Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dr. Akiner Comes to Washington

At the invitation of Dr. Fred Starr, who heads the Central Asia and Caucuses Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, Dr. Shirin Akiner, a lecturer in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, came to Washington tonight. She discussed reactions from international human rights groups, governments, and ordinary citizens to her controversial report on the breakout of violence in the Uzbek city of Andijan on May 13th, 2005. She was strikingly well-spoken, with a charming British accent. Her talk was filled with illusions to British history ranging from Henry II to the shooting of an innocent Brazilian bystander by armed police in the London Tube following the July 7th bombings.

I'm currently writing up my impressions of her talk. In the meantime, the photos below give a sense of the excitement of the occasion, where Dr. Akiner had a chance to confront her critics, including Justin Burke, editor of Eurasianet.

There was one real bombshell that I can share right now.

Dr. Akiner charged that an excutive of International Crisis Group in London tried to get her fired. Akiner claimed she had a copy of a poison pen letter written by the ICG executive (she would not name him). Akiner charged the letter contained an untruth intended to damage her reputation that was either a deliberate lie or evidence that the person was too lazy to check facts. Akiner added she had the letter with her, and would show it if challenged. She noted that she believed an ICG staffer was in her audience. In a long Q & A, no one challenged the truth of her charge. According to the list of registered guests provided by SAIS, Jonathan Greenwald would have been the representative of International Crisis Group in attendance. Here is his ID photo from the ICG website. His name was number 28 on the attendance list. Greenwald's bio on the ICG website says he is vice-president for research and publications, so he should have been able to respond. If Greenwald wasn't there for some reason, no one else spoke up for ICG, either.

All of which may mean International Crisis Group just had the guts ripped out of its reputation by Dr. Akiner.

More to come...