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August 1-8: elections, gas issues and Ramadan
Written by , Monday, 8 Aug, 2011 – 17:13 | No Comment

This week started in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia and the world with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. On Monday, 1 August 2011, the grand mufti of Kyrgyzstan congratulated the Muslims of the country on the occasion. The Kyrgyz Muslim leadership has been jolted over the last several years with allegations of corruption in organizing the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, using charity donations for other purposes, appointing non-qualifying clerics, etc. The current head of the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan, who arose to power following the last year’s revolution that swept the former mufti away as well, promised these shortcomings would be removed. As usual it is “the former administrations’” shortcomings. Read the full story »

July 18-22: expansion, slander and gas shortage
Written by , Sunday, 24 Jul, 2011 – 23:19 | No Comment

Kyrgyzstan is still shaken with the fever of nationalism. As reported on Monday, 18 July 2011, an incident of fist-fighting occurred between representatives of the two major ethnic groups in Southern Kyrgyzstan’s Aravan town. Reportedly, two taxi drivers couldn’t decide who was supposed to let the other pass and resorted to the a-la macho style of settling disputes. Official reports refute any ethnicity-based motives; the ethnic Kyrgyz taxicab driver’s relatives/friends/supporters gathered in front of a local administration demanding to find and punish the Uzbek cab driver, whose relatives did not stage any rallies. Several local residents also say there is a reason the conflict occurred (read – provoked) near the town market, which was closed on that very day – there is a man interested in shutting the market down and moving it to the land he owns. If the claim holds water, one can safely conclude the man in question was “inspired” by the relocation of the Osh market in a very similar manner earlier this year. Read the full story »

June 20-24: elections, Customs Union, June 2010
Written by , Tuesday, 28 Jun, 2011 – 7:46 | No Comment

The “Island of Democracy” in Central Asia is still in the midst of typhoons and rainstorms hitting it every five years. Although believed to be more advanced in terms of democratic norms when compared against neighbors, on Monday, 20 June 2011, a news agency reported the Foreign Policy magazine and Fund for Peace found Kyrgyzstan as the most inefficient country among the post Soviet countries. Ironically, one of the post-Soviet countries that received perhaps the largest amount of U.S. support, Georgia, was ranked in the 40s – democracy is either bad for ex-Soviet countries or the evaluating agencies thought dictatorship is still far more efficient in this part of the world. By the way, according to Deputy Prime Minister Atakhanov ranks 164 out of 187 countries in anti-corruption efforts. One then unintentionally wants to ask whether it is better to live in a “Continent of Non-Democracy” that is not about to disappear under water. Read the full story »

MP Tashiyev claims innocence, calls authorities cowards
Written by , Wednesday, 22 Jun, 2011 – 2:52 | No Comment

MP Kamchibek Tashiyev is one of the most known faces among the 120 in the parliament. His ascend to and presence in power has been controversial ever since he was appointed an emergencies minister by President Bakiyev in 2007. Some say his business — a chain of petroleum stations — helped him to first become an MP and then a minister, whereas other point to the fact that Bakiyev and Tashiyev are fellow-townsmen. He again rose to power after his former boss fled and has so far been known more as a boxer, not an MP. Read the full story »

June 13-18: price hike, elections, June 2010 revisited
Written by , Tuesday, 21 Jun, 2011 – 8:22 | No Comment

Thankfully, the last week did not see the repetition of the massive calamity that befall Osh and Jalalabad exactly a year ago, as rumors among the population had it. On Monday, 13 June 2011, Kursan Asanov, deputy interior minister, told a meeting of law enforcing agencies that the high alert security would gradually be lowered and quartered officers would be able to return to regular service. Stepping up the alert level is a proper action in such cases, it is not clear why the Kyrgyz interior ministry believes the time after the anniversary of the tragic events does not require high alert — the alleged several hundred “terrorists” will simply slap their thighs distressed by the missed opportunity to take revenge on the red letter day and wait for another year?

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May 16-20: freedom of speech, NATO/UNDP and energy security
Written by , Tuesday, 24 May, 2011 – 7:04 | One Comment

Kyrgyz Premier Almazbek Atambayev received the first female Administrator of the United Nations Development Program Helen Clark on Monday, 16 May, and expressed his gratitude to the UNDP for all the money Kyrgyzstan received. According to Premier Atambayev, the UNDP’s financial assistance is “important” to develop democracy. In her turn, Administrator Clark said the UN’s development arm is going to continue “the only parliamentary democracy” in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan has been making rounds asking for help ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, so Premier Atambayev is only stating the obvious, whereas the UNDP is hoping Kyrgyzstan will re-emerge as an island of democracy.

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KIC reports stirs controversial responses
Written by , Tuesday, 10 May, 2011 – 20:27 | 4 Comments

The Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC) completed its research into the tragic events that have taken place in the southern Kyrgyz town of Osh in June of 2010. The bloody events have left over 400 persons (officially) dead, thousands of homes belonging to “one ethnic group” burnt to ashes or looted and hundreds of service-based institutions destroyed. The KIC included several international (hence independence and impartiality) politicians and researchers under the leadership of the Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen. The KIC researched into these events—traveled to Southern Kyrgyzstan, interviewed both ethnic groups and officials, and carried out other activities—and has released its report early May. Reading the report one is left with an impression that the then interim government, which includes many faces in the current government, assisted the assaults on the largest ethnic minority’s living quarters in Southern Kyrgyzstan. The report suggests that the interim government offered no serious resistance to the illegal acquisition of arms by one ethnic group to be later used against another; assisted mobs to assault mahallas with APCs breaking through barricades and advancing to make way for looters, criminals and thugs to strip houses of property, kill its inhabitants by beating to death or burning alive. The report pictures one group as a hostile assaulter and the other—helpless defendants that did not make any political demands that could provoke hostility.

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May 2-6: Borders, bombs and foreign policy
Written by , Monday, 9 May, 2011 – 7:59 | No Comment

Kyrgyzstan’s new government identified disputed borderlines as national security concerns. One of its members, President Roza Otunbayeva, visited the southernmost Batken Region on Monday, May 2. Lately, the region has become known for several cross-border clashes that involved not only interethnic standoffs, but also law enforcing bodies of the two countries. Otunbayeva visited two border frontier posts along this extremely porous border. Kyrgyzstan has serious border-related concerns with Uzbekistan as well; it will be no surprise if Ms Otunbayeva extends her visit to other frontier posts along the borderline in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Tuesday, May 3, was rich with events of various level of importance: A Russian agency journalist was beaten in Osh, which hosted an anti-terror exercises on the same day and Freedom House sees improvement in freedom of speech in Kyrgyzstan, to only mention Press Freedom Day-related events. However, the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission’s long-awaited report release, containing highly critical findings, was probably the most important event of the day, which caused a furor in the Kyrgyz political circles. The report found “no third forces” involved in the June 2010 conflict, although the current authorities squarely blamed those; the report says one of the interethnic animosity instigation suspects, Kadyrjan Batyrov, has neither urged for nor declared plans to establish autonomy – another government-propagated allegation; the report says that 80% of those charged with crimes after the events are ethnic Uzbeks and army-backed assaults on Uzbek mahallas qualify not as crime against humanity. Such a “pro-Uzbek bias” of the report stirred resentment among the Kyrgyz political establishment who were quick to blame the Commission in “partiality,” “non-objectivity” and “serious gaps.” But at least one organization, the OSCE PA, announced its support for the report.

Kyrgyz Mufti Chubak Jalilov told on Wednesday, May 4, that he does not know Bin Laden and cannot definitely make a statement about his demise. However, Jalilov says “certain people,” he never specified what people, used to defame Islam using his name. The mufti says the former terrorist #1’s “name could have been totally made up” to show Islam as an allegedly hostile religion. Mufti Jalilov says Islam is not such a religion and recommends leaving Bin Laden’s case until the Judgment Day.

On the Kyrgyz Constitution Day, although it is not clear which constitution, since it was changed several times, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev was interviewed by local mass media on Thursday, May 5. Premier Atambayev says Turkey has written off a 51-million-dollar debt Kyrgyzstan owed, and several important bilateral agreements were reached. Atambayev also says he advocates joining the so far trilateral Customs Union among Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which stirred much dispute as to its pros and cons. Kyrgyz Premier is “not a fan” of the constitution that has brought him to his post and is planning to expand the ruling coalition by incorporating one of the two opposition parties. Atambayev says his government is working towards building a country which will be the “richest state in the region” and will have democracy as a “dictatorship of law.”

The week ended with an unpleasant discovery: A makeshift bomb was found in the yard of a school in Bishkek early in the morning on Friday, May 6. The state security agency’s sappers disarmed the bomb while no schoolchild or teacher arrived there. The agency circulated a statement among news agencies reading it encourages school staffs to be diligent and report suspicious objects and activities. While this is a totally legitimate action in line with the agency’s mandate and duties, it is curious that it was the only agency to respond to the school guard’s call and later circulate the statement. What does block police, significantly funded and trained by the OSCE, do if not ensure public safety?

Marat Sartpaev

April 11-15: Allegations, deaths, counter-terrorism
Written by , Monday, 18 Apr, 2011 – 8:29 | No Comment

The week of 11-15 April was full of various events in Uzbekistan. Events ranging from new factories to blasts to high-profile international conventions took place in the country. One of the prominent ones was the legendary Brazilian football player Rivaldo’s decision to sue his employer, a Tashkent-based football club, and claim 16m euros he claims he was underpaid. The FC is allegedly owned by the current president’s older daughter. By the way, the younger daughter is suing a French magazine for calling her father “a dictator”. The following is a compilation of other interesting developments in the country.

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March 28 – April 1: Nationalism, dismissal, allegations, boxing
Written by , Tuesday, 5 Apr, 2011 – 3:32 | No Comment

The end of the month of March has also symbolically ended acting Prosecutor General Kubatbek Baybolov’s term in office. But, before President Otunbayeva signed a decree relieving Baybolov from post, his now former office announced on Monday, 28 March, that it was resuming the investigation into embezzlement and other allegations reportedly committed by the Totmok town’s former mayor and currently an MP, Kanybek Isayev. While the state administration system in Kyrgyzstan does have multiple schemes for embezzlement and other crimes, Baybolov was not driven by the desire to bring the alleged culprit to justice – it was yet another link in chain called Baybolov vs. Babanov standoff.

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