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Feb. 15: Odil Ruzaliev talks about Uzbekistan

Odil Ruzaliev, journalist Voice of America, discusses his native Uzbekistan as the Indiana Council on World Affairs Distinguished Speaker

When: Wednesday, February 15 -- cocktail reception at 5:30, dinner at 6:30, talk at 7:15, finish at 8:45

Where: Butler University, Robertson Hall, Johnson Room

Uzbekistan could be the most important country that most Americans don't know about. Here's a story. Before 9/11, the brutish dictatorship of Islam Karimov was fighting an equally brutish enemy inspired and trained by al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The US turned a relatively blind eye to Karimov's tactics such as tossing thousands of his enemies into prison on suspicion being a little too enthusiastic about their faith ... not necessarily because American policymakers sympathized with Karimov's domestic political struggles but because the US was trying to line up its clients among former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, and natural gas-rich Uzbekistan leaned our way rather than toward Moscow. The nature of the conflict changed dramatically on 9/11. Uzbekistan was clearly a crucial frontline ally in the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and in the broader fight against Islamic extremism. In his first major address after 9/11, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was one of the three terrorist groups identified as a threat to the world. For some in the Bush Administration, Karimov's policy of boiling his enemies alive may have seemed much more reasonable than it did on 9/10 ... and the US reportedly began flying planeloads of prisoners from Afghanistan and elsewhere to the gentle care of the Uzbek penal and interrogation system. Indeed the British ambassador to Uzbekistan lost his job when he refused to stop complaining that the US (and thus by extension the UK) was complicitous in these gross abuses of human rights. Well, it is an ugly war, very much is at stake, and those military bases Uzbekistan was lending to the US were certinaly useful.

Now fast forward to May 2005 when a large but still not accurately counted number of Uzbeks -- some say more than a thousand -- were killed by Uzbek security forces in Andijan. The US tried to press quietly for Karimov to at least pretend to investigate what happened; the EU was much noisier in its demands for something to happen, including sanctions. Pressed to make its treatment of its unappetizing ally in the war on Islamic extremism at least kind of match its rhetoric about democracy in the Middle East, the US criticized the massacre (while Karimov made a state visit to Beijing shortly after the blood was mopped off the streets of Andijan). And because of its tepid criticism of its soon-to-be-earstwhile ally, the US was told to leave the Uzbek airbases it been using. Uzbekistan today is a much more enthusiastic participant in the China-organized Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Well, that is a very stripped down and possibly over-simplified telling of an unappealing story. To fight terrorism, we may need unsavory allies. If we criticize these allies' tactics for not living up to the ideals of freedom for which we claim to be fighting, they will no longer be our allies. They will defect from our coalition and go to the arms of our rivals such as China and Russia. So, at least, some would say. That's why we should listen to what Odil Ruzaliev has to say when he talks to the ICWA. Ruzaliev is currently working for Voice of America’s Uzbekistan service in Washington, D.C. where he produces and directs TV, internet and radio programs. In the past Mr. Ruzaliev has worked for the BBC World Service in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the U.S. Embassy and Uzbek State TV. An accomplished journalist, Ruzaliev has hosted his own TV news program, contributed over 120 stories for CNN World Report and has written for journals in Boston, London and Sweden. One of the early pioneers of the Internet in Uzbekistan, Mr. Ruzaliev produced one of the first Uzbek news web-sites. Ruzaliev holds a master’s degree in International affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tuft’s University.

Odil has very generously suggested the following readings to help us prepare for his talk. Check them out, you'll see he is a very insightful writer. He has written a fine piece on Islam in Uzbekistan and the implications for US policy in the war on terrorism. Part of the reason why Karimov tossed the US military out of country was because he feared losing power to the sort of democratic uprising that had deposed despotic governments in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan not too long before ... Odil explains how justified those fears are (and Martin's homepage for the titles of his articles, most of them are available on the web.

Go CIA World Factbook on Uzbekistan, the Library of Congress's Report on Uzbekistan, and Human Rights Watch's reports on Uzbekistan. For current news about Uzbekistan, check with Google and Yahoo.

If you are excited about this talk, you'll want to make sure you catch discussions of journalism in the Middle East on January 31 and March 20.

Read this announcement from the ICWA to make reservations for this event:

Dinner for this special event is $22.00 per person for members and $24 for non-members. If you wish to become a member of ICWA, dues are $30 per year. If sending dues with event registration, please note this on your check.

Reservations for Members:
Reservations may be made via e-mail or by calling 566-2036. Please send e-mail reservations to cmatthewfox@yahoo.com All e-mail reservations must have “ICWA Dinner Reservation” as the subject and must contain all contact information including name, address, telephone number and the number of reservations being made. All member reservations, whether by mail, telephone or e-mail must be received by the end of the day Friday, February 10th.

Reservations for Non-Members:
Non-members may make reservations via e-email or phone (566-2036), however reservations must be followed by payment to Office Suites Plus (see below) by Thursday, February 9th to confirm your reservation. E-mail reservations may be sent to cmatthewfox@yahoo.com and have “ICWA Dinner Reservation” as the subject and must contain your name, address, telephone and the number of reservations made. Since seating is limited, ICWA members will have priority in the event we reach capacity.

Since dinners are catered, all reservations must be guaranteed. Cancellation deadline is Friday, February, 10th. Canceling reservations by this deadline will avoid a financial commitment to ICWA.

If you are attending the discussion only, no reservations are necessary, however, there is a $3.00 fee for ICWA members, and a $4.00 fee for non-members.

Please return reservation form and a check made payable to Indiana Council on World Affairs, c/o Office Suites Plus, 3815 River Crossing Parkway, Suite 100, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46240.

I hope you can make it!

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