Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry has said it plans to create a national fingerprint database that would include details on all the country’s citizens by 2021. Deputy Interior Minister Rashid Zhakupov said on November 15 that the initiative will cost 36.8 billion tenge ($107 million).
Submitting fingerprints within the coming four years is to be made compulsory, news website Vlast.kz reported.
“Including fingerprints in identification documents will allow for 100 percent certainty in identification. This will facilitate passage through border controls,” said Serik Sayinov, head of the Interior Ministry’s migration department.
Kazakhstan is drawing on the experience of the European Union, where member nations of the Schengen zone are required to provide fingerprint information to obtain travel documents. In 2009, Kazakhstan introduced biometric passports that included basic information and a digital signature of the passport holder. Under the new rules, the chip incorporated in the document will also include prints from two fingers.
All citizens of Kazakhstan above the age of 16 will have to submit biometric data to receive their IDs. Children between 12 and 16 will need to give consent before their fingerprints can be taken. The rules will also apply to foreign citizens living in Kazakhstan.
DNA registration, meanwhile, will be mandatory for people convicted of serious crimes and those with immediate relatives that have gone missing.
Zhakupov said that refusing to register details will be punishable by a fine. Anybody refusing to submit their fingerprint will not be granted documents.
Kazakhstan’s anticorruption agency says it has detained the chief editor of the Central Asia Monitor newspaper and the executive director of Radiotochka.kz news website on suspicion of fraud — another in a widening array of arrests of journalists in the country.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau said in a press release on November 15 that Bigeldi Gabdullin was using media under his control to attack government officials by publishing articles about them. According to investigators, Gabdullin later sought money from the officials in exchange for desisting from negative reporting about them.
The officials targeted in this scheme allegedly lobbied for Gabdullin to receive government contracts through a system of media subsidies known as the state order. The objects of the claimed blackmail operation later had positive articles about them appear in the media, investigators claim.
Gabdullin is accused of targeting the government of Zhambyl region with this approach and pressuring it into paying him 10 million tenge ($29,000). Seven state bodies were blackmailed by Gabdullin in this way, anticorruption officials said.
Gabdullin is being held in a detention facility in the capital, Astana, pending investigations. Neither Gabdullin nor his representatives have commented on the accusations against him so far, but Radiotochka.kz has said it is continue to operate as normal.
This marks the second high-profile arrest of a journalist within the past year in connection to the state order — a contentious arrangement that media experts say undermine the development of a sound and independent media landscape. The system was established in 2010 and consolidated funding for government-friendly outfits. State media outlets get expenses covered through the system, while private sector peers are required to compete for allocations.
Quick on the heels of independent newspaper Nigoh, another media outlet has closed it doors in Tajikistan. TojNews news agency announced its demise on its own website on November 14 and predicted that it would soon be curtains for other outlets.
Both Nigoh and TojNews were run by Dushanbe-based think tank Indem.
“After we announced on November 2 that we were closing Nigoh, we expected the news agency would follow. It will soon also be the turn of some other private publications. This reason is clear: the conditions in Tajikistan no longer exist for independent media and free journalism. We do not believe this situation will be permanent,” Indem said in a statement.
Nigoh declared it was suspending operations earlier this month on the eve of the publication’s 10th anniversary, citing an unspecified “lack of appropriate conditions.” While doing so, the newspaper made it clear that its finances were in good order, thereby heavily suggesting a political subtext to its demise.
Soon after Nigoh’s closure, the National Association of Independent Mass Media of Tajikistan, or NANSMIT, released a statement conveying its concern and describing the news as a further blow to the country’s media landscape.
“For 10 years operating as a national publication, Nigoh has sough to serve as an alternative news source. But the newspaper’s editorial policy, whose independence was guaranteed under the law, did not suit certain officials and state bodies. We have documented attempts to intimidate the publication’s reporters, harassment of their operations and interference in Nigoh’s editorial output,” NANSMIT said in its statement.
In US elections, very little is reported about the inner workings of polling stations, though in some other countries, such as ex-Soviet Georgia, that’s where all the fun and drama happens. Here, media coverage of voting imparts many curious facts -- for instance, which polling-station official has a good singing voice, who could use anger-management therapy, and, also, why tangerines are bad for democracy.
In the November 8 US presidential vote, humans and machines toiled through the night, tallying and testing ballots, but as far as the lay man is concerned, all these labors have been abridged into infographics, maps and charts. In Georgia, where there is far less trust in the electoral process, polling stations were closely watched during the October parliamentary elections for funny business and funny matters.
The result led to the birth of a few stars.
In perhaps the most unlikely scenario for an election, one middle-aged polling-station worker decided to put her soprano voice to good use and broke into song during voting at a station on the outskirts of the capital, Tbilisi. “I love you tonight,” she crooned in English, captivating both the rest of the election commission and, later on, internet users, by her rendition of the dolorous theme song from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 take on “Romeo and Juliet.”
Under the government-mandated target in Uzbekistan, harvesters should this year gather around 3.5 million tons of raw cotton.
It is 10 days into November, however, and only two regions — Kashakadarya and Khorezm — have hit their figures. As a result, thousands of workers continue to toil away in the fields, even as the weather grows colder.
In the Fergana region, every harvester is expected to bring in 20 kilograms daily. Large numbers of university students, teachers, medical workers and other government employees have been enlisted, as always, to do the work.
A teacher in the Dangara district of Fergana region has told EurasiaNet.org that although there is barely any cotton left on the plants, local authorities are still driving people into fields in the hope of squeezing out a few more tons.
The farmers that grow the cotton are the only ones with a full understanding of the situation.
“The quota is not being met for one simple reason — (acting president) Shavkat Mirziyoyev has clamped down on the falsification of figures. Now he is demanding real tons and kilograms of raw cotton,” one farmer, who gave his name Muhammadsidyk, told EurasiaNet.org.
Muhammadsidyk said that Mirziyoyev has given instructions to install electronic weighing machines and computers at cotton collection points so as to collate accurate information about the amount of crop harvested. The data is then sent directly to Tashkent. The old trick of handing in hyped-up numbers is not flying any longer.
According to an employee at the city hall in Guliston, some 200 kilometers from Tashkent, the cotton regime has been particularly strict this year, as compared to the days of the late President Islam Karimov.
An internationally celebrated fashionista in Kazakhstan has been sentenced to seven years in jail on kidnapping charges, closing the book on a case that has shocked the country.
The influential Business of Fashion website once described Lilya Rakh as a “trailblazing fashion entrepreneur” for her work behind creating the exclusive chain of Sauvage boutiques, which brought brands like Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent into Kazakhstan. The only threads Rakh will be showing off this winter season are her prison fatigues.
The saga began on July 9, when police received a tipoff about the disappearance of 33-year Hamro Suvanov, a citizen of Uzbekistan. Investigations revealed that Suvanov had been kidnapped and was being held captive in an Almaty apartment. Four people, including Rakh, were later arrested.
The news sent a ripple of excitement across media in Kazakhstan. Newtimes.kz cited an anonymous source from Rakh’s entourage claiming Suvanov was the businesswoman’s personal assistant and owed her $3 million.
The same source told Newtimes.kz that Suvanov had entered into Rakh and her friends’ confidence and began to assist them in business affairs. With time, he borrowed money from them, as well as precious possessions and jewelry that he then redeemed for cash at pawn shops.
“He led a very glamorous lifestyle. Everybody was amazed at how a simple shop assistant could get his hands on so much money. But nobody gave it a lot of importance,” the source said.
A website in Kazakhstan, which bills itself as a platform for regional analysis, has reported that authorities in Uzbekistan are mulling the creation of a fake opposition group.
Polit-asia.kz claimed in an article published on November 8 that the proposition under consideration is to revive a banned political party called Ozod Dehkonlar (Free Peasants) that was founded by 52-year old Nigora Khidoyatova, a political emigre based in the United States.
The writer of the piece, Akbar Asanov, claimed that Uzbekistan is endeavoring to persuade the international community that it is embarking on a path of democratization in order to attract inward investment.
Askarov wrote that talks have taken place between the head of the security services, Rustam Inoyatov, acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Khidoyatova to allow for the Ozod Dehkonlar leader to return to Uzbekistan in exchange for acting as a pliant opposition force. Khidoyatova has been provided security guarantees for her, family and friends as part of the deal, Askarov wrote.
Asked for comment on the report, Khidoyatova told EurasiaNet.org that only some parts of the story were accurate.
“A lot of what is written there is true, but as far as coordinating with the government, that is a red herring,” Khidoyatova said.
Khidoyatova is a historian by training and the daughter of another celebrated Uzbek historian, Gogi Khidoyatov. Her political activities culminated in 2003 with the creation of the Ozod Dehkonlar party, which was refused registration. Party members were denied permission to stand in the 2004 parliamentary elections.
By the party’s own estimated, in 2012, when Khidoyatova finally fled the country fearing arrest, it counted around 100,000 rank-and-file members.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament endorsed the composition of a tweaked cabinet on November 9 that will be backed by a new, slimmed-down coalition and led by an unchanged prime minister firmly allied to single-term President Almazbek Atambayev.
MPs voted 114 to 4 to endorse Jeenbekov’s reshaped cabinet wherein the most eyebrow-raising appointment was that of Ulan Israilov, Atambayev's former bodyguard and the ex-head of the government's main anti-corruption inspectorate, as Interior Minister.
Among other additions, Cholpon Sultanbekova, a member of the pro-Atambayev Kyrgyzstan party and most famous as the widow of a former mob boss from the south of the country, took up the position of deputy prime minister for social affairs.
Jamshitbek Kalilov became the new transport minister with predecessor Zamirbek Aidarov presently under investigation by Israilov's former unit for corruption in a road tender won by a Chinese company.
The overwhelming parliamentary backing for the new government has become a tradition in Kyrgyzstan's mixed political system and does not mean that all is well in the legislature.
Two parties previously in the ruling coalition, Onuguu Progress and Ata-Meken are no longer part of the alliance that collapsed last month following their opposition to a controversial, Atambayev-driven referendum set to take place on December 11.
That leaves Atambayev's Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) governing along with the Kyrgyzstan party that survived the collapse and new entrants Bir Bol.
Central Asia has looked at Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency and some of it likes what it sees. The rest seems unbothered.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev fired off a note of congratulations to his counterpart-to-be and suggested that Trump drop in for a visit.
“I believe that under your leadership, the United States will remain a mainstay in the preservation of stability, security and prosperity in the entire world,” Nazarbayev said in the statement.
The haste and palpable warmth of the statement are hard not to see as a ringing endorsement. Nazarbayev, like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, clearly see in Trump a figure untroubled by such trifles as the promotion of democracy and human rights.
When Hillary Clinton last visited Kazakhstan, in 2010, she made a point of raising the plight of a jailed human rights defender, Yevgeny Zhovtis, while also hailing Astana for its progress on human rights.
Maulen Ashimbayev, a member of parliament with the ruling Nur Otan party, predicted that Trump’s victory would prove beneficial to Kazakhstan by virtue of the prospect of improving relations between Washington and Moscow.
On the cusp of what appears a new era of unpredictability in international affairs, countries in the Caucasus, that sensitive borderland between East and West, are wondering what to expect from Donald Trump, the United States’ choice for president.
In what many see as schadenfreude, Moscow is the only place in the larger region where politicians unabashedly hail Trump. The State Duma, in fact, met the news of Trump’s victory with a standing ovation.
“Man to man, I don’t envy Bill Clinton because his old lady, for whom he trailed around all the states like a threadbare backpack, will be going through the roof over losing,” predicted Sergei Mironov, leader of the social-democratic Fair Russia.
“Our dear Trump, congratulations on your victory,” chimed in the Liberal Democratic Party’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an ultranationalist known for his ebullient pre-election endorsement of Trump. “Babushka Hillary should go have a rest,” he advised.