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.


Analysis: Official Trickery? Pro-Government Atajurt Gets Registered In Kazakhstan

The organization was founded in 2017 and recorded and publicly reported about the detentions, incarcerations, and abuse of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang

Oct 12 — “The Kazakhstan-based group Atajurt Eriktileri (Volunteers of the Fatherland) was finally registered after attempting to do so for some two years. The organization was founded by ethnic Kazakhs originally from what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China. They moved across the border to Kazakhstan as part of the Kazakh government’s program to “repatriate” ethnic Kazakhs from around the world after Kazakhstan gained independence in late 1991.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/qishloq-ovozi-kazakhstan-atajurtregistered-pro-government/30213406.html

Kazakhstan: Chinese Kazakhs arrested, face trial in remote location

The two men are bracing to cause embarrassment by undermining the face-saving narrative of the Kazakh government which has insisted that it has received assurances from Beijing that no Kazakhs are being held in Xinjiang camps

Oct 15 — “Two ethnic Kazakh citizens of China who unlawfully smuggled their way into Kazakhstan to flee what they say was systematic repression have been arrested and will likely soon face trial in a remote region of the country. The men, Kaster Musakhan and Murager Alimuly, were arrested on October 14, following a press conference in Almaty in which they stated their intent to apply for asylum in Kazakhstan. Before they were able to file their petition with the migration police, however, they were detained by border service personnel from the National Security Committee, or KNB.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-chinese-kazakhs-arrested-face-trial-in-remote-location

The Complexities of Kazakhstan’s Cybersecurity Landscape: Facing the Challenges

Kazakhstan remains vulnerable to cyberattacks that affect businesses’ growth and national security

Oct 16 — “Resilience is one of those words that best describes the people of Kazakhstan. Since their relatively recent independence in 1991, the nation had to face diverse challenges that threatened its national security. Nevertheless, in this country’s short history, the social, economic and political adversities have shown that Kazakhstanis are more than ready to work as hard as they can to develop their homeland in the best way possible. Today challenges still endure and Kazakhstan now has to face a major one: cybercrime.” READ MORE: https://www.cpomagazine.com/cyber-security/the-complexities-of-kazakhstans-cybersecurity-landscape-facing-the-challenges/

Kazakhstan embraces facial recognition, civil society recoils

The company introducing the technology says it will be used on public transport

Oct 17 — “In a sign that Kazakhstan is fastening its embrace of smart camera systems, a local company has announced plans to use facial recognition technology on public transportation in the capital. Almas Aimenov, director of IPay, said at a conference on October 15 that his company’s FacePay system would be used in lieu of presenting a ticket on the bus. The technology can recognize faces to within a 5 percent margin of error, he said.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-embraces-facial-recognition-civil-society-recoils


“Parents Wanted a Son.” Why Kyrgyz Women Have Superstitious Names?

Kyrgyzstan gradually gets rid of the tradition to give superstitious names to girls in order to have a son. However, it does not mean that girls become as wanted children as boys

Oct 11 — “Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl Child, which was declared by the UN General Assembly in December 2011 (resolution 66/170) to recognise girls’ rights. This day was declared to attract attention to social challenges and inequality of girls all around the world related directly to the attitude towards females. It also focuses on the opportunities to get education, healthy food, medical services, social rights, protection against discrimination, violence and forced marriage in childhood.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/parents-wanted-a-son-why-kyrgyz-women-have-superstitious-names/

Kyrgyzstan: Two US nationals facing drug charges

The pair were found holding a bag with 36 ounces of marijuana

Oct 16 — “Two U.S. nationals volunteering in Kyrgyzstan with the Peace Corps program are set to remain in a pre-trial detention facility until November 19 pending investigations into drug possession. The October 16 ruling by the regional court in Jalal-Abad, a town in the south of the country, upheld an earlier decision adopted by a lower court.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-two-us-nationals-facing-drug-charges

Two Kyrgyz universities enter list of best universities in Eastern Europe, Central Asia

There are more higher educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan than the small country really needs

Oct 16 — “Two Kyrgyz universities are now on a list of the best universities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia compiled by British education marketing company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), the Kyrgyz Ministry of Education and Science said Wednesday. Two universities of Kyrgyzstan, namely American University of Central Asia and Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University, were among the best 200 universities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, ranking 163rd and 190th respectively, the ministry’s press service said.” READ MORE: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/16/c_138476697.htm


Tajiks Abroad Tricked Into Returning Home, End Up In Prison

Tajik authorities actively encourage their citizens, including opposition members in exile, to return and offer them assurances that they won’t face persecution at home

Oct 13 — “The recent arrests of several Tajiks who returned to Tajikistan from abroad under an amnesty for those suspected of being involved in religious extremism has cast severe suspicion on Dushanbe’s intentions and the sincerity of its offer. Sadriddin Mulloev, a 34-year-old Kulob resident, returned from Turkey in February after authorities assured him that a criminal charge against him would be dropped, Mulloev’s family says.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajiks-abroad-tricked-into-returning-home-end-up-in-prison/30214202.html

Tajikistan’s prison system claims victims and makes monsters

This past year has seen a spate of largely unexplained mass deaths among convicts in Tajik prisons

Oct 16 — “Prisoners in Tajikistan die with alarming frequency, and they do so in painful and violent ways. The ones who live endure a miserable existence, exposed to starvation, disease and physical torment. And an untold number should not even be behind bars in the first place, rights activists say. This past year has seen a spate of largely unexplained mass deaths among convicts.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistans-prison-system-claims-victims-and-makes-monsters

Tajik Authorities Drag Heels Over Child Returnees

Concerns remain over whether such children present a more long-term public danger when returned to Tajikistan

Oct 16 — “The children of Tajik citizens who travelled to join Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq have yet to be returned to their relatives back home, despite government assurances that they would be handed over once repatriated. A total of 84 children were brought back to Tajikistan in late April this year. Their parents are mostly either dead or serving long prison sentences in Iraq for terror-related activities. According to media reports, around 35 families have applied for custody of these children.” READ MORE: https://iwpr.net/global-voices/tajik-authorities-drag-heels-over-child


Unemployment and loans place residents of Garlyk in a desperate situation

Chronicles of Turkmenistan interviewed residents of the Turkmen city of Garlyk

Oct 14 — “The town of Garlyk in Lebap velayat was founded in 2011 with quite bright prospects – the construction and development of the potassium fertilizer ore mining and refining facility and the cement plant. None of the major employees, described as powerhouses of domestic manufacturing, managed to operate at full capacity. The Garlyk mining and refining facility is operating at only 2.3 % of its estimated capacity.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/10/unemployment-and-loans-place-residents-of-garlyk-in-a-desperate-situation/

Turkmenistan: Not OK Computer

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

Oct 15 — “Turkmenistan does not have its head in the clouds. Or in the cloud, to be exact. As Amsterdam-based website Turkmen.news reported on October 13, citing research by Swedish nongovernmental group Qurium Media Foundation, telecommunications authorities in Ashgabat have since July been blocking access to Google Cloud Storage services. The evident reason for this is that Turkmen.news is hosted on Google.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-not-ok-computer

Turkmenistan Airlines permitted to operate flights to the EU destinations

Turkmenistan’s civil aviation has made a breakthrough in its development

Oct 16 — “The state information agency TDH reports that on 14 October Chairperson of Turkmenistan Airlines Dovran Saburov briefed President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov that the airline has successfully completed the inspection to comply with the relevant EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) requirements.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/10/turkmenistan-airlines-permitted-to-operate-flights-to-the-eu-destinations/


Does the Construction of a Nuclear Power Plant in Uzbekistan Meet the Country’s Interests?

In economic terms, alternative energy sources and especially renewable ones, will give Uzbekistan a much greater and faster economic effect than a nuclear power plant

Oct 11 — “The construction plans of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan were first announced in December 2017, when Moscow and Tashkent agreed to work together on this issue.[1] A corresponding agreement was signed between the two countries in September 2018. In line with the agreement, it was planned to build two power-generating units based on a pressurized water reactor conforming to the “Rosatom” project with a capacity of up to 1.2 GW of each power unit.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/does-the-construction-of-a-nuclear-power-plant-in-uzbekistan-meet-the-country-s-interests/

Russia Claims Uzbekistan Will Soon Join Eurasian Union

Although Tashkent has not reached a final decision on Uzbekistan’s membership in the EEU, there is no doubt of Tashkent’s seriousness on this intention

Oct 14 — “On October 2, while on an official visit to Tashkent, the chairperson of Russia’s Federation Council (upper chamber of parliament), Valentina Matviyenko, unexpectedly announced Uzbekistan’s supposed intention to join the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) (RIA News, October 2). Days later, another Russian politician, Farid Mukhamedshin, a deputy chair of the Federation Council Committee on International Relations, made an equally significant pronouncement, asserting that Uzbekistan will likely acquire observer status at the EEU in early 2020, to coincide with Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s planned trip to Moscow” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/russia-claims-uzbekistan-will-soon-join-eurasian-union/

Stihia: An Electronic Dawn In Uzbekistan

The site of one of the modern history’s worst environmental catastrophes is now home to a bold new music festival

Oct 15 — “Otabek Suleimanov was making the final adjustments to his soundsystem. Above him the sun beat down, high in a hard blue sky. All around there was only scrubland, beige and khaki, perfectly flat, rolling to the horizon on all sides. This spot, in a remote corner of Uzbekistan, had once been at the shore of one of the world’s biggest lakes. Now, following one of modern history’s worst environmental catastrophes, the water had receded more than 150 kilometres. It left behind a forsaken town, Moynaq, and its largely forgotten population. Their lighthouse looked out onto endless sand. Their boats rusted on the desert floor.” READ MORE: https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/3546


EU sees spike in Afghan migrants as many leave sanctions-stricken Iran

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 17,000 Afghans crossed the Aegean Sea to reach EU shores

Oct 15 — “More Afghans than Syrians have migrated to the European Union so far this year, official data shows, making them the largest nationality illegally entering the bloc, with many relocating from Iran partly due to the hardship caused by U.S. sanctions. While the EU fears a new wave of asylum seekers from Syria following Turkey’s attack this week on the Kurdish-controlled northeastern region of the country, EU officials warned that the increasing number of Afghans posed a more immediate problem, especially in the Greek islands where many of them first arrive.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-afghanistan-iran/eu-sees-spike-in-afghan-migrants-as-many-leave-sanctions-stricken-iran-idUSKBN1WU14C

Record-Low Afghan Vote Turnout Could Plummet Further

The election commission used computerized voter lists and biometric voter verification in an effort to prevent large-scale ballot stuffing

Oct 16 — “Turnout in Afghanistan’s presidential election was already a record low, at around 26 percent. But it could sink more as election authorities sift through the votes cast in the September 28 poll. The election commission could discard more than 700,000 of the 2.7 million votes cast in the poll because they fail to meet new rules aimed at combating fraud.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/record-low-afghan-vote-turnout-could-plummet-biometric/30220012.html

Afghanistan peace process: 2020 presidential hopefuls owe Afghan women their support

Afghan women will always fight to better their home. Given Washington’s long involvement in Afghanistan, the next president has a duty to help them

Oct 17 — “It’s unlikely that anyone now running for president has ever met Nilofar Sayar. But if the candidates are serious about wanting one of the world’s most powerful jobs, every one of them owes her an explanation. Nilofar is a women’s rights activist from Afghanistan’s northern Balkh provincewho promotes women’s inclusion in the decision-making processes and in peace negotiations. Her courage has come with a cost: Last year, she started receiving threatening messages and calls on her phone warning her that if she continues to speak out against warlords and armed groups in her province, her family would face grave consequences.” READ MORE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/10/17/afghanistan-taliban-women-rights-peace-negotiations-column/3997835002/


Central Asian Perspectives of the Tsentr 2019 Military Exercises

As China increases economic and security influence in Central Asia, Russia is strengthening its military cooperation with Central Asian countries, warning its regional partners of possible security threats from neighboring Afghanistan

Oct 15 — “Tsentr 2019, this year’s largest Russian strategic-operational exercise, involving both Russian troops and seven regional allies and partners, was a highly promoted event by Russia’s state-owned news outlets. According to Sputnik News, the maneuvers (September 16–21) “demonstrated to the world the unprecedented defensive capabilities of Russia on a scale completely inaccessible to the Pentagon and NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization]” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/central-asian-perspectives-of-the-tsentr-2019-military-exercises/

Why are there anti-China protests in Central Asia?

The Central Asia region is important to Beijing’s security strategy

Oct 16 — “In Kazakhstan, the construction of Chinese factories has prompted a string of anti-China protests, part of a growing global backlash against China’s investments. Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan are on the frontier of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — the rebranded “One Belt One Road” infrastructure and development plan Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in the Kazakhstan capital in 2013.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/16/why-are-there-anti-china-protests-central-asia/

Sergey Kwan