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.
Attacks on journalists are common in Kyrgyzstan. Attacks on Uzbeks are also common. Ergo, there is nothing surprising about an attack on an Uzbek journalist.
Shokhrukh Saipov was violently attacked in broad daylight on August 10. Saipov, 26, publishes UZpress.kg, which has reported on simmering ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan since violence last year left over 400 people, mostly Uzbeks, dead.
Shokhrukh is the younger brother of the late Alisher Saipov, a journalist murdered outside his Osh office in 2007.
“Half his face was missing,” Shokhrukh’s father, Avas, said, in comments carried by Uznews.net. Avas fears his son did not receive adequate medical care because of his ethnicity, the report said. That is a legitimate concern given the rise of aggressive Kyrgyz nationalism since the ethnic violence.
Police in southern Kyrgyzstan continue their systematic persecution of minority ethnic Uzbeks, extorting, torturing and killing with impunity, says a prominent human rights group, citing the latest example of police beating an Uzbek to death.
It’s bad enough Uzbeks are being forbidden from rebuilding in Osh, after suffering the worst of the ethnic clashes last summer that left many of their neighborhoods smoldering ruins. Targeted police violence continues and few, if any, officials have been prosecuted. From Human Rights Watch’s latest news release:
The policemen allegedly tortured Khalmurzaev for several hours, trying to extort money from him in exchange for his release. He told his wife that as soon as he was taken into the station, the police put a gas mask on him and started punching him. When he fell down, one of the operatives, using his knees, jumped on Khalmurzaev’s chest two or three times. Khalmurzaev said he lost consciousness.
When he regained consciousness, he told his wife, the police threatened that if he did not pay, they would frame him on charges of involvement in an attack during the June 2010 violence. They finally agreed to accept $680, which his family brought, and he was released at about 8 p.m., his wife said. Police told him they would harm his family if he told anyone what had happened.
Furthering an ideological shift from national liberation to nationalism, authorities in Bishkek have removed a prominent statue called “Freedom” and will soon replace it with a statue of the mythical hero Manas. Manas, of the eponymous Kyrgyz-language epic poem, has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as Kyrgyzstan struggles to define an identity.
That task has taken on renewed urgency since ethnic pogroms against minorities --- who make up 30 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population -- last year. But in this multiethnic state, Manas – unlike Freedom – is unmistakably Kyrgyz.
Freedom, in place since 2004 in Bishkek’s main square, the scene of uprisings in 2005 and 2010, had been represented by a winged woman hoisting a tunduk – the crisscrossed top of a yurt, a symbol of Kyrgyz national identity. Some Kyrgyz have been upset with the 12-meter statue in recent months, claiming a woman should not be lifting a tunduk, for that is a man’s job.
Previously, a monument to Soviet founding father Vladimir Lenin had stood on her plinth; he has now been relegated to a spot behind the history museum, facing the building where the government sits.
Just who is Ali Osman Zor? And why doesn’t Turkey want him anymore?
Kyrgyz security forces arrested the 46-year-old Turkish citizen in Bishkek in May at the request of the Turkish Embassy, which accused him of membership in the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front (İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncılar Cephesi, or, IBDA-C), a terrorist group that allegedly aims to overthrow the government in Ankara.
For a time, observers expected Zor to be extradited to Turkey. That process was delayed, however, by his application for asylum: Zor claimed he had been persecuted as a journalist in Turkey. As expected, on July 15 Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Labor, Employment and Migration rejected his request. Yet Ankara never followed-up on the demand for extradition and Zor is languishing in limbo in a State Committee for National Security (GKNB) detention center, reportedly on hunger strike, according to Sabyrjan Mambetov, a spokesperson for the Taza Din (Pure Faith) movement, which has taken an interest in the case.
Turkey is usually vigilant when it comes to alleged Islamic radicals. Coercing Kyrgyzstan into extraditing Zor is also an easy way for Ankara to show off its influence in the region. Why then did Turkey not make more of an issue of Zor, an accused al-Qaeda sympathizer?
A writer for Islamist-inspired publications, Zor hardly elicits sympathy at home. But, his extradition would have focused unwanted attention on Turkey at a time when the democratic credentials and commitment to human rights of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are under scrutiny.
If you run a successful international chain of casinos and are after new places to open a branch, you look for somewhere suitably glamorous and wealthy, right?
Well, no, not if you're Storm International.
In an apparently counter-intuitive move, the company last year opened a casino in Kyrgyzstan's desperately impoverished Batken Province, near the border with Tajikistan.
Really, who in that part of the world would have the disposable income to spare on high-stakes gambling? What kind of person in Tajikistan or southern Kyrgyzstan has money to fritter away on expensive leisure pursuits or, say, expensive SUVs and such?
Whoever these people are, the fun is seemingly all over for them, for authorities in Kyrgyzstan have apparently decided to shut down the Shangri-La Casino, Tajik news portal Asia-Plus reports.
As the site cautiously notes, "the reason for the suspension of the casino's operations is unknown, but according to some sources, operations were suspended following a ruling handed down by a chief prosecutor in Kyrgyzstan's Batken Province."
If a character like Kyrgyzstan's human rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun didn't exist, you would have to make him up.
On July 18, his office distributed an email summoning journalists to a press conference to mark Nelson Mandela Day, which is held yearly to coincide with the retired statesman's birthday.
It is certainly no bad thing that Kyrgyzstan should be celebrating the life of a great man who devoted his political career to forging reconciliation, a concept utterly alien to the country's venal political class.
And pretty alien to Akun, too, while we're at it. He has said some notably worthy things about the ethnic clashes in Osh last year, it must be conceded. But one has to worry about a human rights ombudsman who criticizes an international report on the violence by complaining that it failed to realize the main cause of the unrest was that at the time of the Kokand Khanate (in the 18th and 19th centuries), the Kyrgyz were forced to seek employment from Uzbeks and other ethnic groups.
Anyway, back to Mandela Day.
With mercurial Akun running the show, one just had to expect the event to be somehow weirdly compromised, and he didn't disappoint.
Girls milk cows at Kyrgyzstan's Song-Kul lake, where they migrate with their families every year to take advantage of the lush jailoo, or summer pasture. The lake sits at 3000 meters (almost 10,000 feet).
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.