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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

How Many Humps on a Camel? In Kazakhstan, It’s Complicated

To diversify its economy away from oil, the Kazakh government has been financing herders who crossbreed one-humped and two-humped camels

Sep 1 — “In most of the world, camels come in two types: two-humped Bactrian and one-humped dromedary. But nothing is so simple out in the desert of Kazakhstan, where the camels roaming about, munching shrubs, come in a dizzying array of back shapes — most of them some version of one-and-a-half-humped. This is no accidental, naturally occurring oddity.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/01/world/europe/how-many-humps-on-a-camel-in-kazakhstan-its-complicated.html

Kazakhstan’s new president vows to pursue controlled democratisation

The new president of Kazakhstan presented his vision of the country’s development

Sep 3 — “Kazakhstan’s new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, delivered on Monday (2 September) his first major speech following his election last June, defining his policies in all fields of the economy and society. Kazakhstan is a country rich in resources, with a relatively small population and a huge territory, and keen to attract foreign investment. The EU as a whole is the number one investor in Kazakhstan. Tokayev won the 9 June poll with 70% of the votes, in elections disputed by seven candidates – a novelty in terms of pluralism for the former Soviet republic.” READ MORE: https://www.euractiv.com/section/central-asia/news/kazakhstans-new-president-vows-to-pursue-controlled-democratisation/

‘Our Government Doesn’t Want to Spoil Relations with China’

The arrest of a Kazakh activist who advocated for Muslims ensnared in Beijing’s camps is part of a wider effort by China to shape the narrative on its internment system

Sep 3 — “In early March, Serikzhan Bilash, a Kazakh activist documenting and advocating for Muslims caught up in an immense internment-camp system in China, was taken from his hotel room by security services and arrested. Late on August 16, after being under house arrest for five months, he was unexpectedly freed.” READ MORE: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/09/china-xinjiang-uighur-kazakhstan/597106/

The Hijab Debate Intensifies As School Starts In Kazakhstan

Kazakh laws do not explicitly ban the hijab in school, but an Education Ministry decree on student uniforms prohibits the wearing of religious symbols at school

Sep 5 — “The Kazakh Education Ministry doesn't allow girls to wear a hijab in school, but many parents in the country's increasingly conservative northwest believe such a ban violates the country's constitution and hampers girls' education. Gulzhan Sabenova, a resident of Aqtobe, says the ban has prompted her daughter to end her education at the provincial capital's school N23. Instead, the teenager has opted for distance learning at an online school based in Moscow.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/the-hijab-debate-intensifies-as-school-starts-in-kazakhstan/30148088.html

KYRGYZSTAN

Where does Kyrgyzstan go now?

Stability in Kyrgyzstan is greatly affected by confrontation of internal elites and clans aggravated by ethnic tensions and socio-economic deficiencies

Sep 5 — “The conflict between former Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev and the ruling authorities culminated in an armed confrontation in August when law enforcement units tried to take Atambayev by force at his heavily guarded country residence. The ex-president surrendered after two unsuccessful special forces attempts that resulted in several servicemen being detained by Atambayev supporters, the death of a commanding officer and 85 people wounded.” READ MORE: https://www.dailysabah.com/op-ed/2019/09/05/where-does-kyrgyzstan-go-now

Kyrgyzstan: Top cop goes from hero to zero amid suspicions of set-up

The officer who negotiated the end to a bloody standoff with Kyrgyzstan’s former president is now being held for abuse of office

Sep 5 — “One week is all it took for one high-ranking police officer in Kyrgyzstan to go from national hero to criminal suspect. On August 8, video footage quickly circulated showing 53-year-old Kursan Asanov negotiating an end to the bloody siege of former president Almazbek Atambayev’s country redoubt. Talking through serried bars blocking the way to an upstairs safe room, Asanov, who was then deputy head of the Interior Ministry, pleaded with his ex-boss to give himself up.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-top-cop-goes-from-hero-to-zero-amid-suspicions-of-set-up

Former Kyrgyz President’s Arrest: A Litmus Test for Succession Politics

Although the Atambayev chapter in modern Kyrgyzstan history is far from closed, his transformation from head of state into incarcerated defendant is interesting in several respects

Sep 5 — “The month of August was unusually busy for Kyrgyzstan. In particular, the country’s domestic political scene devolved into a full-blown political crisis on August 8, with the arrest of former president Almazbek Atambayev at his family compound, in the northern village of Koy Tash. The day before, the Kyrgyzstani authorities had sent in special forces (Spetsnaz), whose use is normally reserved for anti-terrorist operations and raids on organized crime” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/former-kyrgyz-presidents-arrest-a-litmus-test-for-succession-politics/

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan Tells Its Youth How to Behave on the Internet

Users should refrain from reposting content related to extremism, terrorism, pornography, or other forms of bad behavior

Sep 2 — “The Tajik government has issued instructions on how the nation’s youth should behave when using the Internet, urging young people to be patriotic when posting content on social networks, to spell their names right, to use their real photos with no “extremist” facial expressions, and not to lie about their gender.” READ MORE: https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/10597-tajikistan-tells-its-youth-how-to-behave-on-internet

Tajikistan: Imams do government's bidding – and building

Clerics in the northern Sughd region are building premises for Tajikistan’s ruling party

Sep 2 — “The constitution of Tajikistan speaks explicitly about the separation between religion and state. The authorities have long disregarded this principle, however, and Islamic clerics make little secret that they are an adjunct of the government. In a recent illustration of this intimate coexistence, clerics in a northern district recently pledged to turn their hand to erecting a local branch building of the president’s political party. Similar gestures of obeisance have become commonplace.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-imams-do-governments-bidding-and-building

Tajikistan: World Bank slams degradation of telecoms sector

The state telecommunications service has a monopoly on the provision of online data and runs the state telephony and internet services provider

Sep 4 — “The World Bank has in a new report bemoaned the state of Tajikistan’s telecommunications industry, describing a sector beset by overregulation, lack of competition and conflicts of interest. The report, which was published in late August and details the country’s economic prospects, notes that the Tajik telecoms industry was in blooming health in the 2000s, until it was squelched by the state communications regulator.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-world-bank-slams-degradation-of-telecoms-sector

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmen customs officers confiscate hard-to-find Coca-Cola imported from Iran from shuttle traders

Analogues of Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite, such as Goşa Çynar, Kola Çynar, 7-Çynar are produced in Turkmenistan, but the demand for the original drinks remains quite high

Sep 2 — “Since 2017, when Turkmenistan’s entrepreneurs were confronted with problems related to currency conversion, the Coca-Cola bottling plant has occasionally ceased and resumed production. The disrupted production process was accompanied by fluctuations of prices for soft drinks. As of now the production of Turkmenistan-bottled Coca-Cola has been suspended although the demand for it is still high.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2019/09/turkmen-customs-officers-confiscate-hard-to-find-coca-cola-imported-from-iran-from-shuttle-traders/

Turkmenistan should promote the Trans-Caspian Pipeline more actively

Iran and Russia are opposing the implementation of the Trans-Caspian project, which is supported by Azerbaijan and is in the EU’s interest

Sep 3 — “The broader Caspian Basin – a region at the center of what has been called the “strategic energy ellipse” between Russia and the Persian Gulf – remains an important alternative source of oil and natural gas for European and Asian markets. It is estimated that the Caspian region contains 48 billion barrels of oil and 292 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Hence, rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea attract the attention of many regional and non-regional states.” READ MORE: https://www.euractiv.com/section/azerbaijan/opinion/turkmenistan-should-promote-the-trans-caspian-pipeline-more-actively/

Turkmenistan: Kicking the Coke habit

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

Sep 3 — “Cotton-picking season is beckoning, and the message is more “white gold” and less grain. In four of Turkmenistan’s five provinces, picking will begin on September 11. One week later, the campaign will begin in Dashoguz. The target is to harvest around 1 million tons of cotton across 5,500 square kilometers (2,100 square miles) of land. Since the government owns all land in Turkmenistan, all the cruelty that this exercise involves – including forced labor, child labor and the arbitrary suspension of land leases to farmers unable to meet production quotas – is easily attributable to officials.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-kicking-the-coke-habit

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan's New Security Powerhouse: The National Guard

The long-dormant National Guard of Uzbekistan has been reformed, and its powers are growing

Aug 31 — “For more than 25 years, Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (SNB) was the most feared law enforcement body in Uzbekistan. So when Shavkat Mirziyoev took over as president and soon moved to not only rein in the SNB but criticize and humiliate the security service for years of abuse, the people of Uzbekistan welcomed the SNB's relegation.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/the-national-guard-uzbekistan-s-new-security-powerhouse/30139322.html

What the recent weakening of the sum says about Uzbekistan’s economy

Uzbekistan’s currency has lost ground this year, but the depreciation is a sign of future economic health

Sep 3 — “Uzbekistan’s currency has had a tough year. Since January, the sum has fallen from 8340 to the dollar to 9374, a depreciation of 11 percent. The fall was especially precipitous in August, with the sum losing 7.5 percent against the greenback. But a weaker sum does not tell the entire story – or even paint a picture of Uzbekistan’s overall economic health.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/what-the-recent-weakening-of-the-sum-says-about-uzbekistans-economy

Uzbekistan banking on international investors

Uzbek banks will attract the first round of foreign investment when restrictions on owning their stock are lifted

Sep 4 — “Uzbekistan is opening up to the world and investors, if not investment, beating a path to this promising country with the stamp of the legendary Silk Road. The Uzbeks may be famous for their succulent fruit and veg, but the tastiest of the low-hanging fruit which investors are hungrily eying is seen in the banking sector. As with any post-Soviet economy, most of the biggest and richest companies belong to the government. But Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the reform-minded president who took the helm in late 2016, says he plans to sell off all the state-owned companies with a few strategic exceptions in the metal and energy sectors, as well as three-quarters of the banking sector.” READ MORE: https://intellinews.com/uzbekistan-banking-on-international-investors-167149/?source=uzbekistan

AFGHANISTAN

It's Time to Liberate Afghanistan

America faces historic defeat in Afghanistan. By not winning, it loses. The sooner America ends this shameful colonial war the better, says a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East

Sep 1 — “After 18 years of war in Afghanistan—America's longest—U.S. and Taliban negotiators are said to be close to an agreement that may see the withdrawal of many of the 14,000 U.S. soldiers in that remote nation. That's the official version. President Donald Trump keeps changing his mind about the number of U.S. troops to be withdrawn. The latest version from the White House has 5,000 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan as a permanent garrison to guard the major air bases at Bagram and Kandahar and protect the U.S.-installed puppet Afghan government in Kabul.” READ MORE: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/01/its-time-liberate-afghanistan

The Afghanistan war is over, and Pakistan has won

The Taliban deal will bring an American exit from Afghanistan but not peace

Sep 4 — “The US war in Afghanistan is winding down, and Pakistan has won. The basic outline of the agreement negotiated by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is nothing new: The United States withdraws its forces in exchange for a Taliban pledge not to associate with terrorism or allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe-haven for terror groups.” READ MORE: https://www.aei.org/publication/the-afghanistan-war-is-over-and-pakistan-has-won/

Draft U.S.-Taliban Deal 'Very Dangerous, Damaging' To Afghanistan, Ex-Envoys Say

Observers have cast doubt on whether the Taliban would or even could deliver on its promises

Sep 6 — “Three former U.S. envoys to Afghanistan warn that a draft U.S.-Taliban agreement on the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country is a mistake that could unleash a "more dangerous" civil war. "It is a very dangerous and damaging agreement," Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, said in an interview with RFE/RL on September 6.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/us-taliban-deal-very-dangerous-damaging-to-afghanistan-ex-envoys-say/30150717.html

WORLD

Decolonising and demystifying Central Asian literature through translation

One translator wants the region's literary riches to be seen as more than just 'exotic'

Sep 2 — “Shelley Fairweather-Vega is a Seattle-based translator of Uzbek and Kazakh literature, as well as a certified Russian to English translator. Her translations have been published in a number of leading English-language magazines, and three translations of books by Uzbek and Kazakh authors are coming out later this year. As Central Asian literature remains scarcely known outside the region, Shelley is not just a translator but also a cultural ambassador.” READ MORE: https://globalvoices.org/2019/09/02/decolonising-and-demystifying-central-asian-literature-through-translation/#

Hopes Reemerge for Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, but Critical Obstacles Persist

With critical obstacles—some of them purely economic and others geopolitical in nature—remaining in place, it is hard to imagine the Trans-Caspian Pipeline project going forward

Sep 4 — “On August 12, delegations led by the prime ministers of the five Caspian littoral states—Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan—came together at Turkmenistan’s coastal resort of Awaza to hold the first annual Caspian Economic Forum. The heads of government from two other countries, Uzbekistan and Bulgaria, both interested in the transport potential of the Caspian region, were also present at the event, along with representatives of many other states (at the ambassadorial or ministerial levels) and multinational corporations.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/hopes-reemerge-for-trans-caspian-gas-pipeline-but-critical-obstacles-persist/

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