Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg has started leaking portions of the long-awaited independent international inquiry on the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan last summer. Going by the fragments released thus far, the interim government in charge at the time has not received a very glowing appraisal.
The Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), headed by Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen, reportedly based its findings on interviews with more than 750 witnesses and analysis of around 700 documents and thousands of photos and pieces of video footage. Over 400 people died in the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. The majority of the causalities were Uzbeks, who also suffered heavily at the hands of arsonists and looters. The KIC notes that ethnic Kyrgyz also suffered significant losses of life, health and property.
The report charges the interim government, which had been in place for two months prior to the violence, with underestimating the deterioration in interethnic ties. A failure to prepare a contingency plan and properly organize security forces for a surge of unrest comes under particular criticism: "The arguments made by President [Roza] Otunbayeva, that the surge in violence was so extensive that the interim government was unable to contain it, did not exempt the authorities from their primary duty to protect the population."
General Ismail Isakov, who was then the interim government's special representative in southern Kyrgyzstan and took over security operations during the unrest, comes under fire for failing to dispatch forces "with clear orders and rules of engagement."
Sizing up the US president's annual April 24 statement on Ottoman Turkey's 1915 massacre of ethnic Armenians has become as routine an event as evaluating a State of the Union address. As in years past, no one is happy with it. And, as in years past, President Barack Obama again did not use the "g" word ("genocide") in his statement.
Still, there were some flutterings of activity. This year, for the second time running, a group of Turkish writers, artists and other intellectuals staged demonstrations in six Turkish cities (Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Diyarbakır, Bursa and Bodrum) to commemorate the bloodshed -- events that, several years ago, would have been unthinkable, participants underlined.
“This is a matter of conscience . . . Facing the Armenian taboo will mean Turkey has to face its own history,” one participant in the Istanbul commemoration told Hurriyet Daily News.
In an April 24 column for Today's Zaman, human rights activist Orhan Kemal Cengiz argued that the government allowing the commemorations to take place would signal its " timid and unofficial support for this process of 'remembering' the past of Turkey."
Istanbul, a city of already perhaps 17 million people, continues to grow at a rapid rate that many fear is simply unsustainable. How to deal with the city's potential growth crisis? Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and its head, former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are suggesting a plan that would ease the city's growth by building two whole new cities on its outskirts, the idea apparently being that the new developments will siphon off Istanbul's population growth.
Critics are wondering, though, if that plan will really do the trick or will just make things worse. More here.
Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, statue of Vladimir Lenin still dominates a square in central Bishkek.
A small group of stalwart communists commemorate the birthday, 141 years ago, of Soviet founding father Vladimir Lenin before his statue in central Bishkek on April 22. Some laid flowers.
Communist Party leader Iskhak Masaliev, recently released from house arrest after being cleared of charges related to last year's unrest, spoke to his followers. Others railed against the new government of "fascists" and "bourgeoisie."
In neighboring Tajikistan, authorities have begun dismantling the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia, a towering 74-foot likeness in Khujand, formerly Leninabad.
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.
Kazakhstan's recently announced goal to become a regional arms producer is bearing fruit, with Kazakhstan defense manufacturer Tehnoexport setting up a joint venture in Kyrgyzstan to repair and upgrade Kyrgyzstan's military equipment. From KyrTAG (in Russian, translation by BBC Monitoring):
"The plant will be located in an unused area of a military unit in the town of Balykchy [northeastern Issyk-Kul Region]. We are creating 300 jobs through the project. For the purposes of supporting small towns, we plan to employ local people mainly retired military servicemen with a technical education. Pay will be good between 10,000 and 15,000 soms", [director-general of the Kyrgyz Kural state enterprise at the Kyrgyz Defence Ministry] Jyrgalbek Sagynbayev explained....
"Talks are in progress with China, Russia and Turkey on setting up similar joint enterprises. They are ready for cooperation", Jyrgalbek Sagynbayev added.
Another source, Central Asia Online, says that it is Kyrgyzstan's tanks that are the focus of the repair effort. Seems like a strange priority for a poor country that isn't facing an obvious conventional military threat. But then, presumably some of Kyrgyzstan's tanks were likely damaged after being used in the anti-Uzbek pogroms in Osh last year...
When invited to a wedding, few would consider a bribe for the notary as a gift for the happy couple. In Armenia, though, many such couples are paying notaries two or even three times more than they should for tying the knot, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian claims.
To check what's amiss over at the civil registry, the government sent a task force, made up of young people, who reported back about rampant overcharging by many officials and notaries, Regnum news agency reported.
The prime minister said that legislation proposed by the government will help eradicate such pockets of corruption; meanwhile, the secret registry monitoring will continue, he pledged.
Stepping up the fight on corruption might be one way of improving those scores.
Sarkisian did not say if people are similarly overcharged for divorces, but, conceivably, with millions of dollars in aid funds hanging in the balance, that question might be the next mission for Armenia's civil-registry-corruption task force.
The small village of Yesiluzumlu in Turkey's southern Aegean region is blessed with an abundance of delicate morel mushrooms, that grow in the mist-covered forests that surround it. The village recently held a three-day festival in honor of the local fungus, with more details here.
When a mayor in southern Kyrgyzstan hires "sportsmen" as his advisers, it isn't generally because he is determined to improve the health of his fellow citizens.
Melis Myrzakmatov, the virulently nationalist mayor of Osh, has appointed 15 coaches at local sporting clubs in the city as his advisers, 24.kg news agency reported April 21.
Moreover, Myrzakmatov has given sports clubs about $1,000 each out of the official budget, supposedly to help prepare for the 6th Republican Sports Olympiad to be held in Osh this year. Fifteen sportsmen have also been given cash tokens worth more than $5,100 to pay for university tuition.
Osh was the center of interethnic violence between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities last June that left hundreds dead.
24.kg cites Myrzakmatov as noting that despite the tragic events in Osh in 2010, this year will see only peace and serenity, and that fine achievements will be accomplished in the fields of culture, sports and public affairs.
The government of Uzbekistan has set up a special body to censor rap music, Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and 12.uz have reported.
Rappers in the Uzbek language have become popular among young people in Uzbekistan and have spread on Youtube, but the government is unhappy over their growing influence. Now the singers are being tasked to clean up their lyrics and remove anything offensive -- and replace them with more tunes about the Motherland, featuring virtues like loyalty, kindness, and love of one's family.
The government has tapped some well-known rap singers to serve on the new Council of Rap Music Performers, including Ruslan Saliev, known as Mr. Slan, editor of Radio Terra, and Shahriyor Argonov, known as Sharik. A representative of Uzbeknavo, the state-controlled performance agency, had no comment when contacted by Radio Ozodlik other than to refer readers to the agency's website.
Uzbeknavo's website says among the council's obligations will be to create a data base of rap singers and hold round tables once a month to "coordinate" the musicians' work. The rappers are also to be steered toward more patriotic and upbeat fare than the usual dark gangsta fare, and they are supposed to support conservative morals. A rapper contacted by Radio Ozodlik did not want to comment about the state's new controls, but said he welcomed the creation of the council.
What do you call suspiciously timed information that undercuts an anticipated event? Could it be propaganda?
In Kyrgyzstan's parliament, a deputy from the nationalist Ata-Jurt faction alleges that a new book – that only she has seen – claims Kyrgyz massacred Uzbeks in last summer’s ethnic violence. Her story, as these things generally are, is hard to follow. In widely reported comments from April 19, Jyldyz Joldosheva rants against the publication of The Hour of the Jackal, by “rich Uzbek nationalists.”
"According to my information, rich Uzbek nationalists gathered $2 million to release the book. It was distributed around the world for free." she said, according to Kloop.kg. Unfortunately, we have only a single copy in our country." Presumably, she has the only copy.
That no other copies have surfaced is hard to explain since, Joldosheva says, 400,000 free copies (about one for every family in Kyrgyzstan) have been floating around Russia for a “month.” An English version will be released “soon.”
Then she adds, mysteriously, “According to my information, the book is published in Finland, but this fact must also be checked.”