WASHINGTON – Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman and Co-Chairman, respectively, of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, announced that the Commission will hold a briefing entitled, “Uzbekistan: Are There Prospects for Change?” on Tuesday, July 25, 2006, at 4:00 PM in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Testifying before the Commission are Mr. Abdurahim Polat, Chairman of the Birlik Party; Mr. Muhammad Salih, Chairman of the Erk Party; Mr. Gulam Umarov, son of Sanjar Umarov, the imprisoned Chairman of the Sunshine Coalition; and Dr. Martha Brill Olcott, Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Uzbekistan, under the rule of President Islam Karimov, has been a repressive, authoritarian state that bans opposition and maintains Soviet-style censorship. Since the bloody events in Andijon in May 2005, however, repression has intensified, with a country-wide crackdown on human rights activists, religious groups and members of opposition groups. Many Western NGOs that promote democracy have been forced to leave the country. At the same time, Tashkent has turned towards Moscow, accusing the United States of trying to orchestrate a revolution in Uzbekistan.
To present an alternative perspective, three opposition spokesmen, as well as an American expert on Central Asia will present testimony on prospects for democratization in Uzbekistan, particularly in light of the upcoming presidential election in that country.