Uzbekistan: Was Clinton's Civil Society Meeting the Soft Option?
On her tour of Central Asia and the Middle East/Northern Africa last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a town hall meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan with several hundred people. The audience asked tough questions about Tajikistan -- and even asked Clinton why she was meeting with the dictator Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. The State Department supplied a transcript of the meeting.
What a contrast with Clinton's meeting in Tashkent, where she met with only four NGO leaders and no transcript was made available. On the eve of her trip, Clinton received appeals to take up issues like forced child labor, and it was assumed that part of her itinerary would involve meeting with human rights activists as she had last year.
Instead, her carefully-choreographed meeting with the four seemed intended to evoke other parts of the US Administration's agenda related to promoting small business and women's empowerment and combatting trafficking, as the softer options by contrast with hard-core human rights issues like political imprisonment, religious freedom and torture.
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