“People would prefer to have gold or silver or platinum, some tangible asset that can preserve their wealth. So, while we’re sitting out in this isolated part of Central Asia and it seems unconnected to much of the rest of the world, this is obviously very central issue to what’s going on economically and financially right now in Europe and North America.” — Dr. Robert Moran, hydrologist/geologist
This past September, Bankwatch and I made a documentary about the Kumtor mine. You can view the video via YouTube. Some weeks later I was invited to join a State Commission which was visiting the Kumtor goldmine to do an environmental monitoring and take water samples. While we were out there, though, I also took a long series of photographs, originally posted by Bankwatch on Flickr but which I’m now re-posting with permission here to help spread the word about what’s happening in Kyrgyzstan’s mountains.
With the help of a fellow Turkmen citizen-journalist, I’ve obtained and translated this official media coverage of our nation’s recent presidential election.
Continuing my themes of Bishkek’s general coolness factor (here and here) and dredging up photos from my laptop’s hard drive, these photographs of graffiti were taken by Shirin Aitmatova nearly a year ago in March 2011. I saw some of these still clinging to walls during my last trip to the city. [Cross-posted to our partners @ Demotix: here.]
These photos are by a fellow citizen journalist inside Turkmenistan. It might be hard for outsiders to understand how courageous this person is, even if the content is “uncontroversial”.
I would also like to draw the viewer’s attention away from the banners and at the context around them. If you look closely, you can see indications of the material impoverishment of my country.
The photograph above is from Ashgabat. It shows all eight of the official candidates. However, there are no posters or advertisements allowed that would show these men individually. By contrast, there are huge posters of Berdimuhamedov just about everywhere.
The snowfall in Tajikistan is legendary, but you’ve really got to experience it to understand why. Thursday was +14 degrees, today it will be
-11; such abrupt changes make it a difficult trip to pack for. I’m sitting in a hotel in Dushanbe looking out of the window at a gentle blizzard, thinking about a trip to the mountains earlier today, stealing a short break, while out on assignment for Oxfam. Below are the photos from that trip. Ah, yes, and one of what I think was a Tajik hair salon named in honor, of glamor personified, Princess Diana, who has obviously been adopted as a national treasure.
The rather crappy photos above are of Kumtor tractor trailer convoys in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan. The close-up shows one convoy parked outside of Barksayn (Барскаун, a.k.a., Barskoon, Barkaun, etc.), the second shows a full convoy that had been blocked on the road in Barskayn for mechanical reasons (an engine overheated in the lead truck), and the third shows a convoy with a police escort in one of the hamlets that rest along the Lake’s South Shore, which is less populated than the more touristy North Shore. I remember the cops being rather dramatic: sirens wailing, driving way up ahead of the trucks, frantically waving at pedestrians to get out of the way. I was surprised by the frequency with which the convoys came and went. Since I’m not at all an expert on resource issues, I’ve no idea what’s contained in these trucks (if anything; they could have been empty).
I took these photos back in April 2011 but misplaced them in the wilderness of my hard drive. However, today’s report from Bankwatch.org concerning the mining industry in Kyrgyzstan (http://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/Kumtor-MoranReport-31Jan2012.pdf) has prompted me to dig them up (pun intended). The report explores a lot of the difficulties that exist trying to get a technical and ecological audit on the mine and other related mining ventures. I recommend reading it.
On January 3rd, 2012, young activists of Birdamlik Peoples Movement of Uzbekistan protested in front of the Uzbek Embassy in Washington, DC.
“The kids of our family, some of whose parents are not here with them in the U.S. and who became vistims of the Uzbek regime’s prosecution for being my relatives, are the ones trying to bring international attention to this problem,” Bakhodir Choriyev, leader of Birdamlik who currently resides in the United States, told neweurasia.
As a result, some kids are either without one parent or both parents — their relatives are deprived from their right to move freely and come to the U.S. where they have residence permits (the so-called Green Cards).
“This is the first protest in the series but not the last,” says Choriev. “We will continue our protests and call our Uzbek citizens, who are abroad, to occupy Uzbek embassies in countries of their residence! By doing this we can inform the world and publicity in developed democratic countries about horrible dictatorship regime in Uzbekistan, about President Karimov’s intolerance towards freedom of speech and political rights of the people of Uzbekistan!”
Read the full story »
Seems like Uzbek diplomats oversees do not enjoy their holidays. One of the most recent spoiled holidays for Uzbek authorities and foreign service officers was a protest infront of the Uzbek Consulate General in Istanbul on September 1, 2011, which is celebrated as Independence Day in Uzbeistan.
The protest, which was organized by People’s Movement of Uzbekistan (PMU), gathered some fifty human rights activists to express their negative attitude towards gross human rights violations and totalitarian political regime.
This time PMU activists made Uzbek Consulate staffers stay in their offices and hide behind curtains, take pictures and videotape the disagreement expressed on protesters’ banners, as well as in their speeches.
Banner prepared by Özbekler Birliği.org (Union of Uzbeks) aimed to inform people passing by and publicity about “22 years of state terror” in Uzbekistan, along with some statistics and a “Karimov-as-a-vampire” collage:
- 25 million people are slaves;
- 5 million kids pick cotton;
- 20,000 prisoners of consciousness;
- 5 million unemployed;
- 3,000 victims of Andijan;
- 54 Turkish businessmen imprisoned, their businesses confiscated. Read the full story »
“The water that serveth all that country is drawn by ditches out of the River Oxus, into the great destruction of the said river, for which it cause it falleth not into the Caspian Sea as it hath done in times past, and in short time all that land is like to be destroyed, and to become a wilderness for want of water, when the river of Oxus shall fail.”
Sometimes I think that people of Uzbekistan with a 28 million population know less about one of the greatest catastrophe in their own country than people worldwide. One of the reasons of it is the governmental propaganda of the successes in the policies towards its citizens. Another one is that the tragedy is being considered as not only the one of Uzbekistan but also of Kazakhstan, neighboring country rich of oil, and, considered as a main responsible side.
I found out about the Aral Sea ecological disaster when I became a freshman in my undergraduate studies. We had an introduction of our class and my then-future fellows introduced themselves. As myself, majority of students were from the capital city of Tashkent. The distribution among provinces represented the wealth and accessibility of the education in the most prestigious university of Uzbekistan: Tashkent, ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand were in top three in representation. All of them were telling their mostly enthusiastic live stories and what inspired them to study at the University. Except for one 17 year old guy who looked much older for us: skin on his face was flabby; he had a permanent cough and was breathing very hard; he was so thin and tall that for the rest of our five year education he had been called a “Skeleton”; the manner of speaking was slow but the way of thinking was critical and, as I understood later, more realistic than ours. Read the full story »
Editor’s note: The Turkmenet may be very small and very young, but it’s certainly developing at a remarkable rate, and not always in ways that can be clearly said to be good or bad. neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores the rise of hacking in this new space and its particularly Turkmen flavor. [The images above are proxy instructions for a Symbian-enabled smartphone from a Turkmen social site. Sensitive information has been removed from them for security reasons.]
Despite the Internet having so little penetration in Turkmenistan – somewhere in the vicinity of 1.6% of the population or 80,400 users according to the World Bank and United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – already it’s exhibiting many of the hallmarks of a much more mature cyberscape, right down to hackers.
The cyber-attack against the Chronicles of Turkmenistan this past summer, not to mention the related e-mail sent to neweurasia, was quite an eye-opener on the Turkmenet’s rapidly increasing capacities for digital misbehavior (although Schwartz suspects that the hacker from that incident, “0fx0”, was a hired gun). Since then, there have been cyber-attacks against the personal accounts of several prominent Turkmen journalists and human rights activists, including against a close friend of mine.
However, far less dramatic has been the emergence of more “mundane” — but no less dangerous — forms of hacking.