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Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan: Freedom House Rankings

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In the final segment of Freedom in the World Rankings; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan received the highest scores (which means they are the least free) of all the Central Asian states.

Turkmenistan
Political Rights , 7/7

Civil Rights , 7/7

Status , Not Free

Freedom House's report mainly concentrates on former President Niyazov's "iron control' over the Turkmeni people, institutions, and government, noting that "no substantive reforms' have taken place under current President Berdymukhammedov (It must be remembered that much of the research for this report was done in 2006). FH paints a picture of a society ruled by an authoritarian megalomaniac who did what ever he could to stamp out any opposition to his rule. The report does not devote much time to Berdymukhammedov's seizure of power besides acknowledging the criminal charges brought against Ovezgeldy Ataev, his main competitor for the presidency, and that he obtained the backing of the state's Security Council, the country's powerful security and intelligence services. The report acknowledges that Niyazov's legacy of absolute presidential power will be difficult to overcome.

The report describes a nation lacking many political and civil rights. Freedom of speech and press were said to be "severely restricted,' with dissenting political views banned from all media venues. The government is also very constraining on religious groups and NGOs, although they have recently made some superficial openings in regards to the latter. Lastly, FH spotlights the harsh treatment and the limited opportunities of the nation's ethnic minorities, specifically its ethnic Uzbeks, who have at times been forced to relocate.

Uzbekistan
Political Rights , 7/7

Civil Rights , 7/7

Status , Not Free

Freedom House's analysis of Uzbekistan's political and civil rights record is barely better than neighbor to the south, Turkmenistan. Though Uzbek President Karimov has not built up quite the "cult of personality' as President Niyazov, the report asserts he has continued to cement his authority in the state by imprisoning members of an already weakened political opposition, controlling the mass media, and expelling foreign-funded NGOs. FH does a fine job portraying how Karimov has used the 2005 government crackdown in Andijon to further rein in elements in the state that may challenge his rule; Islamists, journalists, opposition figures, etc.

Concerning specific political and civil rights, the report finds that religious and ethnic political parties are prohibited and that the only parties registered are pro-government. While the state's constitution provides for guarantees of free speech, legislation has been passed that curtails political discussions about Karimov or the government. After the Andijon incident in 2005, foreign media representatives have found it very difficult to operate in the country and many of their local bureaus have been closed.

In regards to religion, the government does permit the existence of certain mainstream religions, including Islamic and Jewish communities, but there is strict control over Islamic worship as the state greatly fears Islamic radicalism. Many members of Islamic groups have been arrested and tortured for their religious views. Lastly, foreign NGOs, especially ones from the United States and Europe, have been targeted by the Uzbek government for temporary or permanent closure, including Freedom House, Eurasia Foundation, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, etc.

Gas, Gas, Gas: RadioFreeEurope reports on a new gas deal between Russia's Gazprom and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan that will likely increase prices for their European and Central Asian customers.

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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