Central Asian Repression and Mismanagement Are the Problem Not the Solution to Combating Islamic Extremism

Central Asian Repression and Mismanagement Are the Problem Not the Solution to Combating Islamic Extremism
by Dan Burton

Source: 2001 Congressional Record, Vol. 147, Page E382 (March 15, 2001)



Thursday, March 15, 2001

Mr. BURTON of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, those of us who follow events in Central Asia are alarmed by the growing influence of Islamic extremism in Central Asia. As my colleagues are aware, an Islamic insurgency has taken root in the Fergana valley area where the borders of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan meet. Reports indicate that this insurgency is being supported and fueled by the fiercely Islamic Taliban in Afghanistan.

So far, Kazakhstan has not been directly affected by this insurgency. However, because of its oil and mineral wealth, Kazakhstan is the crown jewel of the region and is thus another likely target of Islamic extremist groups. Kazakhstan's democratically challenged regime has taken note of the alarming developments in its neighbors to the south and has taken steps to strengthen its defenses. That's the good news. The bad news, however, is that President Nursultan Nazarbayev has apparently stepped up his repression, and it has been reported that he is plundering his oil and mineral rich country by siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts. As a result, President Nazarbayev is said to be the eighth richest person in the world.

The people of Kazakhstan are not as blind. They can easily see that they inhabit a rich country, and they are justifiably beginning to ask why so little of their country's great wealth seems to be trickling down to them. The people are also not blind to sham elections, the stifling of press freedom, and the jailing of opposition leaders that have come to characterize the country's political life. I have been told that more and more people in Kazakhstan are losing hope, and are more willing to give Islamic extremists groups, who claim that they will eliminate the corruption of the current regime, a chance to govern.

In the March 3 issue of the Economist, there is an excellent article on Kazakhstan's security situation. At the end of the article, the author states "Government repression and mismanagement help to nourish extremism and terrorism in Central Asia. An effort to improve social and economic conditions and freedom of expression might make Kazakhstan less fertile ground for militant zealots." I wholeheartedly agree with this premise, and I ask that the full text of the Economist article appear immediately after my remarks.

Mr. Speaker, some people in Washington may be tempted to urge U.S. support for the Nazarbayev regime because it claims to be a bulwark of defense against Islamic extremism. But according to the information that I have been receiving, it is the Nazarbayev regime itself that will likely fuel the growth of Islamic extremism. Democracy, a free press, and respect for human rights are the keys to protecting a country like Kazakhstan from the influence of Islamic extremists groups. The United States must stand with regimes in Central Asia who share these key democratic values, not those regimes and leaders who subvert them.

[From the Economist, Mar. 3, 2001]

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).