…in the human rights sense?
The Pentagon’s concerns are quite clear in regards to its desire for the use of Uzbek territory for the transportation of materiel to NATO forces and the various support operations in Afghanistan. And this, in my opinion is an important variable in determining the level of concern exhibited for human rights in Uzbekistan.
At the height of American-Uzbek cooperation (2002-2005) there was much public consternation over the plight of the citizens of Uzbekistan, as exhibited across many different media platforms (mostly the op-ed pages). But after Andijon and the resulting departure of American forces from the K2 base in southern Uzbekistan, the amount of public concern dropped noticeably. And this was despite Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US State Department continuing to issue reports on human rights in Uzbekistan. So what did happen to all of this sincere humanitarian concern?
In my argument, the obvious important variable that determines the levels of non-governmental public concern in the West for human rights in Uzbekistan is US government involvement with Uzbekistan (considering the Uzbek government’s poor human rights’ practices are mostly static).
Uzbekistan is allowing the transit of non-military goods bound for US troops in Afghanistan. President Islam Karimov confirmed February 25 that a train full of cargo was rattling its way across the domestic rail network. Earlier, a spokesman for Kazakhstan Ministry of Emergency Situations said the train, which left Latvia on February 19 laden with US-owned supplies, had exited Kazakhstan “without problems” and was now in Uzbekistan.
“Uzbekistan has agreed to allow the transit of non-military, I stress, non-military goods through the territory of Uzbekistan to Afghanistan in accordance with existing Uzbek laws,” the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Karimov as saying.
Aside from the vagaries of what is “military” and what is “non-military” (because the parties involved have not qualified that), will any neutral third party be looking inside each shipping container? I doubt it.
So this is a significant engagement, no doubt about that. But it’s not exactly like the old days when there was a US military presence at K2 and engagement with Uzbek security organs. It is still to be seen what level of cooperation will be reached between the governments of the United States and Uzbekistan. But I will posit the following relationship:
To sum up, I argue that the higher the level of US government engagement with the Uzbek government, the more the western public (especially in the blogs and the op-ed pages) will express their sincere humanitarian concerns for the citizens of Uzbekistan. I am speaking of the people whose rhetoric seems to be focused on the plight of Uzbek(istani)s. But of course their target is the US government. The Uzbek people are a distant secondary consideration and can (and have in the recent past been) quite easily be forgotten by those in the West who claim to be in solidarity with them.