Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Outposts of tyranny
Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's nominee as secretary of state, has identified "outposts of tyranny" where the US must help bring freedom. They are Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma and Belarus.
So far, so good, but curiously she omitted to mention Turkmenistan, ruled by the bizarre dictator President Niyazov. Amnesty International reports,
The human rights situation in Turkmenistan has been appalling for years. It deteriorated even further following an alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov on 25 November 2002, which triggered a new wave of repression across Turkmenistan.
Niyazov, or 'Turkmenbashi' as we must now call him, was recently re-elected unopposed in a "sham poll". His personality cult includes renaming some months after himself, outlawing beards and incorporating knowledge of his spiritual writings in Turkmenistan's driving test.
The regime is extremely intolerant of dissent, and it has severely limited civil and political liberties. No independent political parties or human rights groups can operate openly in the country, and opponents of the government and civil society activists have been forced into exile or faced imprisonment and persecution.
Key to the failure to address impunity or counter the widespread abuses of human rights is President Niyazov's domination of all aspects of life in the country, and the personality cult with which he has surrounded himself.
It's not just the Americans turning a blind eye. There are similar problems in another former Soviet republic, Uzbekistan, where Britain's former ambassador Craig Murray was dismissed by the British Foreign Office for having the temerity to reveal that dissidents were being boiled to death.
Might Condoleezza Rice's selective memory regarding Central Asia have anything to do with the fact that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have provided bases for the US military? (Funnily enough, both countries border Afghanistan and possess huge gas and oil reserves). It would seem that, provided you sign up to President Bush's 'coalition of the willing', you are welcome to remain an 'outpost of tyranny'.