19 november 2017
Central Asia news
Emotions, tirades, passion, sharp gestures, stomping, hot fever! I would add “flamenco”, but it is not Catalonia striving for independence from Madrid. Another week rich with symbolic events in Central Asia is over, yet the picture remains obscure. The leadership of this region is reluctant to express its real emotions and feelings, but decisions show who they truly are, paraphrasing a popular fiction writer.
Central Asia is surely East - culturally or geographically. But, how much politically? Legally speaking countries of the regions are not khanates or empires, but republics established by the Soviets. And, yes, being a part of communist Russia they used to be "East Europe". Newly sovereign leaders declared their adherence to international obligations, while despotism is still a dominating option of state ruling in the region. Probably, it is their totalitarian communist heritage that resists learning new tricks.
For the first time, the priest of the Orthodox parish is in the court charged with the violation of the law “On Religious Activities and Religious Associations.” In the village of Merke (Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan) on 14 August, Vladimir Vorontsov, the rector of the parish of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God Church, stood the first trial. An anonymous tip-off reported police that he, along with children from the Orthodox group of the weekend (Sunday school) and several parents conducted prayer meetings in the mountains.
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 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.
In Kazakhstan, most of the media owners are hiding behind their formal founders. But, as they say, if the secret is known to three – then everyone knows this. Having talked with experts Fergana News Agency made its own list of the true owners of the Kazakh media.
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.
The ‘Immortal Regiment’ action, which relatives and descendants of those killed at the fronts of the Great Patriotic War had been planning to organise and hold on 9 May 2017 in Tajikistan, was prohibited. One of the official reasons is that ‘according to Islamic traditions, it is inadmissible to go out into the streets and avenues with portraits of the deceased.’ The other is a tense situation and clashes in neighbouring Afghanistan. Fergana correspondent spoke with Dushanbe residents, who call these arguments absurd and far-fetched accusing the authorities of double standards and hypocrisy. In fact, the government is simply afraid of any manifestations of civil activity, they believe.
On 22 April 2017, active users of social networks in Kazakhstan noticed a slow down access to the internet in the evening. Naturally, versions of what is happening appeared immediately. Some internet users have suggested that the problem with access originated from network overload: they say, there are many people at once in the internet and the traffic falls periodically. Others began to blame on viruses-Trojans attacking different social networks. Still others suspected that all these oddities with access to the World Wide Web linked with the announcement of the former owner of BTA Bank Mukhtar Ablyazov about his own live interview on Facebook and Instagram social networks, which no one publicly desired to watch.
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.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed to quickly—until the end of this year that is—to draft a project of the Latin script-based Kazakh alphabet. Fergana Chief Editor Daniil Kislov shares his thoughts on positives and negatives of introducing said novelty in Kazakhstan.
It seems like everything in authoritarian countries has been created and established to materialise the phantasies of George Orwell and Franz Kafka. At that, sheer number of various prohibitions and laws far exceeds the number of such countries, causing disbelief in normal and healthy societies. Sometimes these regimes adopt such bills and laws that are confusing and one may not easily understand what punishable acts are. More often than not parts of such laws are interpreted in ways that make no sense whatsoever. Kazakhstan is no exception.
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.
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.