The Plank

"a**hole Uzbeks" Indeed

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On a more serious note, the State Department's human rights report points out that things in Kazakhstan's authoritarian neighbor, Uzbekistan, are only getting worse. Borat might've done a greater service by lampooning that dictatorship:

The government's human rights record, already poor, continued to worsen during the year. Citizens did not have the right in practice to change their government through peaceful and democratic means. Security forces routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees under interrogation to obtain confessions or incriminating information. In several cases, authorities subjected human rights activists and other critics of the regime to forced psychiatric treatment. Human rights activists and journalists who criticized the government were subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, politically motivated prosecution, and physical attack. The government generally did not take steps to investigate or punish the most egregious cases of abuse, although many officials were prosecuted for corruption. Prison conditions remained very poor and outside monitors did not have full access to places of detention. In many cases those arrested were held incommunicado for extended periods without access to family or attorneys. Criminal defendants were often deprived of legal counsel. Guilty verdicts were almost universal, and generally based upon defendants' confessions and witnesses' testimony obtained through coercion. The government tightly controlled the mass media and treated criticism of the regime as a crime. The government did not observe citizens' right to free assembly or association; police regularly detained citizens to prevent public demonstrations and authorities sought to control all nongovernmental organization (NGO) activity, forcing many local and international NGOs to close. The government restricted religious activity, treating virtually all religious observance outside state sanctioned structures as a crime. Courts convicted many independent Muslims of extremist activity, and several Protestant groups were subjected to harassment. In several cases the government pressured other countries to forcibly return Uzbek refugees who were under the protection of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There was a widespread public perception of corruption throughout society. While the government took steps to combat trafficking in persons, this remained a serious problem. The use of compulsory labor, particularly in cotton harvesting, continued.

But don't take the State Department's word for it. Visit the welcoming "Portal of the State Authority of the Republic of Uzbekistan" for yourself. Chenqui!

--Michael Crowley

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