I recently came upon a fascinating blog called "Burgers Here and There," a kind of meat-centric travelogue through which a home chef is exploring the world through hamburgers. The concept is intriguing: create a burger that somehow fits the culinary traditions and flavors of every (or almost every) country of the world. The blogger, Linda Monach, just got started, which means she just got around the creating a burger in honor of Azerbaijan. Her creation, a herb-infused patty sitting on a home-baked tandir-style bun, seems to hit a lot of the right notes and, based on the photos, looks very appetizing. The recipe can be found here.
Apparently, the "dark forces" that allegedly threaten Azerbaijan can come in many forms, including that of a little pony-tailed girl yelling "Freedom." In a display of growing nervousness about street rallies, Azerbaijani police on April 17 detained a girl under the age of 10 and an accompanying woman (presumably her mother) as they chanted "Freedom!" near an unsanctioned anti-government protest in Baku, a YouTube video clip shows.
Overall, some 65 demonstrators, including political activists, rights advocates and bloggers were arrested on Sunday for resisting police orders and allegedly causing damage to cars and stores at the latest in an ongoing series of unsanctioned rallies in Azerbaijan.
City prosecutors did not specify how much of the havoc was wreaked by the detained little girl.
Watching Kyrgyzstan’s tottering coalition government lurch from one crisis to the next, a lot of people are asking, “When is it going to collapse?” Certainly, it often seems deputies are more concerned with a battle for power than legislative efforts. So this is an update on parliament’s latest diversions.
First, we have the burning question of when the presidential elections, slated for fall, will be held. Provisional President Roza Otunbayeva can only stay in office legally until December 31 and she’s repeatedly said she will step down (few people doubt her intention to do so). On April 15, she said elections should take place “no later than November.”
The new constitution (Article 85.5) says parliament cannot consider a vote of no confidence in the government “six months prior to the next presidential elections.” This is uncharted territory for Kyrgyzstan, but most interpretations believe this means that in the half year preceding elections, the parliament must continue functioning no matter what. There is plenty of room for ambiguity, but one analyst close to parliament described this interpretation as the standard “operating assumption” inside.
Working backwards, if the elections are scheduled for November 15, for example, that would mean that after May 15, legislators, no matter how much they hate each other, will have to coexist.
Of course, it is still up to parliament to decide the date for the presidential election.
The ruling coalition is made up of three parties: the Social Democrats (SDPK), Respublika, and Ata-Jurt. Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev is from SDPK; Respublika’s Omurbek Babanov is first deputy prime minister; Akmatbek Keldibekov from Ata-Jurt is speaker.
Authorities in Tajikistan now agree: Military operations in Rasht this week killed Tajikistan’s most wanted man, Mullo Abdullo. (See an earlier post here.)
Blamed for an attack on a military convoy last September that left at least 25 dead, Abdullo was a top commander during Tajikistan’s 1992-1997 civil war. He never accepted the peace treaty and reportedly fled to Afghanistan. In 2009, a few reports surfaced that he had returned to Tajikistan and was living a bin Laden-like existence hiding in the hills around the conservative Rasht District.
That he was alive may shock some.
Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry chief of staff Tokhir Normatov told the Associated Press on April 16 that Abdullo and 14 other militants were killed in an assault using armored vehicles and aircraft. Images of his body were reportedly shown on state television. It is unclear if any civilians or soldiers died in the campaign.
Asia-Plus reports the three-day operation attacked Abdullo and his comrades in a “specially equipped camp where they had been hiding for some time.”
Next time you're tucking into a juicy halal sausage in Kazakhstan, double-check to make sure you aren't taking a bite out of Tiddles.
Speaking to fellow Majilis deputies, Bagila Baimagambetova said April 14 that tests on some halal goods have revealed them to contain pig and even cat meat, according an Express-K newspaper report (via CA-News).
Baimagambetova then posed a question that suggested this meat-related confusion might have been prompted by theological incomprehension: "Don't meat producers know that the Kazakh Muslims do not eat pork?"
Or cat, apparently. (For our non-British audience, Tiddles is the feline equivalent of Rex.)
Another example this week: In the Pavlodar city parliament, deputy Askar Bakhralinov is sounding the alarm over the practice of cybersquatting on Kazakhstani Internet domains.
Express-K reports, for example, that Tokyo resident Masakuzu Nakamura got his mitts on www.sex.kz back in 2002 and is waiting for somebody to hand him $50,000 before he relinquishes it. Filipp Gross from Moscow, meanwhile, was ironically reluctant to inform the paper how much he wanted for www.money.kz, the paper reported.
Bakhralinov suggest slapping taxes on the sites as a way of earning the state some profits, at least, but hosting experts say that proposal is a non-starter.
Karimova-Tillyaeva filed suit against the independent French website Rue89.com over an article that allegedly identified her as the daughter of a "dictator" and characterized her charity work in France as an "attempt to whitewash" the reputation of Uzbekistan's repressive ruling regime.
French reporter Augustin Scalbert is accused of writing a "defamatory" article about her charity, and her lawyers are seeking €30,000 ($48,000) in damages.
The piece, published in May 2010, was titled, "AIDS: Uzbekistan Represses at Home, but Parades in Cannes” and discussed the Cinema Against AIDS events at the Cannes Film Festival which were co-chaired by Gulnara Karimova. Activists urged Karimova to raise the case of jailed HIV/AIDS campaigner Maxim Popov.
Scalbert believes that he is being targeted because he departs from mainstream French media coverage of Central Asia in discussing such topics as the 2005 Andijan massacre, RFE/RL reported:
"The mainstream French press doesn't do that," Scalbert says, noting that the major French television station TF1 has vested commercial interests in Central Asia with French industrial group Bouygues -- a major stakeholder in the company -- invested heavily in Turkmenistan, another autocrat-run country with a poor human rights record.
Tajik authorities say they have killed at least 10 Islamic militants in the restive Rasht Valley.
Local press report the haul includes Tajikistan’s most wanted man, Abdullo Rakhimov, often known by his nom de guerre, Mullo Abdullo. But an Interior Ministry official told the Associated Press he could not confirm the operation, carried out with armored vehicles and air support, felled the elusive Abdullo. Media speculation on “training exercises” in Rasht, which began on April 14, led to a flurry of conflicting reports (examples here and here) on Friday about the number of dead, and whether Abdullo was among them.
Abdullo, a United Tajik Opposition fighter who never accepted the peace treaty that ended Tajikistan’s 1992-1997 civil war, is wanted for an attack last September on a government convoy that left at least 25 troops dead.
The Internet, streets and schools have all become battlegrounds in the relatively small, but increasingly fierce war waged by many of Azerbaijan's political elite against dissent. Now, a fresh front has been identified -- foreign embassies in Baku.
Pro-government parliamentarian Bakhar Muradova on April 15 called out US Ambassador Matthew Bryza and other foreign diplomats for sitting down to chat with the People’s Chamber, an opposition grouping. “Ambassadors of the US and other countries must consider that their actions may harm ties between Azerbaijan and their countries,” Muradova told an assembly of the likeminded in Azerbaijan's parliament.
Other representatives demanded that the diplomats make public topics that had been discussed at the meeting with the opposition. Parliamentarian Faraj Guliyev proposed to launch an investigation into the actions of these diplomats, and, if needed, declare them personae non gratae.
Local media reported that Ambassador Bryza objected that there is nothing untoward in meetings between embassy officials and opposition parties, and underlined that Washington is not backing revolutions anywhere.
Azerbaijan's next opposition-government showdown is likely to take place on April 17, when opposition groups plan to defy a city government order not to hold a rally in downtown Baku.
The Bianet website has an interesting article up about concerns among internet freedom activists over draft legislation in Turkey that would give the already powerful government agency that controls internet-related issues more power to filter the web and block access to sites. According to the article, the draft legislation would compel Turkish internet user to sign up for some kind of state-administered filtering program, although it's not clear right now what will actually be filtered and what the filtering criteria will be. More details here.