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Institute For New Democracies Gets Nod From Tashkent

Uzbek President Islam Karimov

Uzbek President Islam Karimov

The Washington-based Institute for New Democracies (IND) has received accreditation from authorities in Uzbekistan, who have spent most of the past three years expelling or otherwise obstructing the work of Human Rights Watch and other Western NGOs.

Some rights activist suspect the IND got its foothold thanks to country director Mjusa Sever, whom strident critics accuse of acting as an apologist for President Islam Karimov's brutal regime. Sever is a former director of Freedom House's Tashkent office (2002-04) who stepped down after rights activists challenged her suitability for the post.

The IND describes itself as a nonprofit that is "dedicated to promoting political liberalization, democratic practices, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law in countries undergoing political transformation."

Activist Surat Ikramov tells RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the government's "message to other organizations [is] that if you work in league with us, we will allow you to come."

Keep in mind that Tashkent recently denied accreditation to HRW's Igor Vorontsov, citing a purported unfamiliarity with the national mentality that would render all of his views on Uzbek reforms useless.

"Of course by accrediting the Institute for New Democracies, the Uzbek government is trying to show the international community, 'Look, we have this kind of institute!' says Toshpulat Yuldashev, a prominent Uzbek political scientist who fled the country last week, after what he describes as official harassment. "But I think there is a positive side to this kind of engagement. Someone should be in the country."

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