Article Archive for Year 2010
Editor’s note: Turkmen Islam has long been renowned as a private and not particularly fervent affair. However, the situation is rapidly changing, particularly among Turkmenistan’s young. neweurasia’s Annasoltan tries to sew together the picture about what’s really going on, beginning with the “warp”, namely, problem of authority and the combination of traditional laxity and modern totalitarianism.
In my last post in this series, I explored some of the possible reasons behind the rise of Islam in my country, Turkmenistan. But these were all recent reasons, and also tied to, let’s call them fairly exoteric issues.
Now I turn to the deeper causes. Since 2009, neweurasia‘s been covering a lot of ground on the religious and educational topography of Turkic Central Asia, going back into the shamanistic past with Paksoy to a forgotten dawn in Ashgabat with Schwartz and the halls of the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek with Orazdurdy. I’m about to sew the threads of this Turkmen carpet in a way that even surprised me when I first began my research.
Kyrgyzstan is a signatory to numerous international and UN conventions on human rights and liberties. Hence the celebration of the International Human Rights Day on 10 December every year. Unfortunately, this year’s Day is exactly half-a-year “late”; maybe the inhumane atrocities in the south would not have happened if there was so much attention the issue is enjoying these days.
The state directorate for rebuilding Osh and Jalal-Abad reports that 30 damaged (!) houses in the south were not restored because “the owners were not present and were not included into the list of needy”… Of course, they had to be there and beg the directorate to include them! The directorate does not understand that if a house is demolished during the June riots, it has to be rebuilt because the directorate has received the international community’s money to do just that job! Given the fact that homes usually house 5-member families on average, Jantoro Satybaldiyev has deliberately left about 150 people (including elderly parents and young children and infants) out in the street just because “oh, sorry, I didn’t know you wanted your homes rebuilt—you were not there!”
Beginning on 21 December, neweurasia is going to embark on an ambitious new cultural project: we’re going to be publishing an original English translation of the ancient Turkic epic Alpamysh (Alpamış / Алпомиш / Алпамыш / Алпамыс)! This will be our longes post series to date, taking several months to complete. We’re hoping that it generates a lot of discussion about Central Asia’s oldest spiritual and literary traditions, and that it will be a fun read, to boot! So, stay tuned!
(The painting above is from a set design by Gulfairus Ismailov, a painter and designer for the Kazakh National Theater and Ballet, for a 1973 production of the opera, “Alpamys”.)
With the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghan War logs, the Iraq War logs, and now the Cablegates, WikiLeaks has become the story that has defined 2010 — and what a story it has been. WikiLeaks has undressed the United States, and in doing so, it has undressed the world. The picture it has revealed is a multifaceted one that is very unpleasant, but also not ubiquitously ugly, either.
We here at neweurasia have been trying to wrap our heads around the part of that picture which pertains to post-Soviet Central Asia, and just like everyone else, we’re left with contradictory feelings. Yet, there are many people who have tried to render the total picture into monochrome. Our colleague Joshua Foust at The Registan, for instance, suffered attacks on his character by Glenn Greenwald, a well-known WikiLeaks partisan. I, myself, have had attacks on my own character by Catherine Fitzpatrick, very much Greenwald’s opposite, over Twitter and in a comment made on my personal blog which I shall not publish. Our crime was to dare to consider the subtleties of the situation, Foust in a more negative route, myself in a more positive one. We are not alone in suffering from the polarization that’s emerging around WikiLeaks.
Meanwhile, everyone’s reading about contradictory and frightening responses from major informational and governmental institutions, arguably ones that the world depends on for accuracy and the freedom of information, like Twitter possibly censoring WikiLeaks, Columbia University strongly suggesting that its students not read or otherwise mention WikiLeaks, the Library of Congress blocking WikiLeaks from its computers, and so on, to say nothing of the negative responses from key online server and financial services, and, of course, the legal proceedings in Sweden, once considered a bastion of free information, that are increasingly and internationally seen as strange and dubious.
On top of all this, WikiLeaks itself has responded by threatening to unleash even more, and one presumes, even worse secrets, in the form of its mysterious insurance.aes256 file. One begins to tremble at the thought of what’s in there, partially out of sheer cognitive overload and exhaustion, and partially out of very real fear mingled with anticipation over what’s in there. Talk of it being the informational equivalent of a “thermo-nuclear device” does nothing to calm the nerves, whether one considers it infuriating bluster or chillingly accurate assessment.
In other words, the situation appears to be in danger of spiralling out of control.
That’s why I say that, to the best of our ability, given the amazing speed with which this story is unfolding, we need to take a moment to breathe and think about precisely what WikiLeaks is and maybe how we should be thinking about it. I promise to keep this brief, precisely because I know everyone’s already exhausted just trying to keep up with it.
Editor’s note: As horse trading continues in Kyrgyzstan, neweurasia’s Marat has been quietly observing from the sidelines. He wonders whether the failure of the initial round of coalition-building has something slightly fishy behind it. “The bemusing factor in this issue is, of course, the number of votes cast ‘for’ and ‘against’ , and simple math reveals that two MPs have not voted,” he writes. “A question arises—why not?”
I was both confused and entertained when I heard the first coalition did have the majority of votes (67 MPs out of 120), yet failed to appoint its own candidate Omurbek Tekebayev the speaker of parliament. This (planned?) failure reveals many factors including, but not limited to, certain discontentedness with the very candidacy of Tekebayev, internal divisions and lack of integrity inside the parties and the “opposition” parties’ potential role in disintegrating the coalition.
The bemusing factor in this issue is, of course, the number of votes cast “for” and “against”: 59 ballots “nay” and 58—“yay” and 1 invalid ballot paper (no wonder, we are talking about MPs here…). A simple math reveals that two MPs have not voted. A question arises—why not? Do not feel compelled to vote for a speaker and finally start acting for the benefit of the country and voters?
These photographs were taken by my colleague Khurshed. I thought they would be nice to share — here is Tajikistan’s next generatioN!
Here is American diplomatic cable about a car driver from Mary who surpassed traffic blockade that was erected for Berdymuhammedow’s convoy. Apparently he was not familiar with anything of that kind and the guards “beat him black and blue”. He was accused of attempting assassinate the president and jailed for 25 years.
This story was never told to press but kept secret in diplomatic cable. It seems that the diplomats thought about it only as another example of arbitrary actions and absolutism by our government. Nothing was done to win the release of the innocent driver.
It’s good that since WikiLeaks has revealed it. Now the public and human rights activists can take next step and find the driver and free him.
(The cable also talks about the traffic officer who was jailed and a security officer who was punished because a cat ran in front of President Berdymuhammedow’s car! It also talks about real assassination attempt that is unconfirmed.)
Read Part 1 here.
The misunderstanding between Japan and China is rooted in economics. Blogger Ertai writes:
“Tensions between the countries ranked second and third in the world in terms of economic development are heating up, which may end badly not just for them, but for other nations as well. Why are Tokio and Beijing taking such a stance now? The Economist claims “Beijing wants to show other countries how complicated China’s border situation is.”
“This is not its first time Japan is dealing with border issues. Besides the Senkaku islands question and the Eastern Kuriles dispute with Russia, there are also claims to an uninhabited island near Korea.”
Japan is currently on the search for rare earths, of which, according to the Wall Street Journal, 97% are found in China. Read the full story »
From the WikiLeaks Cablegate release: here’s a description of Iranian national character in 1979. Alot of people are going to think it’s Orientalist but I think it’s got alot of truth and right to today. Maybe it can even describe the national character of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan today, too…
Editor’s note: Two new cables from WikiLeaks reveal scathing American accounts of the interaction between business and Turkmenistan’s leadership, and most of all, of President Berdimuhammedov’s personal character. neweurasia’s Magtymguly quotes the cables and comments.
neweurasia’s Schwartz has assigned me duty of monitoring all WikiLeaks Cablegate data for Central Asia. Monday he reported on four posts from Embassy Ashgabat. Yesterday two more published. They are about huge wealth and terrible personality of President Berdimuhammedow. WikiLeaks wants us to criticize American diplomats but we should thank the Americans for their honesty instead.