Relations among the Central Asian States of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have deteriorated in recent months, as officials have bickered about border demarcation, border control, water usage and unpaid gas debts. Relations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have become especially strained of late largely due to a dispute over the demarcation of their common frontier.
Much of the debate over Islam in post-Soviet Central Asia is cast in monolithic terms: Islam is contrasted to secularism, fundamentalism to democracy. In considering complex issues in mutually exclusive categories, we reduce each side to a homogeneous whole. Yet, Central Asia, in common with the rest of the Muslim world, is heir to a rich tradition of debate and contention.
The resounding victory for reformist candidates in Iran's recent parliamentary elections may prove to be the turning point in Iran's nascent democracy movement. In any case, the election results deal a damaging, perhaps fatal blow to the country's hard-line clerics who have ruled the country for more than 20 years.
On their way to the polls on February 27, some residents of Tajikistan's capital passed an unprecedented variety of campaign posters, including those for the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), the most prominent alternative to President Imomali Rakhmonov's ruling party. But the posters appeared almost exclusively along the central boulevard, Rudaki, and there were no more than fifty of them.
Yevgeny Zhovtis is among Central Asia's most prominent human rights advocates. On November 9, 1999, a fire destroyed the human rights bureau's offices in Almaty. [For background see "A Fire With Human Rights Implications."] Investigators have confirmed that the blaze was an act of arson.
At least one westerner living in Dushanbe reports that she is routinely searched at border crossings and that on at least one occasions a customs official searched her sexual organs, although there was no cause for suspicion of any illegal activity.