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.

KAZAKHSTAN

Both sides claim victory as Stati vs Kazakhstan case is dropped in UK

The UK court ruling means that Moldovan tycoon Anatolie Stati and the Kazakh government will have to resolve their dispute in other countries. Stati claims he has been subjected to harassment from Kazakhstan that forced him to sell his Kazakh investments cheaply

Aug 13 — “An English appeals court has allowed a Moldovan businessman to drop a legal case against Kazakhstan, with both sides claiming tactical victories in a complicated legal battle that involves over $6 billion in frozen Kazakh assets held abroad.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kazakhstan-stati/both-sides-claim-victory-as-stati-vs-kazakhstan-case-is-dropped-in-uk-idUSKBN1KY1DQ

Kazakhstan launches a multimodal transport hub on Caspian shores

The trans-Caspian route via Kazakhstan’s Kuryk port facilitates cargo delivery from China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the Ural-Siberian Region of Russia to Turkey and Europe

Aug 14 — “President Nursultan Nazarbayev officially inaugurated the ferry complex of the Kuryk Port – a multimodal hub on the shore of Caspian Sea on Aug. 11. The port will link several Eurasian highway and railway transit corridors to the sea and is part of the country’s Nurly Zhol (Bright Path) infrastructure development programme.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2018/08/kazakhstan-launches-a-multimodal-transport-hub-on-caspian-shores/

The Incomparable, Futuristic Architecture of Kazakhstan’s Young Capital

A glimpse of Astana and its peculiar architecture

Aug 16 — “Isolated in the vast grasslands of northern Kazakhstan, the city of Astana rises, shimmering in blues, whites, and golds. It has been called “mirage-like” for its jarring contrast against the land of the Kazakh Steppe; the capital city’s demarcation from its flat, green-and-brown surroundings is so abrupt, it’s as if a far-flung migrating civilization got its coordinates wrong, or a blip in the multiverse occured.” READ MORE: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-incomparable-futuristic-architecture-worlds-youngest-capital

Anti-Russia sanctions torpedo Kazakhstan’s currency

The interdependency of Russia’s and Kazakhstan’s economies has caused the Kazakh tenge’s drop following the recent fall of the Russian ruble

Aug 16 — “The woes of the Russian ruble have infected Kazakhstan, causing a tumble in the value of the tenge too. Authorities have sought to reassure the public, but to little avail. The tenge has dropped more than one-tenth in value against the dollar since the start of the summer. The rate of devaluation sped up in recent days.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20136-anti-russia-sanctions-torpedo-kazakhstan-s-currency

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: How to benefit from labor migration

Kyrgyz labor migrants should spend money earned abroad on starting businesses at home rather than on holding expensive festivities (like weddings)

Aug 12 — “Labor migrants are the main source of remittance to Kyrgyzstan. If it were not for their money, the country’s GDP would have decreased by a third, including budget revenues and wages, Economy Minister Oleg Pankratov said at the fourth Mekendeshter (Compatriots) Forum held on August 8-9 in Cholpon-Ata, a resort city at Lake Issyk-Kul.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20116-kyrgyzstan-how-to-benefit-from-labor-migration

Kyrgyzstan places special emphasis on relations with Russia, says president

Bishkek will further strengthen cooperation with the member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the SCO

Aug 13 — “Kyrgyzstan considers the development of relations with Russia to be a priority area of its foreign policy, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov said at a meeting of the National Council for Sustainable Development in Bishkek on Monday.” READ MORE: http://tass.com/world/1017000

Back to Wakhan: Kyrgyz Returnees Head Back to Afghanistan

Ethnic Kyrgyz who moved to Kyrgyzstan last year from Afghanistan have returned to northeastern Afghanistan since they received no support promised by Kyrgyz authorities

Aug 14 — “A month has passed since 18 ethnic Kyrgyz packed their belongings into vans and started the long journey from Naryn oblast in east-central Kyrgyzstan back to the Pamir mountains of the Wakhan corridor, a sliver of territory in northeastern Afghanistan where several thousand Kyrgyz have lived for a century. These two families returned to Afghanistan after less than a year in Kyrgyzstan.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/back-to-wakhan-kyrgyz-returnees-head-back-to-afghanistan/

Sex webcam scene thriving in Kyrgyzstan

An online sex chatroom industry grows in Kyrgyzstan, capable of bringing in revenues to the state if legalized

Aug 16 — “Police in Kyrgyzstan say they are powerless to stop the growth of a lucrative local online sex chatroom industry that has got moralizing vigilante groups hot under the collar. Speaking at a recent roundtable in Bishkek, police representative Azamat Dzhanaliyev said there is no criminal legislation under which the female performers can be punished. And targeting the studios responsible for the webcam networks is next to impossible too, he said.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/sex-webcam-scene-thriving-in-kyrgyzstan

TAJIKISTAN

Were the American cyclists killed in Tajikistan naive for traveling there?

The killing of western cyclist tourists in Tajikistan has cast doubts among people in the West of whether Tajikistan and other Central Asian ‘stans’ are a safe destination for travelers

Aug 15 — “On July 29, five terrorists in Tajikistan rammed a car into a group of seven Western cyclists, then set upon them with knives. Four of the cyclists were killed: two from the United States, one from Switzerland and one from the Netherlands. The Islamic State asserted responsibility for the attack, although Tajik authorities are pointing the finger at a banned political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. Whoever is responsible, the attack was the first terrorist assault against Western tourists in Tajikistan.” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/were-the-american-cyclists-killed-in-tajikistan-naive-for-traveling-there/2018/08/14/f8212ca8-9b36-11e8-b60b-1c897f17e185_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e8b3bbb66cc7

From ‘Presidential Lyceum’ To Jihadist Drifter: The Mutable Path Of An Accused Terrorist ‘Ringleader’ In Tajikistan

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service interviews with relatives, acquaintances, former neighbors, and a source close to the ongoing investigation paint a picture of a young man falling under the malign influence of a neighborhood cleric before setting out on a path that ultimately led him to kill in the name of the Islamic State

Aug 15 — “When Gulshehra Shodmonova’s wayward son used to phone home, saying he was in Russia, Kazakhstan, or even Dubai, she worried that the young man who’d turned his back on a promising education was courting trouble. He might land himself in jail, she said, for stealing to feed himself.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajik-cyclists-attack-abdusamadov-terrorist-ringleader/29435946.html

Risky business: A case study of PRC investment in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

China is increasing its economic presence in Central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan being particularly dependent on Chinese loans and infrastructure investment

Aug 15 — “China’s “New Silk Road” or “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) has reached Central Asia in resounding fashion. As a result, the republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have seen large increases in Chinese presence and investment. Although both countries have overlapping needs, the degree and character of PRC involvement in each has differed.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20131-risky-business-a-case-study-of-prc-investment-in-tajikistan-and-kyrgyzstan

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: Caspian windfall can’t come quickly enough

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

Aug 14 — “On August 12, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was in Aktau, Kazakhstan, to take part in the Fifth Caspian Sea Heads of State Summit, where the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was signed. The treaty is a landmark development for the energy-rich region that should boost prospects for the oft-touted-but-never-routed Trans-Caspian Pipeline. How soon any such benefits may arrive is a major question for crisis-stricken Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/turkmenistan-caspian-windfall-cant-come-quickly-enough

Rapping, racing & shooting: Turkmenistan’s multi-talented leader strikes again

The 61-year-old Turkmen president seems to be the main ‘entertainer’ in his country which is currently experiencing an economic crisis

Aug 15 — “Long-standing Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has gone viral for his public stunts with horse-riding, car racing and even rapping. He’s now shown a taste of his military skills with knives and guns in front of troops.” READ MORE: https://www.rt.com/news/436042-berdimuhamedov-viral-stunts-videos/

How Turkmenistan spies on its citizens at home and abroad

A mix of traditional techniques and new technologies allows the Turkmen authorities to follow their citizens’ every move

Aug 16 — “New documents obtained by openDemocracy can today reveal how Turkmenistan’s regime is spying on its citizens abroad, in order to scrutinise who they are in contact with and what they post. The documents, which comprise the period between 2008 and 2014, also reveal the key role Turkmenistan’s Embassy in Turkey has played in spying on Turkmen citizens in that country.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/naz-nazar/how-turkmenistan-spies-on-its-citizens

UZBEKISTAN

How to return one billion dollars stolen from the people of Uzbekistan

The saga of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s daughter Gulnara Karimova’s ill-gotten assets frozen in a number of mostly European jurisdictions may soon come to an end

Aug 9 — “This story began in 2012, when two associates of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, tried, apparently on her order, to conduct a transaction involving an account at Lombard Odier bank in Geneva, Switzerland. Shokhrukh Sabirov and Alisher Ergashev were later arrested by the Swiss police on suspicion of money laundering.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alisher-ilkhamov/how-to-return-one-billion-dollars-stolen-from-the-people-of-uzbekistan%20

Uzbekistan remains desolate place for opposition politics

There are mixed signals that some new political parties may take part in the next parliamentary elections to take place at the end of 2019 in Uzbekistan

Aug 13 — “Contrary to what some may believe, Uzbekistan does have a political opposition. He lives in Tashkent. With his graying beard, skullcap and the long cotton shirt favored by devout Muslims, 81-year-old Atanazar Arifov looks more like a Sufi sage than a political party boss. But for more than a quarter century he has endured severe persecution for his commitment to activism.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/uzbekistan-remains-desolate-place-for-opposition-politics

Taliban holds talks in Uzbekistan

Tashkent seeks Taliban guarantee of safety of Uzbek infrastructure projects in Afghanistan

Aug 13 — “A group of representatives for Afghanistan’s Taliban militant organization last week wrapped up a visit to Uzbekistan, where they held talks with the Foreign Ministry. The purpose of the talks appears to have been creating a dependable channel of communication between the Afghan militant group and Tashkent as Uzbekistan looks to advance major cross-border infrastructure projects.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/taliban-holds-talks-in-uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s Secret Underground

The Tashkent subway through the eyes of a western photographer

Aug 17 — “After a longtime ban on photographing the Tashkent Metro was lifted this summer, RFE/RL’s photographer went underground to reveal the art, architecture, and nuclear-blast protection in Central Asia’s oldest subway system.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-s-secret-underground-a-ban-on-photography-is-lifted-on-tashkent-metro-/29437456.html

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban takes on Islamic State: insurgents vie for control of northern Afghanistan

The Taliban and the Islamic State are engaged in heavy fighting for control of Afghanistan, and this rivalry meets security interests of Russia and its Central Asian allies

Aug 13 — “Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghan chapter of IS, have seen hundreds of militants killed in Jowzjan and Faryab provinces, two provinces in northern Afghanistan considered to be IS-K strongholds. About 300 militants were killed in two weeks of clashes between IS-K and the Taliban, which began on July 25 in the Darzab district of Jowzjan. It was the Taliban’s third major offensive against their rivals, and saw about 200 IS-K fighters hand themselves over to government forces rather than face the Taliban.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20121-the-taliban-takes-on-islamic-state-insurgents-vie-for-control-of-northern-afghanistan

Afghanistan, The ‘Unintended Casualty’ Of U.S. Sanctions On Iran

US economic sanctions on Iran will also hurt Afghanistan, which has forged increasingly strong economic links with its western neighbor

Aug 14 — “As the United States reinstates crippling economic sanctions on Iran, Washington’s ally in the region, Afghanistan, could become collateral damage. A first wave of U.S. sanctions against Iran that had been eased under a 2015 nuclear deal went back into effect on August 7, targeting the country’s economy.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-the-unintended-casualty-of-u-s-sanctions-on-iran/29433904.html

Whatever happened to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

Al Qaeda is still active in Afghanistan and may plot new acts of terror in different parts of the world

Aug 15 — “The troops waging America’s 17-year-old war in Afghanistan are confronting a puzzle: What has become of the enemy who drew them there? Al Qaeda, the group whose Sept. 11 terrorist attacks provoked the U.S. invasion in 2001, has shrunk to relative obscurity among the military’s other missions in Afghanistan, supplanted by newer threats such as a local branch of the Islamic State.” READ MORE: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/15/al-qaeda-afghanistan-terrorism-777511

Aimless fighting in Afghanistan — while we bring Afghanistan to our shores

Analyst says that nothing that happens in Afghanistan can harm the US unless ‘we bring them to our country’

Aug 15 — “Whoever thought of the strategy of sending our troops to referee Islamic civil wars on their soil while bringing their civil wars and terror financing to our own shores was brilliantly dumb. But that is still the strategy of the West in combatting jihad. The European countries are even worse than we are in importing the Middle East, but we are not that far behind. Meanwhile, we continue to put our boots on their ground and shoulder the burden of endless wars that would not affect us if not for our immigration policies.” READ MORE: https://www.conservativereview.com/news/aimless-fighting-in-afghanistan-while-we-bring-afghanistan-to-our-shores/

WORLD

Why Central Asia Is Betting on China’s Belt and Road

Central Asian countries badly need large-scale investments and China’s Belt and Road Initiative is ready to offer them

Aug 13 — “The transfer of Hambantota deep-water port in Sri Lanka to China through 2116 set off alarm bells across Asia. Those already warning that China’s ambitious infrastructure development project, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), was nothing more than political encroachment disguised as economic projects had found their clearest evidence yet. Some, even among the 65 countries covered by the BRI, cautioned about threats to sovereignty.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/why-central-asia-is-betting-on-chinas-belt-and-road/

New hopes for shorter Caspian-Black Sea canal spark growing opposition

The idea of building a new canal between the Caspian and the Black Sea may see implementation as the project enjoys support of Kazakhstan, China, and Russia (despite internal opposition in areas where the planned canal would pass)

Aug 14 — “The hopes of China and some Central Asian countries for the construction of a new canal between the Caspian and the Black Sea have sparked serious ethnic and environmental opposition even before the first spade of ground is turned. The project has its roots in the megaprojects of the Stalinist Soviet era—the types of massive “public works” that have experienced a comeback under current President Vladimir Putin.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20126-new-hopes-for-shorter-caspian-black-sea-canal-spark-growing-opposition

Sergey Kwan

TCA

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.
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Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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