Sunday, October 01, 2006

a medal for Borat?

Originally uploaded by Rude Lovers©.

Borat’s hard work on behalf of his countrymen to promote Kazakh culture abroad is already paying dividends with the U.S. government, over a month before his new movie comes out.

The NY Times reported on Friday:

[President Bush] also discussed Afghanistan in an Oval Office meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, a Central Asian ally and important oil supplier. The former Soviet republic borders Afghanistan.

Bush thanked Nazarbayev for supporting the war in Iraq and for helping Afghanistan become a stable democracy.
''I have watched very carefully the development of this important country from one that was in the Soviet sphere to one that now is a free nation,'' Bush said as the two sat side by side. Bush offered support for Kazakhstan's desire to join the World Trade Organization.

No mention was made of criticism of Kazakhstan for human rights abuses, corruption and heavily restricted political and civil freedoms.

During their private meeting, however, ''there was encouragement for the government of Kazakhstan to pursue a democratic path,'' said Bush spokesman Snow.

I guess Bush must have been treated to an advance screening of the new movie. How else to explain his willingness to overlook President Nazarbayev’s documented efforts to restrict freedom of the press, conduct sham elections, and enrich his own family at the expense of the Kazakh public.

Human Rights Watch had this to say in its most recent annual report:
An annual report on human rights released by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in February said the Kazakh government “severely limited citizens’ right to change their government.”

More facts from the 2005 State Department Human Rights Report:
The law prohibits such practices, but police and prison officials at times tortured, beat, and otherwise abused detainees, often to obtain confessions.
. . .
The law does not adequately provide for an independent judiciary. The executive branch limited judicial independence. . . . Corruption was evident at every stage and level of the judicial process.
. . .
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government used a variety of means, including criminal and administrative charges, to control the media and limit freedom of expression.

From the Human Rights Watch report again:
In September, members of the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe voiced doubts about Kazakhstan’s bid for chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The senators pointed to the upcoming presidential election as a test of Kazakhstan’s commitment to democracy. In October 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice visited Kazakhstan on a tour of Central Asian states and praised the republic as an “island of stability.”

A stable source of oil, that is, provided by a stable autocracy. The election the Senators were talking about would be the one Nazarbayev moved up a year to stymie any chance of success by opposition parties. As we know from Iraq under Saddam, stability has little to do with how democratic a society is or what types of freedoms people enjoy.

The BBC has more here

Borat, your fellow Kazakhs salute you!

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