17 october 2017
Central Asia news
The 19th Central Asia media conference named “Open Journalism in Central Asia” organised by the office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media will be held in Tashkent on 18-19 October 2017. It is expected that participants, “including journalists, representatives from governments, civil society organisations and academia from Central Asia and Mongolia along with international experts will discuss current challenges to media freedom in Central Asia and Mongolia” including “current trends in news media distribution and challenges related to the digital and increasingly mobile environment, and how to better safeguard media freedom whilst combatting hate speech,” as well as “the latest media freedom developments and best practices,” the OSCE website informs.
This month of June brought us a contradictory timeline. Some governments are gaining a popular weight among ordinary citizens, while others are ignoring a wider opinion and a common sense. Any outsider can be lured by honeyed promises, finely drawn charts, glittering buildings from the future. Find optimists and ruin them with a reality.
This May brought remarkable events, which will develop during summer vacations and will define how autumn will develop further. Surely, these are activities around presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan clearing and modifying political and media space for the pro-presidential candidate, or Uzbekistan summing its attempts to revive the economy through investment and improving its foreign image. How would Kazakhstan reconsider its economic policy and change its attitude towards rule of law to outrun its main economic rival - Uzbekistan? Whether xenophobia in Russia will die out. How Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will cope with doubts of its public about anti-corruption campaigns in both countries? These questions were raised in May and I will outline them for you.
The recent terror act in the St. Petersburg metro on 3 April, in the organisation of which Russian special services suspect people from Central Asia, exacerbated issues related to migration processes from the countries of this region to Russia. Last week in Moscow, the Sakharov Center jointly with the Yegor Gaidar Foundation organised a discussion during which experts discussed whether there is any ground to say that it is among the migrants that recruitment of terrorists takes place, and if so, what causes migrants to join the ranks of radical Islamists, what role is played by large-scale corruption, typical of most Central Asian countries, and whether it is possible to oppose it.
The anti-government forces took control of the Qalay-I-Zal district of the Afghan province of Kunduz, located on the border with Tajikistan, world media reported on 7 May. Heavy battles that began shortly after the Taliban had announced the ‘spring offensive’ are going on in the Zebak district, as well as in the vicinity of the city of Kunduz, which may soon again be in the hands of the armed opposition. As we have already reported, a state of emergency had been declared in the Ishkashim district of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast of the Republic of Tajikistan bordering with fighting scenes across the Panj River. Local residents are alarmed and frightened by the fact that Afghan militants have come close to the Tajik border. Moreover, it is not entirely clear who they are and what their goals are. According to the ‘Fergana’ source in one of the international organisations, among the militants fighting ‘beyond the river’ are also refugees from Tajikistan, who moved there because of persecution by the authorities. A number is known too: they can make from 200 up to 250 people.
Problems with the conservation of saiga (or saiga antelope - the saiga antelope) in Uzbekistan have increased, while attention from the state has decreased. About this tells an open letter from the public representatives of the country to the chairman of the State Committee for Nature Protection (‘Goskompriroda’, since 21 April 2017 - State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection) sent on 11 April 2017. There is no answer yet.
Gulyam and Sardor Umarov, natives of Uzbekistan, children of the formerly well-known opposition figure Sanjar Umarov, are currently engaged in large-scale technological projects in the U.S., while not forgetting their roots and developing business which is relevant with the interests of their homeland.
Neo-patrimonial regimes have been established in Central Asian countries following the implosion of the Soviet Union. The new elites divided entire economies and “sweet-spot” government positions between “bosses” and their “vassals.” Meanwhile, the rest of the society, who are excluded from such networks, has no chances to secure good jobs, to peacefully and beneficially conduct business and remains impoverished. Such systems of management create fertile grounds for booming human trafficking and joining the ranks of IS, Kazakh political scientist Talgat Mamyrayymov says in the article he authored below.
Politicians and experts have long been expressing concerns regarding the situation on the Afghan side of the border near Tajikistan. The length of the border the two countries share is 1,344km, of which 920km are the Gorno-Badakhshan section while the remaining over 424km are the Khatlon Region of Tajikistan. The latter section is the one that causes most concern in terms of attempts to violate the state border from the Afghan side to contraband illicit drugs. The situation in the southern ends of Gorno-Badakhsan Autonomous Region, known by is Russian abbreviation, GBAO, is relative stable. However, according to experts, there is a risk that the situation could deteriorate.
The Harvard International Review's January 2017 edition includes an academic article on problems with water supply in Central Asia. The article author Alisher Ilkhamov is a Research Associate at the Centre of Contemporary Central Asia & the Caucasus at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. According to Mr Ilkhamov, the worsening international relations in the region are the main source of water-related problems in post-Soviet Central Asia.
“Chinese and Uzbek archaeologists rewrite the history of an ancient city.” China’s Xinhua news agency carried a report under this title on January 11, 2017, which cites a forum on archaeology of the Academy of Public Sciences of China. According to the report, a group of archaeologists from China and Uzbekistan has made a significant discovery while excavating the ruins of the ancient town of Mingtepa (which the report erroneously calls Minggepa) in the southeast of the Fergana Valley. The news was instantaneously reposted by almost every single website in Uzbekistan.
“Gratuitous utilisation”: How China is actively bringing the Tajik parts of Pamir under its influence