21 february 2017
Central Asia news
Things are going from bad to worse for Uzbekistan’s anticorruption whistleblower with a court ordering his confinement to a pretrial detention facility pending criminal hearings into corruption. Olim Sulaimanov, who came to prominence last year after posting a video online alleging he had been harassed for bribes by tax officials, appeared in Mirzo Ulugbek district court in Tashkent on February 15 following a surprise summons from investigators earlier this month.
The latest decree the Uzbek head of state directs the society toward “improving the place and role of self-governance by citizens in society, turn them into local bodies engaged in providing realistic assistance and cooperation to the people.” the decree also provides for renovating mahalla committee buildings and paying pension benefits to the committee leaderships in full and in a timely manner. The national council for coordinating mahallas is now granted the status of a legal entity in the form of an association of citizens assemblies. Prime Minister of Uzbekistan is appointed the head of the national council. His first deputy’s rank is elevated to the status of a minister, who will be in charge of household matters, medical and transpiration services; the chairman’s deputy’s rank is elevated to the status of a deputy minister.
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.
“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.
“Dear Shavkat Miromonovich! I am addressing you in your capacity of a private individual, who has ended up in a complicated situation, which can be resolved in a dignifying manner. I believe that you are able to solve this problem independently. However, since the only source of power in the Republic—as the Constitution reads—is the people, I also firmly believe any form of INTERACTION—shall we say, in the form of an open letter like the one you are reading now—would make sense. I also firmly believe in the power of printed word.”
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.
Independent journalist Jamshid Karimov has been forcibly and secretly contained in a psychiatry hospital in Samarkand since January 2012. At the orders of the ruling elite in Tashkent, the doctors there prevent any information on the journalist’s health from circulating; Mr Karimov is kept in complete isolation from the outer world and only allowed to rarely see his daughter. It is obvious that he is no danger to society and should not be confined for such a long period to a closed ward in a hospital. Jamshid’s friends and colleagues are convinced that he is being held against his will and that the "treatments" he undergoes bear the all the hallmarks of punitive psychiatry.
Recep Tayyir Erdogan and Shavkat Mirziyoyev, whether one likes them or not, are showing they are pragmatic politicians who are capable of forgetting old offences and starting relations anew. But will they be able to rapidly alter and improve the Turkish-Uzbek ties after so many years of mutual accusations.
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.
Following the death of the first president of Uzbekistan, the public learnt there are other orators and politicians in Uzbekistan alongside the late head of state. The Uzbek population, as well as the greater world, is learning day by day about new faces and names. Perhaps Uzbek citizens will start recognizing their politicians just as well as they know the names of Russian politicians. Until only a couple of months ago the word combination an Uzbek politician would invoke almost only one association—President Islam Karimov—in Uzbek citizens’ minds.
The state-run system of forced labour will further be implemented in Uzbekistan, and the Uzbek authorities will continue diligently hiding this from the World Bank and International Labour Organisation. The latter two, by the way, do not seem to be very keen to uncover and discover any violations—doing so is unnecessary at this time. This also means two genuinely human rights advocates will have to continue monitoring the situation despite problems and obstacles the local authorities continue mounting to prevent their activities. They call themselves Besstrashnye [The Fearless Ones]. The group includes Yelena Urlayeva, the leader of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (HRAU), and Malohat Eshonqulova, an independent journalist.
The passing of Islom Karimov, the first president of independent Uzbekistan, in the late summer of 2016 raises important questions for the whole Central Asian region and for those who study it. Amid the clamour of media coverage about prospects for change under the leadership of interim President Shavkat Mirziyoyev—some of it resorting to clichés that have been well-critiqued in the pages of this journal—this Forum provides the opportunity for a longer and more nuanced view about the contemporary shape of the ‘Uzbek model,’ how it works, and how it is lived.
FERGHANA ON FACEBOOK