It is not necessary to be a member of the ruling family in Tajikistan to land a top job. Being one of their friends is also enough, to go by an interesting recent appointment.
Earlier this month, Shohruh Saidzoda, son of the chairman of the customs service, Abdufattoh Goib, and a close friend of the president’s son, Rustam Emomali, was named deputy head of the country’s criminal investigation department.
Saidzoda, 30, has no background in law enforcement, but was elevated to the rank of police mayor all the same.
The chatter around the capital, Dushanbe, is that this may presage important movements at the top. One piece of speculation is that following a May 22 referendum that will, among other things, allow President Emomali Rahmon to run for office indefinitely, Rustam Emomali may be named Interior Minister.
Saidzoda first came to prominence a couple of year back, while Emomali was heading a government department fighting customs violations and serving as president of the national soccer federation. As a regular Emomali hanger-on, Saidzoda was regularly seen at high-profile events about town.
Rumors in April 2014, linked Saidzoda to a job heading the committee for youth, sports and tourism, but that came to nothing.
Saidzoda is a member of the football federation’s executive committee and president of the Dushanbe soccer team Istiqlol, which is reviled by most soccer fans in the country for the tacit assistance they are said to receive from partial referees.
Nobody seem wholly certain about Saidzoda’s main source of income, but there is a great deal of chatter about his private life.
Ukraine is planning a "substantial enhancement" of its military position around the Black Sea and on the border of Crimea as part of a strategy of regaining the territory that Russia annexed two years ago.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the initiative on Friday, commemorating the second anniverary of the Russian annexation. "Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of the Ukrainian state and the country-criminal will be forced to return the loot," Poroshenko said.
"I am confident that we will certainly return these two administrative territories under the Ukrainian sovereignty. This extremely complex and promising process has already begun. Today, I have instructed to organize a special session of the National Security and Defense Council to clarify our strategy for the reintegration of Crimea," he said.
This strategy will include building up Ukraine's military capacity along the Black Sea and the Kherson oblast, which borders Crimea, Poroshenko added: "The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are instructed to submit proposals for substantial enhancement of military capacity of Ukraine in Kherson region and along the entire Black Sea coast. Russia has increased its military presence in the region, completes the peninsula’s transformation from a flourishing international resort into a big military base, which poses a nuclear threat not only to Ukraine, but also to all countries of the Black Sea region."
Following in the footsteps of her spouse, a former paramilitary commander, Humairo Mirova has reportedly fled Tajikistan with four of her children and gone to Syria, possibly to join the ranks of the Islamic State group.
If confirmed, Radio Ozodi’s report on Mirova’s apparent decision to travel to territory controlled by the radical Islamist organization would embarrassingly expose the inability of the Tajik security services to monitor even the closest relatives of their militant opponents.
Mirova’s husband, Gulmorod Halimov, served as a high-ranking officer in the OMON until his defection to the Islamic State grouip in early 2015 — decision that he explained as having been motivated by the increasing restrictions on religious freedom by Tajikistan’s government.
As was the case with her husband, Mirova’s career is remarkable for having put her in intimate proximity with the highest echelons of power.
She began working in the Interior Ministry press center in 2008, which is when she got to know Halimov. She later married him, becoming his second wife. Technically, Mirova is only Halimov’s common-law wife, as the former OMON remains married to his first wife).
Some additional details about Mirova are available from social media. Her mail.ru account indicates that she was born on December 11, 1975, and that she has five children. She divorced her first husband, with whom she had one child and later had four children with Halimov. The last one was born in March, meaning that the child was only two months old when Halimov left for Syria.
While Halimov was planning his defection in 2015, Mirova was working in the press service of the customs service, which was headed at the time by President Emomali Rahmon’s son, Rustam Emomali.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has paid a rare visit to Kazakhstan, where his host Nursultan Nazarbayev hailed the visiting Arab leader as a force for unity and stability in his troubled home country.
These themes are close to the heart of Kazakhstan’s long-ruling leader, who never misses a chance to tout the benefits of unity and stability as a bulwark against political unrest and revolution.
“We are very glad that, despite the internal conflicts, bloodshed and revolution that have taken place in recent years, the people of Egypt have united and expressed their trust in the new president,” Nazarbayev said after a meeting in Astana on February 26, in remarks quoted by his office.
Sisi rose to power through the type of political upheaval that Nazarbayev — who has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since independence a quarter of a century ago — views as anathema.
Egypt’s president was installed following a bloody military coup in 2013 that overthrew the elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, since which time around 1,000 have since been killed in unrest stemming from opposition to Sisi’s rule. Morsi had come to power after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Sisi’s visit to Kazakhstan launched an Asian tour that the Egypt Independent newspaper described as part of a foreign policy tilt eastward by Cairo.
Armenia’s busy parliament took a moment this week to address the “problem” of men kissing men – according to one MP, a concern for both the country and its national assembly. Neighboring Georgia was blamed for bringing the smooching whammy upon Armenia.
On the morning of February 23, the world was closing in on 59-year-old Aram Manukian of the opposition Armenian National Congress. To the left, right and center, male deputies filled Armenia’s parliamentary hall, exchanging handshakes and kisses -- a popular form of salutation.
Just to be clear, the Caucasus-style greeting between men involves a peck on the cheek; thankfully, not a Leonid Brezhnev-style, mouth-to-mouth embrace. Displays of affection between men, such as kissed greetings and walking with arms locked, is customary in this otherwise macho neck of the woods, and accounts for more than one awkward moment with Western visitors.
But this time around, Armenian lawmakers apparently got a little carried away, prompting a request from Deputy Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov to be done with giving love and move on to the pressing matters of the day, such as getting a show of hands for candidates for a new ombudsman.
Manukian took the floor. He used the high tribune to call upon Armenia to stop the man-to-man kisses.
“Do not do this! This is not a pretty sight! Children are watching!” he pled with his colleagues. Armenian men kiss everywhere these days, he pointed out -- in parliament, the institutions of higher education, you name it.
The OSCE’s outgoing Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, indicated that the European Union and United States are enabling a crackdown on free expression in Eurasia by overemphasizing security concerns at the expense of individual liberties.
Delivering the Annual Harriman Lecture at Columbia University on February 23, Mijatovic noted that an “atmosphere of optimism” that existed in 2010, when she assumed her media watchdog responsibilities, has given way to a “climate of fear, non-tolerance and anxieties” today across the 57 participating nations in the OSCE.
In just the past few year, terrorism episodes – including the Charlie Hebdo attack, along with mass killings in Paris and San Bernadino, California – have spurred Western governments to embrace tighter state security measures that have seen a push to expand data collection and erode privacy protections.
Meanwhile, following the 2014 Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine, authoritarian-minded states in Eurasia, led by Russia, have pursued a political agenda that is at odds with some of the OSCE’s core values, in particular freedom of expression. As a result, media freedom, along with many other basic rights, has experienced a rapid and wide-ranging decline in many Eurasian states.
Mijatovic tacitly suggested the former trend feeds the latter: Eurasian leaders have been quick to exploit the West’s growing preoccupation with security to help justify their own crackdowns. National security concerns in many Eurasian states are often used as “just cover” to stifle dissent, Mijatovic said.
Changing current patterns will require OSCE members to see state security and individual rights as interlinked, and not as “contradicting values.”
Democracies “should lead by example,” Mijatovic said. “There is no security without the free flow of information.”
Last week, when law-enforcement came to arrest him for reportedly defying police and a judge, Gaspari lay down. He lay down in court when he was put into custody and continued to lie down in his prison cell.
His lawyer, Tigran Yegorian, claimed that Gaspari was forced to go through a psychiatric check on February 24 and, earlier, had been beaten by his cellmates. Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoian has requested a clarification from the Prosecutor’s Office, Hetq.am reported.
Human rights groups and opposition politicians have condemned Gaspari’s arrest as politically motivated. “He was arrested for his political views, civil position and criticism of government bodies, in particular, law enforcement agencies,” said a dozen Armenian human rights organizations in a collective statement.
Armenia routinely denies that it contains any political prisoners.
Kazakhstan’s flagship Astana sporting project could be on the rocks after its main sponsor announced significant funding cutbacks in response to the economic crisis engulfing the country.
"Of course, it will reduce the funding of the sports project, but that does not mean that the project will be closed. But there will be a very big reduction," Darkhan Kaletayev, managing director of Kazakhstan’s Samruk-Kazyna sovereign wealth fund, which bankrolls the project, told journalists in remarks reported by Kazinform on February 25.
The Astana Presidential Sports Club was set up in 2012 as the umbrella organization for clubs in Kazakhstan's capital. Included in its ranks are soccer's FC Astana, Barys hockey club and the Astana Pro Team cyclists. It also supports individuals such as world champion boxer Gennady Golovkin and Ilya Ilyin, an Olympic gold medal-winning weightlifter.
Samruk-Kazyna has seen serious budget cuts as government cash dries up as a result of falling oil prices crimping the budget. In a sign that it is in financial straits, the wealth fund is currently engaged in a fire sale of assets worth billions of dollars.
The government has also revealed the extent of the pain being inflicted on the economy, slashing growth forecasts to 0.5 percent in 2016, down from its previous forecast of 2.1 percent.
South Ossetia's authorities are fighting among themselves about the future of the country's armed forces, with the territory's de facto defense minister accusing political opponents of wanting to dissolve the military and fully hand over the responsibility for its defense to Russia.
At issue is the implementation of the agreement signed last March by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his de facto South Ossetian counterpart Leonid Tibilov on "alliance and integration" between Russia and South Ossetia, including a "common space of security and defense."
Russia officially recognized South Ossetia as an independent country in 2008, after it fought a war with Georgia over the tiny territory, still recognized by most of the rest of the world as a part of Georgia. Since then, Russia has been formalizing its control over the territory, though only up to a point: a South Ossetian proposal last fall to hold a referendum on joining Russia was quietly ignored by Moscow, which apparently decided it didn't have anything to gain by this particular annexation.
In any case, the March 2015 agreement between Moscow and Tskhinvali called for "particular units of the armed forces of South Ossetia to enter the structure" of the Russian military. But the devil is in the details, and the two sides are now working out legislation on how to implementat the agreement. South Ossetia's defense minister, Ibragim Gasseyev, accused the South Ossetian parliament of conniving to eliminate the local armed forces altogether.
Uzbekistan hopes it will begin to see the first dividends of a much-touted privatization drive as early as this summer with the sale of state-owned assets in 55 enterprises.
Local news website Novy Vek on February 24 cited a decree signed by President Islam Karimov estimating that the privatizations could raise up to $437 million.
Those acquisitions would cement agreements reached during an international investment forum that took place in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, in November.
A government commission has been formed to oversee the privatization process and will be headed by Uzbekistan’s most prominent proponent of economic liberalization, Finance Minister Rustam Azimov.
Negotiations on acquisitions between Azimov’s commission and investors should either be concluded by March 1 or the assets will be offered to alternative buyers by July 1, Novy Vek reported.
A Cabinet decree published on February 10 approved the formation of 89 joint stock companies in which stakes of at least 15 percent are to be sold to foreign investors.
Those companies include telecoms company Uzbektelecom, five banks — one of them being scandal-tainted Asaka Bank — the Uzbek postal service and trading company Uztadbirkorexport.
A 15 percent share is being made available in 64 of the joint stock companies by means of an issue of additional shares. Those companies include 17 servicing the oil and gas industry, nine alcoholic goods factories, and 10 construction companies operating under the auspices of the Uzbekenergo power company.