Remember those train wagons regularly stuck on the Uzbek side of the Tajik fronteir? Well, Tashkent is now drawing those borders up in the sky as well, and assessing fees for crossing.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have agreed to charge for flights transiting each other's airspace, Asia-Plus reports, at Tashkent's insistence. Authorities have not yet announced how much the fees will total.
Uzbekistan unilaterally annulled an air traffic agreement with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in late June, asking that pilots from those countries no longer begin descents over Uzbek airspace (prompting some sudden descents into Osh). Tashkent insisted that air traffic controllers from each country take responsibility for their own planes. Previously, air-traffic controllers would help guide planes over their airspace, a common practice throughout the world.
Analysts believe that Uzbekistan’s insistence on the new payment regime is simply another attempt to stifle Tajikistan’s economic growth. Tajik planes must transit Uzbek airspace on almost all of the country’s international routes, and often begin their decent into Khujand’s airport, in the North, over Uzbek airspace.
It’s cotton harvest time again in Tajikistan, and the erstwhile moneymaking sector faces more bad news.
Though government officials repeatedly promise that children are not used to harvest cotton in the late summer and fall, those dubious assurances have fallen on deaf ears in Washington. The US Department of Labor announced on July 19 that it would blacklist Tajik cotton from import into the United States, RFE/RL reports.
Damian Wampler, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, said that "there were credible reports that some officials in the Sughd and Khatlon oblasts used threats and coercion to force children to work in the cotton fields during the 2009 harvest."
In Soviet times, Tajikistan produced up to a million tons of cotton annually. The country produces roughly one-third of those amounts these days. Harvests consistently fall below targets.
Osh Mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov says he has security under control.
Here’s a revelation: Osh Mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov is also against deploying OSCE international police monitors to his besieged and frightened city. Reports 24.kg:
According to him, most of residents of the southern capital are against bringing in this OSCE group. “I entirely support the citizens and think that we are able to manage the situation on our own,” the city Mayor said.
According to him, now it is necessary to solve one of the most important questions – about restoration of Osh.
Yep, rebuilding; not stopping his security forces from torturing and killing Uzbeks, as impartial observers have widely documented. Isn’t it convenient? Most of what Myrzakmatov wanted gone – including those awkward Uzbek mahallas – was destroyed in the June bloodletting. Guess he’ll have to move that bazaar outside the city, after all.
Myrzakmatov, recall, is a powerful force in Osh. Appointed by former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, he emerged on the steps of his office a few days after Bakiyev's April 7 ouster and asked his people to show their love. (He failed to disclose how much he paid them.) Since then, despite widely being suspected of complicity in last month's violence, the infirm government in far off Bishkek has been unable to remove him.
He has a growing lobby: the thousands (or more) Kyrgyz who refuse to accept that some of their ethnic kin may have had a role in the violence. Osh sees rallies on almost a daily basis.
Osh will be rebuilt into a “modern metropolis,” moving families whose houses were damaged during last month's violence onto plots outside of town. Many Uzbeks oppose the scheme. They suspect some officials helped organized the June violence, which gutted Uzbek neighborhoods in central Osh, to make way for extravagant modern government buildings and housing projects.
We made a decision to approach a restoration of Osh city on a different level. It will be done on the basis of general plan of reconstruction. But, we will have to try to minimally affect interests of those who lived and still living in the zone of future reconstruction. All of them in the case of transfer of the housing will not only receive a compensation for the property, but also new, I think, more comfortable land plots instead of those that will be going for state needs. We ask our citizens to be sympathetic to this. [...] We will approach this selectively: those who want to live in the houses will have such an opportunity, and those who want to receive a modern housing will get apartments.
The announcement, after weeks of hints from local and federal officials that those who lost their homes in central Osh would be encouraged to relocate, has many Uzbeks certain the violence was orchestrated. Soon after the fighting, the Osh mayor floated the idea
of constructing apartment blocks over the Uzbek neighborhoods.
In the three years since Kazakhstan was elected the 2010 chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
new, stricter libel laws and “restrictive Internet and privacy bills”
have further undermined basic freedoms.
Halfway into its OSCE chairmanship, Kazakhstan is holding at least one journalist and one prominent human rights activist in prison in retaliation for their work; at least two independent newspapers have been shut down under government pressure; censorship has crept up into the only remaining oasis for free expression, the Internet; and the state has continued to use bureaucratic pressure—including politicized audits on printing houses—to stifle independent coverage.
CPJ calls on you to act now and prevent the further trampling of press freedom and human rights in Kazakhstan. You can start by insisting that a precondition of holding an OSCE summit in Astana this year is the placement of the current chair’s press freedom record high on the agenda, and by demanding the participation of independent journalists, and media rights, press freedom, and civil society activists in related discussions.
Some have speculated that construction of the fence was a condition of membership in the new Customs Union among Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
In an episode eerily similar to the regular violence along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, a shoot-out near a Kazakh-Kyrgyz frontier post left two dead earlier this week. The Kyrgyz shepherds were attempting to illegally export horses, Kazakh border officials said.
The European Parliament has issued the latest appeal for Bishkek to allow an independent, international investigation into the June 10-14 violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.
The legislative body urged the Kyrgyz authorities “to immediately conduct independent investigation into the reasons of recent interethnic unrest in the country,” read a statement from Strasbourg, ITAR-TASS reported on July 8. “Perpetrators of crimes must receive just punishment.”
For weeks, foreign observers and governments have called on the Kyrgyz government to support an independent investigation. The idea has received widespread backing from academics and activists in Bishkek. Salavat Usmanov, head of International Relations faculty of Kyrgyz-Slavonic University in Bishkek, for one, says the inquiry must be led by outsiders “due to a sharp political struggle between different factions [in Kyrgyzstan].”
“All of us are somehow related to someone or to something here. Therefore, we need a totally objective and fair assessment of the events in the South,” he added.
On July 7, Human Rights Watch said Bishkek had requested help preparing an investigation, though no government officials have thus far publicly backed an internationally led investigation.
A rumor spread through Osh’s ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods – scenes of the worst devastation in the city – on July 2. Police would sweep Uzbek mosques for weapons, men whispered. And they would do it during Friday prayers, when the mosques are busiest, to provoke a response. Friday is the Muslim Sabbath.
Mending fences and digging trenches: Tashkent isn't waiting for more instability in southern Kyrgyzstan to help control population movements in the Ferghana Valley. Here a hydraulic excavator digs a trench on the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border in Aravan District of Osh Province. July 2, 2010.