In mid-November, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Rashad Ramazanov, an Islamist blogger, to nine years in prison on charges of drug possession. Two weeks earlier, Taleh Bagir-zade, a young and charismatic Shi’a cleric, received a two-year prison term after being convicted on similar charges.
Armenia is the most gas-hungry country in the South Caucasus, and already is in a committed energy relationship with Russia. But many Armenians, tired of being taken for granted by the Kremlin, want their government to start flirting with another natural-gas suitor: Iran.
When banker Darkhan Botabayev tried to book a flight on Kazakhstan’s national airline last September, what started as a routine transaction turned into an assault that shocked the nation: Botabayev lost his temper and punched the young female ticket clerk in the face.
Compared with the gargantuan scale of the US National Security Agency’s surveillance machine, the 21,000 cell phones that the government of Georgia can supposedly monitor each day is miniscule. But anger over state snooping is still creating a PR challenge for officials in Tbilisi.
A senior Turkish minister’s call to turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque is stoking a dispute between Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government and the country’s Orthodox Christian community.
It’s not often that Calvin Coolidge’s name is invoked these days in Washington. But the long-dead 30th president is figuring in a controversy involving several Armenian-American organizations, the Smithsonian Institution and the White House.
When Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, rang the bell to open trading on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in late November 2006, he was symbolically ushering in a new era. Companies flush with cash from Kazakhstan’s energy-driven economy were flocking to list in London, where they were welcomed as rising stars.
Two of the most despotic leaders in the world sit atop the governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to rights groups. But in sharp contrast to the way they regard their respective peoples, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov seem to treat each other with courtesy and respect when they get together.
For Georgia, the signing of an association agreement marks a major stride toward the European Union. But the pact should not be construed as an insurance policy against continued meddling by Moscow, experts say.