Parliament in Kyrgyzstan has narrowly rejected legislation that would have made it illegal to hunt endangered animals until 2030.
Opponents of the bill, which was defeated 56 to 52, argued that the ban could cost the country money in lost tourist revenue. They also said the legislation would do nothing to solve the problem of poaching.
“We could get a boomerang effect from a moratorium. Besides, we would lose revenue from foreign hunters,” said Isa Omurkulov, a member of parliament with the ruling Social-Democratic Party (SDPK).
The government currently charges 450,000 som ($6,000) for a license to hunt Argali mountain sheep, known locally as Arkhar, the most commonly sought trophy animal for foreign hunters. An all-inclusive hunting expedition to the country can about $15,000-20,000 — likely the lowest rate in the whole region. (Here is footage of a foreigner on a hunt in Kyrgyzstan).
Authorities freely admit that foreigners buying a single license are at liberty to shoot dead as many animals as they care to.
Lawmakers certainly have a point about poaching.
According to official figures, there were 520 instances of illegal hunting recorded in the 2015-16 season, while only 69 licenses were handed out. Indeed, while those lawfully hunting contribute substantial sums of money to the economy, illegal hunters do nothing but cause possibly permanent environmental damage.
Supporters of the moratorium have said they will continue their campaign, however.
“We must continue to protect our ecology, which was religiously cared for by our ancestors,” said lawmaker Zhanar Akayev, who helped draft the bill. “There will always be those that resist major changes, but we must continue to expand the ranks of our supporters.”
A jailed lawyer in Tajikistan has had his lengthy sentence extended by two years for contempt of court for quoting the words of an 11th century Persian philosopher and poet during his original trial.
The ruling handed down on March 16 means Buzurgmehr Yorov now faces 25 years in jail. He was sentenced in October on what his supporters say were trumped-up charges of fraud and inciting hatred and extremism, among other offenses.
Rights advocates argue Yorov was targeted for reprisal because he was one of the few lawyers willing to take up the case of arrested members of the now-banned opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).
During hearings at his trial in October, Yorov quoted Avicenna to say that “society is spoiled by a few ignorant people who believe themselves the wisest; those that would make infidels of all who do not abide by their wishes.” The court was sufficiently offended by the words to file a criminal case of charges of contempt and offending a state representative.
And that isn’t all.
Yorov’s sister, Hosiyat, has told EurasiaNet.org that the Firdavs district court in Dushanbe is now bracing for hearings into yet another case, again on fraud charges, which envision anything up to another 12 years in jail.
In addition to defending the IRPT members, Yorov was the first person to make a public statement about the apparent physical abuse being meted out to the jailed party leadership. That appears to have precipitated in his arrest in September 2015.
State media cast Yorov as a defender of terrorists, which is how the IRPT is now characterized.
“He must be a terrorist himself if he defends terrorists,” one article argued.
Kyrgyz American Foundation co-founder Jonathan Levin performs at Nichols Concert Hall in Chicago on November 5, 2016. The performance, titled “Sounds of Kyrgyzstan in Chicago,” was the Kyrgyz American Foundation’s debut event in the United States. (Photo courtesy of the Kyrgyz American Foundation)
The Kyrgyz American Foundation is staging a concert in New York on March 16, driven by the belief that music, rather than words, can often be more effective in building connections among people.
For the foundation’s co-founders, Azamat Sydykov and Jonathan Levin, the March 16 event, titled “Sounds of Kyrgyzstan in New York,” is not so much a one-time performance as it is the beginning of a long-term endeavor. “Music unites, and art makes us better. Music knows no borders,” Sydykov said.
The concert will bring a colorful celebration of Kyrgyz music to New York’s Merkin Concert Hall; the program features classical and traditional Kyrgyz and American music composed and performed by artists from the two countries. In addition to Sydykov and Levin, both experienced concert pianists, scheduled performers include soprano Nikoleta Rallis, pianists Joel A. Martin and Kairy Koshoeva, cellist Numira Greenberg, as well as Elvira Abdilova and Perizat Kopobaeva on the national instrument of Kyrgyzstan, the komuz.
The Kyrgyz American Foundation aims to build strong and enduring ties between Kyrgyzstan and the United States, Sydykov and Levin told EurasiaNet.org. All too often, the connections between nations are only strategic and political, Sydykov explained, adding that the foundation intends to move Kyrgyz-American relations beyond “temporary things such as Manas Air Base.” While others are focused on building walls, the foundation hopes to use music and culture to show that there are better ways to understand each other, he said.
Child labor in Uzbekistan usually brings cotton fields to mind, but the reality is that work in the countryside accounts for a small part of the problem.
Recent efforts by law enforcement starkly illustrate the issue.
Police in the capital of Uzbekistan have said this week that in the first two months of 2017 they took 1,400 children who moved from the regions to find work in the city off the streets.
The bulk of those children were reportedly engaged in such menial labor as tugging carts at markets or working in carwashes. Officials cited by RFE/RL’s Uzbek service say the children detained in these sweeps have been sent to centers for the support of underage children.
Poverty and unemployment in rural areas forces many families to resort to sending school-age children to look for some form of income in urban areas, where work is more readily available. The perceived advantage of having people so young undertake the task is that they are less susceptible to harassment from the police and usually are not forced to pay bribes. And since many of them do not even have internal passports, even basic document checks are often impossible. In families where the father is living abroad, a child is often the only person in household able to generate any kind of income. Employers are also more likely to take on workers who will agree to the lowest salaries possible.
According to former policeman Aibek Muminov, children often prove highly adaptable and move from one city to another with ease.
The car of a 67-year security guard in the southern Tajikistan city of Qurghonteppa exploded late at night on March 12 in the vicinity of a military prosecutors’ office, prompting official claims of possible terrorism afoot.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the blast was caused by an incendiary device.
RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, reported that the prosecutor’s office in the Khatlon region is investigating the incident as a potential terrorist act, but it has provided few specific details. According to a source cited by Ozodi, investigators are considering the possibility that the security guard, Hasanboi Rahmonov, who was the only person killed in the explosion, was also possibly a perpetrator.
Investigators are questioning Rahmonov’s friends and acquaintances for more details on his background, Ozodi reported.
Meanwhile, news website Asia-Plus reported that the rumor mill in Qurghonteppa is insisting that Rahmonov was but an unfortunate bystander, who might just have been carrying a suspect package to the prosecutor’s office. By way of a supporting argument, people point to the fact that his place of work, a technical lyceum, is right next door to the prosecutor’s office.
Officials have declined to comment on this line of speculation, however.
Top representatives of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development traveled to Uzbekistan on March 15 for a visit that could have major repercussions for ongoing intra-elite struggles.
According to official statements, EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti and his team will hold multiple high-level meetings with Uzbek officials over their three-day stay.
The dry language of the press releases disguise the political implications.
“We already see several areas of interest, such as regional connectivity and integration, advisory services and finance for [small and medium enterprises], and the financing of green energy and energy efficiency projects,” Chakrabarti said in a statement.
The EBRD has also said it wants to help in addressing the potentially disastrous remnants of the Soviet-era uranium mining and processing industry.
This trip has been in the woodwork for a few months.
As preparation for the visit, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov on February 6 met with Natalia Khanjenkova, the EBRD’s managing director Central Asia and Russia. Khanjenkova said at the time that the EBRD hoped for long-term cooperation with Uzbekistan.
The EBRD’s representative office in Tashkent was opened in 1993. According to gazeta.ru, the bank carried out 55 projects in its time in Uzbekistan, investing almost 900 million euros ($950 million) into the local economy.
Police in Kazakhstan are as of now under instructions to be more polite to the public and to refrain from using informal pronouns — such as the Russian “ty” (you) — or beckon people by just saying “hey.”
Tengri News website on March 15 cited the Interior Ministry as saying that instructions on politeness and proper behavior are included in overall police training courses.
“The conduct of Interior Ministry personnel is regulated by the government workers ethical code and departmental edicts laid down by the Interior Ministry. For police or traffic inspectors to talk in a rude manner or address people and drivers as ‘ty’ is not permitted,” the ministry was cited as saying in a statement.
People that feel they have been improperly addressed can file complaints with the Interior Ministry in person or over the phone.
Rules regulating proper behavior by police when dealing with the public already existed, although in practice there is often slippage in standards.
In another recent example of an apparent attempt by authorities in Kazakhstan to raise general levels of urbanity among the population, city hall in Shymkent last month “strongly forbade” bus conductors from yelling at every stop. The conductors would typically advertise their route by shouting the name of every stop ahead — a cacophonous practice that seems to have irked many members of the public. (See here for examples).
A mass rally against a tax on unemployment is scheduled to take place March 15 in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, amid signs that authorities are losing patience for such public expressions of discontent.
Dozens of activists, journalists and politicians associated with the protest movement have been taken into custody in recent days, with some sentenced to administrative detention. The civil society organization Nash Dom (Our House) said the clampdown has been especially harsh on what it described as “socially active women,” as well as female journalists.
The upheaval is a response to a presidential decree, titled “On Prevention of Social Dependency.” Although on the books for over a year, authorities only recently tried to enforce the statute.
Authorities earlier announced that they would suspend the implementation of the decree until 2018, but that announcement has not appeared to slowed the protest movement’s momentum.
Rights groups, along with US and European Union officials, have expressed concern over the government crackdown.
During the initial weeks of protests, authorities were slow to take action against participants, apparently not wanting to disrupt improving relations between Minsk and the EU.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s recent dalliance with EU leaders occurred against a background of strained relations with his chief ally, Russia. Observers say this tension was connected to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv, and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine.
Grigory Mikhailov, a Regnum editor formerly based in Kyrgyzstan, attending a conference in 2016. (Photo: Facebook account, Sergey Kozlov)
Russia’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan has in a startling break from custom declined to come out in defense of a Russian reporter expelled from the country.
Unprecedented might be putting it too strongly, but for the Russian Foreign Ministry to willingly throw a reporter for a Kremlin-supporting news outlet under the bus is a notable development.
Andrei Krutko told news website Vesti.kg on March 13 that Grigory Mikhailov, a formerly Bishkek-based editor with Regnum website, had violated migration agreements between Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
“Also, we pulled up all our documents, and we have no record of Grigory Mikhailov ever being registered with us. It turns out that we had no legal record of his presence. For all five years in which I have been in Kyrgyzstan, Mikhailov never came to a single [embassy] event,” Krutko said. “It also turned out that he was not accredited with the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry or with the government.”
Krutko said Mikhailov’s situation was entirely analogous to that of the tens of thousands of Kyrgyz citizens deported from Russia for violating similar rules and that there was no evidence of any political motives in the case.
Any perceived mistreatment of Russian government-friendly journalists overseas — immaterial of the mitigating circumstances — typically provokes fiery protests from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, but the response here has strayed from the regular script.
Regnum’s reaction to Krutko’s remarks has been indignant.
Abkhazia's Central Election Commission announces preliminary results of the March 12 parliamentary elections. (photo: www.abkhazinform.com)
Former Abkhazian President Alexander Ankvab has made a successful comeback in politics after winning a seat in Abkhazia's 35-member parliament, one of several surprise results in the March 12 elections.
The parliamentary vote was the fifth to be held in the breakaway territory since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, all of the which have been ritually condemned as illegal by Georgia and Western governments. Recent elections have been genuinely competitive and unpredictable, however, and dramatic defeats of veteran politicians by independent challengers have been a regular feature. This year's edition did not fail to deliver.
The stakes were high for Abkhazia's opposition after it failed to depose President Raul Khajimba in a referendum in July 2016, and after a tense stand-off between opposition and government protesters in December ended in a draw. In late January, news emerged that former president Alexander Ankvab, ousted from office in 2014, had been nominated in three constituencies. This triggered a protest by pro-government veterans of the 1992-1993 war with Georgia, who proclaimed that while Ankvab had the legal right to participate, he did not have the moral right, having fled to a Russian military base in 2014.