Remarking on a topic not often discussed openly in Kyrgyzstan, a deputy health minister said last week that abortion is the number one form of birth control in the country and the numbers are rising.
Back in the Soviet Union, after 1955, abortions were legal and free, while access to birth control was difficult and highly unreliable. (One study estimates there were almost 6 million abortions in the Soviet Union in 1988 alone.) These days, borders are open and pharmacies are well-stocked. Yet a lack of education and youth-friendly medical services means abortions -- still legal in Kyrgyzstan if performed in a clinic – are a highly popular method of family planning.
While good statistics are hard to come by, experts have no doubt the numbers are staggering. According to some estimates, “on average, by the age of 22, a woman in Kyrgyzstan has had one abortion. By the time she is 30.7 she has had two. By the time she is 36, she has had three,” says the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in its 2009/2010 National Human Development Report.
“I would say the real number of abortions in the country is much higher. There are many abortions that are performed in private clinics and are not registered,” Dr. Meder Omurzakov, the assistant representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bishkek, told EurasiaNet.org.
The UNDP study cites a local professor claiming that 70 percent of pregnancies end in abortion.
As the quality of medical services in the post-Soviet era declines, the procedure is also getting more dangerous.
A giant rainbow hovered over Istanbul for several hours on November 22, as a soft northern drizzle battled an acute winter sun. The dreamy effect, seen here over the 4th-century Valens Aqueduct in Fatih, had some witnesses worried they were hallucinating.
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.
Russia has weighed in on ongoing discussions between Turkey and NATO about the possibility of stationing NATO missile defense systems on the Turkey-Syria border, saying that it would destabilize the situation. From RIA Novosti:
"The militarization of the Turkish-Syrian border would be an alarming signal," said ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. "It would do nothing to foster stability in the region."
"Our advice to our Turkish colleagues is to use their influence on the Syrian opposition to draw them closer to dialogue, instead of flexing their muscles and taking the situation down a dangerous path," he added.
A NATO team is making a visit to Turkey next week to assess the possibility of deploying a system there, and NATO is expected to approve the request. Nevertheless, the AP reports that the systems could still be several weeks from being deployed:
Due to the complexity and size of the Patriot batteries, their radars, command-and-control centers, communications and support facilities, they cannot be sent quickly by air to Turkey, officials said.
"These are not drop-and-go systems," said an official who could not be identified in line with standing NATO regulations.
Additional time will be needed to install the systems, realign their radars and link them into Turkey's air defense network before the Patriots can be considered fully operational, the official said.
In what may be a somewhat questionable act of architectural preservation, Baku's historic Sabunchu rail station, a Moorish-influeneced stone structure built in 1926, now has the distinction of the being largest fried chicken shack on the planet. Opened with great fanfare -- check out the this YouTube video from the restaurant's high voltage ribbon-cutting ceremony last month, -- this latest KFC outpost was reportedly built with an investment of 3 million euros, used to restore the railway station, which had been falling apart after years of neglect.
Considering the glee with which Azeri officials are bulldozing historic parts of Baku in order to make way for ever-taller buildings, the opening of this new monster KFC may ultimately be a good thing. Azerbaijan, that land of ironic twists, may be one of the few places in the world where turning a classic railway station into a fried chicken restaurant may actually be considered a step in a positive direction.
Scheme of the routes the U.S. military will use to ship its equipment out of Afghanistan.
The U.S. military will need to ship about 2,200 containers and vehicles out of Afghanistan every month for two years to get all of its equipment out of Afghanistan, with about 500 of those passing through Central Asia, according to U.S. Central Command. Of that, 400 are slated to go by rail through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia and another 100 by truck through Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the Caucasus.
Briefing slides presented this fall lay out the requirements that CENTCOM has developed for its retrograde transit:
Rolling Stock (RS) – 1,200 Pieces per Month
Non-Rolling Stock (NRS) – 1,000 Pieces per Month
Perhaps the most interesting part of the slide is the map pictured here, depicting all the various routes that cargo can take out of Afghanistan. The "Russian route" via rail also includes Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the KKT truck route, interestingly, doesn't go through Russia but takes the somewhat longer route to the Caspian Sea port of Aktau, across the sea to Baku, and then through the Caucasus and Turkey en route to Europe.
It's also interesting that the multimodal facilities that the U.S. and NATO have set up in Eurasia -- like Baku, Ulyanovsk (Russia) and Constanta (Romania) -- appear to be low priorities, with pretty large volumes instead going through Dubai and Jordan. Those Middle Eastern hubs are set to get as much traffic as Central Asia, in spite of the fact that things will have to be flown some distance there. As the slides say, the goal is: "Redundancy, Flexibility, No Single Point of Failure!"
Prosecutors have moved to silence some of the few dissenting voices left in Kazakhstan’s tightly controlled political arena, seeking to muffle media and opposition groups for allegedly calling for the overthrow of the state in the run-up to fatal violence in Zhanaozen last December.
A statement by the prosecutor’s office on November 21 accused two vocal opposition forces -- the unregistered Alga! party and the People’s Front organization, consisting of Alga! and the Communist Party of Kazakhstan -- of extremist actions and said it had filed a court case to ban them, along with a host of media outlets.
Alga! is led by Vladimir Kozlov, who on November 19 lost his appeal against a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence over the Zhanaozen unrest. Critics -- including international human rights organizations and the US government -- fear Kozlov’s imprisonment was designed to silence Kazakhstan’s battered opposition.
“The authorities are themselves radicalizing dissent, pushing it out of the legal field,” Amirzhan Kosanov, deputy leader of another -- still tolerated -- opposition party, OSDP Azat, commented on his Facebook page.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili once called him "my biggest mistake." With the surprise return of ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili to Tbilisi today, many in Georgia are wondering whether Saakashvili may soon have cause to repeat those words.
After returning early this morning to Tbilisi from years of refuge in Paris, Okruashvili, wanted in Georgia on various criminal charges, went straight to prison. His trial has been scheduled for December 3.
But before settling into his cell room, the onetime-friend-turned-bitter-foe of Saakashvili expressed hopes that he will be cleared of the charges brought against him in 2007, and expressed a keen willingness to assist the Ivanishvili government's prosecutions of former Saakashvili officials.
In a recent streak of arrests and investigations by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanshvili’s government, several loyalists of Mikheil Saakashvili have been snatched away from the Georgian president’s side.
Reports of torture in Tajikistan’s police stations and KGB holding cells are common. But even by Tajik standards, a case that surfaced today is shocking.
A mother in Dushanbe says the security services – colloquially still referred to as the KGB – held her 12-year-old son hostage for three days in August and beat him to extract information about his Arabic teacher, whom authorities suspect of membership in a banned Islamist group. Asia-Plus reports:
After her son returned, she noticed scrapes and bruises on his face and body. "When I asked what happened, he replied that a GKNB [State Committee on National Security] detective had beaten him to obtain testimony against the alleged ‘extremists,’" said the child’s mother.
The boy himself said the following: "When I was brought into the detective’s office, a few of his other colleagues were there. The detective began telling me to say that the teacher had been distributing banned leaflets and that my teacher had taken money from me for the Arabic lessons, although that’s not the case and all the lessons were free. He accompanied his demands with punches to my face and stomach. I was also lifted and thrown to the floor [more than once]. I was scared and in pain, I had to obey.”
Inobat Yakubova, the boy’s mother, was afraid to report the abuse until now. She had previously complained to the prosecutor’s office, which sent her back to the GKNB. She says an investigator there threatened that if she did not drop her complaint he would arrest her son and 17-year-old daughter.
When a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) went to visit a journalist jailed in Uzbekistan’s southern Karshi region recently, ICRC staff thought they had finally scored a meeting with a political prisoner. Prison officials had been hiding journalist Salijon Abdurahmanov for months, according to a report by the independent Uznews.net.
On one previous ICRC visit to prison camp No 64/61, Abdurahmanov, who worked for Uznews.net before his 2008 arrest, was reportedly taken away and hidden from the inspectors. This time, according to the Uznews.net report, which cites the journalist’s son, prison authorities presented the delegation with an imposter. ICRC has not commented.
This autumn, the journalist’s son, Davron, said, ICRC inspectors came to the prison again, but this time the prison administration arranged a meeting with “a fake Abdurahmanov.”
“Father said that he was driven away in an unknown direction and a different prisoner was brought to the meeting instead, as if he were Salijon Abdurahmanov,” Davron said.
ICRC representatives immediately established that it was someone else before them, the journalist himself told his son at a meeting.
The “fake” journalist said he was Salijon Abdurahmanov, but ICRC members refused to believe him, saying that they had seen a photo of the journalist and have their own view of him.
The Russian-language news service Ferghana News is pressing ahead with two lawsuits seeking to overturn a ban imposed earlier this year by authorities in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz Internet service providers have blocked Moscow-based, Ferghana News (formerly Ferghana.ru), a leading independent news source in Central Asia, since late February, according to managing editor Daniil Kislov. A 2011 parliamentary resolution, adopted after an investigation into the new website’s coverage of the 2010 inter-ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, reportedly served as the basis for the ban. Media watchdogs, including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, have assailed the action against Ferghana news, contending that it amounted to retaliation for what Kyrgyz officials deemed “negative” coverage of the Osh events.
One lawsuit filed by Ferghana News and currently pending in a Kyrgyz court seeks to overturn the ban, arguing that only a court order, not a parliamentary resolution, can legitimize pulling the plug on a mass media outlet. A second suit, filed on behalf of a Kyrgyz citizen, pursues a broader aim, arguing that such a ban violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, according to Kislov.
Kyrgyzstan is far from alone in Central Asia in blocking Ferghana.ru, but it is the only state in the region “where it is possible to file such a suit,” said Kislov. He made the comments during an Open Forum, held November 19 at the Open Society Foundations in New York. [Editor’s Note: EurasiaNet.org operates under the auspices of the Open Society Foundations].