Two Feet, Two Directions

Tajikistan may well establish an independent national human rights organization with the backing of the OSCE and United Nations. The deputy head of the OSCE Center in Dushanbe, Andrei Shugurov, said a Tajik national human rights institution could become an effective mechanism to remedy “weaknesses” in the justice system. Weaknesses like… systematic and politically motivated persecution of the opposition? Not to be too cynical, but it seems that Tajikistan seems to be moving in two opposite directions at once – reform and repression – but the reforms have been largely soft (creation of plans, organizations and the like), and the…

Jews in Uzbekistan

There’s a fair bit of coverage concerning the death in Tashkent of Avron (Avraam, or Avraham) Yagudayev, a prominent member of the city’s community of Bukharan Jews. This has raised concern as it follows shortly after an attack on Grigori Akilov, the son of Tamara Akilova, head of Simho, the Bukharan Jewish cultural centre. Akilov remains hospitalized. However, the reaction of Shoazim Minovarov, Chairman of the Uzbek Committee for Religious Affairs, seems a bit odd. According to Minovarov: “There are no Yagudayevs among chairmen of Jewish communities or among rabbis. There is only one Yagudayev I know of, and he…

How to reform the Tajik military

The Government of Tajikistan has decided not to carry out a planned transition to a professional army, rather than a conscripted one. It has not renounced reform, just Western-prescribed remedies. Some analysts are suggesting that Tajikistan is increasingly wary of President Bush’s pro-democracy policy, and is increasingly trying to distant itself from Western nations. Alternatively, this break from the professional army plan could be a play to get more Western funding, as the stipulated reason for the change in policy is that it is financially infeasible (which is probably true). The Jamestown article referenced above makes a forceful argument that…

Bird Flu Scare

According to Deutsche Welle, sources within the Turkmen veterinary service have reported widespread deaths among migratory birds on the Caspian coast. However, while authorities in countries across the world have adopted stringent measures to pre-empt the threat of a bird flu pandemic, it appears that the relevant state bodies have failed to investigate the causes of the mass deaths. This information was also backed up fishermen operating in the Caspian Sea, who have testified to sighting from 30 to 50 dead birds around the Turkmenbashi peninsula. Among the birds spotted were pelican, wild ducks and geese. Though such findings have…

Theories abound

A day after the demonstration on Respublika Square, the Kazakh authorities explained everything to the confused observer. “Personal enmity” between Utembaev and Sarsenbaev led the former to call a hit on the latter: After Sarsenbaev published an article giving a negative characterization of [Utembaev] in one of the national newspapers, their relations deteriorated rapidly. After the publication of that article, Erzhan Utembaev’s career, in his own words, went downhill. Blaming that on Sarsenbaev, he nurtured the idea of taking revenge on him for a long time.” Any questions? Well, a couple of them, really. First off, the timing of the…

Cash Not Goods

Ukraine again reached an agreement with Turkmenistan about gas deliveries over the weekend. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov spoke on his optimism on the future of energy dialogue in a televised announcement, according to a ForUm report: “Yesterday, the Turkmen Foreign Minister and the Ukrainian Ambassador in Turkmenistan discussed the gas problem, the ambassador told me by phone. Judging by the results of the negotiations, Turkmen views on the conflict are absolutely constructive.” The main issue under discussion appeared to relate to the outstanding debt of $80 million owed by Kiev. As a result of the latest wave of negotiations…

“Is this the country we wanted to build 20 years ago?”

The fallout from the Sarsenbaev murder continues to become ever more dramatic. Today saw the first anti-government demonstration in years in Almaty, where about 1,000 protesters defied a police ban and marched on to the Respublika Square in order to commemorate the killed opposition leader. As James reported a couple of days ago, the international coverage of the Sarsenbaev affair has been quite considerable, as is the reporting about today’s protests. Fortunately, nothing serious happened except for a couple of minor scuffles, although the authorities weren’t really trying to de-escalate the situation: Local authorities appeared to inflame the crowd by…

The Railway by Hamid Ismailov

In the steppe near Tashkent they came upon a never-ending ladder with wooden rungs and iron rails and that stretched across the earth from horizon to horizon. (…) Whistling and thundering, a snake-like wonder hurtled past them, packed both on the inside and on top with infidels shouting and waving their hands. ‘The End of the World!’ thought both Mahmud-Hodja the Sunni and Djebral the Shiite. Set in Uzbekistan between 1900 and 1980, The Railway introduces to us the inhabitants of the small town of Gilas on the ancient Silk Route. Their colourful lives offer a unique and comic picture…

HIV/AIDS in Eurasia: Donor Politics & Priorities

Neweurasia has launched a new series of topic-specific posts across all of the country blogs in an effort to provide readers a comprehensive overview of current policy issues in Eurasia. We have devoted this first discussion to HIV/AIDS in the region. Thanks to all of our bloggers, you can find a country-specific overview in each of the country pages: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. UPDATE 24/04/06: Luke has posted a relevant post on the Mongolia blog. Here on the homebase, we want to step back a bit and examine the issue from a regional perspective and…

Celebrations With a Bang

In view of the revised prioritisation of government expenditure the news that the Turkmen government has chosen to devote so much money to festivities will not be welcomed by everybody. The following report in full comes from turkmenistan.ru: As the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru reports, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a resolution authorising the Central Bank of Turkmenistan to conclude a $1,868 million contract with France’s Bouygues Batiment firm for staging firework displays during the year. According to the press service of the Turkmen leader, large-scale festive fireworks will be arranged to celebrate Day of Rukhnama on 12 September 2006,…

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