Hillary Clinton Presses Uzbekistan, Tajikistan on Religious Persecution

This past weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to warn them that their human rights violations were immoral and harmful to the countries’ safety.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Tajik President Emomalii Rakhmon are both frequent violators of international standards of human rights – with recent efforts made to increase religious persecution.

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are concerned about the spread of religious fundamentalists finding a home in their countries, so they’re stifling the liberties of citizens and radicals alike.

Clinton said that state regulation of faiths “could push legitimate religious expression underground, and that could build up a lot of unrest and discontent,” Reuters wrote.

Both countries have made it a point to restrict not only religious freedoms, but also freedom of speech and press, the right to assembly. Also torture and long unexplained periods of detention are common.

Although the United States has sanctioned the countries since 2004, those sanctions have been recently lifted.

The infringement on human rights is compounded by recent moves by the U.S. government concerning Middle Eastern influence.

Last Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” according to CNN. Nearly all of our 15,000-troop regiment will be “home for the holidays.”

What this means is that America has far less of an influence in Middle Eastern affairs, especially against the anti-U.S. Iran.

Add that to the fact that both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan share long borders with Afghanistan, another troubled and terrorism-plagued country, and the reason for the Secretary of State’s visit is cast into sharp relief.

Clinton’s motivations for spending her weekend in two war-torn countries are twofold: first, she heads there in the name of human rights, which has been historically the United States’ task as a superpower. Second, she visits to mend relations and establish a dialogue between our nations, possibly even to assemble allies.

To that end, Clinton thanked the two countries for their assistance in the Afghanistan conflict. It’s also her second visit to the countries in the past year.