22 December 2012
23:31 - Who is Abdurahim Polat?
Abdurahim Polat was born in 1945 in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan. He graduated from the Moscow Technical University in 1968. He gradually became a doctor of technical sciences and a professor in the field of information technologies and intellectual robots.

During major changes implemented by Gorbachev, he became involved in politics. He participated in the activities of "Birlik" which was founded in 1988 as the first organization in Uzbekistan opposing the policies of the existing Soviet Union’s government. The organization had two main goals - construction of a democratic society in our country and independence of Uzbekistan from Russia. Soon he was elected as Chairman of this organization.

He was the only opposition leader in the Soviet Union, who had a personal meeting with the country's leadership. He met the then Prime Minister of the USSR Nikolai Ryzhkov in June of 1989.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Uzbekistan became independent. But in Uzbekistan, the president-dictator Karimov began to suppress his political opposition.

On February 16, 1992, Secretary of State of the United States, James Baker visited Uzbekistan. After Secretary Baker met with president-dictator Karimov, he met with Abdurahim Polat too, an event that won widespread attention and prestige for both “Birlik” and for him. During the meeting, Secretary Baker and Abdurahim Polat discussed problems of development of democratic processes in Uzbekistan. Secretary Baker told Abdurahim Polat that the United States would support in every possible way these processes. He promised to talk with president Karimov personally about the registration of “Birlik” Party.

In response to Abdurahim Polat’s meeting with Secretary Baker, Uzbek authorities tried to limit his political activity. On June 29, 1992, after he returned from his first visit to the United States, he was badly beaten by agents of the Security Services of Uzbekistan. He was hospitalized with a broken skull and suffered serious head trauma.

On July 7, 1992, Abdurahim Polat was visited in the hospital by then U.S. Senator Larry Pressler and the Ambassador of the U.S. in Uzbekistan. After this meeting, Senator Pressler gave an emotional speech before the U.S. Senate (see: L.Pressler. “Time for caution in Central Asia”, Congressional Record, 138, No 21, July 21, 1992, pages 1-3) where he described in detail his meeting with Abdurahim Polat in a Tashkent hospital. Following Sen. Pressler’s speech, the announced official visit of Uzbekistan’s president to Washington was canceled.

Abdurahim Polat spent a long time in treatment and recovery in Azerbaijan and Turkey. He had meetings with leaders of both countries (Ebulfayz Elchibey, Mesut Yilmaz, Seleyman Demirel, Abdulloh Gul, Redjab Erdogan). He then returned to Uzbekistan to continue the important business of the “Birlik” Party, but after agents of the Uzbek government attempted to kill him in Tashkent in October 1992, he decided that he had to leave Uzbkistan with his family and did so. Under pressure of dictatorship regime, “Birlik” was forced to stop its activity.

After leaving Uzbekistan he lived first few months in Azerbaijan and then in Turkey. In both countries he had a meeting with heads of state. But the Turkish government refused to give him refugee status in spite of his meetings with Turkey's top leaders. The reason is that Turkey did not want the deterioration of relations with Uzbekistan, the second largest Turkic state of the world. Then Abdurahim Polat applied for refugee status in the U.S. The U.S. government granted refugee status to his family and him, and they arrived in U.S. in 1998.

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After the arrival in the U.S., Abdurahim Polat has continued to campaign for democracy in Uzbekistan and against the repressive actions of the Uzbek government against its citizens. While in the U.S., he had testified four times before the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The texts of three speeches are available here:

http://www.csce.gov/ -- Hearings and Briefings -- Hearings -- June 24, 2004 -- Dr. Abdurahim Polat
http://www.csce.gov/ -- Hearings and Briefings -- Briefings -- May 2005 19th -- Dr. Abdurahim Polat
http://www.csce.gov/ -- Hearings and Briefings -- Briefings -- July 2006 25th -- Dr. Abdurahim Polat

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Uzbekistan became a partner of the U.S. in the war in Afghanistan. The Uzbek government gave the U.S. military access to the Hanabad Airbase in Uzbekistan to assist the U.S. in Afghanistan. As a result of the partnership with America, the political climate in our country began to soften. In 2003, the “Birlik” Party convened its Congress for the first time in ten years; Abdurahim Polat was reelected as chairman of “Birlik” in his absence. He had even begun to think about returning to Uzbekistan.

However, in May 13, 2005, the bloody events that occurred in the Uzbek city of Andijan following an uprising by Islamic extremists made the situation in Uzbekistan much worse. The United States, along with its Western allies, condemned the Uzbek authorities and the relationship between them deteriorated sharply. Uzbekistan took away the Hanabad Air Base from U.S. Uzbek authorities began to repress not only Islamic extremists, they also took repressive action against democrats too. A number of prominent activists of “Birlik” Party were arrested under false accusations of challenging the constitutional system.

With the assistance of other “Birlik” Party members, Abdurahim Polat had begun to publish the printed democratic journal “Harakat” and organized its delivery to Uzbekistan. At the same time, they organized a network of activist to collect financial support for the activities of our “Birlik” Party associates in Uzbekistan. Later the online News Agency “Harakat” (www.harakat.net) was organized. So they struggle for democracy in Uzbekistan continues. They are honored to perform the basic duties of the political opposition - reveal the shortcomings of the existing government, condemn them, and offer ways to improve the situation.

The world famous organization in the U.S on human rights, Freedom House, has included Uzbekistan in the number of ten worst dictatorships of the world. The United Nations accepted Uzbekistan as a country where tortures are regularly applied.

Uzbekistan is bad not only with human rights. The country's economy is in very bad condition too. For example, “Birlik” Party and “Harakat” Agency have uncovered carefully concealed facts by the Uzbek authorities: Gross Domestic Product in Uzbekistan is negligible - less than $45 billion. Gross Domestic Product per capita in Uzbekistan in 2005 was 5.5 times less than in Kazakhstan, and in 2012 has reached an amount of 8 times less. Under forecasts for 2014, the situation will be even worse for my country. As you probably know, by 2050 Kazakhstan plans to be among the 30 most economically strong countries of the world. In that case, Uzbekistan’s economy will lag behind the economy of Kazakhstan by at least 40-50 times.

The government does not even think about what to do next. Therefore, Abdurahim Polat and “Birlik” Party demand its resignation and urge holding of democratic elections with the participation of “Birlik” Party.

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