Lecturers from the London Metropolitan University have called on their vice chancellor to cease all operations in Uzbekistan following a February 12 editorial in The Guardian criticizing the West for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in the Central Asian state.
In a February 14 letter to the editor, the five academics expressed outrage at their institution's links with "the nastiest dictatorship in Central Asia" for beginning a partnership with Tashkent's University of World Economy and Diplomacy.
As lecturers and union officers at London Metropolitan University we are sorry to report that our university – whose mission includes the promotion of social justice – is about to embark on quality assurance and related training programmes at the University of World Economy and Development [sic] in Tashkent. We believe such a relationship will do nothing to promote social justice for the people of Uzbekistan, but will instead lend legitimacy to a regime whose existence depends on the systematic repression and torture of its political opponents.
President Islam Karimov’s widely hated daughter, Gulnara, received a PhD from the school in 2001 and claims to have taught there since 2009.
As they seek out new funding sources via lucrative partnership deals with foreign institutions, western universities find themselves increasingly entering relationships with dodgy regimes around the world. The London School of Economics found this out the hard way when it formed a toxic collaboration with the Gaddafi regime in Libya – the school’s head was forced to step down during the Libyan uprising last spring.
Westminster University, another London-based institution, has operated a campus in Tashkent for the last decade, running undergraduate programs in fields such as business and economics.