
[Frontline/World: Lebanon and Syria; LiberiaPBS, tonight at 9; check local listings. David Fanning, executive producer; Stephen Talbot, series editor; Sharon Tiller, executive in charge of production. Produced by WGBH Boston and KQED San Francisco.]
Also, check out this interesting PBS piece about Israeli Punk Rock music culture. "Maybe we like Israel because it's difficult to be a punk here."
[Schwartz] M.E. - Women's suffrage in Kuwait
Kuwait's parliament has granted full political rights to women yesterday. They can now vote and run for office in parliamentary and local elections for the first time in the country's history. Check out this BBC Online article, which notes,
The amendment [that changed the electoral laws] requires women voters and candidates to abide by Islamic law. Correspondents say this is an attempt by the ruling family to reassure Islamists. But it could also place restrictions on women campaigners.
The New York Times inappropriately states,
The surprise amendment to Kuwait's election law ends a decades-long struggle by women's rights campaigners for full suffrage...
Gotta love American "news"; who gave Manhattan the right to say this "ends" their struggle? There remain many constitutional and legal impediments to women's suffrage in Kuwait (don't forget: they are in a patriarchal emirate) and in the rest of the Persian Gulf (you don't think the Kuwaiti feminists are acting in isolation, without any regard for their sisters along the coastline, do you?), not to mention social and ideological resistance to their cause.
And as Susan B. Anthony, great American suffragist, would have said, suffrage is more than a right to vote, it's a state of mind. There's still a long journey ahead.
May 16, 2005
[Ben] UZ - A view from Tashkent
A friend has sent this report in. It shows how nervous the administration is becoming in the wake of the Andijon event. A startling story from Tashkent.
"I know that all of you are kin to know what the situation in Uzbekistan these days. I thought I would send you a brief email to let you know that I am doing fine, the city of Tashkent is seeming (pay attention) calm. I won't go through details of events in Andiron (about 4-5 hrs drive from Tashkent), as believe me you have better access to news than we do. BBC, CNN, DW-TV, Russian TV (at news time) are blocked, unless one has satellite TV.
More or less straightforward websites, like “Ferghana.ru” are blocked as well. It is possible to visit them only using anonymous connecting links (which is what we do). The Uzbekistani main TV channel keeps transmitting president Karimov's 2.5-hours speech ("press-conference") where the governmental version of what happened is retold by Karimov. The situation is under control – that’s what we are told. How does that go along with blocking of international news channels, no explanation.... so far developments on the bordering regions of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are interesting, as refugees are flowing to Kyrgyzstan which has allowed visa-less border crossing.
Better let me share a personal experience in the city centre in the middle of the day. I went to a monument to watch people laying flowers and holding a minute of silence for those who perished in Andijon lately, but was taken away but plain-clothed security people on a bus and driven away from location. Involvement of my colleagues from work saved us from being driven very far. We were released 3-4 blocks away from meeting place, after about 30-40 minutes of detention in a bus.
I have received a notification that at 3 pm today at the monument in city centre people would gather unofficially, put flowers and hold a minute of silence for those who died in Andijon on bloody 13 May. A friend of mine from Swiss development agency and myself decided to go there. Not as representative of these organisations but rather as fellow countrymen, human beings who'd like to share their grief.
Earlier on, our office vehicle with some colleagues of mine went to the monument square, put flowers and returned. When I was getting to the square I saw our car leaving. My friend and I did not reach the square (we were on the opposite side of the road) when two men approached us and without explaining who they were and why we were being caught, dragged us backwards, to a bus that was standing in tree shadows about 50 meters away. They wouldn't let go off my friend (they grabbed her by hand) and continued to force us to the bus.
We kept demanding their name, the purpose of this behaviour and etc. but no answers were given in this regard. The only thing we heard was: you should not be heard. They forced us on the bus, locked the doors and started interrogating: who we are, full names, organizations, date of birth, etc. My friend gave her full name and organization. I named my organization (which had no effect whatsoever). Then we said we would not provide any further information unless people disclosed their names, and showed ID. This had no effect. They asked for our documents, we said we didn't have any with us as carrying a passport with oneself is not obligatory.
We started calling our appropriate offices and although were ordered to switch off and hide mobiles continued calling. Meanwhile, I noticed that there were quite a few "policemen" in the car. Of course none were wearing a uniform. Shortly another person joined the bus, turned out it was an interpreter working for BBC. His colleague arrived by the bus window, he was caught but after showing ID they let him go. Soon our office vehicle arrived. My colleagues tried to negotiate with the senior representative but were told that militia has all the rights to hold us, as we looked suspicious. A minute later the bus started moving away from the location.
Apparently the appearance of the office car vehicle fastened the action. I heard the person sitting by the driver to take orders: “Take them somewhere far away from here” – sel-khoz" (I am not sure where it is but probably outside city centre). As we were driving by the monument I could see there were few people there, with cameras. As soon as they saw our bus they took pictures and used videos. But they were quite far, on the other side of a wide road. As we were driving interrogation continued: who are you and why you came here? We refused to talk unless the person disclosed who he was and why we were detained (so to say).
I called my colleague and forwarded him where we were being taken. The person in charge received another phone call. By this time we were about 3-4 blocks away. He asked the driver to stop by a bus stop and let us go without further explanation. The BBC interpreter resisted going out. The bus moved further about 10-15 meters, stopped again and the interpreter was expelled. The BBC car that was following the bus picked him up. I explained the driver our location and my friend and I were picked up in 10 minutes and driven back to work.
How this all makes me feel? Unbelievable, absurd, funny (yes, there were about 30 seconds when I wanted to believe this was all a joke). All the "militia" were young but as my friend said, already brainwashed! How many are there of these? I have heard of many cases of human rights abuse but it never happened to me personally. I never saw it till today. The whole situation just makes me very sorry for this place and its people. And what is even more painful, it makes feel absolutely powerless, even to watch.
Take care and be watchful. I'll keep you posted.
[Ben & Olesya] UZ - Some updates
Nathan's Registan develops more and more into the specialists' discussion forum. The comments for his posts are full with thought-provoking material, especially David, Matt, Eric and Jonathan are taking over Nathan's work.
We've received some reactions from our Uzbek contributors and will publish stuff as it comes in. Also, Thinking-East will publish a slim Issue #3.0 on May 31st. Then, on June 25th, it's time for a Central Asia Special. More on that later.
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Watcha gonna do when the cops come for you...
Israel Lets Palestinian Police Carry Guns in Most West Bank Cities by Greg Myre. New York Times, May 16, 2005. pg. A.4
This is actually a big move. Ever since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada five years ago, the State of Israel has been convinced (with some justification) that elements within the Palestinian security/police services also double as insurgents. The State of Israel has regarded the disarming of official Palestinian forces a serious security concern, so this is an important compromise by the Israelis. Of course, it may be part of Sharon's alleged "grand plan": creating a Palestinian non-state that polices itself, essentially maintains the Occupation for the IDF (the Guardian and Haaretz have some good articles about this; also, see the two New York Times Magazine articles I'm re-posting on this blog.)
At any rate, I'm a bit relieved by the news, because the Palestinian police have had a helluva time trying to control drug and arms traffickers in their cities. I know of an incident two years ago when Bethlehem cops cornered a terrorist with drug ties in a hotel; the terrorist's men were armed, the cops weren't--it was a bloodbath. One Palestinian officer who'd simply had enough ran back to his station and retrieved his weapon and the weapons of his friends. As he ran back to the hotel, the IDF detained him. The terrorist escaped, and alot of good cops were seriously wounded.
I'm also relieved because I have a close friend who is joining the Palestinian police. I'm no gun nut, but hey...
Click on "continue reading" for full article. The article also contains information on the latest (idiotic) maneuvers of the Israeli "Community," the homosexual rights political movement that wants to march in Jerusalem (and was idiotically opposed by the country's religious leaders. Amazing, isn't it, that the Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Sufis, Sunnis and Hasidim will spill each other's blood for *politics*, but'll unite against the rainbow flag.)
Palestinian policemen are now permitted to carry their weapons in most West Bank cities, the Israeli military said Sunday, a move that is one of the few signs of coordination between the sides in recent weeks.
The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, says that to restore order in Palestinian areas, members of his security forces must be allowed to operate normally.
Israel's security forces have been in or near Palestinian cities in the West Bank amid the fighting in recent years, and Israel had forbidden Palestinian policemen to patrol with weapons.
When the two sides agreed to a truce in February, Israel pledged to return security control to the Palestinians in five West Bank towns, Bethlehem, Jericho, Qalqilya, Ramallah and Tulkarm. The transfer has occurred in only Jericho and Tulkarm, and Israel says the process has stalled because the Palestinians have taken little or no action against armed factions.
While violence is down sharply, periodic talks on security issues have produced more recriminations than agreements. However, the Palestinians are now permitted to carry weapons on the streets in most West Bank towns, the Israeli military officials said, confirming a report in the newspaper Haaretz. The shift is based on an agreement reached in recent talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials that had not been previously announced.
Also on Sunday, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip marched to mark the 57th anniversary of the founding of Israel, a day the Palestinians call ''al nakba,'' or ''the catastrophe.''
''Our people will never forget and the generations will never forget,'' Mr. Abbas, who is visiting Japan, said in remarks broadcast on Palestinian television. ''Peace, stability and security in the Middle East can only be achieved with a just solution to our cause.''
In contrast, Israelis held public celebrations and festive barbecues across the country on Thursday as they marked Israel's independence according to the Hebrew calendar.
Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war at Israel's founding, with their descendants, total some four million, according to the United Nations. Palestinians say the refugees must be allowed to return to their land, which is now part of Israel, and cite a 1948 United Nations resolution.
But Israel says it will never permit the mass return of refugees and their descendants because it would destroy the Jewish character of Israel.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel told his cabinet ministers on Sunday to ''tone down their disputes,'' a reference to public spats.
Israel's two largest circulation newspapers had front-page articles on Sunday citing friction between the foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, and his wife on one side and the ambassador to Washington, Daniel Ayalon, and his wife on the other.
The reports said Mr. Shalom's wife, Judy Nir Moses Shalom, was upset that the Israeli Embassy in Washington could not arrange a meeting for her with the pop star Madonna when she came to Israel last September.
Ms. Shalom denied the reports to Israel's Channel 2 and said they were intended to divert attention from accusations against Ann Ayalon, the wife of the ambassador.
The media reports said Ms. Ayalon was suspected of verbally abusing household employees at the ambassador's official residence in Washington. An Israeli official has been sent to Washington to investigate.
In another development, a gay rights group in Israel delayed an international gay festival set for August in Jerusalem until August 2006.
The group, Jerusalem Open House, said it was delaying the festival, WorldPride 2005, because the original date coincided with Israel's plan to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli pullout had been planned for July, but was recently pushed back to August.
Jerusalem Open House said it did not want to hold the festival when political tensions were expected to be running high.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics in Jerusalem recently denounced the festival. But organizers denied the objections had led to the delay.
May 15, 2005
[Olesya] UZ - Reactions from Thinking-East Contributor
Olesya Ryzhova, Uzbekistan editor of Thinking-East, has just sent in her first reactions.
"I do not have much to say regarding the issue because we have been blocked from accessing foreign websites and TV channels that are broadcasting news from the ground.
I have been trying to access Ferghana.ru and Lenta.ru (as well as dozens of other Russian sources) for three days now from different places and also asked different people about what they thought about the whole thing but they all would say the same - no information can be obtained from either the internet or even cable/satellite TV.
No CNN, no BBC, no Russian TV, etc. It's good that at least some of the English websites are not under attack yet since I've been able to read accounts from Registan.net and the like.
The situation inside Tashkent is quite normal. Everyone is doing the usual business. No state of public emergency is likely to be declared as the president noted last night in his address to the nation.
The part that made me feel especially creepy is when he said that there were "only 10 soldiers and 100 protesters" killed. This word 'only' sounded like a death sentence to anyone who dared come in the way of government forces.
He is the one who we have to watch closely because everything will end up the way he wishes it to. From what I know nothing similar to the Kyrgyz scenario is likely to happen here, at least not in the near future, for as he said: "Akayev was a weak-willed leader who failed to implant democracy in Kyrgyzstan" and he also asserted that he would never let the situation develop into something as serious as a nationwide revolution.
We will have to wait for another time as usual.
My friend whose parents live in Andijon told me today that the hospitals there were packed up with people in need of medical assistance. I have also noticed from the scarce information I managed to get so far that the media people tend to make up 'facts'.
One of such examples is the killing of an innocent person in front of the Israeli embassy two days ago. The Russian media reported that he was wearing a military uniform and therefore raised certain suspicion whereas I learned from credible sources that the man was just a drunk out-of-his-mind bum who didn't even know what he was doing or where he was going. Still the embassy guards shot him dead although they could've guessed that he was no terrorist from the very beginning.
To be honest though, the whole thing is just sick. The way I understand the situation is that there were two different actions happening at the same time: there were peaceful protesters who only asked for a better life from the gov't and there was also this group of maniacs (be they Islamists or a group of mistreated, distressed peasants, I don't basically care) who wanted their fellow maniacs to be released from prison.
It turned our somehow that the maniacs got their hands on guns and started shooting the policemen around. Well, if my understanding of the situation is correct, why did the government have to blend these two separate issues into one and shoot everyone who would come in their way without any distinction? (A silly question, of course...)
What makes me even more suspicious of the turn the situation took is that there were a couple of peaceful demonstrations and rallies preceding the violent incidents which basically leads me to think that someone (I guess the government or some other evil entity) might have arranged the whole thing to target the largest number of people possible.
At this point, my reasoning may seem illogical and incoherent but I think that the incident was staged to sanction the use of brutal force by the government. This may sound like science fiction but this is the only feasible explanation to what happened - it would be absolutely absurd to think that the SNB in Andijon would be so careless as to allow the maniacs to get to the prison in the first place.
After what happened in Kyrgyzstan the security measures throughout the country have been tightened up and I doubt that the preparation process undertaken by the maniacs would go unnoticed before the watchful eyes of the SNB. Well, my point is absurd but you never know what to expect from our government.
I think the whole thing got so serious simply because the government blew it all to show how forceful and tough they can get on the renegades. They demonstrated their limitless capacity to terrorize the population. I bet they even feel good about themselves now. This is taking it too far, though - just ignore it.
I don't know what to think. I used to believe that nothing like THAT would ever happen in Uzbekistan and now it turns out that the situation can change all of a sudden. I would keep telling myself that it was not the right time for an uprising anyway but the people of Andijon seemed to have proved otherwise.
I wonder whether the right time will ever come."
Up-to-date information at Registan.net
[Thinking-East] Web - Thinking-East in Uzbek
Vebda yaqinda paydo bo'lgan "Thinking-East" saytining yangi 2.5 soni nashr etildi. Bu yerda men ushbu sonning O'zbekistonga tegishli bo'lgan qismlari to'g'risida qisqacha sharhlar berib o'taman.
Saytda xalqaro va mustaqil ommaviy axborot vositalarida katta shovshuvga ega bo'gan Kreyg Marrey(Craig Murray) janoblari haqida alohida debat sahifa ajratilgan. Agar siz siyosat bilan qiziqsangiz va O'zbekistonning tashqi siyosati bilan xabardor bo'lsangiz Marrey janoblari haqida xabardorsiz.
Shunday bo'lsada bu odam haqida qisqacha ma'lumot:
Kreyg Marrey -Buyuk Britaniyaning O'zbekistondagi sobiq elchisi(2002-2004-yillarda). 47 yoshda. 2002 yilda Toshkentga yuborilgan bu janob, 2004 yil 14-oktyabrida o'z lavozimidan chetlatildi. Chetlatilishining sababi o'zi va uni qo'llovchi manbalar uning Buyuk Britaniyani O'zbekistondagi inson huquqlarini buzilishida unga hamkorlik qilayotganini tanqid qilgani uchun deyishsa, boshqa manbalarda uning Toshkentdagi o'zini ko'rsatishga bo'lgan "hatti-harakatlari" sabab qilib ko'rsatiladi. U o'zining vebsaytiga ham ega. Asosiy raqibi - uni elchilikdan chetlatgan odam, Britaniya Tashqi ishlar Vaziri, Jekk Strou(Jack Straw) janoblaridir. Agar siz BBC va Ozodlik radiosini muntazam tinglab borgan bo'lsangiz u haqida batafsil ma'lumotga egasiz degan umiddaman.
May 14, 2005
[Ben] UZ - Andijon crisis: Friend reports from Kyrgyzstan
A friend of mine reports from Osh, closer to Andijon than Tashkent. Update below
Just a brief update from Osh, where the authorities are really afraid that the unrest in Andijon will spill over. Karimov is crushing the uprising in Brezhnev style and the entire Andijon province has been sealed off, both the Kyrgyz border and the borders with neighbouring Uzbek provinces such as Namangan and Fergana have been closed.
There are soldiers on the street here in full battle gear, Andijon is only 40 minutes by car away after all. On my way from Jalalabat to Osh we were stopped by armed Kyrgyz guards who wanted to search our car for weapons, while we are quite obviously a humanitarian agency.
Some of the locals believe that all of the protestors in Andijon are 'wakhabbists', in my view they are just ordinary people who are fed up with Karimov's brutal rule. Apparently the protests were sparked by the arrest of business leaders who also happened to be devout muslims, and when snipers reportedly shot some of the leaders of the protestors and some were jailed, things turned ugly and Karimov turned his army loose on his population, including APCs, snipers and helicopters. Protestors reportedly freed thousands of prisoners and captured caches of arms, all in all a very volatile mix.
It's really interesting here at the moment, in a cynical sort of way. The people of Karasu have risen up against the Uzbek authorities as well, and they've burnt out the tax collector's office, police stations etcetera, and they've rebuilt the Karasu bridge that Karimov destroyed several years ago to stop his people from attending the bazaar in Kyrgyzstan. (***) was at the border this morning and it's like the Uzbek state has collapsed there, the border is freely open, people moving in and out. Some fear it's now the calm before the storm starts and Karimov will come with his army to 'pacify' Karasu as well.
May 13, 2005
[Ben] UZ - Unrest in Uzbekistan
Seems I have to reconsider my summer plans: Uzbekistan is seeing some full-scale riots in Ferghana Valley's Andjon:
At least one person was killed as Uzbek security forces fired today at protestors massed in the center of the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon.
The shooting comes after government officials had been negotiating with protestors in Andijon in the wake of earlier unrest the government said left nine people dead.
Protesters in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon are demanding authorities release all people jailed on suspicion of belonging to an Islamic group known as Akramiya.
Apparently, everything is back under control, according to Zaman Daily
More over at Nathan's Registan
May 05, 2005
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Israeli Spies & neo-Nazis, oh my!
Analyst Charged with Disclosing Military Secrets by David Johnston and Eric Lichtbau. New York Times, May 5th, 2005: "According to a 10-page F.B.I. affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Mr. Franklin divulged the secret information about the potential attacks at a lunch on June 26, 2003. Officials said he was dining with two of Aipac [American Israel Public Affairs Committee]'s senior staff members. The lunch was apparently held under F.B.I. surveillance."
This is similar to a recent incident involving a possible Israeli spy with connections to the US Department of Defense, and of course the infamous Jonathon Pollard case. So much for the romantic love of nation-states. In politics, there is no honor, because everyone's a thief it seems...
(Click on "continue reading" for full NY Times article...)
Holocaust memorial today for the victims of the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps.
Meanwhile (and this is bizaarely interesting), Israeli police have arrested an Israeli soldier with neo-Nazi links. This reminds me, I really need to track down that film, The Believer, which is about a young Jewish man who becomes a neo-Nazi.
Check out this Haaretz article, "Where was God at Theresienstadt?" regarding a new operetta based upon the Terezin ghetto. Of course, I am very interested in the question about God's relationship to Man, especially during such terrible events as genocide. (More on this in future blog entries and a Thinking-East article.)
Federal agents arrested a Pentagon analyst on Wednesday, accusing him of illegally disclosing highly classified information about possible attacks on American forces in Iraq to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group.
The analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, turned himself in to the authorities on Wednesday morning in a case that has stirred unusually anxious debate in influential political circles in the capital even though it has focused on a midlevel Pentagon employee.
The inquiry has cast a cloud over the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which employed the two men who are said to have received the classified information from Mr. Franklin. The group, also known as Aipac, has close ties to senior policymakers in the Bush administration, among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to appear later this month at the group's annual meeting.
The investigation has proven awkward as well for a group of conservative Republicans, who held high-level civilian jobs at the Pentagon during President Bush's first term and the buildup toward the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who were also close to Aipac.
They were led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary who has been named president of the World Bank. Mr. Franklin once worked in the office of one of Mr. Wolfowitz's allies, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary for policy at the Pentagon, who has also said he is leaving the administration later this year.
According to a 10-page F.B.I. affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Mr. Franklin divulged the secret information about the potential attacks at a lunch on June 26, 2003. Officials said he was dining with two of Aipac's senior staff members. The lunch was apparently held under F.B.I. surveillance. Four days later, federal agents searched Mr. Franklin's office and found the document containing the information.
Later, agents found dozens of classified documents at his home. The affidavit did not describe the subject matter of the documents, but said 38 were classified Top Secret, about 37 were classified Secret and approximately eight were classified Confidential. The dates on the documents spanned more than three decades. The affidavit did not indicate whether the information that was disclosed would have placed American troops at risk, and it offered no details about the gravity of the information that might have been compromised.
Other people who have been officially briefed on the case said that while Iraq was discussed at the lunch, most of the conversation centered on Iran.
Friends of Mr. Franklin, an advocate of a tough approach to Iran, say he was worried that his views were not being given an adequate hearing at the White House. They also say he wanted Aipac to help bring more attention to his ideas.
The two Aipac employees at the lunch were not identified in the complaint, but officials said they were Steven Rosen, formerly the group's director of foreign policy issues, and Keith Weissman, formerly its senior Middle East analyst. They remain under scrutiny, officials said, and supporters of the two men said they feared that they might be charged as well.
Lawyers for Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman have said the men did nothing wrong. On Wednesday, Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Rosen, said, ''Steve Rosen never solicited, received, or passed on any classified documents from Larry Franklin, and Mr. Franklin will never be able to say otherwise.'' John N. Nassikas, a lawyer for Mr. Weissman, declined to discuss the case.
For its part, Aipac has been advised by the government that the group itself is not a target of the investigation, according to a person who has been briefed on Aipac's legal strategy.
Still, the organization recently took action to distance itself from the two men. Two weeks ago, Aipac said it had dismissed Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman after months of defending them. On Wednesday, Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for the group, declined to discuss the case.
Mr. Franklin, 58, was suspended last year, as was his security clearance, but he had been rehired in recent months in a nonsensitive job. He has been employed by the Defense Department since 1979 and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
He made a brief appearance on Wednesday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., and was released on $100,000 bond. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for May 27. If convicted, Mr. Franklin could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison. One of Mr. Franklin's lawyers said that he expected his client would plead not guilty.
Associates of the influential circle at the Pentagon that had been headed by Mr. Wolfowitz attributed the scrutiny of Mr. Franklin to the continuing struggle inside the administration over intelligence. They said they had been unfairly attacked by critics at the country's intelligence agencies with whom they had clashed since before the war in Iraq.
They have said other efforts to embarrass them include one last year when American officials said Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and a longtime ally of Pentagon conservatives, told Iranian intelligence officials that the United States had broken its communications codes. A federal investigation into who might have provided the information to Mr. Chalabi remained unresolved.
Friends of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman said the two men have been singled out unfairly. The friends say the men operated no differently than many corporate representatives, lobbyists and journalists in Washington who cultivate sources inside the government to barter information about competitors, personal gossip and, sometimes, classified intelligence.
But Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman had regular discussions with Israeli officials about the Middle East, and investigators have long said that they believed that the Aipac employees had veered into the area of national security, meeting with Israeli officials, including intelligence agents, although the affidavit made no mention of Israel as a recipient of any information.
The absence of any mention of Israel appears to reflect the acutely sensitive relationship between two allies with close political, military and intelligence relationships. Israel says it has banned espionage operations against the United States, but American counterintelligence officials have said that Israel still spies on the United States, looking for technological data and inside information about American thinking about the Middle East.
After Mr. Franklin's arrest, the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalon, said in an interview on Israel's Channel One that Israel had no role in the case. But American officials confirmed a report by The Associated Press report from Jerusalem on Monday that said F.B.I. agents had interviewed a former senior Israeli intelligence official, Uzi Arad, about the Franklin inquiry.
At the heart of the government's case against Mr. Franklin is the lunch he had in June at a restaurant in Arlington, Va. At the lunch, Mr. Franklin spoke of the information related to potential attacks on American forces in Iraq, the affidavit says.
The affidavit said Mr. Franklin told the two men that the information was highly classified and asked them not to ''use'' it. There is no indication that Mr. Franklin provided any documents to the two men.
The affidavit, signed by Catherine M. Hanna, a F.B.I. agent, said Mr. Franklin had engaged in other illegal acts. The complaint said he disclosed government information to an unidentified foreign official and journalists. In addition, investigators found 83 classified documents in his home in West Virginia. The documents were stored throughout the house in open and closed containers, and one was in plain view.
After the search of his office in June 2003, Mr. Franklin, according to the affidavit, admitted that he had told Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman about the classified document. He also began cooperating with the government, but he later reversed that decision. Investigators pursued espionage charges against Mr. Franklin for more than a year, but Wednesday's complaint charges him not with spying but with the lesser offense of illegal disclosure of classified information.
A senior Justice Department official, while not ruling out the possibility of future espionage charges, noted that such charges required an intent to act on behalf of a foreign power. ''That is not the case here,'' the official said. ''He was charged with the appropriate crime here, and that's the crime the investigators believe he committed.''
ASIA QUAKE UPDATE
Tens Of Thousands Still Missing In Tsunami by Lawrence K. Altman, New York Times World Briefing for May 5th, 2005: "More than four months after the Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 200,000 people, tens of thousands of people are listed as missing and thousands of the bodies that have been recovered have not been identified, experts said at a meeting sponsored by the World Health Organization in Phuket, Thailand. Although forensic scientists from 29 countries have collaborated to speed up identification of bodies, their work has been hampered by lack of medical records and information from relatives. In some parts of Indonesia, where 93,000 people are listed as missing, 'entire villages including families and paperwork that could help identify bodies were swept away,' said Dr. Luis Jorge Perez, a W.H.O. official. Many bodies were buried quickly for fear that they would start epidemics, despite repeated advice from the W.H.O. that dead bodies were not a health hazard."
December 27th, 2005
PLEASE HELP ASIA QUAKE SURVIVORS
ISRAEL-PALESTINE SPECIAL EDITOR WANTED!
Thinking-East.Net needs a new Special Editor for Israel-Palestine!
Because of manifold duties and responsibilities here in the United States and elsewhere, I feel unable to continue as Thinking-East.Net's Special Editor for Israel-Palestine. I shall continue on as an Editor and the Special Editor for Religion and Ideology.
We are seeking a student of or from either the State of Israel, the Occupied Territories or the Jewish and Palestinian Diaspora, who is intimately acquainted with the land and people, and possesses at least a rudimentary working knowledge of Hebrew and/or Arabic.
The duties of the Special Editor for Israel-Palestine are:
-to gather articles, Guest Authors and Permanent Authors for our monthly publication cycle;
-to translate (by whatever means) our advertisements into modern Hebrew and fus`ha as well as amiyyah Arabic, and if possible Yiddish, Amharic, classical (Bedowiyya or Bedouin) Arabic, and Druze Arabic;
-to spread the word about Thinking-East.Net.
If you are interested or someone you know would be interested, please contact me:
May 04, 2005
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - Beitar Illit
Take It to the (West) Bank by Michael Isikoff. Newsweek, May 2, 2005: "[Jack Abramoff], a legendary lobbyist particularly close to [Tom DeLay], is also a fierce supporter of Israel-'a super-Zionist,' one associate says. That may explain why Abramoff's paramilitary gear ended up in the town of Beitar Illit, a sprawling ultra-Orthodox outpost whose residents have occasionally tangled with their Palestinian neighbors."
I have met residents of Beitar Illit; I even had dinner with one! "Tangled with their Palestinian neighbors" is a nice way of describing the genocidal ideology that established and sustains this village. My dinner mate said to me that "Germany has not suffered enough" (then waved six fingers) and that Palestinians are "dogs." We watched the BBC together. At the time the United States was invading Fallujah. As buildings burned, he pointed a finger and exclaimed joyfully, "Americans: very good soldiers!"
While Beitar Illit's residents are ultraorthodox, they are not opposed to military service; in fact, at least a few of their male residents have enlisted, such as my dinner mate. (On a side note, many residents are also American and Canadian!)
But I must stress, always always, one must never confuse a person or people's beliefs with their humanity. Click on "continue reading" for full article, a map, and more information about Beitar Illit (a vignette about life inside the settlement.) Yet, make no mistake: it is bastions of zealotry like Beitar Illit that fuel the war on and on...
Also, check out this MERIP "Barriers to Peace" article, "The Shrinking Space of Citizenship: Ethnocratic Politics in Israel."
The full article:
Money meant for the inner city went to fight the intifada. What donors to Jack Abramoff's charity didn't know.
The pitch from superlobbyist Jack Abramoff was hard to resist: a good way to get access on Capitol Hill, he told his clients a few years ago, was to contribute to a worthy charity he and his wife had just started up. The charity, called the Capital Athletic Foundation, was supposed to provide sports programs and teach "leadership skills" to city youth. Donating to it also had a side benefit, Abramoff told his clients: it was a favored cause of Rep. Tom DeLay.
The pitch worked especially well among a group of Indian tribes who, having opened up lucrative gaming casinos, had hired Abramoff to protect their interests in Washington. In 2002 alone, records show, three Indian tribes donated nearly $1.1 million to the Capital Athletic Foundation. But now, NEWSWEEK has learned, investigators probing Abramoff's fi nances have found some of the money meant for inner-city kids went instead to fight the Palestinian intifada. More than $140,000 of foundation funds were actually sent to the Israeli West Bank where they were used by a Jewish settler to mobilize against the Palestinian uprising. Among the expenditures: purchases of camouflage suits, sniper scopes, night-vision binoculars, a thermal imager and other material described in foundation records as "security" equipment. The FBI, sources tell NEWSWEEK, is now examining these payments as part of a larger investigation to determine if Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribe clients. The tribal donors are outraged. "This is almost like outer-limits bizarre," says Henry Buffalo, a lawyer for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians who contributed $25,000 to the Capital Athletic Foundation at Abramoff's urging. "The tribe would never have given money for this."
Abramoff, a legendary lobbyist particularly close to DeLay, is also a fierce supporter of Israel-"a super-Zionist," one associate says. That may explain why Abramoff's paramilitary gear ended up in the town of Beitar Illit, a sprawling ultra-Orthodox outpost whose residents have occasionally tangled with their Palestinian neighbors. Yitzhak Pindrus, the settlement's mayor, says that several years ago the town was confronting mounting security problems. "They [the Palestinians] were throwing stones, they were throwing Molotov cocktails," Pindrus says. Abramoff's connection to the town was Schmuel Ben-Zvi, an American émigré who, the lobbyist told associates, was an old friend he knew from Los Angeles. Capital Athletic Foundation public tax records make no mention of Ben-Zvi. But they do show payments to "Kollel Ohel Tiferet" in Israel, a group for which there is no public listing and which the town's mayor said he never heard of.
Pindrus says Ben-Zvi was an outspoken proponent of beefing up security and even began organizing his own freelance patrols. "He used to bring in this equipment-night-vision goggles, telescopes," says Pindrus. At least some of the equipment appears to have come from Abramoff's law firm. An August 2002 invoice obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that $773 worth of paramilitary gearincluding sniper shooting mats and "hydration tactical tubes"-was shipped to one of Abramoff's aides at the law firm where the lobbyist then worked. Reached last week, Ben-Zvi angrily denied any knowledge of Abramoff or being involved in any efforts to obtain security gear.
The West Bank security payments are not the only foundation expenditure being eyed by investigators. The bulk of the foundation's money, about $4 million, was used for a now-defunct Orthodox Jewish school in suburban Maryland that two of Abramoff's sons attended. Buffalo says his tribe had no idea its donations were being used for this purpose, either. A spokesman for Abramoff vigorously defended all of the expenditures. Abramoff, says spokesman Andrew Blum, "is an especially strong supporter of Israel and has tried to find ways to help Israelis and others to be less susceptible to terrorist attacks." Still, the increasing attention from the news media and investigators is causing even old friends like DeLay to back away. A spokesman last week vigorously disputed that Delay had anything to do with Abramoff's charity. Although he had been scheduled to attend a planned gala fund- raiser for the foundation two years ago, DeLay never went. As for the security shipments to the West Bank, DeLay knew nothing about it, the spokesman said.
Beitar Illit mourns admired youth counselor, killed in last week's bus bomb
by Daphna Berman
Jewish Media Resources
February 6, 2004
Sitting on low chairs in a crowded room in his home in Beitar Illit, friends and family of Yechezkel (Chezi) Goldberg gathered together to remember and honor a man they described as kind, selfless, and devoted to his extended community.
Goldberg was on his way to work last Thursday when bus number 19 exploded on Jerusalem's Gaza Street. Friends say the trained counselor had scheduled therapy sessions throughout the day, and clients began to worry after he missed his first appointment at 9 A.M.
Goldberg, who immigrated from Toronto 10 years ago, was an active member in the 500-family community of Anglos in Beitar Illit. But friends say that his influence went far beyond that population. "This is a close knit community and the loss of Chezi is hard for the English speaking community," said Bradford Hauser, Goldberg's American-born neighbor. "But the people mourning here are not just English speakers."
The mourners, some of whom arrived from the U.S. and Canada, recalled a deeply religious man who was not influenced by established religious norms. "The label Haredi didn't hinder him," longtime friend and fellow Canadian Joe Halpert said. "He did things because he believed in them, not because he should have."
An active participant in Beitar Illit's two Anglo synagogues, Goldberg prayed in the community's "American shul," which was based on a typical North American model, but he frequented the synagogue of Bostoner Hassidim as well, where he served as sexton.
The former resident of Toronto was especially well known for his work with troubled Anglo youth, and was outspoken in revealing the problem to a somewhat reluctant community. A frequent contributor to Orthodox newspapers and a former radio host on the right-wing station Arutz Sheva, Goldberg, 42, was also featured in a Ministry of Absorption publication on immigrant youth. In a section entitled, "Why are Anglo Kids in Trouble: An In-depth Discussion with Chezi Goldberg," Goldberg pointed to the problems facing many ultra-Orthodox immigrant youths.
"They come from places where it is acceptable to learn in yeshiva and go to Yankees games or shoot hoops after studies," he wrote, and suddenly they find themselves in a new Israeli framework in which anything outside of strict Torah study is dismissed as frivolous.
"Chezi worked with special needs children in North America, and he realized that working with immigrant youth is an extension of that," said Avraham Guttmann, Goldberg's neighbor in Beitar Illit and former classmate from Toronto. "He understood that a child who is not comfortable in his own home is also a special [needs] child."
Beitar Illit, a settlement just 10 minutes out of Jerusalem, is known as "The Torah City in the Judean Hills." One of the poorest Jewish cities in Israel with a growing population of 26,000, it is exclusively inhabited by ultra-Orthodox, many of whom are full time yeshiva students. The city has 16,000 children, a third of whom are under the age of five, and has plans to expand to 70,000 residents.
Goldberg, who was a member of the settlement's security committee, was instrumental in lobbying for a regular bus service to and from Jerusalem. The city's English-speaking mayor, Yitzchak Pindrus, described him this week as deeply committed to the development and safety of Beitar Illit.
The community, meanwhile, has already begun fundraising for Goldberg's family - his wife Shifra and seven children, aged one to 16. The Anglo community, roughly 10 percent of the general Beitar Illit population, is hardly immune to the poverty that effects their native-Israeli neighbors, and Anglo leaders like Guttmann have already turned to communities in the U.S. and Canada to garner financial support for the fund. Friends have set up a website, complete with links to his biography, past publications, and the fund in his memory. Goldberg's house, Guttmann adds, has been crowded with friends and family all week. "The community is taking it very hard," says Guttmann. "Chezi touched a lot of people."
May 03, 2005
[Schwartz] Is/Pal - NSWAS Announcement
Reprinted from the website of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam
"השלום מתחיל כאן" סדרת מפגשים לפעילות ופעילים חברתיים,פעילי שלום וזכויות אדם. למטרת לימוד ותירגול אמנות תשומת הלב כפי שמלמד מורה הזן ופעיל השלום:טיך נהאט האן.
המפגשים יתקיימו בנוה שלום ווחאת אל סלאם: מפגש ראשון : " לגעת בשלווה" יום שלישי ה-3 במאי משעה 14:00 עד שעה 20:00 מפגש זה בהנחיית סיסטר ג’ינה -מורה בכירה מפלם וילג’ (כפר שזיף)בצרפת וביק נים נזירה ומורת דהרמה,גם היא מפלם וילג’ דמי כיסוי הוצאות: 50 ש"ח
בבקשה להביא מנה צמחונית לארוחת ערב משותפת. המפגש יהיה באנגלית עם תרגום לפי הצורך. מפגש שני ושלישי יתקיימו ב-ביוני ו- ביולי -פרטים בהמשך להרשמה ולפרטים נוספים נא לפנות לדורית:02-9996306
“السلام يبدأ هنا" سلسلة لقاءات لناشطات وناشطين اجتماعيين، نشطاء سلام ونشطاء حقوق الانسان. الهدف: تعلم والتدرب على فنون الادراك حسب تعاليم المعلم الراهب والناشط السلمي: تيخ نهات هان. تنعقد اللقاءات في واحة السلام- نيفي شالوم. لقاؤنا الأول: الثلاثاء 3.5.05 من الساعة 14:00 حتى 20:00 في قاعة الحمامة البيضاء وذلك تحت عنوان: “لمس السكينة" توجه اللقاء سيستر جينا - احدى المعلمات المتميزات في قرية البرقوق في فرنسا، حيث نستمع منها الى أسس وقواعد التدريب الروحاني والعلاقة بين " عمل السلام" و " العيش بسلام". لغة الحوار هي الانجليزية مع ترجمة في حالة الضرورة.
أما اللقاءين الثاني والثالث فسينعقدان في يومي الجمعة10.6 و 8.7 . نوافيكم بالتفاصيل لاحقاً. للتسجيل ولمزيد من التفاصيل نرجو الاتصال ب دوريت على 02-9996306
Click on "continue reading..." for English
"Peace begins here" activity at Doumia - Sakinah
Tuesday 3rd May 2005.
“Peace Begins Here” A series of meetings for social, human rights and peace activists, for learning and practising the art of mindfulness as taught by the Zen master and peace activist: Thich Nhat Hanh.
The meetings will take place in Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam. The first meeting: “touching peace” will take place on Tuesday, May 3, between 14:00 - 20:00. this meeting will be conducted by: Sister Jina, a dharma teacher and abbot of Lower Hamlet, Plum village- France, and Sister Bich Nghiem a dharma teacher at Plum Village. The cost (for coverage of expenses) will be NIS 50 Please bring a vegetarian dish to share for dinner. The second and third meetings will take place on in June and July.
More details will be announced later. For registration and for more details please contact Dorit:02-9996306.