When I saw his book at the British Library, naturally, I picked it up. Murder in Samarkhand is about Murray’s stint in Uzbekistan as the British Ambassador and about how he spoke out about the atrocities there. Uzbekistan was an important ally for the US and British government because of its proximity to Afghanistan, and so they conveniently ignored the human-rights abuses that were taking place there.
Enter Murray, who went about telling things as he saw them, which did not go down well with the British foreign office back in London. When he refused to shut up, he was smeared with a vicious campaign, almost lost his life, and was pretty much penniless when he was back in the UK.
Murray is not your regular hero though. He admits that his personal life has not been spotless. But if there was ever a need to realise that people can’t be painted in black or white, and that we need to separate private life from public life, this is it. As Murray writes in his book:
As I hope this memoir has made clear, I am not a hero but a very fallible man. Yet when I learnt of men, women and children being tortured, I had no doubt that the only and overriding duty of any representative of the British people must be to stop it. …
How have we come to this, that integrity in public life is now so rare that some consider me a hero for just exhibiting the most basic human decency?
Murray is a hero because what he did was extraordinary given the amount of pressure he was under to conform to what everyone else was saying. He was vindicated but at the cost of his health (and almost his life), his career, and possibly his marriage.
Murder in Samarkand is a must-read for anyone with an interest in politics, terrorism, or human rights. The only negative about the book was that the writing could’ve been tightened a bit. That shouldn’t deter you though because Murder in Samarkand is a book worth reading. Even the Prime Minister of New Zealand thinks so.
PS: If you want to know more about Murray, you can read his blog.