As President Almazbek Atambayev was trumpeting Kyrgyzstan’s democratization potential during a late March European tour, Kyrgyz state security agents were raiding a human rights organization best known for defending members of the embattled Uzbek minority in the southern city of Osh.
The mercury is rising in Uzbekistan now that spring has arrived, yet the political temperature remains cool in advance of a presidential election March 29. Uzbekistan may suffer from a variety of political, social and economic ills, but election fever has never gripped this Central Asian state.
After years of controversy, the French-run hypermarket chain Carrefour, one of the world’s largest retail giants, finally opened a store in Armenia earlier in March. But, for many Armenians, the opening signified more than just easier access to a vast array of retail items. Rather, it signaled a potentially significant step for Armenia toward genuine market competition.
Few Westerners doubt the South Caucasus country of Georgia’s commitment to eventual integration with Europe. But as a massive currency devaluation tightens the squeeze on Georgia’s relatively fragile economy, calls are increasing for ordinary Georgians to reconsider the actual benefits of that commitment.
Vyacheslav Miroshkin’s childhood in Kyrgyzstan three decades ago was characterized by long, cold winters. “You could pour a few buckets of water on the ground and you would have an ice rink for the whole season. In recent times we have not had many like that,” said Miroshkin, head of Heli-Ski on Tien Shan, a mountain sports company based in Bishkek.
Dina’s son Botir was killed last September fighting in Syria for one of the Islamist groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Six months later, she is not only still struggling to cope with grief, but also facing harassment from Kyrgyzstan’s powerful secret police, the GKNB.
The space for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan is now roughly the same size as a jail cell, watchdog groups say. Azerbaijani rights activists and journalists are accordingly fleeing the country in growing numbers.