Saturday, March 5

The Ambassador's Bellydancer

This is Nadira Alieva, a stripper from Jizzakh who is now married to the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

After the demise of the USSR, her family had fallen upon hard times. The parents had been actors, and in the newly-commercializing society there was no money for the arts. The father took to drugs, and then drug-running. Defying odds, Nadira won a place at the university. She moved to the capital, and found working as a nightclub lap-dancer and prostitute was more lucrative than other alternatives. One night, as she performed in a club, the British ambassador walked in.

Craig Murray, "our man in Tashkent", had plenty of problems of his own. He had gone native, i.e. had become more interested in representing Uzbek people to London than the other way round. He specifically drew attention to fabricated 'intelligence' obtained under torture by Karimov's government, lapped up by the CIA and then fed to the MI6. Summoned to London several times and told 'not to put such things in writing', he persisted in criticising the British government for its tacit endorsement of torture as a means of attaining 'dross'. (His public attacks on the government’s hypocrisy eventually led to his sacking.) While fighting Messrs. Straw, Blair, Rumsfeld, Bush and Karimov, Murray was also having a mid-life crisis of sorts -- he left his wife and family for the hooker from the nightclub, and soon various embassies in Tashkent were having to make space on the guest list for the British Ambassador's bellydancer. Here is the story from her perspective, and here is a video of her telling a part of it.

Craig Murray's tale is better known. His Murder in Samarkand is full of fascinating insider-detail on the complicity of the Blair and Bush governments to torture. The tawdry theme is now too well known to recount except in summary -- aggrandizement of the Islamist Threat enabled each government to pick the pockets of its citizens. Karimov pulled in people randomly, tortured them till they confessed to anything that would play well in the NYT or the Times, and this information was convenient for Bush, Cheney, Blair and Co. in raising 'threat levels' to yellow/orange/red and stampeding their under-informed electorates into rubberstamping no-bid contracts for Blackwater et al.

Murray describes attending one of the trials in Uzbekistan, in which people suspected of Islamist leanings (or those who had just fallen foul of someone in power) had crimes real or imagined pinned on them. A jeweller had been robbed at gunpoint. Six 'Islamists' were on trial for the crime, in spite of the fact that two of them had been in jail at the time of the crime. Three men, the jeweller said, had tied him up and shot at him before robbing him. When the defence inquired why there were no bullet holes at the scene, he weakly claimed that the shots had gone out through the window. The judge presiding at the trial understood the prosecution's case was not going too well:

He interrupted the defence lawyer with a sharp rebuke and then instructed the defendants to stand while he harangued them … He said they represented evil in society. They were thieves and murderers who sought to undermine Uzbekistan's independence and democracy. Their list of crimes was long, and it would be better if they admitted their guilt. He concluded he was astonished that they had found the time to commit so many crimes when they had to stop to pray five times a day. He evidently considered this a hilarious sally and guffawed loudly, as did the prosecutor, rapporteur and various other cronies. But I swear I noticed a few narrowed eyes among the militiamen …

Eventually, the jeweller was asked to identify which three of the six defendants had robbed him. He peered uncertainly at the benches – plainly he had no idea. Pressed by the defence, he managed to identify – and the odds against this must be very high – entirely the wrong three out of six. This made the judge very angry.

'You are mistaken, you old fool!' he bellowed.

The judge then read out the names of the three who were charged with this particular crime and asked them to stand.

'Are these the men?' he asked the terrified jeweller, who stammered his assent.

'Let the record show they were positively identified by the victim.'

If the defendents were lucky, their spines would be broken by gunshots (families picking the bodies for last rites would need to pay for the bullets expended, a holdover Soviet practice). If they were unlucky, well, here is a very graphic photo (from Craig Murray's archives) of the remains of Muzafar Avazov, who was boiled alive by Uzbek police at the notorious Jaslyk prison in Qaraqalpaqstan. From Wikipedia:

Medical examiners found severe burns on Avazov's legs, buttocks, lower back and arms, covering 60-70% of his body, which they believed to be the result of immersion in boiling water. Eyewitnesses also report a "large, bloody wound on the back of the head, heavy bruising on the forehead and side of the neck, and that his hands had no fingernails."

It seems Avazov's crime was to insist on the right to prayer. From a news article:

Uzbek authorities, including numerous police officers, brought the body of Muzafar Avazov, to the family home at about 3:30 p.m. on August 8. Police cars surrounded the area and checked visitors who approached the house, preventing some from entering. When the burial occurred at 6:00 p.m. that evening, police closed the road to traffic. Authorities from the office of General Prosecutor Rashidjon Kodirov reportedly threatened the family not to talk to the media or give interviews to others about the circumstances surrounding Avazov's death. In May 2002, Human Rights Watch received reports that prison authorities had beaten Muzafar Avazov and put him in a punishment cell for stating that nothing could stop him from performing his prayers.

Below is the first part (of 3) of Craig Murray talking about torture by the Uzbek regime of Karimov:


Post a Comment

<< Home