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U.N. head tours troubled ex-Soviet Central Asia

U.N. head tours troubled ex-Soviet Central Asia

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has begun a trip through the countries of former Soviet Central Asia, a region troubled by poverty, oppression and fears of renewed Islamic insurgency.
Ban's blitz through five countries, which began Thursday, appears unlikely to produce any breakthroughs, but it will draw attention to a region often obscured by the shadows of its giant neighbors Russia and China and by the war raging in Afghanistan, just across the borders.
Beleaguered human rights activists in the region are encouraged by the attention, even though Ban has no announced plans to meet with their groups. His statements after meetings with each of the region's presidents are likely to be carefully watched for indications of how much pressure he puts on leaders who reject Western concepts, or are suspicious of them.
"Just the fact that the U.N. Secretary-General is visiting is an extremely important appearance," Elena Urlayeva of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan told The Associated Press by telephone. "A visit always helps us, even despite the fact that our government doesn't want them."
"The secretary-general has talked about being a 'voice for the voiceless,"' Holly Cartner of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "He should not miss this unique opportunity to put the full weight of the United Nations behind human rights in Central Asia."
Ban's trip began in Turkmenistan, the most closed and idiosyncratic of the five countries. Under longtime dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan was until recently gripped by a cult of personality nearly as overwhelming as North Korea's and the country was largely inaccessible to the outside world.


Updated : 2021-06-19 11:38 GMT+08:00