Thursday, August 02, 2007

Karimov builds a prison for purged officials

With the death of Turkmenistan's dictator Saparmurat Niazov, Uzbekistan has moved up to the head of the class to become the most repressive and totalitarian state in Central Asia. Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov may not have the late Turkmenbashi's sexy eccentricity, but he makes up for his lack of headline appeal with his dreary Soviet style authoritarianism.

And what better way for a strongman to flex his post-Soviet muscle than cracking down on his political enemies? Karimov has never been shy about using force to maintain the status quo, but he appears to be going the extra mile by building a special prison for Uzbek government officials who have fallen from his good graces. The new detention facility has ostensibly been built as part of a government response to punish corruption, but nobody seriously expects the vengeful dictator to stop there. Conservative estimates place the number of political prisoners in Uzbekistan at around 7,500, while the end tops out at over 15,000. According to human rights organizations, torture is endemic in Uzbekistan, and political prisoners are often completely denied communications with friends or family - a punishment not extended to ordinary criminals.

Karimov's cavalier attitude regarding violence and political activity briefly made the news in 2005 after the infamous Andijan massacre, when Uzbek security forces started shooting fully automatic weapons into a crowd of unarmed people. The death toll has been estimated as being between 178 people (the Karimov government's estimate), to around 500 (most survivors of the attack), to over a thousand people. Karimov's new gulag for his disgraced lackeys lacks the flash and glamor of simply shooting them all en masse, but the message will doubtlessly still get through: messing with Islam Karimov is just too dangerous to think about.

I know what you're thinking, "two consecutive days of Central Asian dictators"? It's just coincidence, I swear. I might getting around to doing an entire week devoted to Central Asia, but frankly, I may just leave that to the experts.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Wow. Interesting post.

I'll certainly keep my eyes on this demon. Thanks for sharing the link to FYI, if you haven't discovered this website, it's solid as well (and has a really cool name, too):