Over the last four years, the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) route has become an essential supply route for the U.S. military. Located on Afghanistan’s northern border—the funnel through which most NDN supplies reach Afghanistan—Uzbekistan has become a key strategic partner. The relationship has not been easy, not least because Uzbekistan is ruled by one of the world’s most authoritarian regimes. In 2005, after Uzbek security forces killed hundreds in the provincial city of Andijon, relations took a nose dive and the Uzbek government kicked the U.S. out of a key airbase at Karshi-Khanabad. Wikileaks cables indicate, however, the Uzbeks soon decided it was in their interest to improve U.S. relations. Washington, concerned over the parlous state of relations with Pakistan and focused on the need to diversify supply routes to American forces in Afghanistan, proved a willing partner.
Last fall, the Administration persuaded Congress to give it the authority to waive long-standing sanctions on assistance to the Uzbek government although Congressional concerns persisted around the country’s human rights situation. It has become increasingly difficult to document the human rights environment in Uzbekistan. The government has cracked down on civil society and expelled most international NGOs. As strategic security concerns continue to drive U.S. policy, it is important to understand more about Uzbekistan, its human rights situation, and the long-term risks to U.S. interests created by the Uzbek government’s authoritarian policies.
This briefing will provide a rare opportunity to reflect on recent research and on-the-ground evidence about human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, focusing on torture, the crackdown on lawyers, the repressive environment for journalists and human rights defenders, and religious freedom.
- Steve Swerdlow, attorney and researcher, Human Rights Watch
- Khusnitdin Kutbidino, award-winning Uzbek journalist
- Catherine Cosma, senior policy analyst, US Commission on International Religious Freedom
- Jeff Goldstein, senior policy analyst, Open Society Foundations (moderator)
Lunch will be served.