Politics and Society
To mark International Women’s Day, Oxfam Communication Officers, Caroline Berger and Nino Gvianishvili, report from Samegrelo in Western Georgia on one woman’s story who has overcome tragedy, started her own business and is now a role model in her village
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I want to share with you impressions of the many contrasts in Turkmenistan by citizen-journalists I know. Except for two from Flickr (but I’m reassured are under Creative Commons licensing), I publish these photos with explicit permission from their owners, who must stay anonymous.
Photo #1:Ashgabat is forever under construction, and everything is glistening marble. Always new government ministries everywhere, and elite apartments for the government coterie that cost cost around 100,000-200,000 USD (!). There are some rumors these days that even the pedestrian walkways in the main quarters shall be re-paved with marble. This is all to impression of lightning-fast development in the “era of happiness of the stable state”. But it is false impression, mis-spending money that could be used to increase living standards, healthcare, education, etc.
Photo #2: Only a few blocks away from marble facade are vast colonies of crumbling Soviet-era residential blocs. Many of these are in process of being bulldozed to make way for more marble extravaganza. Kicked-out residents are given new homes in the outskirts of the city. A sharp contrast exists between the center and the periphery. It was always sort of there, even during the Soviet days, but now much more visible, much more pronounced. You notice that the same people of one city live completely different lives and are faced everyday with different realities.
On January 19, in Moscow anti-fascists will start demonstration in memory of community activists – lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. The main slogan of the action – “For freedom against fascism” and “Moscow – anti-fascist town!”. Demostration will be organized by the anti-fascist group called the “Committee of 19 January.”
This year the “Committee of 19 January” has prepared stickers using more than 10 languages of the former Soviet Union with the main slogan of the action – “For Freedom! Against fascism.” Stickers are in Armenian, Belarusian, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Moldovan, Russian, Tajik, Uzbek, Ukrainian languages.
Activists were contacted with citizens of Central Asia, and provided them with an opportunity to express their solidarity. Different designers from CA countries prepared their stickers (with design and slogan in their native language). Stickers were printed out and circulated in Moscow. You can see in our gallery stickers in Kyrgyz, Tajik and Kazakh.
Lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were murdered by the Russian neo-Nazis on January 19, 2009. Killer sentenced to long terms. It is murder – the most prominent one, but not the only one in a series of neo-Nazi crimes. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people (there are no exact statistics) – social activists, experts, workers – were killed by the Nazis in Russia over the last decade, according to the site 19jan.ru. Now January 19 is the unofficial day of the memory of all victims of fascists and nazis in Russia.
The first ever law regulating the mass media in Turkmenistan, started to work from 3 January. The corresponding decree, as reported TURKMENinform, was signed by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The new law provides citizens of the republic free access to foreign media, prohibits censorship and will defend journalists against pressing by government officials.
“Coca-Cola” company Christams truck appeared on the streets of Tashkent. Using the internationaly well-known anthem “Holidays are coming, holidays are coming”, red truck rides through the streets and handing out gifts to the surprised citizens. Read the full story »
In the Republic of Karakalpakstan, which is part of the Republic of Uzbekistan since the collapse of the USSR, authorities are once again forcing child labor on the cotton fields. In this region of one of the worst ecological disaster in the world and bad economical crisis, child labor aggravates the state of the Karakalpaks.
Headed by Elena Urlaeva, the activists of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan reported that from September to December in the areas of Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan there is continued use of child labor on the cotton fields. For example, in late October, activists saw elementary school students working on the fields of villages in Kashkadarya, and underage students working on the fields of many regions of Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan. Many children are severely ill and exhausted by the long hours of hard labor; they are not provided with health care, adequate food, and accommodation. Children work in conditions of fear and oppression, which is reflected in their psyche. This Fall, fortunately, the use of children to gather the harvest cotton has lessened from previous years.
NewEurasia’s special blogg Alex Ulko reports on the hard life of Uzbek labour migrants in Russia. “What I could not remember was whether Dante required those stuck in limbo to abandon hope or not,” he writes.
Editor’s Note: Turkmenistan’s internal tribal divisions are rarely discussed, but they are real, and can be seen even in the infrastructure of the country. NewEurasia’s Annasoltan attempts to tackle the issue. “Ultimately, [the problem is not] about nefarious machinations on the part of one Turkmen tribe against all the others,” she writes. “It’s about power, privilege, and corruption, a problem that transcends tribe.”
Turkmenistan sits on top of huge energy reserves, but also huge tribal fault lines. It’s a profoundly difficult and sensitive issue to bring up, especially as it goes to the heart of Turkmenhood.
If you look closely at the map, you can detect a certain mismatch. Mary, Lebap and Daşoguz provinces are the three main cotton-growing provinces of our country, yet the textile factories are concentrated in Ahal province. Similarly, the fish are harvest along the Caspian Sea in Balkan province and in the Amu Darya in Lebap province, but the processing facilities are also located in Ahal province. Yet, official propaganda says that new facilities are being opened all across the five provinces for the benefit of Turkmenistan’s people as a whole. It’s a carefully tailored message: the authorities are aware that high unemployment outside of Ahal province is generating widespread discontent, and that discontent is taking a tribal character, particularly in northern Dasoguz province and eastern Lebap province.
Here are two initiatives to help economically disadvantaged but intellectually-gifted students in our country that are being carried about by Kyrgyzstani youth in partnership with friends from overseas:
The Mary Schweitzer Scholarship for undergraduate students of anthropology at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA). Every year, up to three students are selected based upon their academic excellence, dedication to the discipline, and their financial need. Click on the link above or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mugalim aims to provide financial supplements to the salaries of young teachers who are willing to work in rural schools that are in a dire need for staff. Believe me, education is really crucial to empower and develop these regions! If you can help out Mugalim in anyway, you’ll be making a real contribution to society.