Foreign Policy Blogs

HRW most recent addition to Uzbekistan exit list

HRW most recent addition to Uzbekistan exit listAs of Friday, April the 13th, Human Rights Watch cannot remain in Uzbekistan, because its director has “exceeded her authority” and “worked outside the charter”.  The new permitting regime was tightened after the Andijan Massacre.  Many NGOs, press organizations, businesses, and military personnel have been asked to leave. 

Throwing the foreign rascals out, by date:

June 6, 2005:  Peace Corps suspends activities in Uzbekistan, after the visas of 52 volunteers were not renewed by Uzbekistan's government.

September 13, 2005: The U.S.-based International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) has its activities suspended in Uzbekistan by court order, after a difficult year in which some workers were not approved.  IREX was active in the region for forty years, first under Soviet and then post-Soviet regimes; it often works with USAID funds.  Its mandate includes education, independent media, and civil society initiatives. 

November 5, 2005:  British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , the first foreign news agency to set up a bureau in Uzbekistan, leaves.  Monica Whitlock, a BBC journalist, is accused of ‘complicity with terrorists’.

December 12, 2005: Uzbekistan refuses to prolong or renew RFE/RL 's press accreditation.

February 10, 2006: Freedom House loses its last appeal to remain in Uzbekistan; a six month moratorium is imposed on their activities.  Freedom House is a well-respected NGO that works toward transparent elections and government procedures.  In May of 2005, some Freedom House meetings were disrupted and Freedom House was incredibly accused of being Wahhabist.

March 6, 2006: Eurasia Foundation, which promotes media freedom and democratic initiatives, leaves after being accused of improper registration and meetings held without Uzbekistani permission.

March 17, 2006: The government of Uzbekistan advises the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that their services are unnecessary, and that they should leave within 30 days.

April, 2006:  American Bar Association/Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI) is asked to leave for providing legal aid to unregistered organizations.

 May 2, 2006: Counterpart International, an NGO funded by USAID, was asked to leave Uzbekistan.  During their Uzbekistan operations, they distributed USD 80 million in humanitarian and medical aid. 

May 31, 2006: Global Involvement Through Education is banned for proselytizing youths.  The American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study(ACCELS) is shut down for illegally sending more than 100 Uzbekistani students to the U.S. for education–unbeknownst to the Uzbekistani government–and also failing to keep appropriate financial records.

IRIN's article about ACCELS also mentions two other NGOs under Uzbek fire:  Hungary's faith-based NGO Magyar Okumenikus Szeretetszogalat, working with disabled women and families with disabled children, was under investigation. 

France's COFUTIS, operating since 1996 in Uzbekistan, was engaged in sand-stabilization projects to mitigate airborne erosion around the Aral Sea.  Their activities were also called into question.

July 8, 2006: Winrock International charged with illegal publishing activities and insulting the Muslim beliefs.  Winrock is an aid organization that helps develop infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.  Winrock first came to Uzbekistan in 1994, and was involved in increasing grain yield/production.  In August of 2006, the government announced an investigation into Winrock.  They had published manuals available to other NGOs and another manual called “Islam and Women.”   Since I have not seen this manual, I am only assuming it was supposed to bring Winrock's aggregate experience with Islamic communities to the many experts who volunteer their time to Winrock's excellent programs.

July 12, 2006: Urban Institute is charged with moving outside their purview during a homeowner rights conference, by discussing socioeconomic conditions in Uzbekistan.

July 14, 2006: Central Asian Free Exchange (CAFE) is closed down due to proselytizing, apparently including activities in towns they say they have never entered; having an unregistered logo; and lacking an internet license

August 9, 2006: Internews, an NGO that specializes in developing news outlets around the world, has its Uzbekistan bank accounts frozen.  Two of its journalists sentenced for illegal distribution of videos–however, their sentences were commuted.  By October 19, 2006, Internews was asked to leave Uzbekistan.

August 23, 2006: Crosslink International forbidden to operate in Uzbekistan.  They have worked with microfinance and poor rural families in the state since 1992.  They were charged with activities inconsistent with their charter, donating funds without recourse to Uzbekistan banks, and giving aid to a church under the cover of another grant.  Crosslink is a faith-based NGO. 

August 29, 2006: The Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD)  is charged with ‘proselytizing‘ and making internet available without a license.  PAD was set up in 1999 to aid Uzbekistan's professors in developing internet skills and world contacts with others in academia.

This article from Mosnews also states that two NGOs from the Republic of Korea,  the Korean Foundation for World Aid and the Institute of Asian Culture and Development, were forced to leave. 

February 26, 2007: WorldVision International is asked by Uzbekistan to supply more information about their activities. 

Today: One can only wonder how Human Rights watch lasted as long as it did.

Legislation Online has a complete rendering of Uzbekistan's NGO regulations in English and Russian.
Registan has a partial history of NGO shutdowns as of February 28, 2007;
NewEurasia has a timeline from the domestic perspective as of June 6, 2006.
Felix Corley & Igor Rotar of Forum 18, a group that tracks religious freedom, has also written on this issue.

Last of all, as much as these actions have displaced foreign aid workers and  journalists, it is these organization's Uzbekistan nationals who have suffered the bulk of the inquisition and harrassment.  Of course, to draw attention to them by name can sometimes put them in jeopardy.

RFE/RL has two wonderful timelines running on Andijon events and Harassment issues.