|Avaaz calls on Hillary Clinton to ditch Islam Karimov|
The Republic of Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s only doubly landlocked country. There is only one other such country worldwide. Part of the Soviet Union before 1991, it is designated as “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights” by the U.S. Department of State, the Council of the European Union most non-governmental human rights watchdogs, including IHF, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
They all express profound concern about “wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights.” Their reports say Uzbekistan violations are most often committed against members of religious organizations, independent journalists, human rights campaigners and political activists, including members of banned opposition parties.
My interest and disbelief were triggered by an email from Avaaz.org, the 14-million-member global campaign network. The email was a statement from Avaaz calling on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reinstate military sanctions against Uzbekistan and lobby the administration and other powers to lift any and all support to Tashkent.
This came after reports Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov was compelling doctors to cut out women's uteruses without their knowledge or consent to reinforce “birth control” across the country. “It’s a vile and bloody crime against women being orchestrated by an odious strongman, and now is the time for it to end,” Avaaz said.
I don’t have children, and never wanted to. That was my personal choice and no one else’s. I am sure that if someone had said to me, “No, you can’t have children,” then I would have wanted them. That’s probably why I was so incensed to read about Uzbekistan’s crime of forcibly and inhumanly preventing women from bearing children.
The Avaaz campaign followed a two-month long investigation for the BBC World Service and Radio 4. It uncovered what appears to be a systematic state-run program in Uzbekistan to sterilize women, often against their will and without their knowledge.
On April 20, 2012, the pressure group called on Clinton to ditch Karimov despite the recent diplomatic rapprochement between Washington and Tashkent. The reason is that the U.S. uses Uzbekistan as a conduit to supply its troops in Afghanistan. “The latest round of brutality against his country’s women has turned the global spotlight on this monster. Let’s use this awful moment to persuade his biggest backer to ditch him,” Avaaz wrote.
The network works to ensure the views and values of the world's people shape global decision-making. Avaaz members are spread across 19 countries on six continents and operate in 14 languages.
Karimov, who has been serving since 1990, is one of Central Asia's most autocratic leaders, running a repressive regime that retains many aspects of the country’s Soviet past. He does not tolerate dissent, and has banned many opposition groups, particularly Islamic organizations, and sanctions human rights abuses. In 2005, a crackdown on protest in the eastern city of Andijan resulted in the deaths of several hundred people.
“Clinton can reinstate military sanctions and push the U.S. and other powers to lift any and all support. She has already publicly condemned Karimov for human rights abuses, and this most recent assault on women's rights -- a topic she champions -- only ups the stakes,” Avaaz added.
|Photo of Karimov from Avaaz.org|
It urged all to sign a petition calling on Clinton to end Karimov's reign of terror and stop the brutal attack on women. The petition declared, “We call on you to publicly condemn forced sterilizations and other human rights abuses inside Uzbekistan. We urge you to end the flood of cash and re-impose sanctions on the Uzbek regime until independent experts confirm these atrocities have ended. Finally, we call on you to ensure that military assistance to Uzbekistan is contingent on wide-ranging improvements in human rights.”
Activists estimate scores if not hundreds of thousands of women were sterilized secretly when they went into the hospital for a routine procedure or to give birth -- waking up with no idea that their uterus has just been removed. The use of arbitrary arrest and torture is so widespread that women don’t speak out for fear of reprisals, and foreign journalists and human rights activists are routinely thrown out of the country, the organization noted.
The human rights horror show in Uzbekistan has gone under the radar for years -- but we have a real chance to break the silence now, using the explosive BBC report, and stand with the brave Uzbek women who dared to tell their stories in the face of stunning oppression, Avaaz added.
In an April 21 report in The Guardian titled Uzbekistan carrying out forced sterilizations, say women, Delhi-based BBC reporter Natalia Antelava writes from Kazakhstan, “Over secure phone lines, doctors and health ministry officials told me that while first recorded cases of forced sterilizations go back to 2004, in 2009 sterilizations became a state policy.”
"All of us have a sterilization quota," said a gynecologist in the capital, Tashkent. "I have a four-women monthly quota. We are under a lot of pressure."
Doctors say in rural areas the number can be as high as “eight women a week.”
"We go from house to house convincing women to have the operation," said a chief surgeon in a rural hospital. "It's easy to talk a poor woman into it. It's also easy to trick them," he admitted.
Several doctors said in the last two years there had been a dramatic increase in caesarean sections across the country, disputing official statements that only 6.8% of women give birth that way. "I believe 80% of women give birth through c-sections. This makes it very easy to tie the fallopian tubes," said one gynecologist.
The Uzbek government said in a written statement allegations of a forced sterilization program "have nothing to do with reality" and that "surgical contraception is carried out only on a voluntary basis after consultation with a specialist and with the written consent of both spouses. Uzbekistan's record in protecting mothers and babies is excellent and could be considered a model for countries around the world," the statement said.
Yes, Uzbekistan is miles away, but a woman is a woman, is a woman, wherever.
Female Genital Mutilation must stop – 13 February 2012
- Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilizing women, BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17612550
- Doctors in Uzbekistan Say Government Forcibly Sterilizing Women, PRI: http://www.theworld.org/2012/04/doctors-in-uzbekistan-say-government-forcibly-sterilizing-women/
- U.S. Suspends Ban On Military Assistance To Uzbekistan: http://www.rferl.org/content/uzbekistan_united_states_military_assistance/24470588.html
- Clinton criticizes Uzbekistan's human rights record, CNN: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-10-22/asia/world_asia_tajikistan-clinton-visit_1_tajikistan-tajik-afghan-central-asian-country?_s=PM:ASIA