The Oil and the Glory

Some good news from Uzbekistan: Boboyev is free

Last week, two senior Uzbekistan officials were in Washington in an attempt to broaden relations currently focused on a single matter — the Afghan war. As of now, Uzbekistan is seen as a friendly voice for U.S. officials fixated only on getting supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan over what they call the Northern Distribution ...

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Last week, two senior Uzbekistan officials were in Washington in an attempt to broaden relations currently focused on a single matter — the Afghan war. As of now, Uzbekistan is seen as a friendly voice for U.S. officials fixated only on getting supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan over what they call the Northern Distribution Network. Not so much for those thinking about ordinary Uzbeks, whose living standards have steadily deteriorated under the tight economic and political grip of President Islam Karimov. Abdulaziz Kamilov and Sadiq Safayev, both of them senior Foreign Ministry officials, talked a lot about the always-fashionable notion of building a “Silk Road.”

But one issue that dogged Kamilov and Safayev at the National Security Council and the State Department was the threatened imprisonment of Abdumalik Boboyev, a Voice of America correspondent, as Josh Kucera reports at Eurasianet. This blog wrote about Boboyev last week — he was up against a possible eight years in prison for his allegedly slanderous VOA dispatches from Tashkent.

On Friday, Boboyev’s verdict came down: an $11,000 fine, but no jail time. That’s a gargantuan sum in a country in which the average salary is $291 a month (that’s at the official exchange rate. It’s $216 on the black market). His lawyers are considering whether to appeal.

Last week, two senior Uzbekistan officials were in Washington in an attempt to broaden relations currently focused on a single matter — the Afghan war. As of now, Uzbekistan is seen as a friendly voice for U.S. officials fixated only on getting supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan over what they call the Northern Distribution Network. Not so much for those thinking about ordinary Uzbeks, whose living standards have steadily deteriorated under the tight economic and political grip of President Islam Karimov. Abdulaziz Kamilov and Sadiq Safayev, both of them senior Foreign Ministry officials, talked a lot about the always-fashionable notion of building a “Silk Road.”

But one issue that dogged Kamilov and Safayev at the National Security Council and the State Department was the threatened imprisonment of Abdumalik Boboyev, a Voice of America correspondent, as Josh Kucera reports at Eurasianet. This blog wrote about Boboyev last week — he was up against a possible eight years in prison for his allegedly slanderous VOA dispatches from Tashkent.

On Friday, Boboyev’s verdict came down: an $11,000 fine, but no jail time. That’s a gargantuan sum in a country in which the average salary is $291 a month (that’s at the official exchange rate. It’s $216 on the black market). His lawyers are considering whether to appeal.

<p> Steve LeVine is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy, a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of The Oil and the Glory. </p>

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