Uzbek authorities are finding new ways to curb the birth rate, Radio Ozodlik reports. According to health providers who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, the medical community is being forced to take action to curb fertility, in accordance with President Islam Karimov's Decree No. PP-1096, "On additional measures to protect the health of the mother and child, the formation of a healthy generation."
An official of the Ministry of Health said the presidential decrees were prompted by a mounting birth rate: in 2007, 480,000 infants were born in Uzbekistan; this number increased to 500,000 in 2008, then 650,000 in 2009, and then 650-700,000 in 2010.
Reports have continued to be received that doctors are urging women to be "voluntarily" sterilized after a certain number of births. Now pregnant women who already have multiple children are told that there is no room for them at the clinic, because "the plan for births has already been fulfilled," the human rights group Ezgulik reports.
A 24-year-old woman born in Tashkent named Ziyoda told Radio Ozodlik that two years ago, she married a man from Samarkand. When she went to the clinic where she had originally lived before she was married, she was told that she wasn't registered in the district to access the local clinic. She then managed to get a propiska, or residence permit at her parents' home, and went back to the clinic for prenatal care. But the second time she was told that the district had already fulfilled its norm for births, and that the authorities had ordered the reduction of the birth rate. The clinic declined to answer questions from a reporter.
Now that the Bush administration has been gone a few years, its principals are coming out with memoirs of their time in the White House, and with them come a little more insight into U.S. government policymaking in the oughts. My colleague Giorgi Lomsadze has already reported on the small furor that Condoleezza Rice's new book has made among Armenian-Americans, but she's probably not going to make Donald Rumsfeld, or the government of Uzbekistan, any happier.
Like Rumsfeld, she recounts into the internal debate in the administration about how to respond to the massacre at Andijan, which was particularly delicate given that the U.S. was then maintaining a key air base at Karshi-Khanabad. Rumsfeld, you'll recall, in his own memoir called the U.S. response to Andijan “one of the most unfortunate, if unnoticed, foreign policy mistakes of our administration" because it privileged human rights concerns over strategic interests. In her book, Rice explains her side of the story, and how she won over President George W. Bush:
We'd crossed swords, for instance, on Uzbekistan where, after bloody riots in May 2005, State had issued a tough human rights report against the regime. The Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, had responded by threatening to expel us from the military base that he'd allowed us into at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan. Let us recall that we'd paid a small fortune for the privilege, but the dictator felt no obligation to honor that deal and said so.
After weeks of rumor and speculation, the Pentagon confirmed that it has moved a squadron of Predator drones from a base in Iraq to Turkey's Incirlik air base. The move comes in anticipation of the American withdrawal from Iraq later this year, but also in response to Ankara's request to host the Predators, which are being used to provide intelligence and surveillance in Turkey's fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). From AFP:
The United States has deployed Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq for surveillance flights in support of Ankara's fight against Kurdish rebels, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
With US forces withdrawing from Iraq by the end of the year, the four American unmanned aircraft will be shifted from an air field in northern Iraq to the Incirlik air base in Turkey, Captain John Kirby told reporters.
"There is an agreement now to fly some of those ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets out of Incirlik at the request of the Turkish government," Kirby said.
The robotic drones, which are unarmed, had been moved to Incirlik in the last couple of weeks, he said.
"It's my understanding they are operating out of Incirlik now," he said....
...."This is to help provide ISR support to the Turkish military to deal with the specific threat posed by the PKK on their southern border."
Separatist South Ossetia, best known as Russia and Georgia's 2008 battlefield, is undecided about its future. Its November 13 de facto presidential election failed to produce a clear de facto winner, meaning that the territory is headed for a run-off on November 27.
The showdown will be between de-facto Emergency Situations Minister Anatoly Bibilov, tagged as Moscow's man-for-the-job, and ex-de-facto Education Minister Alla Jioyeva, who lost her post in 2008 on what she argues were politically motivated corruption charges.
A de facto referendum led to Russian being named an official language of South Ossetia; outgoing strongman de facto leader Eduard Kokoity termed it a "thank you" to Moscow for its post-2008 support.
Predictably, Tbilisi and a number of Georgian non-governmental organizations dismissed the essentially Georgian-free election as farcical. To mark the occasion, Coalition for Justice, a group dedicated to bringing Georgian IDPs back to their homes in breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia, presented a satellite map of destroyed houses in formerly ethnic Georgian settlements in South Ossetia.
But for the residents of South Ossetia, the election, as the end of Kokoity's decade-long rule could make a lot of difference in terms of shaping the reality on the ground -- to merge with cousin North Ossetia in the Russian Federation or not to merge; that may well be the question.
With a cheer from Moscow, Bibilov has promoted "giving a start" to the merger "project": Jioyeva, in an interview with Ekho Moskvy, called the topic "premature," and emphasized instead the need "to strengthen our position as a separate state."
The Leader of the Nation is in place for Kazakhstan’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
Kazakhstan's 20th independence anniversary is set to trigger celebrations across the country next month. Of course, organizers have not forgotten to stroke President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s burgeoning personality cult, for where would the country be today without Nazarbayev’s decades of leadership?
Last week Almaty officials unveiled another new monument to “The Leader of the Nation,” this time in the appropriately named First President's Park. The shrine features a statue of Nazarbayev sitting on a slab of granite. Behind him stretch two eagle wings decorated with famous landmarks in Almaty and Astana. The wings symbolize the country's two biggest cities as the driving force behind the independent state.
At the unveiling on November 11, Almaty Mayor Akhmetzhan Yesimov praised his boss: “Heads of state have recognized the President of Kazakhstan as the prominent politician on a global scale, who has made an enormous contribution to nuclear disarmament, establishment of the Asian security system, [and] development of integration,” Gazeta.kz dutifully quoted him as saying.
This latest tribute follows one erected in Astana in 2009, the Kazakh Eli complex, which also prominently features the president.
The rush to erect monuments to the Leader has also spread beyond Kazakhstan's borders—Turkish officials placed a statue of Nazarbayev in central Ankara in 2010 for his services to the Turkic-speaking world.
The independent news site fergananews.com has released sensational videos made in 2005 purporting to be the confessions of Aleksandr Rakhmanov, a former agent of Uzbekistan's secret police said to have participated in death squads.
The editors of fergananews.com say they received the videos back in 2006, but were concerned that publishing them would lead to retaliation against Rakhamanov. When the editors received word recently that he had died, they decided to show the videos. The editors are hoping someone might help identify him and confirm the stories.
In the video series, titled "Confessions of a Henchman," Rakhmanov, who also went by the nickname "Uncle Shuryan," describes how, as a prison inmate, he was allegedly recruited to a special team of agents created in the 1980s to break prisoners to get them to confess, or, if necessary, kill them. According to Rakhmanov, the operation was organized by Rifkat Gubaydullin, a police agent, and Zakir Almatov, before he was made Interior Minister of Uzbekistan. Rakhmanov says he made his confession because his own role in taking part in the torture and killing of hundreds of people was beginning to weight on his conscience.
In January 2006, the Almaty newspaper Megapolis published an article about the Rakhmanov's claims in 2006, and
Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s “southern capital,” has been angling for the trappings of a true, national capital. Last month, the city’s mayor unveiled his own anthem and flag. Now he wants his own police force.
Melisbek Myrzakmatov said on November 10 that his municipal police plans are in the drafting stages, but could come to fruition in the near future. According to AKIpress, the new force, including a special forces unit, would be independent of Bishkek’s Interior Ministry. The mayor complained that police currently carry out political orders, not legal ones, on behalf of Bishkek. The Interior Ministry called the move illegal.
Myrzakmatov’s latest show of nonalignment with Bishkek will pose a big test for President-Elect Almazbek Atambayev. Among Western investigators, the meaty-armed mayor, perhaps more than any other official, has been linked to the ethnic violence last year between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, which killed over 400, and is often described as part of the reason his city remains divided. The central government, almost 700 kilometers away, beyond a twisting mountain road, has been powerless to remove him. Appointed by ousted ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in January 2009, Myrzakmatov won’t budge. When Bishkek tried to fire him in August 2010, shortly after the ethnic bloodletting, he brought his supporters into the streets and declared the central government has “no legal force in the south.”
Just a few months ago, Uzbek authorities seemed to be easing up on Muslims in Uzbekistan. At the end of Ramadan; unlike past years, President Islam Karimov issued an unprecedented decree deeming Eid ul-Fitr, the day marking the conclusion of the month-long fast, as a national holiday, EurasiaNet reported. (It fell on August 31st this year).
The Uzbek dictator allowed religious celebrations to be organized and even ordered state media to provide "comprehensive and positive" coverage. Of course, all the festivities were under state control, as all religious activity is in Uzbekistan. The purpose seemed to get some imams to praise Karimov as providing stability and security -- ostensibly by contrast with the countries of the Middle East/North Africa that were experiencing the "Arab Spring." Even so, it seemed as if the parameters for religious belief in Uzbekistan might be expanding.
Yet when it came time for the faithful to depart for Mecca this year, the Uzbek government reverted to its long-standing practice of severely limiting the number of people allowed to travel.
According to Forum 18 News Service, the Oslo-based religious news organization, only 5,080 out of a potential quota of about 28,000 set by Saudi Arabia for Uzbekistan were allowed to travel to Mecca for the hajj:
Both in 1991 as a presidential aide (to then US President George Bush) and in 2007 as secretary of state (under then President George W. Bush), Rice worked to defeat the congressional push for recognizing the World-War I-era slaughter of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.
While acknowledging the brutality and the scale of the bloodshed, Rice writes that US recognition of the act as genocide would have antagonized Turkey, a key strategic ally for the US. She argues that she was guided by the raison d’état that labels are best left to historians.
Not in the view of American-Armenian Diaspora groups or many Armenian-language news services, who have republished a letter from Harut Sassounian, the publisher of Los Angeles' The California Courier, a weekly catering to the city's sizable Diaspora Armenian community, that advises Stanford University (where Rice now works as a political science professor, a political economy professor at Stanford's business school and, lastly, a public policy fellow) to inform the 57-year-old foreign policy veteran that "genocide deniers are not welcome at one of America’s most distinguished institutions of higher learning."
A 2008 event in which U.S. special operations soldiers trained their Kyrgyzstan counterparts was a "success" -- except for the part when the Americans were relieved of their money and their weapons by the Kyrgyz. That's the unlikely assessment given by a U.S. embassy official in a Wikileaked cable.The cable was written in January 2009 for General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. Central Command, ahead of his visit to the country.
Check out this extraordinary paragraph:
We assess Kyrgyz Special Forces to be among the best in the region and very receptive to SOF [special operations forces] engagement. In August 2008, we conducted training with the Alphas, the operational arm of the State Security Committee. While the training was a success, it was marred by the seizure by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, of the team's equipment, to include personal items, money and all the team's weapons kits. The Embassy has engaged the Kyrgyz Government up to the Presidential level to secure the release of the equipment but, to date, they have returned only a small portion of the weapons. The incident has also highlighted the need for increased coordination between the U.S. and Kyrgyz authorities to ensure smooth, successful future training engagements. Your visit can help move us closer to resolution of this issue.