The Glorious Dictatorship of Uzbekistan 21

A very curious puff piece has turned up in the Guardian for holidays in Uzbekistan, which fails entirely to mention that it is one of the world’s least free countries and most repressive dictatorships. Nor is this irrelevant to tourism, as there could well be serious problems for visiting religious muslims or gays, and it very definitely impinges on everybody’s freedom to move around.

I do not personally oppose people going on holiday to Uzbekistan. But I would advise people to avoid government organised official tours and stay in small private hotels, not government-run ones. And be very careful. Contact with the freer world however is, in general, good for Uzbek people.

But that does not explain the lack of context for the Guardian piece nor the fact that, though there is a comment pointing out the human rights record, two people have contacted me through this website to say they posted comments about it that the Guardian deleted. How many more has the Guardian deleted by people who did not go to the substantial trouble of contacting me to say so?

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21 thoughts on “The Glorious Dictatorship of Uzbekistan

  • Grady Johnson

    More proof – if any were needed – that the Guardian will whore its arse to absolutely anybody.

    • Chris Rogers


      Be careful of using the word ‘whore’ or you’ll have the thought police led by Henry James on your back, apart from that agree with every word.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Yesterday’s pullout advertorial in the Grauniad promoted, in full colour, over eight or ten pages, the investment opportunities available in Oman and, for christ’s sake, Egypt. Lands flowing with milk and honey run by genial and picturesque princes – there was even a pic of Mrs Windsor giving one of them a book – in which your hedge fund would flourish and bear a cornucopia of attractive fruit. Probably by Portland PR, but I didn’t look. One feature common to both countries is the remarkably favourable attitude of the authorities to expressions of dissent against the regime, and hence the foreign investors enjoying its patronage:

    Only occasionally as enlightened as Uzbekistan, but not for want of trying…

    • craig Post author


      One of the many revolting aspects of the Tom Mauchline/Portland PR anti-Corbyn stunt at Pride, was that Portland represents dictatorships which torture and murder gays.

  • DomesticExtremist

    I expect it is funded content, there’s a lot of that these days in the press. Advertising pretending to be reporting, often paid for handsomely bthe the entity being reported upon, hence the moderators heavy hand.
    No doubt the dead hand of Tony Blair or one of his cronies is behind it.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      [ Mod: Caught in spam-filter, timestamp updated ]

      It doesn’t pretend not to be funded, and if the Express had done it it would have been a matter of no surprise whatever. Question is, how far does a financially-strapped newspaper, most of whose readers have at least some pretensions to a fairer society (see the letters page) have to go in the way of supporting dodgy regimes? Faurs yir high moral ground noo?

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Two confronting issues are here.

    1. Uzbekistan does have a lot of historical monuments. Although many of them have been neglected during soviet era and then quickly restored without slightest attention to the historic detail (Bukhara Arch for instance does not at all look like what it originally was), there are still many places to visit and enjoy the history. One place greatest of them all is Registan in Samarkand (Mr Murray also mentioned it in his famous book). Guardian captured the mix of soviet and reviving Islamic cultures very well. Many Uzbek Muslims still drink alcohol quite regularly but also attend Mosques on Fridays and many more observe Fasting during Ramadan. The place is magnificent and most of the foreigners I met enjoyed their time there.

    But there is a huge issue too.

    2. Appalling Human Rights, almost object poverty of majority of people and the worst of all absence of law. So called law enforcement agencies have absolute power over everyone and everything within the boundaries of Uzbekistan. European or US passport might protect some of the tourists from long imprisonment sentences or torture but in general most of foreigners I know witnesses abuse of power by local law enforcement agencies. Twice a day major streets in the capital are shut for up to 1 hour during which the presidential cortege moves from Durmen (presidential residence) to Ak Saroy (presidential office). Not even ambulance or fire brigade are allowed to cross during those restrictions. Every police officer will try to use every opportunity to extort money either locals or tourists. Missed that stamp in your passport or registration, taken photo of that administrative building, and God forbid talked about politics with locals, all that is great opportunity for money extortion. The type and quality of those “offences” are only limited by imagination of the police officer who caught you as in the absence of law nothing is stopping the police officer from inventing even more ridiculous penalties.

    All in all, please visit Uzbekistan but please take some spare cash in case (very likely case) police officer, customs officer, border control officer or many others from so called law enforcement agencies will sport administrative or criminal offence in your actions. And trust me the experience you will have with law enforcement agencies will be nothing comparing to that of locals.

  • Richard

    Project Fear continues:

    We are now told that the C.E.O. of the German stock exchange is accustomed to visiting London twice a week. The implication – and it is left at that, allowing fear to stew in the minds of the gullible – is that he now thinks that he won’t be able to do so for much longer.

    Are people so irredeemably thick that they fall for this guff?

    The working people of England and Wales who voted for independence in droves aren’t hurting because the C.E.O of the German stock exchange visits London twice a week. The C.E.O of the German stock exchange will always be able to visit London and anywhere else on the globe whenever he likes.

    Generation snowflake, the “globalists” whose global vision stops at the eastern Polish border, don’t seem aware of the fact that Japan has a large Nissan plant in the north-east of England and a Toyota plant in the English midlands. Nor, I suppose, would they be aware that Japan isn’t in the E.U. Assuredly, though, the big-wigs of those companies don’t have any trouble getting through the border. Yet curiously, we aren’t obliged to accept millions of Japan’s unemployed in exchange for this arrangement.

    Jamie Dimon, an American, came here as part of project fear to tell us how many jobs would be lost in The City as a result of independence. I don’t suppose that he spent too long twiddling his thumbs in ‘Arrivals’ either.

    Empires are maintained by bluff. Bluff requires that the plebs are encouraged not to examine the lies that they are told (often using subliminal techniques well-known to the advertising industry) too closely. A massive and expensive European bureaucracy is not required for buyers to interact with sellers. We should man up and call their bluff. British contributions stop now, that should focus a few minds.

    The lie is that “they” won’t let us.

  • Mat

    I wonder if the Guardian is paid for such an advert. Anyone has any information on the topic?

    It could be that in travel section they don’t care about human rights (as long as it’s not tourists who are in danger). In my mind, that’s how I see most tourists, they want to have a good time without thinking much about torture or repression.

    • Chris Rogers

      Has Blair got good contacts at The Guardian, please pull the other one.

      The Guardian is The Bible to the Blairites and all its text honours and recounts stories associated with the God Blair, which is why it is now such a lamentable rag!

      Just read Saint Polly Toynbee to justify the above, nevermind its daily tirade against Jeremy Corbyn that began in early July 2015, since that timeline its been relentless propaganda, just like LK at the BBC.

  • Peter C

    The Guardian’s CiF is a joke. I regularly get comments deleted, though still showing that I had made a comment, and have some of my comments complete vanish (no record that any comment had ever been made).

    A while ago I was slapped on “pre-moderation” for mentioning and providing links to relevant videos on The Real News network (great source of an alternative view to the right-wing tilt the Guardian is now taking). So now I have shortlist of some of the things I know I’ll moderated over. Don’t mention the following journalists:

    Paul Jay
    Abby Martin
    Chris Hedges (probably the best interviewer I’ve ever seen).
    All three of them are involved with the Real News Network.

    Don’t mention Craig Murray or post any link to a blog article of his.

    Don’t refer to Microsoft Windows 10 as Microsoft’s new Spyware Suite.

    Don’t write anything too critical of Monsanto.

    And, to cap it all this week, I had a comment deleted when pointing out on a Guardian puff-piece by Kevin McKenna on Ruth Davidson that Davidson was unalloyed poison, detailing reasons why (all relevant). Comment removed (though the fact that I had commented was left in view) within 5 minutes. Seems the Guardian is now out and behind Davidson (as is McKenna). For anyone that missed the article it’s here (watch your blood pressure):

  • Jim Caris

    I was one of the two people who contacted Mr. Murray about this. I’ve since received a reply from the Guardian, which explained that by opening my comment with the question “Is this a paid-for puff piece or something?” I was apparently committing “author abuse”.

    I fail to see how asking a question of the Guardian as a institution constitutes abuse of an author as an individual. Especially when the website in question has a history of publishing paid-for pieces that could be mistaken for editorial (a specific anti-strike article during the junior doctors’ strike comes to mind).

    My comment also included links to a couple of pieces the Guardian had published prior to its switch from charitable ownership to corporate ownership in 2008, which were much more critical of the country’s brutally repressive regime. Apparently highlighting the change in the paper’s editorial position is also somehow abusive, even if the evidence presented is from the Guardian’s own site. My only comment on that was to state “This is what the pre-2008 Guardian thought of Uzbekistan’s regime, I think I preferred the pre-2008 Guardian”.

    The reply from the Guardian stated that I was free to repost my comment without these elements. That would have left my comment saying virtually nothing, but that notwithstanding, the offer was disingenuous and dishonest as the article’s comments were long since closed.

    Needless to say, I deeply resent being labelled an abuser by the Guardian (anyone know if I have any recourse on that?). It seems that criticising the Guardian on its comments board is now verboten.

    The full reply I received from the Guardian follows:

    Hi there,

    Your post was failed due to the phrase “Is this a paid-for puff piece or something?” and the later suggestion that this was now the norm at the Guardian. We treat such claims as author abuse. The rest of your comment was entirely valid and please feel free to repost it.

    Community Moderator

  • k999

    Hmmm, not sure. I have lived in Uzbekistan, have stayed in people’s houses, have travelled freely across the country, have exchanged money on black market – never got into any sort of trouble. Nor were people afraid to talk to a foreigner. Sure, it is perhaps one of more corrupt countries – most government officials need to supplement their meagre salaries. Also, rule of law is something Uzbekistan tends to apply selectively. If the city council wants to expropriate you from your house, they will. But then, people fight back, bribe back, sometimes the local media also take up such issues.

    No, it is not an ideal country: it is a country much like most of Eastern Europe in the 1970s or 1980s – you need to know how to survive; and the majority of local people do. Sure, a first-time visitor from the Western world, who is used to Western social freedoms, might think that Uzbekistan is “repressive” – but in my experience, many so-called democracies are no less repressive; including the nanny state that the United Kingdom has become in recent years.

    For sure, I was less concerned with Uzbek services willing to break my encrypted mailbox than with Western agencies.

  • D Edwards

    I was in Uzbekistan a few years ago as a tourist. Most tourists go through the country utterly ignorant of the political situation, but the country reveals itself the second you get away from the homogenous tourist packs. One moment I recall very well – I’d booked a private trip with a US companion to Shakrisabz and on the way back our car was stopped. The guards were in the process of threatening and taking a large bribing a poor sod in front of us and were didn’t realise that us westerners had seen the whole thing. They started yelling at us, knowing that, from our lada, we weren’t all that important. Our driver, freaking out and thinking quickly, started screaming “American! American!” and pointing to the US bloke. The guards beat a retreat then waved us through. Of course, the US airbase was around the corner. Told me more about that country than a hundred guardian travel pieces. I remember entertaining hotel staff by showing them wikileaks articles on my Kindle about Gulnara, the president, human rights while pretending to others that I was showing them lonely planet reviews of restaurants.

  • Jeremy Stocks

    Craig I know you were the ambassador for Uz. My wife worked there under the EU TACIS ISEAM project. She went over the border to Kyrgisstan to Issik Kul lake which she described as awesomely beautiful.

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