Weekly Digest of Central Asia

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.


The birthplace of the modern apple

Trade along the ancient Silk Road brought the apple from Kazakhstan to Europe, China and, eventually, North America

Nov 21 — “Winter’s cool indifference had already embraced the snow-tipped peaks of the Tian Shan mountain system, winds whispering the tall trees into a state of undress. “It is cold,” said Alexey Raspopov, a guide with Trekking Club Kazakhstan, pointing to the dashboard thermometer of his 4×4 as we ascended, leaving Kazakhstan’s second city Almaty to disappear beneath a layer of smog.” READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20181120-the-birthplace-of-the-modern-apple

Kazakhstan: Sun setting on Almaty’s chaotic Barakholka bazaar

The Almaty government wants to see consumers gravitate toward a more modern form of shopping, such as supermarkets and big shopping malls

Nov 21 — “It was around lunchtime on the first day of November when thick plumes of acrid smoke billowed into the sky over Barakholka, Almaty’s sprawling archipelago of wholesale bazaars. A two-story warehouse had caught fire. The blaze spread fast, destroying furniture, household appliances and crockery. People have been predicting the demise of Barakholka – a confounding maze of shipping containers, stalls and warehouses on the northern edge of Kazakhstan’s business capital – for over a decade.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-sun-setting-on-almatys-chaotic-barakholka-bazaar

All Along the Irtysh River Basin

American photojournalist and writer traversed 1,300 kilometers along the Irtysh river basin from the Russian border city of Omsk, Siberia through Northern Kazakhstan (Pavlodar, Aksu, Semey, Ust-Kamenogorsk) to the last town at the Kazakh-Chinese border (Buran)

Nov 21 — “A drop of water, having appeared in the glaciers of the Chinese Altai mountains, will see a lot on its northwestern path as it joins the Irtysh River. First, there are many artificial canals, oil refineries, and cotton fields on the Chinese side. After crossing the border with Kazakhstan, that drop of water will cross Zaisan, one of the oldest lakes in the world, the Bukhtarma Reservoir (the largest artificial reservoir), and the powerful Bukhtarma hydropower plant.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/11/all-along-the-irtysh-river-basin/

Renewable energy potential attracts greater investment to Kazakhstan, says scholar

In an exclusive interview with The Astana Times, an international scholar illustrates Kazakhstan’s current and future energy landscape

Nov 22 — “Central Asia’s renewable energy transformation is gaining momentum and market leaders are taking note, with increased investments flowing in from the East and West. Natalie Koch, an associate professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs studying resource-rich states in Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, recently authored “The geopolitics of spectacle: Space, synecdoche and the new capitals of Asia” and “Critical geographies of sport: Space, power and sport in global perspective.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2018/11/renewable-energy-potential-attracts-greater-investment-to-kazakhstan-says-scholar/


Kyrgyzstan: Textile and Clothing Week held in Bishkek

The textile and clothing production is among the priority sectors of Kyrgyzstan’s economy. The industry has a high export potential and is of special social significance for the country, as it creates mass jobs

Nov 18 — “A Textile and Clothing Week was held in Bishkek from November 7 to 16. It was the first large-scale event in the history of Kyrgyzstan devoted to the development of the textile and apparel sector. As part of the event, roundtables, a Fashion Week and a High Level Forum were held. At the awarding ceremony, winners of competitions of young designers, industrial enterprises, craftsmen and the media were announced. An exhibition-fair of garments from local manufacturers took place, where local companies showcased their fabrics, clothes, shoes, and accessories.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20506-kyrgyzstan-textile-and-clothing-week-held-in-bishkek

Kyrgyz Lawmaker Says She Was Sexually Harassed In Parliament Elevator

Women across the former Soviet Union, including Kyrgyzstan, often say they are routinely the targets of harassment in the workplace but can do little to prevent it

Nov 19 — “A Kyrgyz lawmaker says she has been sexually harassed by a male government employee in the parliament building. Elvira Surabaldieva wrote on Twitter on November 19 that the man tried flirting with her in the parliament’s elevator and then he started groping her.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyz-lawmaker-surabaldieva-sexually-harassed-parliament-elevator/29608996.html

Kyrgyzstan: Is Tengrism a Religion or a Point of View?

Opinion remains divided on the status of Tengrism, which involves a number of deities, including Tengri the Sky God, as well as ancestor worship and a set of moral codes. But it is non-dogmatic and its followers believe it is also compatible with other faiths

Nov 20 — “Followers of the ancient shamanic tradition of Tengrism in Kyrgyzstan say that they will double down on ongoing efforts to be registered as a formal religious group. Opinion remains divided, however – even within the movement itself – on whether Tengrism is in fact a religion, a cult or a more amorphous philosophy.” READ MORE: https://iwpr.net/global-voices/kyrgyzstan-tengrism-religion-or-point-view

Kyrgyzstan: Presidential rift widens over campaign irregularity allegations

As his state power succession scheme completely failed, ex-President Almazbek Atambayev has renewed hostilities with his handpicked successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov

Nov 20 — “A spurned former president of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev, looks determined to go to any lengths to sabotage his successor. Even, it seems, if doing so means shredding his own reputation. In an explosive interview that aired on November 19 on his own television station, April, Atambayev implied that incumbent head of state Sooronbai Jeenbekov had violated electoral law during last year’s presidential race. The allegations are based on an alleged leaked campaign-spending spreadsheet that has had the country abuzz since last week.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20516-kyrgyzstan-presidential-rift-widens-over-campaign-irregularity-allegations


Tajikistan’s Rogun Dam Begins Operations

Construction and launch of the giant Rogun dam is a matter of legacy for Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

Nov 20 — “As Tajik President Emomali Rahmon strode down a long red carpet with his son and current mayor of Dushanbe, Rustam, a step behind him, women in traditional dresses shuffled forward to toss rose petals in their path. Between the women, men in blue work clothes and white construction hats, clapped.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/11/tajikistans-megadam-rogun-begins-operations/

Tajikistan casts dice in hydroelectric gamble, but will the people benefit?

Tajikistan has just launched the first turbine of its giant Roghun hydro power plant, which is announced to help the country finally achieve energy independence. But the expensive project has come at a cost for the state and ordinary Tajik citizens

Nov 21 — “Roghunshoh, a shy and studious nine-year-old in the northern Tajikistan village of Madaniyat, does not quite understand how he came by his name. “I get top marks at school and I want to become a lawyer,” he told Eurasianet, diffidently. His name represents a hope – a gamble, even. The boy was born at the end of 2009, just as the government had resumed in earnest to think about resurrecting a long-dormant project to build the world’s tallest hydroelectric dam.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20520-tajikistan-casts-dice-in-hydroelectric-gamble-but-will-the-people-benefit

In The Dark: Tajik Border Residents Live Not Knowing What Lies Beyond

Taliban militants have seized dozens of villages in northern Afghanistan near the Tajik border in recent years

Nov 22 — “When the night falls in Khayom, the entire village disappears into the darkness. Residents of this Tajik settlement on the northern banks of the Panj River have learned not to turn their lights on at night — at least not until their windows are blacked out with thick, dark curtains. Doing otherwise, they are told by guards who patrol the nearby border, could attract gunfire from the other side.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajik-border-residents-live-not-knowing-what-lies-beyond/29615744.html


Turkmenistan: Taking things with a grain of salt

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Nov 20 — “Soviet-style breadlines are a regular sight in Turkmenistan these days. RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, Radio Azatlyk, reported last week that shoppers seeking to purchase flour at one store in the city of Turkmenabad were required to produce proof of residence in order to do so. Even then, they faced lengthy waits. The outlet also noted that where bread cost only one manat in Ashgabat stores one month ago, the price has now reached five manat.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-taking-things-with-a-grain-of-salt

Turkmenistan purchases pipes for its leg of the TAPI pipeline. The construction works were completed 9 months ago

Turkmenistan is buying pipes for the TAPI gas pipeline after the official Turkmen media have previously reported that the construction of the TAPI’s Turkmen leg was completed in February 2018

Nov 21 — “On 19 November, in the course of the video conference the Chairperson of the state holding “Turkmengaz” Myrat Archayev briefed President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov that the Turkmen gas company concluded a contract with the Saudi Arabian Global Pipe Company to supply steel pipes for the TAPI pipeline with $40 mln being allocated by the Saudi Fund for Development.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/11/turkmenistan-purchases-pipes-for-its-leg-of-the-tapi-pipeline-the-construction-works-were-completed-9-months-ago/

Why Iran and Turkmenistan need to solve their gas dispute amicably

Iran and Turkmenistan have brought their long-standing natural-gas debt dispute to international arbitration

Nov 22 — “Since the last few months, Iran and Turkmenistan have got embroiled in a bitter dispute. The dispute had started brewing last year when Turkmenistan accused Iran of faltering on payments that Iran was obliged to pay for receiving natural gas from Turkmenistan. In turn, Turkmenistan decided to cut-off gas supplies to Iran.” READ MORE: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/why-iran-and-turkmenistan-need-to-solve-their-gas-dispute-amicably-45677/


Uzbekistan announces ambition to become major tourist destination

Uzbekistan and Lichtenstein are the only two double-landlocked countries in the world, bordered as they are by landlocked countries. So Uzbekistan has recently put a strong emphasis on developing its air fleet

Nov 19 — “Uzbek officials and foreign guests issued a clear message on Monday (19 November) that developing tourism has become a major priority for Uzbekistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia with great landscapes and a very rich historical heritage. A two-day International Investment Forum in Tourism opened in Tashkent on Monday, with business representatives from 48 countries and 30 international media outlets.” READ MORE: https://www.euractiv.com/section/central-asia/news/uzbekistan-announces-ambition-to-become-a-major-tourist-destination/

Uzbekistan: Stop Harassing Human Rights Defenders

Despite the authorities’ significant positive steps to improve the overall human rights climate in Uzbekistan, law enforcement bodies have stepped up their surveillance of some rights activists in recent weeks, Human Rights Watch said

Nov 20 — “The Uzbek authorities should stop harassing human rights activists, including those recently released from prison, and ensure their safety, Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders, the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), Human Rights Watch, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/20/uzbekistan-stop-harassing-human-rights-defenders

At Last, Uzbekistan Extends Some Support to Migrant Workers

For Uzbekistan — the most-populous country in Central Asia, labor migration is vital for solving unemployment and other economic problems

Nov 21 — “Uzbekistan is increasingly playing an active role in supporting its labor migrants, a change from the Karimova era.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/11/at-last-uzbekistan-extends-some-support-to-migrant-workers/

Uzbekistan Reforms: Is the Media a Bellwether?

Navbahor Imamova, the first VOA journalist ever accredited to report from Uzbekistan, takes a hard look at what has and hasn’t changed for press freedom in the country

Nov 23 — “It’s been a dramatic two years since Shavkat Mirziyoyev became president of Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous nation. Many doubted he could bring change, since he was a byproduct of the deeply rooted authoritarian regime ruled for 27 years by his predecessor Islam Karimov. But Mirziyoyev introduced ambitious reforms, promising transformation in every sector.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/a/uzbekistan-reforms-is-the-media-a-bellwether/4669095.html


Shutting Out Iran Will Make the Afghan War Even Deadlier

Washington’s hard line gives Tehran every reason to fund the Taliban

Nov 16 — “Six months after the Trump administration withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran, triggering an initial reimposition of sanctions, Washington has reinstituted additional punitive measures on Iran. U.S. President Donald Trump described the latest sanctions, which went into effect on Nov. 5 and target the key Iranian industries of oil, banking, and shipping, as the “toughest ever.” READ MORE: https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/16/shutting-out-iran-will-make-the-afghan-war-even-deadlier/

Afghanistan Is Making Economic Progress but Needs Peace

With much-needed peace and stability will come further economic growth in Afghanistan

Nov 19 — “International donors will have some good news when they gather to review Afghanistan’s economic progress on November 27–28 in Geneva. While peace prospects , Taliban attacks , and Afghanistan’s unsettled politics will be on everyone’s mind, donors can applaud positive reviews of Afghan performance from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as welcome steps.” READ MORE: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/afghanistan-making-economic-progress-needs-peace-36487

Afghanistan: The almost forgotten war that still deserves our attention

Canada’s former ambassador to the United States and former member of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan reflects on the situation in this country today

Nov 19 — “There is rarely good news from Afghanistan – the almost forgotten war. The Mongols, the British, the Soviets and now the Americans have learned the lesson from the “Graveyard of Empires” the hard way. After 17 years of conflict, more than US$100-billion in expenses, thousands of allied, primarily American, casualties plus tens of thousands of Afghan military, police and civilian deaths, the situation is grim and the prospects are even grimmer.” READ MORE: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-afghanistan-the-almost-forgotten-war-that-still-deserves-our/

This is why the Afghan peace plan will fail again

The current conflict environment in Afghanistan includes not only the Taliban but the Haqqani Network, the IS-K (Daesh), the resurgent Al Qaeda Arabs, Uzbek and Tajik insurgents, the Chechens, the Uyghur and various Pakistani militant groups

Nov 22 — “History shows that the old strategy of promising a share of power to the old guard, in exchange for their stamp of approval, will not work. In early October, the newly- appointed US Department of State’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad launched his shuttle diplomacy. He is not a new face on the scene.” READ MORE: https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/this-is-why-the-afghan-peace-plan-will-fail-again-21880


Amid sanctions, Iran looks east

For Russia, China and India, Shiite-dominated Iran is viewed as a natural partner in combatting terrorism

Nov 22 — “Tehran has taken a significant step toward creating a multilateral framework for Eurasian security cooperation by convening its first ‘Regional Security Dialogue’ summit in late September 2018 with deputy national security advisers from Russia, China and India. In the face of US-led international sanctions, Tehran’s efforts to develop multilateral security cooperation are providing a framework for Asia’s giants to partner with Iran.” READ MORE: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/11/22/amid-sanctions-iran-looks-east/

Developing the IT sector will make Central Asia more united and independent

The simultaneous development of an IT ecosystem of innovations in the countries of Central Asia will create new possibilities for regional collaboration, as well as for collaboration of the Central Asian IT sector with global centers of the IT industry

Nov 22 — “This September marked the second anniversary of the death of Islam Karimov, the former President of Uzbekistan, and the de-facto accession to power of Shavkat Mirziyoyev (who was later officially elected to the presidency in December 2016). In record-breaking time President Mirziyoyev solved border disputes with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – which had previously been considered unsolvable, significantly strengthened relations with Kazakhstan, conducted sweeping economic reforms, and opened Uzbekistan to foreign investments.” READ MORE: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/11/22/developing-the-it-sector-will-make-central-asia-more-united-and-independent/

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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