24 june 2017
Central Asia news
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.
In the evening on 27 May 2017 the major television channel of Kyrgyzstan aired an 8-minute report with the speaking name ‘Instigators,’ in which the Bishkek journalist Ulugbek Babakulov was accused of inciting ethnic hatred, and the website of the Fergana News Agency was called ‘biased’ and called to be blocked on the territory of the republic. The reason for the report was an article about nationalistic statements in social networks published by Fergana on 23 May this year. Reporters believe that Fergana ‘disseminates provocative materials,’ trying to present Kyrgyzstan ‘a fascist state, whose population is completely nationalistic.’ The news story of the Public Television and Radio Company (OTRK) contains some fragments of this article, and suggestions of calling to a ‘severe criminal liability,’ as well as comments by ‘experts.’ In their opinion, journalists need ‘to jam the critical moments,’ and not ‘to drag out some sort of analysis of the social networks.’
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.
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.
Brothers and neighbours speak about Rakhmat Akilov in Uzbekistan and Abror and Akram Azimov brothers in Kyrgyzstan. A good childhood and obedience, law-abiding behaviour, positive reputation in the neighbourhood, diligence – such testimonials would make a decent citizen, but not terrorist.
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.
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.
A plane Russian citizen Yekaterian Sajneva was in landed in Uzbekistan on November 27. Ms Sajneva is a journalist for the Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper, who has been in Uzbekistan several times. But this time Yekaterina was travelling in Uzbekistan for personal reasons. She was detained on the third day of her visit and deported several hours thereafter back to Russia “for violating the rules of sojourn.” Yekaterina told the details of how everything unfolded in an interview with Fergana Chief Editor Daniil Kislov.
During its entire quarter-century independence period, Kyrgyzstan constantly had to hold challenging negotiations with Uzbekistan on the conditions of supply and delivery of natural gas by the latter. This gas cabbala may soon come to its end: Gazprom’s engineers are completing the blueprints of the North-South gas pipeline that will connect the northern and southern parts of Kyrgyzstan.
We discussed Russia’s “southward turn”, a much-discussed topic lately, with Vladimir Milov, a well-known Russian economist, politician and Demokraticheskiy Vybor Party Chairman. After all, the roads to “long monies” that are vital for any economy’s survival are closed in the Europe-bound directions. These “road” will likely remain inaccessible for a long time, and the world does not have too many other alternatives to offer. What benefits and risks does this southward repositioning has to offer? What are our southern neighbours’ perspectives in terms of cooperation with Russia? Do it entail benefits for them, including the Central Asian nations?..
The city of Nukus, Karakalpakstan, will host a centennial anniversary of late Igor Savitsky, the founder of the Karakalpak Museum of Arts on September 4. The event, however, could be marred with the presence of only half of the invitees: nearly all of the foreign diplomats accredited in Uzbekistan turned down the invitation to participate in the celebrations. While diplomats cite schedules and prior commitments, the well-known museum’s employees seem to know the real reason: the recent unexpected dismissal of Curator Marinika Babanazarova.
The director of the legendary Savitsky Art Museum in Nukus, Karakalpakstan, Marinika Babanazarova, was recently fired; no new director has been appointed yet. Ms Babanazarova’s colleagues and friends are collecting signatures and writing letters in protest to the government and president of Uzbekistan, demanding to resolve the problem and recall the order of her dismissal. Meanwhile, experts abroad are seriously concerned about the fate of a rich collection at the museum, which is now left exposed without that one person who has at the helms for 30 years and secured a globally renowned status for the museum.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) group is one of the major threats to peace and stability in the world today, having caused so much speculation around this abbreviation. We believe it is simply necessary to interview one of the leading Russian experts on the matters of the Arab world. Aleksandr Shumilin is director of the Middle East Conflicts Analysis Centre under the USA and Canada Institute. Mr Shumilin has spent many years in the Middle East. The Fergana news agency invited him to the Central Asia Television to ask several questions on the conception of IS, and this terrorist organisation’s founders, sources of financing and what the world can offer to resist and combat it.
Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), has inadvertently become the main newsmaker for Tajik and foreign mass media outlets. Mr Kabiri broke silence he kept for the last three weeks and made himself available for journalists. Muhiddin Kabiri agreed to speak with Fergana in an exclusive interview to discuss the criminal investigation launched against him, those in the Tajik government interested in having the IRPT closed, the reasons behind people continuing to join the party despite resistance and pressures, and many other aspects of life in Tajikistan.