Police in Kyrgyzstan say they have killed “a terrorist” who hijacked a minibus in the country’s volatile south. Authorities have been highlighting the threat of terrorism as the country faces presidential elections on October 30, designed to put an end to 18 months of uncertainty since former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled during a bloody uprising in early 2010.
The bus was traveling from the market town of Kara-Suu to Osh when the suspect, fleeing a police operation, apparently boarded and took the passengers hostage on October 8. Kara-Suu is a predominantly ethnic Uzbek town, which Kyrgyz police describe as a hotbed of Islamist extremists.
None of the 15 passengers on the bus were harmed, local media said. A police sniper reportedly killed the suspect at a roadblock outside Osh. Interfax quoted security officials saying operations were continuing in Kara-Suu District to find accomplices.
Such a delicate mission could easily heighten ethnic tensions. Since violence between the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in June 2010, police – who are overwhelmingly ethnic Kyrgyz – have regularly focused operations on Uzbeks. Human rights groups charge that violent police bias against Uzbeks has become business as usual.
Tensions remain high across southern Kyrgyzstan. This week, protestors in Jalal-Abad Province blocked the country’s main highway demanding authorities release four Kyrgyz police charged with torturing an Uzbek man to death.
Kyrgyzstan has joined the 153 countries that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. During the signing ceremony in New York on September 21, President Roza Otunbayeva emphasized her country’s commitment to building a tolerant society that respects the rights of all citizens. While parliament must still ratify the motion, which would give the Convention the strength of law, Otunbayeva’s move is important for acknowledging the right of disabled people to full participation in society.
Disability in Kyrgyzstan, like the rest of Central Asia, is stigmatizing. Children with disabilities like cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome are often sent to institutions to be ‘rehabilitated,’ as though a disability were a crime or a contagion. Others are kept at home in isolation. Having a disabled child in the family can negatively affect other siblings’ marriage prospects, as the family is considered tainted by misfortune.
Thanks to the public advocacy efforts of local non-governmental organizations as well as disabled people themselves, these attitudes are beginning to shift. The right of access to public services -- like education, health, and transportation -- for people with disabilities is increasingly included in policy discussions in Kyrgyzstan. However, the danger is ever-present that disability rights will be seen as a niche issue, the subject of charity, or the last luxury to consider when all other problems have been solved.
But retrofitting is always messy. If we do not build rights for all into the policy process from the beginning, there will always be an excuse for exclusion.
Red and blue are primary colors. So it could just be a coincidence. But in the heated battle for Kyrgyzstan’s presidency, one website is pointing out that Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev’s new logo bears a striking resemblance to … Valvoline motor oil!
Bloggers in Kyrgyzstan have been sniggering at the comparison since the campaign began last week. In Atambayev’s logo, the letter ‘A’ in his name looks very much like the Valvoline ‘V’ flipped upside down.
This was not lost on the “information-analytical portal” Sayasat.kg (politics.kg, in Kyrgyz), which describes itself as independent, but is actually backed by one of Atambayev’s competitors. Sayasat.kg calls Atambayev disingenuous and two-faced, using perevyortysh, a Russian word with the root “to turn upside down.”
This is not the first time that Atambayev’s campaign team has been accused of zealously trawling the Internet for inspiration. In 2009, when he ran against then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Atambayev was teased for using a logo that looked suspiciously like that of a very popular American candidate – namely, Barack Obama.
Nazarbayev, who likes to tout his role in dismantling the nuclear weapons he inherited from the Soviet Union, has been up for the prize several times before at home. But those efforts failed. And because he rules over Central Asia’s fastest-growing economy, where living standards are rapidly outpacing those in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, it should come as no surprise that a grateful neighbor should step up and help.
Of course, not all Kyrgyz deputies are happy to see their country groveling before its stronger neighbor. When Speaker Akmatbek Keldibekov (no convincing peacemaker himself) suddenly tabled the proposal at the end of the parliamentary session on September 29, one deputy cried, “This really looks like sheer toadyism!”
"This flattery ... had not been discussed before and appeared on the agenda all of a sudden at the last moment," Reuters quoted MP Kanybek Imanaliyev from the Ar-Namys party as saying. "It looks like some [Kyrgyz] politicians have vested interests in this."
Casinos have suddenly become a hot topic in Kyrgyzstan as various factions in parliament wrestle with accusations that they use the gambling houses to launder drug money.
On September 29, parliament approved a bill banning “gambling activity” as of January 1. Outside the building, protestors lamented that thousands of citizens working in the industry will lose their jobs due to the alleged illicit activities of the country’s leaders. One protestor, who called himself Timur, told EurasiaNet.org that the new ban stinks of inequality: “We pay taxes, we contribute to society. And you see these people [lawmakers and other officials] driving around in Lexuses that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Where does the money come from?”
That is a question on a lot of people’s minds in Bishkek these days. For the past several weeks, a heretofore unheard of group has shouted allegations that the leading candidate in the next month's presidential election, Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, uses casinos to launder profits from drug trafficking. Atambayev has not responded to the allegations.
Researchers are warning that Central Asia’s post-Soviet decay has provided a fertile breeding ground for a group of dangerous tropical diseases. The region’s economic breakdown and falling healthcare standards have contributed to the reemergence of diseases that had been eradicated or were controlled when the countries were part of the Soviet Union. The diseases, such as malaria, hurt the region’s economy, the authors warn in “Central Asia's Hidden Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases.”
NTDs “are a group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that are the most common afflictions of the world's poorest people. They blind, disable and disfigure their victims, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and disease,” says a press release from the Public Library of Science, which published the study.
Authors Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, DC, and Ken Alibek of Nazarbayev University in Astana, who published their report September 27, write that “among their common features, the NTDs result in prolonged periods of disability and actually help to promote poverty through their long-standing effects on child development and worker productivity. It is not commonly appreciated that the NTDs are widespread throughout Central Asia where they are also a major determinant of poverty.”
The diseases include “soil-transmitted helminth infections, food-borne and zoonotic parasitic infections, and vector-borne protozoan infections.” Some of the infections spread through meat, which is no longer regulated by mechanized slaughterhouses, since the demise of the Soviet state left “livestock production in the hands of small farms and unsupervised homes, and largely without veterinary inspection.”
Television viewers in Kyrgyzstan will say goodbye to foreign news this weekend for the duration of the country’s presidential election season. Between September 25 and the October 30 ballot, Kyrgyzstan’s televisions stations and cable operators are forbidden from rebroadcasting foreign news bulletins that could affect the election’s outcome. Most operators have no choice but to suspend foreign news programming altogether.
Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebayev, himself a presidential candidate, first proposed the ban this spring after he experienced a thorough bashing by Russian media during last year’s parliamentary polls. His party’s fifth-place finish, by most accounts due to the Russian pressure, was the season’s biggest political upset. The author of Kyrgyzstan’s 2010 constitution and one of the “revolutionaries” who came to power after street riots ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev that spring, Tekebayev is often called “pro-Western” and is said to have angered Moscow by endorsing a parliamentary form of government.
The Torpedo Testing Centre located at Issyk Kul lake in Karakul province, 250 km away from the capital Bishkek, is considered one of the best locations to launch and recover torpedoes fired during test trials.
“The facility was visited by Defence Minister A.K. Antony a few months ago. An Indian delegation would be visiting Kyrgyzstan soon to make an assessment of investment needed for the project and the terms and conditions for co-developing it,” DRDO Chief Controller William Selvamurthy told PTI.
To develop existing infrastructure at the centre, India has proposed to engage local companies with available know how in torpedo technology to co-develop the facility.
“India is willing to develop the Centre to test all kinds of torpedoes such as heavy weight torpedoes and those having thermal navigation system,” Mr. Selvamurthy said.
Kyrgyz Interior Ministry Zarylbek Rysaliev alleged at a press conference on September 14 that Janysh orchestrated the murder of one of his brother’s top advisors, Medet Sadyrkulov, whose charred body was found in a burnt-out car outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in March of 2009.
Investigators back in 2009 said Sadyrkulov died in an auto accident. But Rysaliev characterized Sadyrkulov’s death as a premeditated murder, carried out on the order of Janysh Bakiyev. Janysh attended the slaying and personally tortured Sadyrkulov, Rysaliev claimed. Sadyrkulov once served as President Bakiyev’s “grey cardinal,” but the family reportedly turned on him after he resigned his post in January 2009 and made overtures to the opposition.
The unfolding scandal surrounding Sadyrkulov’s death has the potential to influence the presidential election, which is slated for October 30. At least 17 Kyrgyz officials have already been detained in connection with the murder – including the former-deputy head of the Border Guards Service, Zamir Moldoshev, and Aibek Abdrazakov, the ex-head of the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Organized Crime Department.
More arrests may be in the offing. The Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing a source in the Interior Ministry, reported that the former head of the Security Council, the ex-attorney general and ex-interior minister are likely to be questioned, perhaps even detained.
Promotional billboards and banners celebrating Kyrgyzstan’s 20th anniversary of independence have offended Kyrgyz nationalists, sparking the kind of violent reaction that is becoming common in the Central Asian nation.
In the southern city of Osh, representatives of the Ak Kyzmat youth organization burned signs they called “anti-ideological,” including a poster depicting Kyrgyz yurts covered with the flags of China, Russia, and the United States. While the photographer responsible for the banner maintained that his image was intended to represent the three great powers he says “keep watch over” Kyrgyzstan, his detractors interpreted the image as degrading.
The protestors also took issue with a banner depicting a foreign tourist surrounded by Kyrgyz, which they argued placed their compatriots in a subservient position.
“It looks like the Kyrgyz are following after him, but I want to point out that the Kyrgyz have always lived on their own and have never depended on anyone,” complained Ak Kyzmat leader Turgunbai Aldakulov. “If the appropriate agencies do not remove the banners, the youth of the city are ready to burn every poster in Osh.”