Happy Birthday To Me 166

I am 54 today! That sounds really old, but I can honestly say that I feel as young and hopeful, and my mind feels as open and agile, as when I was twenty. I undoubtedly know a lot more, but I don’t confuse that with wisdom.

I am in a hotel in Ghana and sad to be apart from family today. I have been taking stock a little this morning and my greatest disappointment is that I have not been able to change things in Uzbekistan, or in Western government’s attitude to Uzbekistan.

1.4 million Uzbek children are today working in regime forced labour in the Uzbek cotton fields. They work at physically very tough labour for twelve hours a day in conditions identical to those in which black slave workers suffered in the Southern United States 200 years ago – indeed several US slaveowners would have scrupled at the wholesale use of children as young as eight in the fields, as is done by the Uzbek government. They sleep in barracks on concrete floors, live on weak vegetable soup and drink dirty water from the irrigation ditches.

Of course it is not only children who are forced into the fields, and the system requires extreme compulsion. On October 6 in Kashkadarya 18 year old Navruz Islamov was beaten to death by police for attempting to leave a cotton field when suffering from sunstroke. There are scores more such instances we do not hear about.

I have never felt so outraged as I did two years ago, when a European Commission official told me that the EU would not act on child labour in Uzbekistan as there was “no official evidence” of the preactice, only “rumour”. This year – with the active connivance of EU nation state diplomats in Tashkent, particularly the German Ambassador -the Uzbek Government for the third successive year refused a request from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to visit Uzbekistan to monitor child labour in the cotton harvest. At the same time, the EU says it will not act without this report from the ILO.

This is also the position of the British Government, which has never made a single comment or statement on child labour in Uzbekistan (except by me while Ambassdaor). Indeed the coalition government has never made any statement on human rights in Uzbekistan at all, having no interest in the fate of its 8,000 political prisoners and ever-lengthening list of tortured and killed by the British “ally”, President Karimov.

Cuba has just announced the abolition of exit visas. Uzbekistan is now one of a tiny number of extreme regimes which still locks its people in, retaining the old Soviet exit visa system. The Cameron/Clegg government refuses to raise this with the Uzbek regime.

Britain and the EU are again selling weapons and providing military and secret service training to the Karimov regime, and the UK, US and other NATO countries are negotiating to “Gift” huge amounts of arms and military materiel to Karimov as they withdraw from Afghanistan. Nobody in the West, and particularly in the Western media, appears to have any interest at all in our collusion with the most repressive and corrupr regime in the world.

I won’t have a really happy birthday until Uzbekistan is free. The good news is that I am confident I will have a lot of happy birthdays in a free Uzbekistan in the future.

166 thoughts on “Happy Birthday To Me

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  • Pan

    It’s too bad that someone (such as yourself, Craig) willing to fight for human rights, rather than just pay lip service to them, is automatically excluded, by that very virtue, from the corridors of power.

  • Jemand

    Craig, you are as young as the beautiful woman you feel. Happy Birthday.

    Jimmy, life begins at 52. Unfortunately it ends at 53. Happy Biirthdy.

  • Rosh Jamal

    Happy Birthday, Mr Murray!*
    As to child labour in Uzbekistan, it reminds me a little of Milan Kundera’s oft repeated quote: THE STRUGGLE OF MAN AGAINST POWER IS THE STRUGGLE OF MEMORY AGAINST FORGETTING.
    HOPEFULLY, we will remember to not forget this struggle.
    Best wishes to ALL

    NB. The lifespan of Justice and Truth is not limited.

  • Monica

    Many happy returns of the day, Mr. Murray. Don’t ever feel sorry for what you say were not able to do, you have already done much for raising the awareness on a place where happiness seems not to exist. In time, hopefully, things will change. And you have a consistent contribution to that. All the best,

  • Mattias

    Happy Birthday Craig

    Uzbekistan has been in the news in Sweden for a couple of weeks, since TeliaSonera is accused of paying bribes to get its mobile license. There has even been rumors that the CEO may be fired because of the scandal, since the board started looking for a replacement.

    So perhaps someone will actually be slightly inconvenienced by doing business with Uzbekistan.

  • DonnyDarKo

    I’m sure you’ll be able to find enough ice for your malt tonight.
    You deserve it! The Uzbek cause would be the poorer without you.
    Hope you have a really happy birthday in the not too distant future.
    The US has just decided to stay in Afghanistan, surprise surprise.
    Maybe they will liberate Uzebekistan ?
    slainte bha !
    All the best ! I’m 54 in 9 days.

  • Michael Andersen

    Happy birthday, Craig.
    Well – 54, no doubt, that IS old (several years older than myself), but who cares. As Woody Allen says – growing older…. well, it beats the alternative.
    Craig, the UK, US and EU may NOT care about the oppression in Uzbekistan. But many many people in Uzbekistan DO care. We have now had more than 51.000 views on our trailers for our film ‘Massacre in Uzbekistan’ (which includes interviews with you). And we have received hundreds of supportive emails (and only a few form the KGB out there). We are still in the process of ‘hunting’ funding for TRANSLATING the film into Uzbek and Russian, and we are making some progress….. You will be happy to know that some of your readers have contributed. But there is still a long way to go…. so anybody…..?

  • kingfelix

    Happy birthday, Craig.

    May Uzbekistan one day be free.

    On a related note, have any of you read Nancy Rosenberger’s 2012 book, Seeking Food Rights: Nation, Inequality, and Repression in Uzbekistan?

    She’s an anthropologist and it’s packed with the details of everyday life in contemporary Uzbekistan.

  • Lastbluebell

    I would just like to add my best wishes, and hope you will not have to wait to long for your wishes to come true!

    But as my grandma always also used to say, never ever miss a chance to celebrate…

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Best wishes to you, young man. I say that with all the humble envy I can muster.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Craig; Not knowing more your history apart from your stint in Uzbekistan, I wonder…

    Any inkling of running for elected office?

  • JimmyGiro

    Jemand wrote:

    “Jimmy, life begins at 52. Unfortunately it ends at 53. Happy Biirthdy.”

    I’ve just set my alarm clock. At 364 days hence, it will announce that Harriet Harman is the new Prime Minister.

  • Geoff Cowlyn

    I come to this blog everyday, because it is informative and inspirational. I’ve never posted previously, but seeing as it is my 54th birthday today as well, I couldn’t resist wishing you happy birthday. Happy birthday Craig!

  • Tea Cakes

    “I can honestly say that I feel as young and hopeful, and my mind feels as open and agile, as when I was twenty”

    Can you get these drugs on the NHS?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Where are the party hats and the balloons?! Roll out the blow-snakes! Hearty congratulations, Craig! Have a glass of porter on me! Or better still, have a glass of whatever the arak of excellence in Ghana might be. Slainte mhath!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    On a more serious note (and in tune with Craig’s post), I see that Gulnara Karimova is now a perfumier. She’s called it ‘Googoosha’ – is this a blatant rip-off of Iran’s No.1 excellent pop diva of many decades, Googoosh? Would you buy a bottle of scent from this woman? Does it mask the stench of slavery, torture and death? Some day, it will be ‘Last Tango in Saigon’.


  • Mary

    LOL One of those silly astrology sites.

    The Scales
    September 24 to October 23
    Traditional Libra Traits

    Diplomatic and urbane
    Romantic and charming
    Easygoing and sociable
    Idealistic and peaceable

    On the dark side….

    Indecisive and changeable
    Gullible and easily infuenced
    Flirtatious and self-indulgent


  • William Flack

    Happy Birthday. I have not commented here before but this seems like a good time to wish you well and thank you for the blog and the work you do.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Greenwald on the gamesmanship of democratic debates…http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/16/presidential-debate-issues

    “Citing a just-leaked 21-page “memorandum of understanding” secretly negotiated by the two campaigns to govern the rules of the debates, Farah recounted:

    “We have a private corporation that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates. It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major-party candidates had nominated. And instead of making public these contracts and resisting the major-party candidates’ manipulations, the commission allows the candidates to negotiate these 21-page contracts that dictate all the fundamental terms of the debates.”

    The candidates should be able to negotiate terms which do not allow one party to dominate, such as timers. But the degree to which they hamper an authentic ‘debate’ should also have a timer.

    Plus, when a violation of the timer occurs, the mic should be cut off.

  • Vronsky

    Happy birthday, Craig. You’re out of the woods now – the first fifty years are the worst.

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