Uzbek Scholar Kamalova to Visit Campus
By Risalat Khan '13, Managing News Editor
The College Amnesty International chapter is bringing female Uzbek scholar Nozima Komolova on March 30 to lecture on “The War on Terror and Its Implications for Human Rights in Uzbekistan” at 7:30 p.m. in the Friedmann Room.

Your correspondent contacted her to talk about her experiences and perspectives. Excerpts from the interview are presented below.

How long have you been in the U.S. and what have you been doing in this time?

I am a human rights lawyer, defender from Uzbekistan. I came to the United States through the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program of the National Endowment for Democracy, when I won a scholarship. Since that time I have been in the United States for four years. During this time I have also graduated from the Stanford Law School with JSM degree. Currently, I am a Global Houser Fellow at the NYU Law School.

What is the central theme of your talk next week?

The Global “War” against Terrorism has been used by authoritarian governments like [that of] Uzbekistan to advance their own political agendas, ultimately undermining the basis of democracy. I am going to talk about Uzbekistan’s “war” against terrorism, which is in fact, [a] “war” against opposition — independent Muslims and independent civil society. Also, it is about Uzbekistan’s participation in the Global War on Terror (GWoT) together with the West (liberal democracies), and the implications of the GWoT for human rights and democracy building in Uzbekistan.

What is Uzbekistan like?

Uzbekistan is one of the world’s most oppressive regimes in the world, where any display of dissent is harshly repressed. Today Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state, where all power is concentrated in the hands of the President Islam Karimov. Although, according [to] its constitution de jure — Uzbekistan is a democratic state, with the ideals and principles of human rights, including freedom of expression [and] separation of power. But all these declarations are used as a rule for decorative purposes. De facto — there is no separation of powers in the republic, no independent parliament and judicial system, no independent media. There are more than 7,000 political prisoners, representatives of democratic opposition and religious convictions, [who face] systematic torture in police detention centers and ill-treatment in prisons in Uzbekistan.

What do you think are the major socio-cultural differences between the two countries?

First of all, contemporary Uzbekistan is [an] authoritarian state, [while] the United States is [a] liberal democracy. [Secondly], Uzbekistan is [a] country where all spheres of life — political, economic (business) [and] cultural — are controlled from the top, by the government, in fact, by the president. This is not the case of the United States! I think, historically in the United States, individuals are organized from the bottom to top, and according [to] one main principal — freedom from the government! Perhaps, this is the major difference [between] the two countries. There are some similarities in [terms of] culture and community organization [between the] countries. Historically, people living in the territory now called Uzbekistan, similar [to] the USA, [were] united for self-governance, and governed their communities’ [through] independent communal organizations. Unfortunately, [the] current regime, because of its authoritarian nature uses such historical institutions, called “Mahalla”s, for its own use, for surveillance purposes.

Issue 19, Submitted 2010-03-24 04:20:54