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.”
That's the question the ever-vigilant Uzbek state television asked in a recent special program titled "The City is Not Gateless," featuring a popular truck stop for Turkish drivers, BBC Monitoring Central Asia reported, citing Uzbekistan's First Channel.
Last month, police swooped down on the truck stop, scattering drivers and women claimed to be sex workers. The TV program shows a female climbing out of a truck, and the narrator asks, "What is this woman doing in the a parking lot for Turkish drivers?"
At another parking lot, the camera pans over a praying carpet, some religious books -- and a naked man and woman.
As scenes of tables laden with Uzbek and foreign currencies roll by, the narrator intones:
When Asil Company located in Tashkent Region's Zangiota District was checked, Uzbek law-enforcement officers established that international regulations on goods transportation and transit as well as the country's laws were seriously violated. Specifically, it was established that the company was involved in black-market bookkeeping. The inspection also established that owners had evaded taxes on sums of over 34 million soms [about $20,000 dollars] and $48,965 dollars in cash.
The TV narrator said that the truck companies were violating Uzbekistan's law on foreigners' residence, and that the truck stop violated the health code. A fireman was shown saying the garage failed to meet safety standards, and other officials said there were bootleg license plates as well as illegal tapping of gas and electricity.
Aside from the evidence of black-market activity, Uzbek authorities found "symbols promoting nationalist ideals," as well as religious literature, banned DVDs and books -- and more. The TV says the companies "illegallly set up prayer rooms" and local drivers and workers have been praying there. They also "turned the place into a brothel," the TV show claimed.
For the second year in a row, Azerbaijan has cancelled military exercises with the U.S. without explanation. There has been little official comment; the news agency APA quotes Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Eldar Sabiroglu as saying he doesn't know why it was cancelled:
Sabiroglu refused to comment, since he had no detailed information about the adjournment of the exercise.
To the question “Can this have any influence on Azerbaijan-US military cooperation?” spokesman said: “I do not believe it may happen. US-Azerbaijan military cooperation will continue,” he said.
APA also asked the U.S. embassy spokesman, who said he had no information on it:
Touching on the postponement of the US-Azerbaijan joint exercises, Terry Davidson said the exercises had been postponed by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry.
“You’d better ask them,” he said.
Last year, the reason for the cancellation was reportedly the U.S. support for the Armenia-Turkey protocols. But the protocols are more or less dead now, so there is presumably another reason. One alternative explanation for last year's cancellation was Russian pressure (the default explanation when something mysterious happens in this part of the world). But that theory was given some credence by a WikiLeaks-released cable that discussed controversy over the 2009 version of the exercise (the only year in which the Regional Response exercise has actually taken place):
His British Lordship, the 3rd Viscount Waverley, has now alighted in Turkmenistan, continuing his intrepid adventures across the barren lands of Central Asia.
He was last spotted in Kazakhstan giving the thumbs-up to the recent elections there in which incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev won with over 95 percent of the vote.
Lord Waverley -- a.k.a. John Desmond Anderson -- started his three-day visit by signing a memorandum of understanding between the parliamentary deputies of the United Kingdom and Turkmenistan, according to a British Embassy press release.
The MOU covers all kinds of woolly areas like "inter-parliamentary dialogue" and the "ideals of democracy and good governance" (clearly one of Turkmenistan’s -- and the unelected Lord Waverley’s -- strong suits). But look through the list and you will find more pressing issues like energy are also included. This seems wildly optimistic though, seeing how negligible a role mere deputies have in drafting Turkmen policy.
British Ambassador Keith Allan said the MOU would "present an opportunity for parliamentarians from Turkmenistan and the UK to share experience and knowledge for the mutual benefit of both countries."
The Georgian parliament has annulled a deal allowing Russia to transit military cargo to its base in Armenia via Georgia. This is just formalizing the de facto situation -- transit via Georgia to the Russian base in Gyumri was already halted, de facto, after the war in 2008 over South Ossetia. From Civil.ge:
Georgian Parliament unanimously endorsed on April 19 government’s proposal to annul a five-year agreement with Russia setting out procedures for transit of Russian military personnel and cargo to Armenia via Georgia.
The agreement on transit of military personnel and cargo, giving Russia access to its 102nd military base in Gyumri, Armenia through land and air via Georgia, was signed in March, 2006 in parallel with a separate agreement based on which Russia pulled out its military bases from Batumi and Akhalkalaki. The both of the agreements were ratified by the Georgian Parliament on April 13, 2006.
Equipment that Armenia is buying from/being given by Russia is still allowed to transit Georgia, as was highlighted by a 2010 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks and published by Russkiy Reporter magazine, the transit had been of concern to Georgia for fear that some of the equipment being sent to Armenia is more than Armenia might need and could be instead destined for Russian forces in Armenia with the potential of being used against Georgia:
Turkmenistan's entertainment-starved citizenry will soon be treated to the attractions of 3D cinema -- quite the change from the days of the late bonkers President Saparmurat Niyazov (aka Turkmenbashi), who had all cinemas shut down.
French construction company Vinci Construction says building work on a 3D cinema in the capital, Ashgabat, will be completed in May, according to a Trend news report.
Vinci is one many foreign companies to have benefited from Turkmenistan's government-funded building boom over the years. Trend reports that Vinci is considering a project to revamp Kurtlinskoe Lake area, a much-liked weekend relaxation spot outside Ashgabat. It is also planning designs for a water park and aquarium at the multi-billion-dollar tourism folly that is the Caspian Sea resort of Avaza.
Vinci is also involved in the project to build Ashgabat a fancy new international airport terminal.
But the 3D cinema is clearly their most fun project.
For all his laggardly attitude to improving human rights, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has clearly understood that the people need to unwind if they are not to go completely crazy.
As well as reviving the country’s cinema-going habits, Berdymukhamedov also brought back opera and circuses.
At the official inauguration of the first hotels at the Avaza complex, Berdymukhamedov was feted by a bevy of Russian and Ukrainian pop stars. In contrast, Niyazov notoriously disdained foreign entertainers, preferring traditional dance and folk music.
Hopes for sculptural diplomacy between Turkey and Armenia are turning into dust as workers on April 18 began demolition of a giant monument near Turkey's border with Armenia meant to promote friendship between the two feuding states.
And now, after months of opposition from liberal voices at home and angry reactions from Armenia, a touch of crime has been added to the struggle over the statue. The monument's Turkish sculptor, Bedri Baykam, and a companion were stabbed yesterday in Istanbul in an attack that Turkish media linked to the statue's destruction. Baykam, who had described the demolition plans as “artistic murder,” had planned to lead a march to the nearby city of Kars to stop the sculpture's destruction.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in January ordered the demolition of the 30-meter-high concrete statue, calling the structure a “monstrosity."
World leaders nudged Armenia and Turkey into signing a road map to reconciliation in 2009, but the two, still scarred by a near-century-year-old massacre and differing views on the Nagorno-Karabakh independence bid, soon became locked in a you-go-first style of bargaining that eventually brought the two sides back to square one.
Felling the monument, ugly as it may be, is likely to help keep them there, critics fear.
What better way to celebrate President’s Nursultan Nazarbayev’s recent election victory than with a necklace from Alsara, the new jewelry line designed by his youngest daughter?
Yours for a very reasonable $100,000.
Kazakhs based in London’s West End -- or even just visiting -- can now pop into the local branch of Damiani, the upmarket Italian jewelers, and choose from six designs by Aliya Nazarbayeva.
"We just received the pieces on Friday,” a salesman at the Old Bond Street branch told EurasiaNet.org. “It's exclusive to London at the moment. So far we’ve only had six pieces come in, but it’s a big collection of about 20 pieces. It starts at £15,000 [$25,000] and, depending on the stones you want, it goes up to £65,000 [$100,000].”
The “Alsara” line, named by fusing Aliya’s name with that of her mother, Sara, is already advertised on billboards in Almaty and Astana.
Nazarbayeva, smiling diffidently, looks out against what looks like the sumptuous interior of an Italian palazzo.
"Aliya and Damiani present to Kazakhstan ... Alsara,” reads the strapline.
Soon, the jewelry will go on sale in Almaty, at the Dostyk Hotel, and in Astana, at the Rixos President, where rooms range from $400 to $1450 per night.
Nazarbayeva, 32, is not the first of Central Asia’s presidential daughters to launch her own jewelry line. Last year, Islam Karimov’s eldest daughter, Gulnara Karimova, teamed up with Chopard, the Swiss jewelers, to launch “Guli”, named, they said, after the Uzbek president’s pet name for her.
US and Turkmen officials at Farap border checkpoint in 2009.
Ambassador Robert Patterson, recently confirmed by the US Senate as envoy to Turkmenistan, said at his nomination hearing that he hoped to focus on people-to-people exchanges as an incremental step on the way to lessening restrictions on civil society.
Even before he arrives in Ashgabat, his work is cut out for him.
The doctors from various medical institutions and government agencies under the Turkmen Ministry of Health Care were supposed to participate in a program organized through the US Embassy called "Community Connections." They were stopped at the Ashgabat airport at the passport control desk and barred from boarding the plane.
Similar action was taken against students headed for American-funded programs a year ago, but eventually the Turkmen authorities relented and permitted some of them to go abroad.