Daily archives: September 29, 2005

Akiner exposed – Craig Murray slams SOAS “propagandist for the Karimov regime”

Dear Professor Bundy,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you about the activities of Shirin Akiner in acting as a propagandist for the Karimov regime of Uzbekistan. I am very reluctant to do so because I am a passionate believer in academic freedom and the right to express even the most unorthodox of views. However I feel that in her activities in attempting to justify the Andizhan massacre, Ms Akiner has entered the realm of deliberate dishonesty, and demonstrably departed from standards of academic method in a way that SOAS cannot ignore.

Ms Akiner has lied about the origin of her visit to Andizhan as a guest of the Uzbek government. She claims she was in Tashkent anyway, and accepted an unexpected invitation issued on the spot. In fact the Uzbek Ambassador to London, Mr Riskiev, had told a British businessman in London many days before this that the Uzbek government was countering the possible imposition of sanctions by sending Shirin Akiner to produce a report to give credibility to the Uzbek government’s version of the massacre. The businessman immediately told me, so I knew of her visit to Andizhan before Akiner alleges that she did.

On the question of academic method, Akiner operated under the direct supervision of Uzbek government officials. She only spoke to alleged witnesses in the presence of government officials, and indeed I believe it was almost always the regional governor himself, the Hokkim of Andizhan, who was with her. The idea that in a totalitarian state evidence of an alleged government atrocity can be gained by allowing the government to produce the witnesses, and interviewing them in the presence of government officials, is ludicrous, as any decent academic would recognise. It seems to me that on this particular point there is evidence for SOAS to speak to Ms Akiner.

Her account of what happened agrees perfectly with the Uzbek government’s account, which is unsurprising in the circumstances. Her account contrasts sharply with the excellent report by Human Rights Watch, compiled after decent individual interviews with twenty times as many individuals as Akiner interviewed individually, and in the case of HRW, interviewed without the presence of government officials. Akiner’s account also differs from those of journalistic eyewitnesses, including that of Galima Burkabaeva, a reporter for CNN I have known well for three years who was present throughout the events in Andizhan. Galima is now a postgraduate student at Columbia University, and I discussed these matters with her last week.

Burkabaeva says that Akiner’s account is completely incompatible with the truth. In both Washington and New York I found that my audiences ‘ including Columbia University, the American Bar Association and the Brookings Institute ‘ were simply astonished at the propaganda tour of the United States Akiner recently undertook. With the exception of a tiny number of the most extreme neo-conservatives, everyone asked me ‘ literally scores of people ‘ why SOAS was working for the government of Uzbekistan. I do not believe you are aware of the damage Akiner is doing to the reputation of your institution.

Let me be quite plain. I am not seeking to stop Akiner supporting the Uzbek government. Her political views are her own business. I am accusing her of deliberate abandonment of academic method in her Andizhan investigation, in order to produce a desired propaganda result. I presume that she preaches the resulting falsehoods not only in the States, not only on Channel 4 News last night, but also to your students.

I should be most grateful if you would refer this email to the SOAS ethics committee.

One final question. In Uzbekistan everybody, no matter what subject they are studying and at what level, is required to study the works of President Karimov. This starts at elementary school and extends up to PhD. I met one brilliant mathematician who had just submitted their mathematics PhD, but was very worried about the compulsory examination where they had to reproduce and praise passages of Karimov’s books.

I was recently told that Akiner curried favour with Karimov some years ago by securing SOAS funds and other resources for translating Karimov’s execrable books into English. I should like to know if that is true.

Craig Murray

UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4

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“Happy molehunting” – Craig Murray sends his memoirs to the UK Foreign Office

I have today submitted the text of my book to the FCO for clearance, as I am contractually obliged to do. I have already received four letters, an email and a phone call to tell me I must not publish without clearance, so I have little doubt that the FCO intends to prevent publication. I thought it might be interesting to publish the correspondence as it develops.

Apart from the Official Secrets Act, or the ironically named Freedom of Information Act, the government can use civil litigation under contract. A civil servant’s contract nowadays states that they will never publish anything they learnt or saw in the course of their work, whether it is secret or not. This removes any public interest defence, or need for the government to prove questions of national security. It should cause more alarm than it does that civil servants are gagged by such draconian anti-whistleblower legislation.

I have finished 26 chapters of the book, and the final three are part complete. Publishers abroad seem very keen, but not in this country, which I don’t completely understand. There is one firm bid in to option the film rights, and five other expressions of interest in bidding for these. My agents are David Higham.


From: Craig Murray

Sent: 29 September 2005 07:17

To: Richard Stagg

Subject: Should Not Be Known

Dear Dickie,

As promised, I attach the text of my memoir. This is not actually quite finished yet, but I thought you might like to be getting on with clearance.

I note that Mr Price has gone ahead and published his account of life in No 10, without clearance. I bought a copy of the Mail to read it. It was rather boring. The interesting thing is that I would not have bought it, had the government not tried to ban it. The same is true of Spycatcher, a mind-numbingly dull book which I bought because it was banned, as did 220,000 other people. I rather hope that you do try to prevent publication, because you won’t succeed, and it may help me secure a publisher. Publishers in this country remain less than interested.

That is probably because there is nothing new in the book ‘ it is all very much in the public domain. I hope that the writing makes it still interesting.

The book reproduces a number of official documents. These are either in the public domain, being readily available on the internet (and not originally placed there by me, though I subsequently copied some to my website), or were released to me under the Data Protection Act.

The exception might be some of the detail on the Chris Hirst case. Here I think there is a duty to contradict the extraordinarily tendentious account of events given to the Foreign Affairs Committee by Sir Michael Jay. I also believe that one of the more disturbing episodes of the whole story, is the fact that the FCO were much less concerned that Hirst was conducting murderous assaults, than they were interested in using him to obtain evidence that I visited bars. I expect the reading public will think so too.

I have tried to be scrupulously fair to my colleagues, however little they deserve it, and to be more than fair to the more junior. I would like to believe that the Office might learn some lessons from this account, but of course you won’t.

I would finally add that attempting to avoid embarrassment is not a legitimate reason to ban a book or parts of it. However I expect that to be the Office’s reaction.

I hope that whoever gets the task of ploughing through this, finds at least bits of it enjoyable. It is actually quite an interesting story, even though I say it myself. I fully believe it to be entirely true. Where information comes not from my direct observation but from another source, I say so.

Happy mole-hunting.


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