1 December 2005, Volume 6, Number 16
CENTRAL ASIARIGHTS MONITOR SLAMS U.S. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT ON UZBEKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN
By Robert McMahon
The head of a U.S. body that monitors religious freedom has criticized the State Department for failing to list Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan among the most serious violators of those freedoms. Michael Cromartie told a U.S. congressional panel that the Uzbek and Turkmen governments continue to impose severe restrictions on religious practices. Their omission from the annual State Department list of "countries of particular concern," Cromartie said, discredits U.S. legislation aimed at improving religious freedoms worldwide.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended earlier this year that the State Department cite Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan as "countries of particular concern."
That designation would expose them to possible sanctions and intensified engagement by U.S. officials on rights issues. "Hundreds of Muslim believers are imprisoned for no reason other than the fact that they are outwardly observant of their religious beliefs. The [Uzbek] government took important steps in 2004 to address torture and establish police accountability, but serious abuses continued."
But in its annual report issued earlier this month, the State Department made no change to its list of the most serious violators of religious freedom. That list includes Iran, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Burma, and Vietnam.
The chairman of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Michael Cromartie, told a human rights panel of the U.S. House of Representatives on 15 November that this harms U.S. policy.
"In the face of severe religious freedom violations perpetrated by the Turkmen and Uzbek governments, the continued failure to name them as [countries of particular concern] undermines the spirit and letter of [the International Religious Freedom Act]," he said.
The 1998 act passed by the U.S. Congress obligates the government to make such designations on religious freedom. The Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent body created by Congress to monitor implementation of the act.
Cromartie said the State Department's finding that Turkmenistan had made significant improvements in religious freedoms in the past year was particularly distressing to rights advocates. He said most religious activities in Turkmenistan are under state control. And Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, he said, continues to cultivate a personality cult that has become an enforced quasi-religion for the Turkmen people.
"The country report on Turkmenistan in this year's religious freedom report is one of the most troubling in the entire report, not least because it makes the startling claim that 'the status of government respect for religious freedom improved during the period covered by this report,'" he said. "Mr. Chairman, this conclusion is regarded as erroneous not only by the commission but by most human rights organizations and other observers of Turkmenistan."
Just prior to the hearing of the congressional panel, a group of 10 international nongovernmental organizations issued a statement expressing concern about the State Department's findings on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Panel Chairman Chris Smith, a Republican, criticized what he called the "thuggish regimes" of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. But Smith did not challenge the listing of "countries of concern" when he questioned John Hanford, the State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Hanford, who spoke before Cromartie, did not directly address why Uzbekistan was left off the list of most serious violators of religious freedom. He accused Uzbekistan of serious repression of religious freedom and condemned its failure to allow an international investigation into the bloody uprising in Andijon last May.
"Hundreds of Muslim believers are imprisoned for no reason other than the fact that they are outwardly observant of their religious beliefs," he said. "The [Uzbek] government took important steps in 2004 to address torture and establish police accountability, but serious abuses continued."
Uzbek officials repeatedly say their actions to stop what they call religious "extremists" are legitimate, such as the crackdown in Andijon that Western governments have characterized as a massacre.
In the case of Turkmenistan, Hanford repeated the State Department report's assertion that the Niyazov government has taken some positive steps: "In Turkmenistan, presidential decrees and amendments to law resulted in the registration of new minority religious groups and the release of a number of prisoners. And just recently, the government conducted a first-ever roundtable with representatives of religious minorities. Nevertheless, serious problems remain."
An expert with the watchdog group Human Rights Watch, Tom Malinowski, told the panel that Uzbekistan should have been counted among the most serious violators of religious freedom. He said it is now important for the U.S. government to join the European Union in imposing sanctions on Uzbekistan.
Rights advocates expressed hope that legislation proposed by Smith, the panel chairman, will create stronger links between the performances of Central Asian countries on rights issues and U.S. military and economic aid. Smith said he expects progress soon on his proposed Central Asia Democracy and Human Rights Act.
AZERBAIJANNEW GENERATION LOOKS FORWARD TO BETTER POLITICAL FUTURE
By Robert Parsons
The crushing parliamentary victory for Azerbaijan's governing party has left the country's opposition parties scrambling to find a role in Azerbaijan's political future. The post-Soviet generation of opposition leaders briefly held power in the 90s, but now looks increasingly marginalized -- not least to a new generation of young, sometimes Western-educated Azerbaijanis who are beginning to look for new answers to Azerbaijan's political realities.
It is a cold November day in the bleak suburbs of the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, and an opposition rally chants the national anthem. Glancing around the crowd, it's clear the voice of protest in Azerbaijan is becoming increasingly young. Murad Hasanli, an English-educated spokesperson for Azadlyq (Freedom), the main opposition bloc, is part of a new generation of politically motivated young Azerbaijanis.
"If you look at what happened in Georgia and Ukraine, it was the youth movements that provided the catalysts for political change," Hasanli said. "They were the foot soldiers of the revolution -- and the opposition has recognized that here in Azerbaijan, and from early on began to engage with young people, and a whole plethora of youth organizations has developed in Azerbaijan very quickly. We had Yeni Fikir [New Idea], Maqam [Opportunity], Yokh [No!]. Some of them were single-issue organizations, some were broader political movements and they did engage the young people."
Youth activists were an ubiquitous presence at the opposition rally. With orange bandanas -- symbolic of Ukraine's Orange Revolution -- wrapped around their heads, they led the chants and distributed leaflets and banners.
But it's not just the young activists who are straining at the leash, waiting, it seems, to be tested in power. There is a new generation of educated Azerbaijanis who feel the old generation of leaders -- both pro-government and opposition -- has had its chance and failed. Outside Baku's Pedagogical University , a group of students discussed their hopes for the future. These weren't activists, just young Azerbaijanis frustrated at the way their country is going.
"We have to change all those who run the state so someone good comes to power. That's all," one of them said.
"If they give us [youth] the chance, if they give us the power, we'll do everything for the sake of Azerbaijan," said another.
Emin Huseynov most definitely is an activist. He is an unmistakable figure at the headquarters of the opposition Popular Front party: long black hair beneath a military cap, orange sweater, military jacket, and a Che Guevara wristwatch. He is also the leader of the Maqam youth movement.
There is a new generation of educated Azerbaijanis who feel the old generation of leaders -- both pro-government and opposition -- has had its chance and failed.
"Our young people like to buy expensive mobile phones and dress well -- but those are the young people who have money," Huseynov said. "When most people leave school -- if they can't get into higher education -- they go to Russia and other countries to make money. Those who finish higher education can't find a normal life here, which is why they're beginning to turn to the path of opposition and are beginning to join youth organizations like ours."
But most young Azerbaijanis are not like Huseynov or the activists at the opposition rally. Many may share their views, but most are too fearful of speaking out. Razi Nurullayev ran in the elections as an independent candidate and was widely praised for leading one of the best electoral campaigns. He has just turned 30 and sees himself as a future leader of Azerbaijan. The problem, he said, is how to mobilize a young generation paralyzed by fear.
"We are not able to mobilize the young very intensively because the regime is very repressive and cracks down on youth when they want to initiate anything political," Nurullayev said. "Most of them have jobs in government agencies, most of them are making their studies at the universities. They risk to get excluded from the universities and they risk to lose their jobs."
But Nurullayev is also an optimist who believes that the latest generation of educated Azerbaijanis has a responsibility to take over the reins of leadership from an opposition he believes has failed the Azerbaijani people.
Nurullayev said the country needs a "new thinking people, a new generation who have been studying abroad" -- who understand political strategy and nonviolent means of getting their message across -- "and we can mobilize the progressive part of the youth."
The government also recognizes the importance of youth. President Ilham Aliyev has seen the part played by youth movements in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine and is on his guard. The pro-government Yeni Azerbaycan (New Azerbaijan) party has its own youth organization -- although there is little evidence that it enjoys grass-roots support. A new post-Soviet generation is emerging in Azerbaijan -- and the battle to win its loyalty is only just beginning.
RUSSIATAKING YOUTH POLICY TO THE NEXT LEVEL
By Julie A. Corwin
The Russian government will soon consider the adoption of a 10-year youth policy. The unofficial goal of this and other efforts is to prevent Russian youth from joining political opposition movements. The plans are unprecedented in scale and critics have questioned whether the money will be well spent.
Last week, the State Duma's public youth chamber approved a new Education and Science Ministry program, "Strategy for the State's Youth Policy in the Russian Federation from 2006-2016." Speaking to "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 November, Education Ministry adviser Anton Lopukhin said the cabinet will consider the program over the next month, and it will become the government's official policy only if ministers approve it. He added that he does not doubt that the program will win their approval.
The Money Issue
The main complication, according to Lopukhin, is how to arrange financing, since the 2006 federal budget has already been formulated. Lopukhin and other authors of the strategy have shied away from giving an exact cost for the programs outlined in the strategy, but "Kommersant-Daily" quoted an anonymous ministry source who suggested that "such an ambitious program will cost no less than 30 billion rubles [$1 billion] a year." In September, "Izvestiya" offered a similar figure of $1.2 billion based on the projected cost per participant in the program.
What might Russian youth get for all this money? There would be four main projects, according to "Kommersant-Daily":
One, a Russian Information Network would be created. The network would consist of websites and television and radio programming.
Two, an advertising campaign called New View would be launched to publicize universal human values such as "health, labor, tolerance, love for the Motherland, etc."
Three, the "Youth in Action" program would involve young people in civil-society institutions and in the "development of functioning youth clubs and affordable places to spend free time."
Four, the All-Russian Construction Brigade -- perhaps the most reminiscent of the Soviet Komsomol -- would draw youth into work on labor brigades and associations.
"Izvestiya" offered a similar list of projects supplemented with five additional programs.
If the reports are accurate, $1 billion a year would represent a considerable jump over previous official federal spending on youth. According to "Izvestiya" on 15 September, 815 million rubles ($28 million) was earmarked in 2005 for the Youth of Russia federal program, and more than 80 percent of that sum went for the construction of sports facilities.
"Izvestiya" quoted an Education Ministry official, Sergei Gril, who was pessimistic about financing this much more ambitious program. Gril said there is "an extremely unfavorable perception [among federal officials] of youth policies."
Gril's colleague, Lopukhin, explained to "Kommersant-Daily" two months later that the federal budget will contribute only one-fifth of the expenditures for the strategy -- the rest of the money will come from the regions and "sponsors."
If that is indeed the case, then such a youth program has a precedent in practice if not in scale. The Kremlin has been dabbling unofficially in youth politics since 2000. The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi and its predecessor, Walking Together, have been financed through a similar combination of revenue streams -- all unofficially, of course.
In November 2001, Vasilii Yakemenko, leader of Nashi and founder of Walking Together, told NTV that Energomash, Russkii Aktseptnyi Dom, and other companies were Walking Together's financial backers. And, at a press conference last spring, Yakemenko stated "categorically" that he was "certain that the fatherland's large companies will support [Nashi]," "Novaya gazeta," No. 28, reported.
Nashi has also reportedly gotten generous support, financial and otherwise, from the state. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 April that Tver Oblast Governor Dmitrii Zelenin has funneled support to Nashi, which held a training camp in the oblast in July. According to the daily, Nashi activists were trained at a police facility in the oblast. And Nashi held its founding congress in a facility owned by the Academy of Sciences. Both Zelenin and Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko spoke at a Nashi inaugural congress.
By enacting a federal program, Moscow would not only be enlarging the scope of its activities in the youth sphere, it would also be empowering bureaucrats at the federal and regional levels to monitor these larger financial flows. The question remains whether Fursenko's politically weak Education Ministry -- despite its contacts with Nashi -- is in the best position for receiving such a plum assignment.
In a recent interview with "Kommersant-Daily," political analyst Stanislav Belkovskii questioned whether the money spent on the program would provide results that are visible enough. "The goal of this program is understandable to me, and it consists of keeping youth from joining radical opposition groups," he said. "But I don't value the effectiveness of this program highly. It is too artificial, and youth needs something real and tangible."
Mariya Gaidar of the youth movement DA! agreed. She suggested that the money might be better spent on solving long-term problems, such as the lack of affordable housing and problems with the educational system.
If the practices of Nashi and Walking Together provided any guide to the future proposed youth programs, then participants may get housing subsidies in the form of direct cash payments. The Russian media is replete with accounts of participants in these groups' activities being paid just to show up.
INTERNATIONALDAYTON ACCORDS ECHO IN OTHER PEACEMAKING EFFORTS WORLDWIDE
By Charles Recknagel
Ten years ago on 21 November, the then presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia agreed on a U.S.-sponsored plan to end the war in Bosnia. But the Dayton Agreement, which was signed in Paris three weeks later, on 14 December, not only laid the foundation for peace in Bosnia; it also established a strategy for peacemaking that since has been echoed in many other conflicts -- from Kosovo to Afghanistan. How well have the so-called Dayton accords worked in Bosnia, and what do they offer as a way for other countries to resolve conflicts?
The Dayton agreement -- sometimes called the Dayton accords -- ended a war in Bosnia that had raged for more than three years.
In that war, Bosnian Serb forces, backed by Belgrade, took control of some 70 percent of the country, driving hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims from their homes. The fighting killed 200,000 people and created some 2 million refugees, many of whom fled to other parts of Europe.
Julian Lindley-French of the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland says that Dayton offered a two-phased approach to resolving the Bosnia conflict.
"It recognizes that conflicts of this variety have a short-term and a longer-term component," Lindley-French says. "The short-term is simply to end the hostilities and to end the threat with the threat of credible external coercion. But in the longer term, what it said was, 'Look, we are here, we are here to stay, and we are going to invest in you, and we are going to invest in you to help you reach a regional political settlement in which all parties who have influence or interest in this conflict feel that there is something to invest in.' That was the very strong message of Dayton 10 years ago."
Analysts say two of the hallmarks of the Dayton approach were using a powerful military coalition to secure the peace and appointing of an international representative to guide the state-building process.
Carne Ross, head of Independent Diplomat, a London-based consulting group, says the Dayton principle of using a multinational force to stabilize Bosnia has since proved useful elsewhere. "This is something we have seen in Kosovo, to some extent in Afghanistan, and also in a different way in Iraq," he says.
Ross says the strategy of appointing an international representative to guide state-building also has been repeated.
"Another element of the Dayton settlement which to an extent has been replicated elsewhere is this idea of a senior international figure as almost the international proconsul, the ultimate force of sovereignty and authority of the international community in a post-conflict situation," Ross says.
In Kosovo, the UN-appointed representative has sovereign powers as the UN leads efforts to negotiate the province's final status. In Afghanistan, however, the UN gave its representative only an advisory role to the government. That was in recognition of Afghanistan's long existence as an independent state.
...But Not Universally
But some other elements of the Dayton model have not proved widely transferable.
One is its separation of Bosnia into ethnic-based entities with largely autonomous powers. Post Dayton-Bosnia is composed of a federation of Bosnian Muslims and Croats that controls 51 percent of the territory, and a Serbian Republic (Republika srpska), which controls the remainder.
Ross says this strategy of peace building through "territorial separation" has proved controversial. While it stabilized the country, it also formalized divisions.
"The territorial separation that underpins the Dayton Agreement is not something that many people, in Bosnia or elsewhere, have seen as the most successful element of Dayton," Ross says. "And in fact the international community and the high representative [to Bosnia] to an extent have been trying to overcome the difficulties that territorial separation has created."
Could the Dayton model hold promise for other conflicts that still remain to be resolved -- such as those in Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia?
Many Western analysts say not. They argue that the world is unlikely to see another Dayton-style intervention anywhere so long as events in Iraq absorb so many of the resources of the United States and Britain -- the two states that have most championed the Dayton approach.
Western powers now would have difficulty deploying the large numbers of troops and police needed to stabilize a conflict area. The United States and Britain already have sent a big percentage of their total deployable forces to Iraq, and many European states have troops in the Balkans or Afghanistan.
But Lindley-French says there are other reasons, too, why the Dayton approach is not likely to be attempted in post-Soviet states. One is Russia.
"Moscow still tends to regard countries like Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia as its 'near abroad' and consequently the Western powers are sensitive to the presence of their troops, their administrators in conflicts without first seeking a partnership with Russia," Lindley-French says.
Lindley-French notes that Moscow cooperated with the West over Bosnia. But he says the Kremlin still regards the Caucasus as part of its sphere of influence. And that would make NATO very cautious about forcefully intervening there.