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.”
A bungled announcement about the end of Ramadan in Kyrgyzstan caused a minor scandal in Bishkek.
The AKIPress news agency reported that Orozo Ait, or Eid al-Fitr as it is known in the Arab world, was declared when Mufti Chubak-aji Jalilov caught sight of the moon at dusk on August 29. This marked the end of the 29th day of the fast, and with the Mufti’s declaration, according to the Labor Law of Kyrgyzstan, automatically made the next day a national holiday.
Unfortunately, such strict observance of Islamic law resulted in an overnight announcement, after many Kyrgyz had already gone to bed. As a result, a significant number of workers arose the next morning and went to work, only to learn via presidential announcement at 11:30 a.m. that they could have stayed in bed.
A commentary posted by the Paruskg.info news website worried that the incident represented the rise of an Islamic state in Kyrgyzstan. By declaring the holiday himself, the website wrote, the Mufti had superseded the state’s authority and undermined parliamentary governance.
Usually Kyrgyzstan’s politicians kiss up to Moscow. So it’s peculiar when one says something that looks (if anyone is looking) deliberately designed to provoke the Kremlin.
Russia must pay billions for its “Kyrgyz genocide” 95 years ago, says Nurlan Motuyev, one of Kyrgyzstan’s 83 presidential candidates in the upcoming October 30 polls. Motuyev – nicknamed the “coal king” for allegedly seizing a profitable mine during political unrest in 2005 – has reemerged on something of a pro-Islam ticket and seems to be looking for an enemy. While usually China or the United States make easy, anodyne targets, Motuyev is pointing a finger, according to an account in the Kyrgyz press, at Russia.
Back in 1916, as the Russian Empire was losing World War I in Europe, the Tsar attempted to draft non-Slavs into the army. Rebellion, which the Russians brutally suppressed, broke out in the distant provinces of Central Asia. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands were killed or died fleeing over the mountains to China. Hushed up throughout the Soviet era, today the episode is commemorated as Urkun (“exodus”).
Genocide is a strong word, as Kyrgyzstan knows well from the global opprobrium following last year’s bout of ethnic violence in the south. That was not genocide either, but the word – bandied about in press reports – stung many Kyrgyz who still feel the international community has unfairly judged them.
Now gold producers will be forbidden from shipping gold ore out of Kyrgyzstan, according to a report by the KyrTAG news agency. Starting next year, gold is only to be processed in-country, an official from the Ministry of Economic Regulation says. Exporters of gold concentrate, a purer mix than ore, will have to pay an extra tax before taking the material out.
Kyrgyzstan doesn’t have the facilities to process gold, admits the head of the ministry’s Department for Large Businesses, Emil Orozbekov. But how are investors supposed to read this? Should they start building processing facilities? Or give up?
"Some companies export gold ore and concentrates to process them in other countries, for example Kazakhstan and Russia. Kyrgyzstan has imposed a ban on the export of ore and increased export duties for gold concentrates from 2012," Orozbekov said. Kyrgyzstan does not have the experience processing ore and concentrates, “that is why many businessmen take the raw material abroad. In this way, we lose profits from the added value," he continued.
Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev has declared that the U.S. will have to leave its air base at Manas in 2014. In some comments to Russian journalists, reported by 24.kg, he said the government will fulfill the current agreement it has with the U.S., but then no more:
“You know, the former leadership of [the Kyrgyz Republic] with their biased attitude towards the undertaken international obligations has already spoiled outside image of Kyrgyzstan. In order to break that image somehow, we just have to execute an already concluded agreement. The contract for the Transit Center will expire in 2014. Our position is the following: we will notify in six months the U.S. side of the termination of the contract in full compliance with assumed obligations and from 2014 there will be the first major civilian international transport junction. Any capital can participate in the formation of his transport junction even though the Russian although the western.”
(That last comment appears to reference his previously stated plan to turn Manas into an international cargo transit facility.)
Needless to say, this shouldn't be taken as the final word. 2014 is three years away, who knows if Atambayev will still be in the government, and the U.S. hasn't had a chance to negotiate. Still it's an interesting statement by Atambayev, one of the leading candidates in Kyrgyzstan's October presidential elections. He seems to be trying to position himself as the pro-Russia candidate, so this is a natural political position for him to stake out.
Eighty-three. That’s the number of men and women who have declared their candidacy for Kyrgyzstan’s presidency. The skeptic might say Bishkek, scene of near-daily protests since ushering out President Kurmanbek Bakiyev last year, is drowning in democracy. And that would not be far from the truth. But Kyrgyzstan is also possibly holding the first presidential election in Central Asian history where the outcome is uncertain.
Registration for aspirants wishing to compete in the October 30 polls ended August 16. Parties nominated only 16 candidates. The rest -- from the “temporarily unemployed” to former military officers and recycled political hacks -- nominated themselves.
Most of us will never learn half their names. A majority of the 83 is expected to drop out before September 25, when campaigning officially begins and candidates must hand over 100,000 soms ($2,250) and 30,000 supporting signatures. All candidates must also pass a live, televised Kyrgyz-language exam.
Observers doubt fresh leadership will emerge from the contest. The most prominent contestants have all enjoyed various stints in recent governments. But for many in Kyrgyzstan, a larger concern is the country’s salient north-south political divide. Exacerbated by Bakiyev’s bloody ouster, that rift is likely to grow wider during elections. Several of the most prominent candidates enjoy strong regional followings and it is unlikely any one can win broad support across the whole country.