Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have reached an agreement on 49 non-demarcated sections of the border, signaling another positive development in neighborly relations.
Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 1 that the accord was the result of field surveys by working groups in the Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Batken on October 22-31.
This momentum is the result of a telephone conversation on October 26 between Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev and acting Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who discussed the mutual advantageousness of successfully concluding joint work on delimitation, the Uzbek statement said.
Further working group coordination is due to take place in Uzbekistan.
The language about the agreements on disputed sections of the border remains provisional so far, but the number is impressive all the same. The border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is almost 1,400 kilometers long, but 324 kilometers of it in almost 60 separate locations have heretofore remained unresolved.
Such uncertainty has precipitated on occasion in flareups along unmarked portions of the border. Earlier this year, Uzbek troops parked armored personnel carriers along a Kyrgyz road in one such spot in a reprisal at Kyrgyz unwillingness to allow Uzbek workers to travel freely to a reservoir under their management.
A witness at an appeal hearing into the case of jailed rights activist Azimjan Askarov told a court in Kyrgyzstan’s Chui court on November 1 that she was forced to testify against him under duress.
Minura Mamadalieva, who was also Askarov’s co-defendant at the initial trial following ethnic unrest in 2010, said that she yielded to pressure after she and her six-year old son were subjected to mistreatment by the police, 24.kg reported.
Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek, was given a life sentence in September 2010 after being found guilty of inciting a crowd to murder a police officer on June 13 that year during deadly inter-communal riots in the southern town of Bazar-Korgon. He has always steadfastly maintained his innocence.
By recanting, Mamadalieva has placed further strain on the state’s deeply compromised case against Askarov, whose plight has drawn indignations from many international organizations and governments.
Speaking to the court, Mamadalieva said she was detained on June 26, 2010, and taken to Bazar Korgon police station, where she claimed she was ordered to stump up $5,000. Mamadalieva also said she was told by police that Askarov had testified against her, somehow implicating her in the violence, so that she do the same and offer testimony placing the activist at the bridge where the policeman is said to have been murdered.
“But I did not see Askarov there, I was not there. They made me sign to all this,” she said. “They said they would put my child behind bars. The police beat us, the detainees, they almost made us eat dirt. Including Askarov. This is the kind of unbridled behavior the Bazar-Korgon police station was getting up to.”
A standoff between a filmmaker and a minister in Kazakhstan has culminated with the former ending up behind bars.
News website KazInfo reported on October 27 that movie director Talgat Zhanybekov had been detained by officers from the state anticorruption agency on charges of embezzling Culture Ministry funds. Zhanybekov’s lawyer told reporters that the investigation is linked to a failed film project, but that is only part of the story.
The trouble all began when filming on Zhanybekov’s government-funded sci-fi movie “Phoenix” was suspended over the summer, supposedly after funds dried up. Zhanybekov claims Culture Minister Arystanbek Mukhamediyuly pulled financing after demanding, but not receiving, a kickback.
Mukhamediyuly responded to the accusations by filing a libel suit in an Astana court. The court ruled that Zhanybekov had failed to provide evidence for his claims and fined him 1 million tenge ($3,200).
Which is when the story took a strange turn.
In the first half of October, a former student of the Kazakhstan National Academy of Arts (KazNAI), posted a YouTube video alleging that Mukhamediyuly, who was previously rector of her academy, had made sexual advances. Mukhamediyuly adamantly rejected the allegations and suggested that Zhanybekov had engineered the story as part of a smear campaign.
All this background makes the sudden discovery that Zhanybekov might have been stealing state money all along most convenient. The executive producer of Phoenix, Nataliya Yudina, has reportedly also been arrested.
The capital of Tajikistan has been plunged into darkness by an unexpected electricity blackout — an embarrassing crisis only one day before the start of major work on an important hydropower dam.
Residents in Dushanbe said the electricity gave out at after 6:30 pm on October 28 and had still not returned by nightfall. Scheduled blackouts are a common occurrence in Tajikistan, although mostly in the regions and at the height of winter, but this appears to be an unplanned event.
President Emomali Rahmon is due on October 29 to oversee a ceremony marking the start of work on stemming the flow of the Vakhsh River as part of construction work on the Rogun mega-dam. It is unclear if the outage is in any way related to preparations for that event.
Russian state-run news agency Sputnik cited unnamed sources as saying the blackout affects 90 percent of the country and that two possible causes are being considered.
“The first is that the authorities have decided to insure themselves during the stemming of the Vakhsh, while they were carrying out explosions. The issue there is to do with building work on Rogun. The second version is more plausible — that there has been an accident on the LEP-500 power line, which provides electricity to most of the country,” the agency reported.
Officials neither gave any advance warning of the blackout nor offered any explanation afterward.
The lack of information has already begun giving rise to rumors and speculation, largely along the lines proposed by Sputnik. But some commenters on social media have even alluded to reports of a blackout in the Pamirs, which is normally relatively immune to such electricity failure as it is fed by the Agha Khan Fund-run Pamir Energy power producer. Others on social media denied the reports about the Pamirs.
The trial in Kazakhstan of a man accused of embarking on a shooting spree in the business capital, Almaty, is approaching its end amid calls for him to face the death penalty.
Ruslan Kulekbayev freely admits to killing eight policemen and two civilians during his rampage on July 18 and has told the court he has no regrets. The motivation for the attack, Kulekbayev told the court, stemmed from his perception that police were mistreating devout Muslims.
“Your husbands and brothers were persecuting and tormenting my Muslim brothers. They unjustly judged them. They too took people away from their families. That is why I did this,” Kulekbayev said in a final statement to the court.
He was similarly unfazed by the prospect of death, although technically that penalty is prohibited by moratorium in Kazakhstan.
“You can sentence me to life in prison, you can sentence me to death, I am prepared to accept anything. I would just say this: even the life of a fly, if it pleases Allah, is valuable to me. Everything else, well… I do not recognize your judgment, the highest justice can only be dispensed by Allah,” Kulekbayev said.
Another five accomplices also on trial did not face charges connected to the mass shooting, but were accused of planning to rob a businessman together with Kulekbayev. The prosecution has asked those defendants to receive jail terms of between three and 12 years.
A verdict is due on November 2.
As suggested by the remarks above, Kulekbayev’s behavior was contemptuous throughout the trial. He always appeared relaxed and occasionally laughed into the cameras. The trial was open to journalists, although they were only able to following proceedings by video feed from an adjacent room.
It was with immense grief that I heard that my mentor and PhD advisor, Professor Edward Allworth, passed away last week in New York at the grand and befitting age of 95.
As one of his last Master’s and then PhD students at Columbia University in the mid-1990s, I benefitted from six years of his tutorship, wisdom, compassion, intellectual rigor, high aspirations and expectations. He groomed us as cultural historians of a region – Central Asia – which he had discovered and loved since his own youth.
Professor Allworth always defended cultural history during the Cold War when the tendency was to study strategy and weapons, as well as during the post-Soviet period, when the focus was on democracy building and economic transition models. When the Central Asian countries gained independence in the early 1990s, while some students dropped out of the PhD track to follow the appeal of rapid lucrative employment in oil companies, governments and radio stations beaming propaganda to the region, he kept a handful of us at bay and steeped us in the writings of the early 20th century reformist writer Abdalrauf Fitrat, and the study of Chagatay, the 15th century pre-Uzbek language.
The son of Tajikistan’s leader, a 29-year old sometimes touted as a possible successor to the presidency, has announced he has completed a sociological survey on corruption.
As head of the state anticorruption agency, Rustam Emomali was ideally positioned to undertake the task, although the news is likely to have provoked raised eyebrows all the same.
As it happens, many in Tajikistan firmly believe it is the ruling family and their associates that are largely to blame for the rampant bribery, although no comprehensive and independent polling has been done to measure those moods. Tajikistan ranked joint 136th out 165 countries in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index — the same as Nigeria and 17 position below Russia.
Emomali spoke about the research while providing an update on October 27 to his father, President Emomali Rahmon, on his agency’s effort to combat graft over the past year. The aim of the study was to understand the exact causes of corruption and determine public attitudes toward the problem by putting questions to around 88,000 residents, Emomali said.
Ozodagon website cited Emomali as saying that respondents queried stated they most often confronted corruption in the healthcare and education sectors and while securing services at the birth and marriages registry office.
More than half the people that participated in the survey said some of the most corrupt state organizations in Tajikistan also include the prosecutor’s office, the customs service, national security bodies, the judiciary, and the Interior Ministry.
A 26-year old man in Tajikistan has been sentenced to 13 years in jail on charges of plotting to kill a poet now best-known for his paeans to President Emomali Rahmon.
As media in Tajikistan reported on October 24, a court in Dushanbe determined that Behruz Yagdarov was planning the murder to impress his cohorts in the Islamic State group, whom he subsequently intended to join in Syria.
Meanwhile, reports about the case have been pulled from news websites at the insistence of the security services after the presumed intended victim, Bozor Sobir, revealed that he was not aware of the plot against him — even after the verdict was passed.
According to media reports, Yagdarov was given instructions by unnamed parties to kill former Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians. But Sobir, a sometime-ardent-communist currently in the United States, was an odd would-be target, given that he lives on the other side of the planet from Dushanbe, where Yagdarov was arrested.
When contacted by media about the murder, Sobir expressed ignorance of the entire affair.
“Nobody told me about any of this, and they didn’t invite me to attend the trial. I was in the United States at the time,” Sobir said.
A report on the website of RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, about the trial was taken down following complaints from the State Committee for National Security, according to EurasiaNet.org sources.
In what has been billed as a historic development, Tajikistan will later this month start stemming the flow of the Vakhsh River as part of construction work on the Rogun mega-dam.
Moscow-based ferghana.ru has reported, citing a source in Tajikistan’s energy sector, that a ceremony to begin diverting the river will be attended by President Emomali Rahmon on October 29.
Construction duties on Rogun were earlier this year assigned to Italian company Salini Impregilo. It is estimated that the project will cost $3.9 billion to complete, although it is far from clear where Dushanbe is to source such a vast quantity of funds.
The website cites energy industry insiders as saying that work on the Vakhsh River will not affect existing hydroelectric facilities downstream.
Salini Impregilo explained the purpose of diverting the Vakhsh — as well as how it will be done — in its project page on Rogun.
“The diversion of the Vakhsh River … will be done with confluence of two diversion tunnels in a mountainside in order to keep the foundations of the dam dry. It is a very complex task that, because of the strength of the river, will only be able to be done during the winter months when the mountains are covered in snow and the water level is lower,” the company said on its website.
The project is broken down into four components, with the most expensive one involving the building of a 335-meter-high rockfill dam — the tallest in the world — which will entail costs of around $1.95 billion.
The government in Kyrgyzstan has collapsed after weeks of sniping between coalition members over contentious constitutional reform plans.
The Social Democratic Party (SDPK) declared in a statement on October 24 that it is leaving the four-party coalition.
Objections to amending the 2010 constitution had been voiced most strongly by the left-leaning Ata-Meken party, which all the while resisted pressure for it to initiate the breakup of the ruling coalition.
In an illustration of the seriousness of its disagreement with Ata-Meken, SPDK accused the party of being in cahoots with the deposed leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
“We cannot be in one coalition with those that, as it turns out, share common interests with the Akayevs and Bakiyevs, and who follow their instructions. With those who oppose the interests of the country. It became especially obvious during the constitutional reform,” the party claimed in official statement.
There is no immediate evidence that Ata-Meken have engaged in any dialogue with either of the country’s former leaders.
The outgoing coalition was formed by four political parties soon after the parliamentary elections in October. It constituent parties included the SPDK party of President Almazbek Atambayev, the mostly pro-government Kyrgyzstan Party, the agrarian issues-dominated Onuguu-Progress and Ata Meken. Two other parties, Bir Bol and Respublika-Ata Zhurt, remain in the opposition’s ranks.
The initiative to tinker with the current constitution has been steadily gathering pace since July. Backers of the fix have proposed around 30 amendments, which are due to be put to the population in a referendum in December.