A court in Kyrgyzstan has banned a Dutch documentary about gay men who are practicing Muslims.
The 59-minute film, “I Am Gay and Muslim,” was scheduled to screen at the Bir Duino (“One World”) Human Rights Film Festival in Bishkek on September 28.
Kyrgyzstan’s chief cleric, Mufti Rakhmatilla Egemberdiev, said the film slanders Muslims by presenting Islam "in a bad form using as examples people who have nothing to do with religion,” local news agencies quoted him as saying. The State Committee on Religious Affairs concluded the film incites religious hatred. Only hours before the scheduled screening, a Bishkek court banned the film as extremist.
Most Kyrgyzstanis profess Islam, though relatively few are hard-core adherents to the faith.
The State Committee on National Security and the Interior Ministry are charged with enforcing the ban on showing or distributing the film in Kyrgyzstan. Earlier this month, a Bishkek court banned the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” which had sparked protests across the Muslim world.
“I Am Gay and Muslim” was shot last year in Morocco, where homosexuality is illegal.
Director Chris Belloni says on his website that the documentary “follows a number of young gay men in Morocco in their exploration of their religious and sexual identity.”
For most Tajiks, Russia plays a huge role in their families’ well being: Tajikistan’s economy is deeply dependent on remittances sent from its labor migrants in Russia; Tajikistan imports 90 percent of its oil products from Russia; and twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia remains one of Tajikistan’s largest trade partners.
On September 26, politicians from both countries met in Dushanbe to discuss economic integration. Their roundtable came the week before a scheduled visit from the architect of post-Soviet reintegration himself, President Vladimir Putin. At a widely publicized roundtable, the two sides cheerfully discussed the idea of Tajikistan’s accession to the Moscow-led Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. It turns out the topic will be on Putin’s agenda – a touch of brotherly bonhomie among a set of thornier subjects – and apparently has Dushanbe’s full support.
"The admission of Tajikistan to the Customs Union will be a significant step towards economic integration with Russia and other Customs Union members," said a statement by Tajikistan’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, carried by Interfax. The ministry noted that membership would guarantee supplies of petrol and basic foodstuffs. (President Emomali Rakhmon had just urged his citizens to stockpile grain for the winter ahead.)
This summer, Vitaly Korolkov, 38, was homeless, HIV-positive, and a recovering heroin addict. He began methadone treatment the last time he got out of prison, three years ago, because, as he put it, “I just want to live, don’t know how much time I have left.”
She’s tantalized us all summer. First, there was the new album with the soon-to-be hit single, “Round Run.” Then there was the trailer for the music video.
Now -- undeterred by a few scandals about Billboard not actually declaring Googoosha a hit -- we have the real thing: Move over VH1, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s strongman, Islam Karimov, is on YouTube.
Rolling around Bukhara in a classic Chaika limousine, Gulnara Karimova is waiting for her black-clad ninja man as he runs “round and round,” scaling walls, jumping and skipping across the fabled UNESCO world heritage site to an exclusive rendezvous with the princess of pop (and the country). It’s the Matrix meets James Bond playing capture the flag.
Googoosha sure knows how to build up the suspense. While you may not often see a low-cut dress in an Islamic holy place, Googoosha owns it, baby.
As for the music? Googoosha calls her song a “dance floor pumper” from an “exotic potpourri of sounds and a personal testimony to the power of deeply felt emotions.” While some might feel the 90s-style synthpop better relegated to a sticky Tashkent nightclub, we’ll let viewers decide.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s September 20 visit to Kyrgyzstan ended with half a dozen bilateral agreements and some anachronistic-sounding rhetoric about Moscow’s benevolent role in Central Asia. On the face of it, Russia won an extension of military basing rights for another generation, while Kyrgyzstan got millions of dollars in debt forgiveness and promises of investment in the construction of two major hydropower projects. But all the deals have yet to be finalized and some won’t kick in for years, with multiple strings attached.
The visit was Putin’s first to Kyrgyzstan since an April 2010 uprising toppled the former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who had angered the Kremlin by effectively misappropriating a $300 million Russian loan and backtracking on some of his promises. Moscow has been slow to warm to the post-Bakiyev leadership, expressing frustration earlier this year, for example, with Bishkek’s constant attempts to get aid while maintaining a so-called multi-vector foreign policy.
Publicly, Putin’s host, President Almazbek Atambayev, did everything he could to assure the Russian president that Kyrgyzstan is a firm friend. At a cheerful midday press conference, Atambayev suggested the two had stayed up together until 5 a.m. – Putin had arrived in Bishkek late September 19 – and expressed wishes for everlasting friendship. "Russia is our main strategic partner. With Russia, we share a common history and a common destiny. […] Our future will be in partnership with the great Russia,” Atambayev said in comments broadcast by local media.
Tomorrow, President Imomali Rakhmon will begin his long-promised visit to the restive mountainous east, scene of fighting in July that killed dozens of government troops, rebels, and an unknown number of civilians. During the visit, Khorog residents hope the president will see their suffering and offer solutions. But what’s on the president’s agenda, and the way local officials are preparing for his high-level visit to Gorno-Badakhshan (GBAO), has some deeply worried.
Addressing the president in an unusually frank open letter sent September 15, the “ordinary people” of Khorog (actual authorship is unclear) say they “believe that not all information about the situation in Khorog reaches you” and complain that local officials are forcing them to celebrate the visit with Potemkin pomp, rather than address the recent tragedy.
Published by Asia-Plus and posted by Facebook users, the letter – entitled “A grieving populace is being forced to have fun” – accuses local officials of obligating them to put smiles on their faces and banning discussions of the violence; teachers and doctors, according to the authors, have been told they could lose their jobs if they don’t cooperate.
Earlier in September, the Peace Corps announced it would withdraw from Turkmenistan. Few were surprised at the news, which follows the sudden suspensions of programs in Uzbekistan in 2005 (following US criticism of the Andijan massacre) and in Kazakhstan last year.
In our original coverage of the Turkmenistan announcement, we said the Peace Corps had been “kicked out” of Kazakhstan.
A State Department spokesperson disputed our characterization, calling on EurasiaNet.org to substantiate the claim. Technically, the State Department representative is right – we can’t produce conclusive evidence the program was “kicked out” of Kazakhstan. But the known circumstances surrounding the abrupt cessation of Peace Corps’ activities in Kazakhstan in November 2011 raise plenty of questions that officials don’t seem eager to answer.
When we queried the State Department representative for additional details about the Kazakhstan closure, she mentioned “operational considerations” and suggested we talk to a Peace Corps official. We duly tried, specifically asking the Peace Corps to shed light on those “operational considerations.” A representative in Washington referred us back to the vague, original press release, and declined to answer questions.
One problem for anyone seeking to foster regional integration in Central Asia (“New Silk Road” or otherwise) is the frequent border disputes between the countries involved. Uzbekistan, which abuts all the other Central Asia states, has been particularly uncooperative, often closing its border posts without notice, hampering trade and hurting economies around the region.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB), a multilateral lender, has announced it will grant $100 million to help people and goods cross one of those tricky borders. Much of the money will be used to repave a 113-kilometer stretch of road in Tajikistan connecting a major highway with an isolated valley leading to the border with Uzbekistan.
“Improvements to this road will increase regional connectivity, reduce transport costs, and strengthen competitiveness,” said Zheng Wu, a transport specialist at ADB’s Central and West Asia Department, in a September 13 press release. Part of the money will also be spent on upgrading infrastructure at the Sarazm border post on the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan frontier.
But that post has been closed for almost two years. Uzbekistan sealed it in late 2010, cutting Panjakent – a Tajik town in the valley, home to some 33,000 people – off from the Uzbek city of Samarkand, only 60 kilometers away.
The new road project, expected to begin later this year, will certainly help connect the isolated Zarafshan Valley with the rest of Tajikistan, and thereby with a new source for the goods and supplies local residents used to buy in Uzbekistan. At present, in winter Zarafshan’s access to the “mainland” is often restricted to irregular flights to Dushanbe.
On a recent morning in Bishkek’s 12th “microdistrict,” a neighborhood of Soviet-era housing blocks a little past their prime, a small beauty salon was overflowing with chiseled young men sporting carefully cultivated stubble and statuesque women in short shorts.