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.


Project ‘ASTANA’: signs of demographic upheaval in Kazakhstan?

The rapid growth and development of Kazakhstan’s capital Astana has been achieved largely at the expense of other regions of Kazakhstan and due to internal migration

July 17 — “On the eve of the 20th anniversary of moving Kazakhstan’s capital from Almaty to Astana, the country’s government announced that the city of Astana has welcomed its one-millionth resident. Indeed, this was a remarkable achievement for the city, which within just 20 years – between 1997 and 2018 – grew from a population of only 290,000 to more than 1.1 million inhabitants, or more than 300 percent.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20011-project-astana-signs-of-demographic-upheaval-in-kazakhstan

Kazakhstan Goes Organic in Bid to Build Niche in Grains Market

By offering non-GMO and pesticide-free agriculture produce, Kazakhstan hopes to carve out a niche in a crops market dominated by Russia, Australia and the US

July 18 — “Kazakhstan is tapping growing consumer demand for organic crops to help it better compete in the food-export market. The country wants to use much of its vast uncultivated lands to grow soybeans and other non-genetically modified crops for markets such as China and the European Union, Agriculture Vice Minister Gulmira Isaeva said.” READ MORE: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-18/kazakhstan-goes-organic-in-bid-to-build-niche-in-grains-market

Kazakh owner of multimillion-dollar Paris apartment shrouded in mystery

Although President Nazarbayev has repeatedly spoken against siphonning money from Kazakhstan, Kazakh officials still own luxurious property abroad

July 19 — “More than half a year after news emerged that an alleged mysterious government official from Kazakhstan was behind the stunning purchase of a $76.5 million apartment in Paris, the Finance Ministry has come forward to reveal, well, nothing.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/kazakhstan-multimillion-dollar-paris-apartment-owner-shrouded-in-mystery

China’s ‘re-education centers’ draw attention in Kazakhstan trial of former worker at Xinjiang camp

About 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs live in China’s Xinjiang and many are separated from relatives over the border after a crackdown by Chinese authorities that cite separatist and extremist threats as justification for repressive policies

July 20 — “Secretive “re-education centers” allegedly holding hundreds of thousands of people in a Muslim-majority region in western China are the focus of an explosive court case in Kazakhstan, testing the country’s ties with Beijing. On trial is Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national who is accused of illegally crossing the border to join her husband and two children in Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/20/world/chinas-reeducation-centers-draw-attention-kazakhstan-trial-former-worker-xinjiang-camp/#.W1F0Rhi3qKI

Kazakh Police Arrest Two In Case Of Figure Skater’s Stabbing

The killing of Kazakhstan’s first Olympic medalist in figure skating has shocked the country

July 20 — “Two suspects have been detained in the case of the July 19 stabbing death of Kazakh Olympic figure skater Denis Ten. Almaty city police announced that Arman Qudaibergenov, a 24-year-old native of the southern Qyzylorda region, was apprehended in Almaty’s Aqsai district on July 20.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/suspect-in-kazakh-olympic-figure-skater-s-killing-detained-prosecutor-says/29377872.html


Tourism in Kyrgyzstan: ambitious goals, poor roads and safety problems

About five thousand tourists from 18 countries applied for mountain programs in Kyrgyzstan this year, but local tour operators fear that safety problems may scare off tourists

July 16 — “Considering that the World Nomad Games are to be held in 2018, it is expected that there will be a deficit of Kyrgyzstan’s state budget in the second half of the year, the Eurasian Development Bank said in its monthly macroeconomic review.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20006-tourism-in-kyrgyzstan-ambitious-goals-poor-roads-and-safety-problems

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan shuttle trade booms, but for how long?

The improved relations between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have led to a booming trade in the border areas between the two neighbors

July 19 — “In late June, the Dostuk crossing on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan was a suffocating crush of human activity. People carrying box-loads of goods waited for hours in vast lines under the punishing sun. The scene would have been unimaginable even a year ago. Dostuk (“Friendship”), which lies next to the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, has been working around the clock since the fall of 2017.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20021-uzbekistan-and-kyrgyzstan-shuttle-trade-booms-but-for-how-long

Kyrgyzstan: Ex-mayor detained on corruption charges

Another loyalist of the country’s ex-President is facing corruption charges in Kyrgyzstan

July 19 — “Security services in Kyrgyzstan have detained the former mayor of the capital city and charged him on three separate counts of corruption. This move raises the stakes even further in the ruling presidential administration’s hounding of the former head of state, who stepped down in November after completing his single permitted six-year term.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/kyrgyzstan-ex-mayor-detained-on-corruption-charges

Growing up positive: Surviving an AIDS epidemic in Kyrgyzstan

Children living with HIV still face stigma and discrimination in Kyrgyzstan

July 20 — “Nurdin marches up to me and thrusts his hand out in greeting. As we sit down to talk, the well-dressed and reflective 10-year-old alternates between his cell phone and his coloured pencils. There is only one thing he won’t talk about: his HIV status and how he has suffered as a result.” READ MORE: https://www.unicef.org/stories/growing-positive-surviving-aids-epidemic-kyrgyzstan


Tajikistan: monopoly practices send fuel prices soaring

Tajikistan’s lucrative motor fuel business, and its revenues, is largely controlled by a relative of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

July 15 — “One of the most popular means to get around Tajikistan’s capital is the “three-somoni taxi,” named for the set price of the fare. No more. It will be five-somoni taxis from now – the direct result of a recent dramatic spike in the cost of car fuel and an opaque fuel-import market dominated by a relative of the president.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20001-tajikistan-monopoly-practices-send-fuel-prices-soaring

Khayrullo Mirsaidov: the journalist from Tajikistan who received 12 years in prison for his honesty and courage

International media and rights organizations demand that Tajik authorities free journalist convicted for his reporting on alleged corruption of Tajik officials

July 15 — “In the 15 years I have known Khayrullo Mirsaidov, I have often called my friend and colleague an idiot. The Webster dictionary defines an “idiot” as”a very stupid or foolish person”. That describe accurately anybody who, 25 years after the Soviet Union broke down, still fights for free media and democracy in a country like Tajikistan.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/michael-andersen/khayrullo-mirsaidov

Tajikistan offers to help Pakistan in its water scarcity battle

Expansion of public-private partnership opens new opportunities for attracting additional investments in the water sector and infrastructure

July 19 — “As water scarcity poses a serious threat to different countries, Tajikistan has proposed to expand public-private partnership to open new opportunities to attract additional investments in the water sector and infrastructure.” READ MORE: https://dailytimes.com.pk/269858/tajikistan-offers-to-help-pakistan-in-its-water-scarcity-battle/


Turkmenistan: No rest for the wicked

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

July 17 — “Turkmenistan’s president has gone on his summer break, leading to a phenomenal surge of silliness coming out of the country. Every step taken by Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov during his activity-filled repose in the Caspian resort town of Awaza has been watched with eager attention by state media.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/turkmenistan-no-rest-for-the-wicked

Agriculture: private and state problems

An author of independent foreign-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports on the work and income of farmers and land tenants in today’s Turkmenistan

July 19 — “For the second year in a row President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has been expressing discontent with the development of the agro-industrial sector, which is fully controlled by the state. Even land tenants are urged to grow only those crops which are needed by the authorities.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/07/agriculture-private-and-state-problems/

Russian oil and gas company leaves Turkmenistan as the production sharing agreement has not been signed

Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector, and gas exports, remain heavily reliant on the the country’s sole natural-gas buyer — China

July 20 — “The news outlet “Neftkapital” reports that “Zarubezhneft” subsidiary is leaving Turkmenistan. The Russian oil and gas company has already held a tender for the organizational services of its shutdown.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/07/russian-oil-and-gas-company-leaves-turkmenistan-as-the-production-sharing-agreement-has-not-been-signed/


Hit By Criminal Accusations, World Amateur Boxing Chief Fights To Clear His Name

Interim president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) faces a criminal investigation in Uzbekistan into allegations of alleged extortion and laundering millions of dollars from an organized criminal organization

July 13 — “The controversial, self-exiled Uzbek sports administrator tasked with saving Olympic boxing from corruption and match-fixing allegations has been dropped from Uzbekistan’s “wanted list” of alleged criminals.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/world-amateur-boxing-chief-removed-from-uzbek-wanted-list-/29361643.html

What’s in a name? In Uzbekistan, it signals a reform drive

The rebranding of Abu Sahiy as Tashkent Silk Road was part of a shake-up at the market that marked a milestone in President Mirziyoyev’s drive to reform Uzbekistan

July 13 — “One evening last December, a crane lifted construction workers to the top of the ornate arched entrance to Uzbekistan’s biggest commercial market. Overnight, they replaced the huge letters spelling out its title. It was more than just a name change.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uzbekistan-karimova-insight/whats-in-a-name-in-uzbekistan-it-signals-a-reform-drive-idUSKBN1K30LO

Foreign investors to obtain residence permit when buying real estate in Uzbekistan

The government of Uzbekistan has offered new incentives to attract more foreign investments in the country

July 17 — “Foreign citizens and stateless persons who buy real estate in Uzbekistan for $200,000 or more will be able to obtain a residence permit in a simplified procedure, “Podrobnosti.uz” reported, referring to the draft decree of the head of state.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/134926.html

Inside Amy Schumer’s Sexy Uzbek TV Debacle

Uzbek authorities have in recent years urged performers to stick to Uzbek culture and traditions — which concerns popular music and cinema

July 19 — “A private Uzbek TV channel has publicly apologized and fired several of its employees after it came under criticism for airing the latest Amy Schumer film without editing out “immoral” scenes. Sevimli TV allegedly aired scenes from I Feel Pretty featuring kissing, cuddling, and movements that suggest a man and woman are having sex. The American comedy was released in April and is being shown in movie theaters across many countries.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/inside-amy-schumer-s-sexy-uzbek-tv-debacle/29377006.html


ISIS targets Taliban in fight for Afghanistan

The war between the Afghan Taliban and Islamic State branch in Khorasan has escalated, as the Taliban says that ISIS defames Islam and distracts from its campaign against President Ghani’s government and from driving foreign troops from the country

July 15 — “Fighting between the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan has significantly escalated in recent weeks, militants said, as they vie for control of the country’s east. The rival groups have launched a series of attacks on each other, as ISIS seeks to expand its foothold in Afghanistan and the Taliban seek to stamp out the new arrival.” READ MORE: https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/isis-targets-taliban-in-fight-for-afghanistan-1.750512

The Taliban Has Used Islam as a Weapon of War. This Is How Afghanistan Can Use It for Peace

Analyst says that Islam and Muslim scholars could play an important role in achieving peace in Afghanistan

July 16 — “At last week’s NATO Summit, world leaders discussed the country in which the alliance has had its longest-running military operation: Afghanistan. In Brussels, the country was seen as a global security challenge; Britain announced it would double its troops there. But away from the cameras, 4,000 miles away, in Mecca, a town that unites Muslims across the world, something unprecedented was happening in Afghanistan’s four decades of near-constant war.” READ MORE: http://time.com/5339926/afghanistan-war-islam-peace/

Afghan Cleric’s ‘Fatwa’ Against Media Makes Life Even More Dangerous For Journalists

The Taliban and the Islamic State group have threatened and deliberately targeted major TV and radio stations and their staff members in recent years across Afghanistan

July 18 — “Afghanistan was already considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, a consequence of decades of war and religious extremism. But for some Afghan journalists, the risks have been amplified after a cleric in the western city of Herat recently declared jihad, or holy war, against the country’s besieged media.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-cleric-s-fatwa-against-media-makes-life-even-more-dangerous-for-journalists/29374318.html

Inside Europe’s people-smuggling networks: A journey from Afghanistan to Germany

To get from Afghanistan to Western Europe, Afghan migrants use an illegal people-smuggling network whose operation is estimated to be worth billions of dollars each year

July 19 — “Zubair Nazeri’s traveling companion crushed a pill in her hands, dissolved it in water and fed it to her 2-year-old daughter. The sedative made the baby sleep for more than a day, Nazeri recalled. It was a requirement of the smugglers who were trying to guide the group from Serbia across the border with Croatia and then into Slovenia, opening up the possibility of traveling without passport checks within 26 countries on the European mainland.” READ MORE: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/inside-europe-s-people-smuggling-networks-journey-afghanistan-germany-n888926


U.S. Probing Whether Uranium Imports From Russia, Central Asia Undermine Security

Kazakhstan accounts for 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation

July 19 — “The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18 and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/us-probing-whether-uranium-imports-russia-kazakhstan-uzbekistan-undermine-us-national-security/29375293.html

China Sits on the World’s Biggest Shale Gas Prize. Pumping It Out Is the Hard Part

China’s rich shale-gas reserves are deeper and harder to reach than those in North America

July 20 — “China’s shale gas industry began with a long shot. Guo Xusheng, a stout and affable chief geologist at a unit of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., persuaded his bosses in 2009 to give him about $3 million to drill deeper than anyone had before in southwestern China. For Sinopec, as the company is known, the shale boom in the U.S. convinced them that Guo’s plan was worth a try.” READ MORE: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-07-19/petrochina-sinopec-are-chasing-an-elusive-shale-boom

Sergey Kwan

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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