21 june 2018
Central Asia news
While strengthening border security can help prevent the Afghan conflict from spilling over into Central Asia, sustainable solutions to the out-of-control domestic radicalization processes in the region are much harder to find. And it is precisely here that Central Asia’s anti-terrorist measures are often counterproductive. In fact, the region’s political and economic makeup is further conducive to the rise of domestic extremism.
Political Science is usually quite good at figuring out the main power players and relevant structures in the political systems of most countries. Those of us who are interested in Central Asia, however, will encounter an utterly incredible mess in the analysis of the political processes in the region. Mostly, the confusion centers around the term “clan” – a term that is so overused that it has been deprived of any clear meaning. This has led to a certain mystification of Central Asian politics around such poorly defined structures with little regard for the differences between clans, tribes and regional elites. So, this week, let us look at what clans really are, what their role is and if they are so special after all.
There are numerous reports from the northern provinces of Afghanistan about the arrival of well-equipped militants, who do not hide their belonging to the IS terrorist group (the banned terrorist organisation "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", ISIL, ISIS or IS Eng., "Daesh" Arab.) The Fergana News correspondent talked with residents, authorities, and learned the details of what is happening in the provinces of Balkh, Jowzjan and Faryab.
Two wild cases, but unfortunately characteristic for Turkmenistan, occurred in a short period in different parts of the republic. Women, one of whom is 76 years old, and the other is slightly less than 68 years old, were viciously attacked. On the night of 28 to 29 October in Dashoguz, somebody threw stones in the windows of Khalida Izbastinova's flat shattering them. Two weeks later, on 14 November, in Ashgabat, Soltan Achilova was attacked in broad daylight. The "fault" of the first woman is that she is the mother of a Turkmen opposition and human rights activist, and the second is the correspondent of the "Azatlyk" Radio ("Freedom") banned in Turkmenistan.
In the northern provinces of Afghanistan—Sar-e Pul and Balkh—the positions of the militants of the so-called "Islamic State" are visibly strengthened. Muhammad Zahir Wahdat, the governor of the Sar-e Pul province, told a Fergana News correspondent that Daesh is trying to expand its presence in all districts of the province. The governor also asserted that there are districts in which the administration is the official power during the daytime, but nightfall brings the authority of Daesh. According to the official, local ethnic Turkmen and Uzbeks are now actively replenishing the ranks of the group. Active recruitment is being carried out, mainly in the districts of Kush Tapa and Sayad. According to the governor, the province administration has repeatedly informed NATO in northern Afghanistan and the central government of the country, but the centre does not provide sufficient assistance.
Over the past year, as the "Islamic State" has ceded its positions in Syria and Iraq, the architects of the world caliphate are said to be stepping up their activity in Afghanistan. In summer, the U.S. military reported it had liquidated three ISIL field commands in that country, and later the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that somebody had been transferring Islamic militants to Afghanistan using light helicopters without identification marks. At the same time, the decreasing defensive capability of the neighbouring Turkmenistan, which began, according to various sources, in the first half of 2010 could lead to the gradual penetration of the terrorist organisation into the territory of this post-Soviet republic. And Ashgabat's close and friendly relations with Afghan authorities could only simplify and speed up this process.
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.
For more than ten years, a certified doctor, a doctor of medical sciences, a "social hygiene and the organisation of health care" professor has been the President of Turkmenistan. The former Minister of Health should have known all issues of public medicine better. However, health care performance in Turkmenistan is not efficient. Fergana observer Atajan Nepesov testifies.
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.