Uzbekistan is allegedly carrying out a brutal programme of forced sterilisation, according to a shocking investigation by the BBC. Correspondent Natalia Antelava, who was recently deported from the country, reports that doctors have been set targets for sterilising women – from four a month up to as many as eight a week.
The women are usually sterilised after giving birth, against their wishes and often without their knowledge. One interviewee said her womb was removed after a caesarean, but she only found out when she consulted her doctor over her failure to become pregnant again.
A nasty practice, with pedigree
During the last hundred years, many other countries have forcibly limited the numbers of children parents can have, with devastating effects. (Indeed, China still does this.) Even in the west, the practice is not as outdated as you might assume: some 65,000 people were forcibly sterilised in the United States during the last century, mainly on eugenic grounds. (Native American women in particular were targeted.) The last forced sterilisation was carried out in Oregon in 1981.
While the background and reasons for Uzbekistan's savage programme are not fully known, human rights groups speculate that authorities in the former Soviet republic started the sterilisation drive seven years ago, as part of a drive to lower the country's birthrate and so look better in international development rankings.
Uzbekistan today is a nasty dictatorship, with an appalling human rights record. Reports of widespread torture, including the boiling alive of political prisoners, have been trickling out of the country for years. Until recently its president, Islam Karimov, was a pariah in the west. But the energy-rich country borders Afghanistan and, as America's relationship with Pakistan has deteriorated, Nato has become increasingly reliant on supply routes through central Asia. In the past few years, both the US and the EU have lifted sanctions, including a US ban on arms sales.
Take action:Sign the petition calling for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to publicly condemn forced sterilisations and other human rights abuses inside Uzbekistan.
Further information:Listen to the full BBC report, a rare glimpse into the workings of a notoriously secretive and paranoid regime.