Cross-regional and Blogosphere
Everyone here at NewEurasia would like to wish our readers a Happy Naw-Rúz (or, if you prefer, Nouruz, Norouz, Norooz, Narooz, Newroz, Newruz, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Nohrooz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz)! We know it’s been a slow few months, but we’ve got really good news on the horizon. It’s looking to be a fertile spring indeed!
Also, since this is also a religious holiday in my faith community, the Bahá’ís, I personally would like to share some words from our Master, `Abdu’l-Bahá,written on the occasion of Naw-Rúz in 1906 wherein he talks about the spirit of newness:
O ye children of the Kingdom! It is New Year; that is to say, the rounding of the cycle of the year. A year is the expression of a cycle (of the sun); but now is the beginning of a cycle of Realty, a New Cycle, a New Age, a New Century, a New Time and a New Year. Therefore it is very blessed.
I wish this blessing to appear and become manifest in the faces and characteristics of the believers, so that they, too, may become a new people, and having found new life and been baptized with fire and spirit, may make the world a new world, to the end that the old earth may disappear and the new earth appear; old ideas depart and new thoughts come; old garments be cast aside and new garments put on; ancient politics whose foundation is war be discarded and modern politics founded on peace raise the standard of victory; the new star shine and gleam and the new sun illumine and radiate; new flowers bloom; the new spring become known; the new breeze blow; the new bounty descend; the new tree give forth new fruit; the new voice become raised and this new sound reach the ears, that the new will follow the new, and all the old furnishings and adornments be cast aside and new decorations put in their places.
I desire for you all that you will have this great assistance and partake of this great bounty, and that in spirit and heart you will strive and endeavor until the world of war become the world of peace; the world of darkness the world of light; satanic conduct be turned into heavenly behavior; the ruined places become built up; the sword be turned into the olive branch; the flash of hatred become the flame of the love of God and the noise of the gun the voice of the Kingdom; the soldiers of death the soldiers of life; all the nations of the world one nation; all races as one race; and all national anthems harmonized into one melody.
Then this material realm will be Paradise, the earth Heaven, and the world of Satan become the world of Angels.
Almost apolitical and owned by a group totaly loyal to President Karimov and his daughter, the most tabloid of all the Uzbek tabloids and most lovable by housewifes and celebrity news followers, Darakchi magazine gives directions of how to access banned websites without keeping visitors’ records, e.g. their IP numbers.
Even though this short note is given in the end of the magazine, that is either something editor had not noticed and, relying on his staffers who know nithing but copy-pasting articles from other media, approved it for publication, or the responsible person did not find it as threatening national cyber-security.
On one hand, the author explains why using proxy servers is such a popular phenomenon — people around the world use those IT-tools to make sure their private info is not kept even after their visits to this or that page.
On the other hand, Uzbekistan is a country that practices tough censorship and those who want to read banned information have to either use proxy servers, or have a satellite internet connection that is not filtered by Uzbektelecom, a state-owned telecommunication company.
Political tensions, trade rules and simple corruption make travel between Central Asian states a complex and unpleasant business.
Twenty years after the newly-independent states of Central Asia began marking off their borders, residents say they avoid travel to neighbouring countries whenever they can, as the experience is so stressful and unpleasant.
IWPR asked people in various countries to describe what the journeys they make involve. Across the region, common themes emerged – massive bureaucracy, obstructive behaviour, extortion and harassment by frontier officials.
The atmosphere at crossing-points is tense at the best of times, and whenever two governments fall out, innocent travellers suffer the consequences. Apart from feeding a sense of injustice and powerlessness, the hostile treatment of travellers tends to reinforce negative stereotypes about neighbouring nations.
Today’s news about North Korean ruthless dictator Kim Jong-il’s death, who actually died on Saturday, December 17, came along with news about a death of another world-known political figure, Václav Havel.
Both had their own ways to leading positions in the government — North Korean blue-blooded Kim, son of then leader of North Korea’s Kim Il-sung, and future “Dear Leader” and “Generalissimo”, got into his seat due to his father’s will.
Václav Havel, born to a well-known and wealthy entrepreneurial and intellectual family, dedicated himself to the democratization of Czechoslovakia, an active participant of the Prague Spring. Read the full story »
We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Best Blogger Award: Gulasal Kamolova (gulasal.wordpress.com) and Tashpulat Rahmatulaev (rtoshpulat.blogspot.com). Both are bloggers working in Uzbekistan. They are almost certainly known to many of our readers, Gulasal particularly for her videos of last year’s revolution in Kyrgyzstan and Tashpulat from his many articles with journalistic publications.
We at NewEurasia hear all sorts of rumors about the monitoring powers of the countries we observe and work in, but often we don’t really have a concrete sense about what they can and cannot really do. Well, earlier this month WikiLeaks released the Spy Files, a leak practically tailor-made for us. In my opinion, it could be their most substantive leak so far (I say that recognizing all the pros and cons that goes with such a statement), although with nearly none of the fanfare/hype that accompanied its earlier mega-leaks.
The Spy Files so far are constituted of 287 documents collected from 160 international intelligence contractors (no word on exactly how) over the last few years. The database is mostly sales brochures and PowerPoint presentations but apparently also includes internal documents of such companies like Gamma corporation in the United Kingdom, Ipoque of Germany, Amesys and Vupen in France, VASTech in South Africa, ZTE Corp in China, Phoenexia in the Czech Republic, SS8 and Blue Coat in the USA, our ever-reliable friends at Siemens, so on and so on. This industry is almost completely unregulated — and it’s quite a hydra.
Unfortunately, the Spy Files haven’t yet revealed anything about the Central Asian republics. However, we now know a little bit about our friends to the North. Russia has/had capabilities in sms monitoring, speech analysis, and phone monitoring, particularly mobile forensic analysis for smartphones and audio forensics (I should note that a lot of the information in question is a few years old, so what we do know is already out of date, but it suffices to give an unhappy idea). The tech comes to them courtesy of the companies Oxygen Software and Speech Technology Center, Ltd. No word yet on some of the really scare stuff that has been known to find its way into the occasional Russian nationalist hacker.
Editor’s note: The Eurasia Star contest has been envisioned by its organizers in Turkey as a Pan-Turkic pop culture spectacle, but it’s been turning out to be a flop in more ways than one. neweurasia’s Annasoltan reports on how in Turkmenistan in particular it’s become a missed opportunity for direct democracy.
Turkish state television station “TRT AVAZ” is running the first-ever “Eurasia Star” song contest that covers much of the Turkic world, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and the Turkish part of Cyprus. Each country must select a representative to compete at the big international round later. Several countries have already completed their selection rounds, and as of this past week, Turkmenistan has selected its vocal champion: Sohbet Kasymow.
Who? According to the official government website, Kasymow is a fifth-year student of the Department of Theater Art of the Institute of Culture of Turkmenistan. This came as a surprise to many in my country, as the selection process seemed, I suppose quite ironically, totally without accountability.
A missed opportunity for direct democracy…
On 19 November, the Turkmen people were expected to vote for their favorite contestants. There were three finalists: besides Kasymow, Atajan Berdyev and Nuryagdy Redjepov. However, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Turkmen had hoped that one of the popular singers Bilbil Orazowa, Bega or Palwan Halmyradow would win. It should be mentioned that only people equipped with satellite antennas, and therefore who were able to receive Turkish television channels, were even directly informed about the competition (and even among these, few can actually access TRT AVAZ); the rest of the country had to hear about it by word of mouth, if they heard about it at all.
The jury was made up of our government’s favorite singer, Annush Myratduryyev, the head of the Turkmen musicians that participate in official musical festivities, Kerim Ylyasow, and Burak Kurt, a TRT art specialist from Turkey. The candidates had to perform in front of them without the aid of instrumental music. The jurists then voted in a rather blithe manner, by saying simply “yes” or “no” to the candidates (by way of comparison, the annual national music competition, “Yaňlan diýarym”, is decided by a jury of ten people who vote according to a score range of 1-10; the audience, by the way, is totally excluded). Consequently, the contestants had no idea how well they performed vis-à-vis each other.
The vote for the victor was open to the public and conducted via sms. TRT AVAZ did not provide very good instructions for how to do this. I contacted them directly, but their personnel were unable to tell me anything, not even when the voting was supposed to take place. Moreover, no one was able to send their vote directly to the channel; the sms votes were instead collected and counted by the state telecom, Altyn Asyr, and the results then passed onto TRT AVAZ (who, when announcing the victor, very briefly mentioned the final tally). Although just for pop music, this was a lost opportunity to experiment with electronic direct democracy. There wasn’t any transparency to this process, i.e., to confirm that our votes were really obeyed — something we’re used to in Turkmenistan (although, funnily enough, sms-voting is also quite obscure even in American Idol).
Nevertheless, the competition has provided a unique chance for the famous and not-so-famous talents throughout the region. For some of my aspiring countrymen, this has been one of the very few international competitions they’ve been permitted to join, giving them a tantalizing taste of how it would be if Turkmenistan ever ends up participating in the Eurovision contest. And, of course, for everyday people it presented a unique chance for public participation. Perhaps this was all proven illusory, but I nonetheless hope that it will work out better in the future.
…and for Pan-Turkism
Eurasia Star is being organized by Turkey’s largest media group, but undoubtedly it’s proving to be a disappointment as it hasn’t met its target of becoming the Turkic world’s big pop culture event. According to sources within TRT Avaz, it’s been riddled with logistical problems in the arena of information, communication, coordination, and cooperation, not just in Turkmenistan, although our nation’s isolation and official paranoia only complicated matters further.
Turkmenistan’s official news site has been enthusiastic about the competition, and yet, strangely, it’s said not one word about it being organized by TRT Avaz, instead preferring to describe it vaguely as an “international event”. Also odd is the fact that throughout this process so far, there hasn’t been a single joint Turkish-Turkmen television program devoted to the competition. Yet, clips of the candidates were shown on the “Turkmen Owazy” music channel and over the equivalent Turkmen radio channel, while TRT Avaz showed the jury in Turkmenistan selecting the candidates. My own guess is that this was simply bad coordination on both sides’ parts.
As for the rest of the region, TRT AVAZ has not come up with an effective strategy for reaching out to our neighbors, with the exception of Azerbaijan and Cyprus, wherein Turkish TV programs are a normal fixture of media consumption anyway. Although Turkey actually has a lot of experience organizing international competitions, the country’s skills in this arena were not at all evident. The whole thing has been a bungle.
ACCELS is pleased to announce 2012-13 academic scholarship program of the US-Central Asia Education Foundation (CAEF). The CAEF provides financial need-based scholarships to academically qualified students of Central Asia for undergraduate level studies in business administration at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP) and at the American University of Central Asia.
Editor’s note: At the end of October, Baku hosted the second annual medium forum of Turkic-speaking nations. It’s an interesting example of pan-Turkism’s small revival in the region, and neweurasia’s Tomyris reports on official views of the event.
On October 28th, the Second Media Forum of the Turkic-speaking Countries and Communities was held in Baku, Azerbaijan. The event was organized by the Press Council and the Mass Media State Support Fund, under the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
Trend.Az News informs that the symbolic day in Baku brought upon The Coordination Centre of Turkic-speaking media outlets, under the decision of the Second Media Forum. Local committees for individual countries and societies were formed and the individual Committee Chairmen elected as members of the Coordinating Council. At the meeting, a chairman for the media union was elected – Aflatun Amashov, Chairman of the Press Council.
“… Trend Agency, the Press Council, the Mass Media State Support Fund under the Azerbaijani President and Azerbaijani Union of Journalists, were elected members of the local committee on Azerbaijan.”
In Kyrgyzstan, this weekend has hopefully initiated the start of a positive new era for the country (although, of course,time will tell). It’s also signalling another new beginning: neweurasia and Global Voices Online (GVO) are teaming up!
In fact, we’ve already had long-standing informal ties with GVO. For instance, our former Kazakhstan country coordinator Adil Nurmakov heads up their Central Asia wing, and many of us in the core team are friendly with GVO’s co-founder, the ever-likable Ethan Zuckerman. The new partnership shall begin modestly, with logo-exchanging on our respective Russian sites and content cross-fertilization. In the future, however, we’re hoping to coordinate on some more interesting or in-depth projects together.
The deal was brokered on our side by Ollie and Yelena, indeed, this was the latter’s parting act in her old position as Russian Managing Editor before taking on her new post as Social Media Officer. I must say that I’m grateful to both of them for taking this on, as I’ve simply been too busy with other initiatives to give this proper focus.