Craig Murray: Afghanistan is the reason why EU ignores atrocities

Over a million children are taken out of school every year to pick cotton in dreadful – often fatal – conditions

Share
Related Topics

Today the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, will host an official visit by the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov.

This may seem a peculiar thing for the European Union to do. Karimov is infamous for the massacre of over 700 demonstrators at Andijan in 2005, for the boiling alive of dissident Muzaffar Avazov in 2002, for some 10,000 political prisoners held in ex-Soviet gulags, for banning all Western media organisations and reporters, for the imprisonment in lunatic asylums of dissident journalists including his own nephew, for the jailing of HIV campaigners for corrupting public morals...

That list could go on and on without my having to stop and think.

But I do have to add the vast wealth of the Karimov family compared to a deeply impoverished population, most of whom are forced into labour on state cotton plantations. More than a million children are removed from education every year, for periods varying from one week to three months, and forced to pick cotton by hand in dreadful and sometimes fatal conditions. This scandal of the cotton fields is so bad that retailers, including Tesco, Walmart and Marks & Spencer, have entirely voluntarily removed all Uzbek cotton content from their products sold, and put resources into audit provisions to make sure this sticks.

Yet the European Commission maintains there is insufficient evidence of forced child labour in Uzbekistan for EU trade sanctions – a straightforward lie, as anybody can discover in five minutes on the internet.

So why is the EU less moral than Tesco or Walmart? The answer is a single word – Afghanistan. Twenty per cent of supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan now transit Uzbekistan, and the figure has steadily been increasing as supplies through Pakistan are increasingly tenuous. Germany also has an airbase in Uzbekistan. What is in it for Karimov? Political backing for his dictatorship, and juicy Pentagon supply contracts routed through his daughter.

It is a prime example of the way our disastrous Afghan policy is not just failing in Afghanistan, but poisoning an entire nexus of foreign policy issues. The effect of that corrosion will be seen vividly in Brussels today. Uniquely, no journalists are allowed to accredit for today's official visit. Only the official Commission and Uzbek government media will be allowed to take pictures, to be relayed to Uzbekistan's endarkened population as more evidence that their infallible President bestrides the world stage.

The EU are making sure that it feels just like home for Karimov.

My position as British ambassador in Tashkent was highly uncomfortable. I cared about the human rights of ordinary Uzbeks, and I assure you that the British government didn't.

Craig Murray is the former ambassador to Uzbekistan

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent