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2011

Central Asia and the Arab Spring: Growing Pressure for Human Rights?

Members

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Hon. Chris Smith

Chairman

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

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Hon. Ben Cardin

Co-Chairman

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

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Hon. Alcee Hastings

Ranking Member

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Witnesses

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The Honorable Robert O. Blake

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs

Department of State

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Dr. Stephen J. Blank

Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute

United States Army War College

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Mr. Paul Goble

Professor

Institute of World Politics

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Dr. Scott Radnitz

Assistant Professor, Jackson School of International Studies

University of Washington

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Mr. Gulam Umarov

Sunshine Coalition, Uzbekistan

Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, along with ferment in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria, surprised even expert analysts and shook the very foundations not just of the states concerned but of the entire region. The long authoritarian rule of leaders in the region had been accepted by many as a factor of stability. In the end, however, public anger erupted over regimes that had been in power for decades, enriching themselves and their cronies, while most citizens barely scraped by.

Many of these conditions apply to the states of Central Asia, with the partial exception of Kyrgyzstan – where street protests have toppled two presidents since 2005 and last year the country established a parliamentary government. Although the situation is unique in each Central Asian country, the region’s states have human rights records that are consistently poor, and some are listed among the most repressive countries in the world.  Rulers have contrived to remain in office indefinitely, controlled and rigged elections, restricted independent media and religious freedom, harassed opposition parties – where they exist at all—and stunted the development of civil society. Torture and mistreatment in detention are common in the region.

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