China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are asking you to trust them with your Internet.
Last week, the four countries proposed an Internet “code of conduct” at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Their document calls on signatories to curb “the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secessionism, or extremism, or that undermines other countries’ political, economic, and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.”
That makes sense coming from some of the most repressive Internet climates on the planet. Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders lists Uzbekistan and China as “internet enemies.” Tajikistan regularly blocks critical sites.
Reports have circulated this week that the Peace Corps is once again having troubles in Turkmenistan, the independent émigré site chrono-tm.org reports. An anonymous tipster said that the latest batch of volunteers from the US were supposed to come to Ashgabat in early October, but were delayed, and may possibly even have been reassigned. The current group of volunteers was said to be facing the expiration of their visas on October 1.
Yet the US Embassy in Ashgabat denies the alarmist claims. In response to a query from EurasiaNet, William B. Stevens, the Public Affairs Officer for the Embassy, had this carefully-worded reply:
The GOTX and the Peace Corps are working together to identify the best method for moving forward with the next influx of Peace Corps Volunteers. As with any mutually beneficially partnership, the Peace Corps and the GOTX are interested in identifying an approach that addresses the goals of both organizations.
We are unaware of any visa problems for current volunteers.
More than 750 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Turkmenistan since the program was established in 1993, and Peace Cops looks forward to continuing its work with the government and people of Turkmenistan.
TX -- not to be confused with the TX for Texas -- is the State Department code for Turkmenistan. And "identifying the best method for moving forward" could be the code for "overcoming obstacles unexpectedly put in our way."
Muradova was a correspondent for the Turkmen Service of RFE/RL. She and two other Turkmen reporters and human rights activist who remain in prison -- Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Hajiev-- helped a French film crew to make a documentary about life in isolated Turkmenistan. It wasn't long before the secret police found out and arrested them all. Muradova was accused of "espionage" and "conspiracy" and then all three were charged with trumped-up possession of weapons and sentenced to long terms.
Then on September 14, 2006, several agents of the Turkmen Ministry of National Security came to Muradov’s apartment and informed her children of her death in prison.
A WikiLeaks cable alleged to have been sent September 28, 2006 from Sofia reveals what human rights groups already knew: that Muradova's relatives, living as asylees in Bulgaria, said that the US Embassy in Ashgabat was "instrumental" in getting her children access to their mother's body. They believed the Turkmen government had not wanted to release it because Muradova was tortured to death.
The Torpedo Testing Centre located at Issyk Kul lake in Karakul province, 250 km away from the capital Bishkek, is considered one of the best locations to launch and recover torpedoes fired during test trials.
“The facility was visited by Defence Minister A.K. Antony a few months ago. An Indian delegation would be visiting Kyrgyzstan soon to make an assessment of investment needed for the project and the terms and conditions for co-developing it,” DRDO Chief Controller William Selvamurthy told PTI.
To develop existing infrastructure at the centre, India has proposed to engage local companies with available know how in torpedo technology to co-develop the facility.
“India is willing to develop the Centre to test all kinds of torpedoes such as heavy weight torpedoes and those having thermal navigation system,” Mr. Selvamurthy said.
Trade has fallen off between Ukraine and Turkmenistan, dropping from $4 billion to just $400 million last year, RFE/RL reported. Most of the loss was due to the end of gas deliveries. Analysts are skeptical that they will resume.
The two leaders spoke in the usual platitudes, and while they signed various trade and cultural agreements, no specific announcement was made about gas plans.
Ihor Semyvolos, director of the Kyiv-based Middle East Research Center, told RFE/RL that Ukraine will now find it has to compete with United States, Russia, China, and the European Union Turkmenistan's gas supplies.
While Ukrainian Energy and Coal Minister Yuriy Boyko reiterated that Ukraine is ready to resume buying Turkmen gas, there's still the problem of transit across Russia. Gazprom, which continues to have strained relations with Ashgabat and has reduced its own purchases, has refused in the past to allow Turkmen gas to go across Russian territory, in competition with its own sales to Ukraine.
The International Crisis Group has issued a new report that looks in detail at the failure of Turkey's "Kurdish opening," an initiative launched a few years ago that was meant to help solve the decades-old Kurdish problem, and that offers some very practical suggestions for how Turkey and the Kurds can move forward. From the report's summary:
A surge in violence has dashed plans for a negotiated end to the 27-year-old Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) insurgency. Since Turkey’s elections in mid-June, clashes have killed more than 110 people, country-wide ethnic friction has hardened opinion, and the government has started bombing PKK bases and talking about an imminent ground offensive in northern Iraq. The PKK must immediately end its new wave of terrorist and insurgent attacks, and the Turkish authorities must control the escalation with the aim to halt all violence. A hot war and militaristic tactics did not solve the Kurdish problem in the 1990s and will not now. A solution can only lie in advancing the constitutional, language and legal reforms of the past decade that have gone part way to giving Turkish Kurds equal rights. Given the recent violence, returning to a positive dynamic requires a substantial strategic leap of imagination from both sides. Neither should allow itself to be swept away by armed conflict that has already killed more than 30,000 since 1984.
After the Armenian government in Nagorno Karabakh said they shot down an unmanned Azerbaijani drone last week, Baku quickly denied that it was theirs, but didn't provide any additional information. But then the state news agency APA came out with an explanation that, to be charitable, we can call "elaborate." Approvingly citing a Turkish tabloid report, APA suggests that the drone may have in fact been Israeli:
The anonymous sources close to Turkish diplomacy claim that the pilotless jet belongs to Israel.
The newspaper says that according to the diplomatic office, the pilotless jet belongs to the Israeli air forces: “The jet ascended from the military base located in Armenia or occupied Karabakh to make the reconnaissance flight related to Iran. Thus, the occupied lands of Azerbaijan are used not for the drug transit and as a terror base but turned into a military base for the secret operations and military reconnaissance”. The source also said that Israel currently holds reconnaissance operations by means of pilotless jets over Middle Eastern countries.
If Armenia really were allowing Israeli UAVs to spy on Iran from its territory, why would they be based in the disputed territory of Karabakh, rather than closer to the Iranian border in Armenia proper? And why would Armenia -- which has good relations with Iran -- allow such a thing in the first place? As this fascinating Wikileaked cable describes, it's in fact Azerbaijan that has a close relationship with Israel -- based in part on their similar perception of the threat from Iran:
Tajik authorities are usually reluctant to trust Islamic extremists -- except when they’re ratting out others.
Just two months ago, Dushanbe dropped troublesome charges that a BBC reporter was a member of a banned Islamic radical group.
But this week a court in Khujand read a letter by an imprisoned “Hizb-ut-Tahrir leader” claiming that Urinboy Usmonov is indeed a supporter of the group, the Asia-Plus news agency reported on September 20.
Usmonov, who works for the BBC’s Uzbek service, was disappeared in June and later charged with being a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. He spent a month in jail, where he was denied legal counsel and claims he was tortured until a chorus of international opprobrium embarrassed Dushanbe into releasing him. He still faces charges of not informing Tajikistan’s security services about his meetings with Islamists, however – meetings he says he held as a reporter. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists say the sham charge “criminalizes journalism.”
So what to make of the new testimony? Is someone in the government trying to resurrect the case against Usmonov? He is supposedly only being tried for not tattling on his sources. Could members of Tajikistan’s intelligence services be trying to save face, embarrassed at being reprimanded for the investigation and arrest?
Today's edition of the Turkish daily Sabah has a very provocative scoop. According to the paper, an Armenian group in the United States is working to revive the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), a terrorist organization that was active in the 1970's and 80's and which was responsible for several fatal attacks on Turkish diplomats during that period.
ASALA has been dormant since the early 1990's, but the Sabah article claims to have exclusive information that shows that a neo-ASALA is being created in rural California by an organization called the American Armenian Militia. According to the Sabah, the group has some 1,000 members that it is training to be assassins and commandos. The article also hints that this "neo-ASALA" may be supported by Israel, in order to punish Turkey for their recent falling out, and that Turkish Prime Minister will be raising the topic of the group's activities during his upcoming trip to the United Nations' General Assembly. All sensational stuff, to be sure. But is it true?
To find out a bit more, I did something the author of the Sabah article didn't do, which is call the American Armenian Militia (AAM) for comment. By dialing a toll-free phone number given on the "Contact Us" page of the group's website, I was able to reach the group's founder, a 43-year-old electronics engineer in southern California who, for fear of any more negative publicity, said he only wants to be referred to as John S.
The Militia, he said, was founded in 2007 and currently has about 20 members, ranging in age from 17 (the youngest age allowed) to retirement age.
For a day, Almaty returned to its cultural roots, or rather groves. The name 'Almaty' in Kazakh literally translates as 'full of apples,' and at the core of this year's Almaty Day celebration was the Second Annual Festival of Apples.
Celebrated on the third Sunday in September, the city's holiday this year heralded the beginning of autumn and sought to highlight cultural symbols and national art. The festival featured 26 apple growers and vendors on Astana Square, offering over 15 tons of Kazakh apples in every size, shape and flavor.
Festivities also included a variety of cultural exhibits, including a photography exhibition, titled Almaty Beinesi, which showcased the history and development of Almaty architecture. The city also staged a national song contest, a Kazakhstani Idol of sorts for amateur composers and singers.