23 august 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.
A modern history of independent and neutral Turkmenistan has fixed a tradition: if the government does not succeed, for example, the treasury becomes empty and there is nothing to pay many months of salary debts to civil servants, or the intimidated people are on the verge of displeasure, the power impersonated by the president is frantically looking for scapegoats.
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 Ashgabat, the campaign to dismantle individual satellite dishes from the facades and roofs of multi-storey houses has coming to an end. However, the ‘dishes’ remain popular throughout the rest of the country. In provincial towns and villages, even in auls completely fully consisting of jerry housing lost in Karakum dunes, each family has one or even two antennas rotated in the direction of the Yamal-401 and Hot Bird space communication satellites at a certain angle. TV viewers, sometimes not understanding a word on other languages than native ones, nevertheless watch the programmes of Russian, Uzbek, Turkish, Chinese, European TV channels on a regular basis.
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.
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.
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.
Repressions are underway in Turkmenistan against former teachers and graduates of Turkish education institutions. They are accused of having communications with bodies and structures of an organisation allegedly under the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen’s influence. According to sources of Fergana, up to 90 per cent of former teachers at Turkish-Turkmen lyceums were questioned throughout the country. According to officers of state security agencies, who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, sophisticated tortures are applied to the detainees with no warrants or reasons to do so; certain detentions and tortures resulted in the death of inmates.
Fergana learnt from its own sources that the NATO liaison office to Central Asia will no longer be active starting next year. The liaison office is currently based in Tashkent, but coordinate the alliance’s activities and cooperation with all the countries in the region. What has caused the decision? We contacted Rosaria Puglisi, head of the liaison office, who has kindly agreed to respond to this and other questions.
The Swedish publishing house “Gun” has issued the first collection of uncensored modern Turkmen prose and poetry in twenty years. There are twelve authors, two of whom published their writings solely in the Russian language whereas the rest are in both Russian and Turkmen. The collection entitled “By the ravine… Behind the houses in the back” was edited for publication by the literary association “Turkmen dany atar!” (“The Turkmen dawn will come!”). Farid Tukhbatullin, the head of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights and editor-in-chief of the website “Chronicles of Turkmenistan”, is one of the project leaders.
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?..
On 31 October 2014, the Presnenskiy District Court in Moscow dismissed the complaint lodged by Tatyana Shikhmuradova, the wife of Boris Sikhmuradov who is imprisoned for life in Turkmenistan. Mrs. Shikhmuradova lodged a lawsuit against the foreign affairs ministry of Russia, which has applied no effort over the last 12 years to find out about her husband’s fate. The most shocking event for Mrs. Shikhmuradova at the court was the foreign ministry representative’s claim that Mr. Shikhmuradov is not a citizen of Russia.
Several weeks ago ISIS (also known as ISIL and Islamic State) forces reached Turkey’s borders, destroying all ‘infidels’ in their path, by which they mean both Christians and Muslims belonging to other branches of Islam. Support for ISIS has also extended beyond its region: Afghan and Pakistani members of the Taliban have already begun to swear allegiance to this new radical Islamist movement. Specialists in politics and international relations, regional specialists, politicians and informed observers were asked what they think about the subject.
Carnegie Moscow Center presented the “Exploring the Prospects of Russian-Turkish Cooperation in a Turbulent Neighborhood” report compiled by the Carnegie Center and the Global Relations Forum (GRF) in Istanbul. The two organizations established a Working Group dedicated to exploring the potential for regional cooperation between Turkey and Russia under the leadership of Memduh Karakullukchu, vice chairman and president, Global Relations Forum (GRF), and Dmitri Trenin, director, Carnegie Moscow Center.