This is the only leading blog which has regularly commented on the plight of the Uighurs under Chinese oppression. This is not the simple racial tension the Chinese government pretends. I feel very guilty that campaigning prevents me from commenting further on this and many other pressing current issues at the moment.
If it wasn’t for the border crossings, an eight hour drive from the Eastern border of Uzbekistan would take you into China. There you would be among the Uighurs, a people culturally and linguistically extremely close to the Uzbeks. Like the Tibetans, the Uighurs are culturally, religiously and ethnically oppressed by the highly racist Chnese state. But the Uighurs are Muslims and they do not get the press coverage of the Tibetans, even though their oppression has been still more systematic and brutal. Over a million Uighurs have been displaced by the Chinese state in the last three years alone. Thousands are murdered – either executed or disappeared – every year.
The Uighurs are one of a swathe of Muslim peoples across Central Asia, who fell into the thrall of foreign Empires between the middles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are at least eighteen of these identifiable and mostly Turkic ethnicities, running from the Chechens in the West to the Uighurs in the East. About half the groups who fell under Russian, then Soviet, rule are now in “independent” republics named after Turkic ethnicities. But their political, cultural and religous freedom is still generally repressed as a consequence of continued domination by Soviet apparatchik elites who cling to power through ruthlessness. Meanwhile both Russia and China keep down the Turkic ethnicities within their borders through fierce and relentless brutality.
The War on Terror has enabled Russia, China, Karimov and other Central Asian leaders to characterise any manifestation of a desire for freedom in the region as Islamic terrorism and extremism. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, combining China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan*, is a dictators’ club. Despite having several theoretical fields of activity, the main practical focus is entirely on security and, in the words of their declaration, combating “terrorism, separatism and extremism”. That is code for repressing any moves to freedom in Central Asia. Co-operation extends to false flag operations and fake intelligence. The Uzbek government response to the Andijan massacre was an example of this, with the Russian government providing “Evidence” to back the Uzbek government’s story that the massacred demonstrators were terrorists organised by Chechens and funded by the USA (sic).
One good thing about the Olympics going to Beijing is that the western media has run a few articles on the plight of the Uighurs, of whose existence I suspect few western reporters knew a couple of weeks ago. It is entirely predictable that the Chinese governemmt is responding by organising “terrorist incidents” to try to blacken the Uighurs as part of Al Qaida. Do not be taken in by this rubbish.
*The Tajiks are not Turkic but Persian
This blog was defending the human rights of the Uighurs a decade before the neo-conservatives for whom they are now a fashionable cause even knew of their existence. The Uighurs are the closest linguistic and cultural cousins of the Uzbeks, and the populations are contiguous. (China is not contiguous with Uzbekistan but Osh and the eastern Ferghana Valley in Kirghizstan are Uzbek majority areas).
The dynamic spread of Islam northwards and eastwards under the Abbasids, (much less commented that the expansion of its early centuries) and the temporary patronage of Islam by the Mongol Yuan conquerors of China, left very substantial Islamic populations throughout Eurasia, which later became subsumed into non-Muslim polities, including by the expansion of the Chinese and Russian empires. The persecution of the Uighurs is a historic continuation. For decades from the mid eighteenth century they were subjected to one of history’s most sustained and organised campaigns of mass rape of the female population by Chinese occupiers. In a historical perspective, it was the period of comparative tolerance that preceded the current massive attempt at cultural genocide which was the aberration.
I do despair of those on the left who excuse the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands and the extrajudicial killing of thousands, because it is China doing it and not a CIA aligned power.
The Uighurs are a people with the right of self-determination. They are not Chinese; their language, culture and religion are completely different. They have a clearly defined territory they have occupied continuously for many centuries. One of the problems with the British is that as an island, we tend to only think of colonies as places you sail to. Colonies you walk to is a concept we have not grasped. That is one of the reasons the left in the UK have such difficulty recognising that China is an Empire and Kashgar is a colony. The other reason is that whole “West Bad, Opponents Good” thing.
It is excellent to recognise that the Western powers have done a huge amount of evil in the world. It is a completely illogical step to assume from this revelation that they have a monopoly on evil. All major governments do evil.
Kashmir is the other pressing issue of a Hindu minority population under pressure. Six years ago I annoyed rather a lot of people when I warned that my personal experience of living among them for some months in India was that it was changing into an an “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society”. I have viewed the rise of Modi and his Hindu nationalists with great concern, while Western governments have been much more concerned with seeking to benefit from India’s economic boom.
The revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir and Jammu was a reckless and aggressive act of centralisation that was grossly insensitive to both the population and the history of the region – and I write in full awareness that there have been not only Muslim but also many Sikh victims of intercommunal violence over the years. The incorporation of Kashmir into India was a dreadful British error, semi-apologetically enshrined in its special constitutional position, now destroyed by Modi. It is only the statesmanship of Imran Khan which has averted a hideous war.
The Supreme Court of India’s firmly anti-Muslim ruling in the Ayodhya dispute, and the new immigrant citizenship law excluding Muslims (which has outraged the remnants of liberal India), are evidence of intercommunal policy which is all pushing in an anti-Muslim direction. Modi has been portrayed in the West as a moderniser. This is a fundamental error – he is just a populist in the Trump and Johnson mode who succeeds by stirring up feelings against the “other” in the population. The situation in India is destabilising and I fear more violence against the Muslim population is bound to ensue.
The Muslim populations of Central Asia now live in autonomous republics, none of which has transitioned to effective democracy, all of which have been more or less looted by oligarchs, all have continuing serious human rights problems, and all are increasingly under the economic sway of China (which is not, in itself, a bad thing). China remains something of an enigma. Its economic success continues to be staggering, if severely pollution creating. As I frequently assert, there has never been a power in the world of such economic dominance which has shown such a comparatively tiny appetite for military dominance. If you compare China to the USA in this regard the difference is striking. China has very few military bases outside China, the USA has eight hundred.
But the Central Asian “stans” only contain a minority of the Muslim colonies in Eurasia which Russia acquired in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, simultaneous with the expansion of the British Empire. Many of these colonies, with their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, remain part of the Russian Federation which – make no mistake about it – is still an Empire.
The Tatar are the most widespread of the colonial peoples within Russia. Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Cherkessa, Kabardino Balkaria and Karachai are all areas of Russia where I believe the original Muslim population, absorbed into the Russian Empire by conquest, will in the fulness of time achieve independence, in addition to the better-known Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The astonishing brutality of the Russian repression of the perfectly justified Independence movements of the latter countries cannot hold back the tide of decolonisation forever. Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.
As I said earlier, even though Russia’s colonies were colonised contemporaneously with the British ones, and even though the indigenous populations are Muslim, we in the UK have difficulty perceiving them as colonies because they are contiguous with Russia by land and have been institutionally absorbed into the metropolitan. It is also worth noting that, largely but not entirely as a result of the Soviet period of running its Empire, Russia did a much better job of providing education, health and other public services to its colonies than the British ever did.
It is important to state that these colonised peoples are not Russians but separate peoples in the sense of the UN Charter, with very distinct cultures, histories, languages and religion, and thus they do have the right of self-determination. I do not deny that at present, outside the colonies of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, there is little evidence of separatist desire. But I expect that to change over historic time.
It is of course a personal irony that I am very often accused of being a Russian agent because I debunk ludicrous anti-Russian scares like the fake Skripal narrative, or the totally unfounded narrative that Russia has any desire to attack Western Europe. These scare stories about Russia are of course essential to the profits of the western military-industrial-security complex, and I debunk them because they are nonsense, and because of their propaganda power in controlling western populations. But while I have a deep-seated love for Russia, its culture and people, I know of no other commentator who calls for the Russian Federation to be divorced of its internalised colonies, an opinion the Kremlin would find outrageous.
The Eurasian Muslim populations were overtaken by history from around the seventeenth century and, Islam having expanded itself in Eurasia by conquest, the Muslims were generally themselves absorbed into larger Empires by conquest. In Central Asia they have in the last thirty years regained a kind of independence, but are still dominated by foreign imposed institutions and the colonial subordinate administrative and political class. In China and India the conditions of Muslims are worsening markedly. In Russia the brutal crushing of Independence attempts in some areas has led to the current position where the colonial status of the Muslim sub-polities within the Russian Federation is shunned by the entire world as a Pandora’s Box.
This is of course not in any sense a comprehensive survey. But sometimes it is useful to step back and try to see current events in a broader perspective, both historically and geographically. I do hope this gives some food for your own thoughts. I do hope that some of those thoughts are more profound than the notion that Russia and China, as diplomatic opponents of the West, are beyond criticism.
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I am delighted by the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court. As I explained at the time in a series of articles, Gbagbo was ousted as President of Ivory Coast by a corrupt election and an armed insurgency, both funded by Western oil interests, chiefly but not solely by Trafigura plc.
Gbagbo was guilty in western eyes of failing to do what left wing African leaders are supposed to do, allow himself to be quickly butchered and his supporters massacred. So Gbagbo ended up at the International Criminal Court as a war criminal, while Big Oil’s puppet, Alassane Ouattara, is now comfortably ensconced in the Presidential Palace of Ivory Coast, and getting very rich indeed.
So the acquittal of Gbagbo today – which comes as something of a shock – represents a very important coming of age for the Hague. I have always, as an internationalist, supported the International Criminal Court, but its failure to be pro-active in prosecuting Tony Blair on the Nuremburg aggressive war precedent, and its serial record of convicting only the Western powers’ designated enemies, made it very difficult to defend.
The media, insofar as they have noticed the Gbagbo acquittal, portray it as a failure and an embarrassment for the court, as though the role of a court is simply to declare guilty and bang up everyone before it. In fact this may be the occasion on which the ICC finally came of age and discovered a nodding acquaintance with the concept of justice.
The number of foreign correspondents employed by British newspapers has fallen by over 90% in 20 years. One purpose of this blog is to supply information on countries and situations which I know personally, to which the MSM simply do not pay attention. It is worth noting that this blog has been campaigning against Chinese persecution of the Uighurs for 12 years before it became the latest fashionable cause or pretext for neo-cons to pretend concern about. Indeed when I started writing about the Uighurs in 2005, I am willing to bet not one of the MSM so-called journalists who have recently churned out copy and paste articles on the subject, had ever heard of them. In a fortnight’s time I am heading for other areas where the FCO travel advice strongly advises British citizens not to venture.
Remember tonight, there is a world beyond the Brexit debate and the crass and sordid mess of Westminster politics.
I want to mark briefly the death of a man for whom I had enormous respect, Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury. I knew him on and off since 1976 and he was an inspirational man. He devoted fairly well his every waking moment to attempting to fight injustice all over the world, with his focus often falling on deeply unfashionable human rights causes, including the Uzbeks, the Uighurs and the majority population of Bahrain. He was an unstinting opponent of specifically British injustices, and a dedicated campaigner for the Chagos islanders.
He never fell for the neo-imperialism of Blair and the astonishing claim that to improve other countries we should invade them. He opposed all Blair’s interventions, most notably in Sierra Leone where he saw through the propaganda of “victory”, and as I recount in The Catholic Orangemen he was the catalyst for revealing the Arms to Africa scandal and the Blairite involvement with mercenaries.
In the days when the UK had a political culture of respect for opposition parliamentarians and of public service, FCO ministers feared Avebury’s extraordinary persistent and acute questioning, to which they gave evasive answers at their peril. Sadly nowadays this culture of accountability has been abolished by the armies of taxpayer paid party PR men.
Eric Lubbock’s involvement in public life was motivated purely by a desire to make the world a better place for other people. I believe the concept of personal gain was alien to him and he certainly gave a great deal more than he ever got back, in terms either of finance or of public appreciation. The world may not esteem him a great man in terms of achievement; but the world was a much better place for his being in it.
The greatest boost ever received by Islamic fundamentalism was the invasion of Iraq. Closely followed by extraordinary rendition, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and drones, and Israeli bombings of Gaza. All of those things lead some Muslims to believe a violent response by terrorism is required to defend themselves. So for Tony Blair, who has promoted huge hatred and caused unnumbered deaths through a career of deceit and self-enrichment, to warn about the dangers of Islamic terrorism is something nobody but a few Guardian and Murdoch acolytes wish to hear.
Blair of course has many tens of millions stuffed into his capacious back-pocket by oligarchs from the ex-Soviet space, so it is unsurprising to hear him call for understanding between Russia and the West. It is even more to form that this understanding should be based on joint hatred of Muslims.
There is an alarming failure by many in the UK to understand that Russia is an Empire. Russia’s Asian possessions were taken by invasion from their indigenous and Muslim populations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at precisely the same time Britain was taking its own colonies. The Russian conquests were no less colonial from the accident of geography that they were contiguous. Dagestan and Chechnya were only conquered in the 1830’s. Most of Tartarstan later. The “Islamic fundamentalist threat” Russia faces jointly with the UK, is actually the struggle of colonized peoples for their freedom.
Blair includes China, which likewise is the colonial occupier of the Uighurs and other suppressed Muslim populations. To conflate the struggle for freedom from colonial occupation of these people with an over-reaching monster of “Islamic terrorism” is part of Blair’s trick. His examples in Africa are again born of despair from the consequences of centuries of colonial and now neo-liberal exploitation. I find his pronouncements on Boko Haram ironic, given that Blair’s single biggest legacy is to move the United Kingdom close to Nigerian standards of equality of wealth distribution.
The extraordinary thing is that Blair is somebody so hate-filled he wants to see yet more hatred, killing and violence. It is worrying that the establishment media are so happy to promote his view without providing any balancing opinion. I comfort myself that the real motive of this silly speech was that, other than his media acolytes, absolutely nobody cares what he is saying. It wasn’t so much a speech as a public display of ADD.
If the missing Malaysian plane landed, it must have done so with the collusion of at least one government. The broadcast media is full this morning of ludicrous speculation that the plane has been landed in Afghanistan by the Taliban (the Uighurs having apparently gone out of fashion temporarily as Muslim scapegoats). They are trying to tell us that a Boeing 777 could hedge hop under military radar for thousands of miles with nobody noticing.
What on earth is the interest of the media in propagating this absolute guff? South East Asia is highly militarized. Radar is hardly cutting edge technology. The idea that a very large plane could overfly China, India or Pakistan without anybody being alerted is an absolute nonsense. Other countries in the region, such as Burma, Indonesia and the ex-Soviet countries, also have effective airspace surveillance.
If the plane indeed took the “northern corridor” it must have had government connivance. Otherwise, it took the southern corridor into the open sea and has gone down there. That last is by far the more likely scenario, and either progressive malfunction of some kind, or crew or staff suicide, the most likely causes.
The terrible loss of life in the Malaysian air crash is tragic. But the attempt to ramp up a terrorism scare is ghoulish. We even had both the BBC and Sky speculating that it was the Uighurs. Now the suppression of Uighur culture and religion by the Chinese had been a great and long-term evil, and the West has been only too eager to shoehorn their story into the “Islamic terrorism” story. There is of course an enormous security industry, both government and private, which makes a very fat living out of “combating Islamic terrorism”, and a media which make a fat living out of helping to ramp it. Their spreading of fear has been extraordinarily successful given that Islamic terrorism is an extraordinarily low level threat and people throughout the Western world are vastly more likely to drown in their own bath than be killed by an Islamic terrorist. Indeed you are about 1,000 times more likely to be killed by a member of your own family than by an Islamic terrorist, though the risk of either is extremely slim.
The media uncritically trotted out the story that it was Uighur terrorists who were responsible for the dreadful knife attack at a Chinese railway station – with no evidence except that the Chinese government say so. Only when they impugn the Uighurs does the western media drop its wary disbelief of statements from the Chinese government.
There is no evidence at all that the Malaysian plane was brought down by terrorists. The Air France plane crash in 2009, for example, was caused by ice crystals in the pitot tubes giving incorrect air speed readings to the autopilot – this was because the plane had been incorrectly cleaned with a pressure hose rather than damp cloths. Most air crashes are caused by faulty maintenance procedures. [A number of people have since commented that pilot error is a more frequent cause. They may be right – but Uighur terrorists it ain’t].
The two people on board with false passports were routed on to Amsterdam, and the obvious explanation is that they were illegal immigrants who had bought stolen passports. This is very common indeed. I know from my own diplomatic experience that passports frequently have to be replaced by tourists who no longer have them. I also know (and I do not refer to the specific individuals referred here) that very frequently indeed the person who has “lost” the passport has sold it. At tourist hotspots likely people are often approached to sell their passport, (about US$600 is the going rate for an EU passport) and then declare it stolen and apply for a new one. It is a scam you encounter frequently in backpacking destinations, Thailand being a key example.
It is a peculiar kind of terrorism which does not seek to claim “credit” or publicise what has been done.. No suicide videos have emerged. That the Uighurs would attack a plane from a state of their fellow Muslims is a ludicrous claim. Do not be taken in by the Ministry of Fear and its media lackeys.
I watched Ross Kemp’s documentary on Paleastine yesterday and it was much better than I had expected. I have never watched any of his travel documentaries before – their advertising portrays them as “Our hard nut goes to see if other hard nuts are really as vicious as London East End gangsters”.
It is impossible, unless you are obscenely ill-motivated, to do a documentary in Gaza that does not leave you appalled at the plight of the Palestinian people there. But Kemp gave the Palestinians a much fairer and fuller hearing than I had expected, and while there was a great deal of editorial horror at the attitudes of Islamic terrorists and their supporters, it came over very strongly – and Kemp himself plainly “got”, that those attitudes were caused by the atrocities and indignities to which the Palestinians are subjected.
Which made Kemp’s documentary much more intelligent than Michael Portillo’s effort on Guantanamo. Portillo never for one moment questioned whether Islamic hatred of the West was in any sense caused or triggered. He seemed to accept that Guantanamo holds a core of “some 50” diehard terrorists who are intrinsically evil, and he agreed explicitly that they should be kept locked up forever even though there was no evidence against them that could stand up in court.
His glib “I am a politician and I know about tough decisions like abandoning legality” line was helped by two intellectual dishonesties. He never considered the causality of terrorism, and he did not mention the possibility that some of that “core” of fifty might be innocent. He described the moral dilemma as whether people you knew were guilty but could not prove it, should be locked up. Who says you know. they are guilty? I can tell you from first hand experience that a great deal of the War on Terror intelligence on individuals is woefully inaccurate and deliberatelly exagerrated.
Which Michael Portillo once seemed to understand:
Portillo reserved his compassion for the Uighurs, because they were anti-communist, and for the British ex-detainees who had been tortured. There was one particularly unsavoury piece of editing when showing a UK conference, at which an ex-detainee was making a very emotional and harrowing point; the director then cut away to a shot of Moazzam Begg grinning merrily and apparently completely inappropriately at the point.
The impression was given that cut-away was contemporaneous, and it made Moazzam look very bad. I don’t believe the cut-away was contemporaneous and think this was a deliberate bit of BBC demonisation. I don’t think it was genuine because of sound discontinuity, because BBC documentary crews nowadays almost never have two cameras, and because I know Moazzam.
There is a new international affairs magazine called International World Report. The first issue has a very interesting focus on Central Asia, The article on the Uighurs is a good introduction to the subject. There is also an interview with me. This is perfectly accurate, but as always when you read back a verbatim transcript you think of things you might have put better or explained further.
I don’t know if future issues will maintain a Central Asian focus, but in any event the magazine looks like it could be a good source on lesser known foreign policy areas.
In the UK, we are understandably preoccupied with the fact that so many of our elected representatives are personally corrupt in terms of filling their own pockets, and appear not to be particularly distinguished or inspiring people. I actually do not believe the oft-repeated mantra that they all went into politics with good motives.
This country has been through a terrible decade. We have launched illegal wars on others, to further the economic interests of a wealthy class, and unleashed death, mutilation, poverty and grief upon millions in foreign lands. In so doing we made ourselves hated and then disliked the fear of retribution. We have substantially circumscribed our own liberties, hard won by our ancestors, and not cared because we were seduced by a dream of limitless wealth and ease. That bubble inevitably burst and proved to be based on an economic lie. Ordinary people will be paying for bailing out the extremely wealthy, for generations.
So extreme frustration is justified. But today, on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre of Tiananmen Square, we should remember that freedom is so important it is worth dying for.
That has never been a remote concept to me. I have several friends who have died struggling for democracy in Uzbekistan in the last seven years. I also still believe that the Second World War and the fight against fascism was a noble and necessary defence. Like many of my generation, there are close relatives I never got the chance to know because they gave their lives for democracy then. My mother’s only brother, for one. My grandparents never really recovered.
Today in China numerous websites, twitter, Flickr, blogger, livejournal and much else is closed down to try to prevent Chinese people from seeing any remembrance of Tiananmen. This blog was blocked there already, as it is is Uzbekistan and several other countries.
About half as many people as died at Tiananmen, died at Andijan in Uzebkistan, also massacred as they protested for democracy, just over five years ago.
When I was in Uzbekistan, the official line I was given by Jack Straw’s FCO was that Uzbekistan was following the “South East Asian Model” whereby economic liberalisation was bringing about social shifts and the development of a strong middle class, which would eventually lead to democracy. The existence of the model was not a nonsensical argument, though in Uzbekistan there was not any actual economic liberalisation, which invalidated the argument against criticising the regime.
In China there has been economic liberalisation. But precious little sign that this has led to real democratic development or even toleration of dissidence.
In those diaries, Zhao called the massacre of peaceful demonstrators at Tiananmen Square “a tragedy to shock the world”, and clearly stated it could have been averted, had any of the party leadership sided with his view that the demonstrators should be permitted to protest or otherwise be peacefully dispersed. The violent crackdown remains to this day one of the great signs that liberalization of China by trade and engagement has been a moral failure.
The greatest sign of lack of progress over the last twenty years, is the Chinese government’s attempts even today to deny what happened at Tinananmen Square, and its Herculean efforts to prevent its population from knowing about it.
Two decades ago the air was heady, communism was tumbling everywhere, apartheid was vanishing, freedom seemed possible. We are left with a sense of ashes in the mouth. In China, the repression in Tibet and of the Muslim Uighurs – the latter a far less fashionable cause in the West – continues undiminished. But even toleration of dissent is not increasing, and there seems no end to the totalitarian desire to control what the people may know.
China may be moving towards capitalism pretty quickly. It is not even looking in the direction of political freedom.
There has been something of a stir lately over Le Monde’s revelation that France passed warning to the CIA in 2001 that Bin Laden was planning an aircraft hijacking.
Nobody has paid a great deal of attention to the fact that the French intelligence came from the Uzbek security services.
But the headlines about France warning the US of 9/11 are complete nonsense. The alleged intelligence was about a plan to hijack a plane at Frankfurt airport. Flying the plane into buildings didn’t feature.
There was then (and is) intelligence cooperation between France and Uzbekistan, but in 2001 as now the Uzbek intelligence liaison relationship with Germany and the US was stronger than with France. It seems most improbable that the Uzbeks learnt of a plan to hijack a flight between Germany and the US, and told only the French.
An Associated Press report speculates that the Frankfurt plan was disinformation spread by Al-Qaida to distract attention from the 9/11 plot. http://www.topix.net/content/ap/0152981010029215169242201015390845871804That is obvious rubbish. Bin Laden would not want to give any indication that he was switching tactics to aircraft hijack, and have people looking at aviation security.
A far more likely explanation is that this was disinformation by the Uzbek security services. I have seen a great deal of intelligence passed on by the Uzbek intelligence services. It is inevitably self-serving, and almost always untrue.
The purpose of the Uzbek intelligence services in passing intelligence to the West is to persuade us that they and the Karimov regime must be supported as a bastion against a massive Islamic terror plot. They seek to portray all domestic opposition as al-Qaeda linked.
It goes wider than that. Consider this – across a huge swathe of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Turkic peoples have been struggling to emerge from colonial occupation. This belt runs from the Chechens of the West through the Tatars, Turkmen, Uzbeks, Kazakh, Kirghiz and Mongols to the Uighurs of China in the East. The wave of struggles for national liberation of these peoples is perhaps the most important political fact since the fall of the iron curtain, yet completely neglected.
The Chechens and Uighurs are being brutally suppressed by the Russian and Chinese imperial powers respectively. Those like the Uzbeks who have achieved nominal nation status are suffering under the fierce regime of the surviving indigenous colonial cadres.
As it happens, these Turkic nations engaged in a struggle for liberation are Muslim. By one of history’s unpleasant chances (and I would argue it is no more than that – there are transactions, but almost no causal relationship either way) their efforts at national re-emergence have coincided with a surge in fringe Islamic radicalism. This has enabled their opponents to attempt to tar them with that brush.
Uzbek intelligence is therefore primarily aimed at portraying Uzbek dissidents as Islamic terrorists, and linking them to Al Qaida and to Chechen and Uighur “terrorists”. The governments of Russia and China are enthusiastic co-participants in building the same story to discredit their own Chechen and Uighur dissidents, and the other authoritarian governments of Central Asia join in too. The most important diplomatic entity in the region – the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement – functions entirely on this principle.
The sad thing is that, such is the appetite of Western intelligence agencies for any material that stokes the so-called “War on Terror”, MI6, the CIA and others accept this self-serving dross as true, even when it is fabricated in Uzbekistan’s notorious torture chambers. That is the issue over which I resigned from the diplomatic service, as detailed in my book “Murder in Samarkand”.
The clue in the 2001 French intelligence causing the current stir is that the Uzbeks claimed that Bin Laden met with Chechen terrorists to plan the Frankfurt hijack. Of course there was no such plot. This so-called Uzbek/French intelligence was just part of the propaganda campaign to link the Chechen cause to Bin Laden.
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, now standing as an independent anti-war candidate against Jack Straw, spoke to Anindya Bhattacharyya
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