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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

Anti-Chinese Protests Spread Across Kazakhstan

What began last week as the expression of unhappiness about China’s expanding role in Kazakhstan may transform into a full-scale political crisis and even encourage further anti-Chinese attitudes and likeminded groups elsewhere in Central Asia

Sep 10 — “Residents of six major cities in Kazakhstan took to the streets last week (September 3) to protest their government’s decision allowing China to open 55 factories in their country, a move the protesters say will deepen Kazakhstan’s dependence on its large eastern neighbor and lead to a new influx of Chinese workers rather than provide jobs for native Kazakhstanis.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/anti-chinese-protests-spread-across-kazakhstan/

Kazakhstan: After Xinjiang, the long road to recovery

A crowdsourcing project in Kazakhstan is treating victims of Chinese detention camps in Xinjiang

Sep 11 — “When Tursynbek Kabiuly arrived in Kazakhstan in February following a 17-month absence enforced by Chinese authorities, he could see the joy on his wife Oralkhan’s face. But unless she spoke loudly, he could hardly hear her. Kabiuly, an ethnic Kazakh who hails from Emin county in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, says he owes the burst eardrum in his right ear to a guard in the police detention center where he was held arbitrarily for six days last year with minimal food and water.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-after-xinjiang-the-long-road-to-recovery

Expats give Kazakhstan high marks in new InterNations report

Kazakhstan has improved for all factors related to relocating, especially with 31 points in the Feeling at Home subcategory

Sep 11 — “Kazakhstan has shown the biggest improvement in the 2019 InterNations Business Solutions Expat Insider report, moving 27 ranks up to 22nd place from 49th spot in 2018. Along with Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Qatar have also shown huge improvements with respective 21 and 20 points up comparing to their 2018 scores – thus being nominated “biggest winners” of the 2019 survey.” READ MORE: https://astanatimes.com/2019/09/expats-give-kazakhstan-high-marks-in-new-internations-report/

China Detains Dozens in Xinjiang For Sharing Songs From Kazakhstan

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has reportedly been holding more than a million ethnic minority Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in mass detention camps in Xinjiang since April 2017

Sep 12 — “Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have detained dozens of ethnic minority Muslim Kazakhs for sharing the national anthem of neighboring Kazakhstan via social media, RFA has learned. The People's Republic of China is home to around 1.5 million Kazakhs, mostly concentrated in and around the Yili (in Chinese, Ili) Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.” READ MORE: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/songs-09122019114851.html

KYRGYZSTAN

The Capture of Atambayev And What It Means For Kyrgyz Politics

In Kyrgyzstan, presidents come and go but corruption stays. As long as there is no commitment to cardinal reforms, especially in the judicial system, this produces a self-sustaining cycle of controlling corruption on the part of the incumbent coupled with selective anti-corruption campaigns against political opponents

Sep 10 — “On August 7-8, the confrontation for the past year and a half between former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev and his former protégé current president Sooronbai Jeenbekov reached a violent crescendo. After having his immunity from prosecution stripped in a parliamentary vote in June, Atambayev barricaded himself in his residential compound. When law enforcement troops tried to detain him by force, the former president and his supporters put up a violent resistance. After a two-day standoff, leaving one officer dead and more than 170 others, including 79 law enforcement officers, injured, Atambayev eventually surrendered to the police. He is now facing criminal charges on multiple counts. What does this dramatic event tell us about the current and future state of Kyrgyz politics?” READ MORE: http://cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/13585-the-capture-of-atambayev-and-what-it-means-for-kyrgyz-politics.html

Three Kyrgyz Nationals Sentenced In High-Profle Russian Rape Case

Russia remains a popular destination for labor immigrants from Kyrgyzstan

Sep 12 — “Three Kyrgyz nationals have received prison terms for their roles in a high-profile rape case that sparked mass protests and attacks against Central Asian labor migrants in Russia's Far Eastern region of Sakha-Yakutia in March. One of the migrants from Kyrgyzstan was found guilty of abduction and raping a local woman and received a 14-year prison term from the court on September 11.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyz-nationals-sentenced-rape-russia-sakha-yakutia/30160431.html

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan exchange land in historic settlement

Land swaps or giveaways have historically proved politically risky in Kyrgyzstan. The government is, accordingly, stressing what it is calling advantageous terms

Sep 12 — “Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are in the coming days to swap chunks of land on the fringes of the Ferghana Valley in a move both governments hope will avoid repeated flareups of border tension. Officials in southern Kyrgyzstan said on September 12 that Bishkek would under the exchange relinquish an area of more than four square kilometers (1.6 square miles) that includes the Kerkidan reservoir. In return, Kyrgyzstan will received an equivalent parcel of land near its village of Gulbaar, in the Aravan district of Osh region.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-uzbekistan-exchange-land-in-historic-settlement

TAJIKISTAN

As Capitalism Fails in Tajikistan, Older Tajiks are Nostalgic About the Communist Era

The Soviet Union spent hugely on building infrastructure, especially in republics like Tajikistan where infrastructure barely existed. The Soviet government built universities, government offices, roads – that still stand in many parts of Tajikistan

Sep 6 — “'I’m surely grateful to have lived in the Soviet Union. Our lives moved rather slower back then, we didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table. Everyone was equal,’ says Amid, recalling the days when Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union. It is not uncommon for older people in the Central Asian region that was under the Soviet Union to express such nostalgia for the communist era, as the capitalistic get rich fast skim fades away failing to deliver a better lifestyle.” READ MORE: https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/archive-search/central-asia/2951-as-capitalism-fails-in-tajikistan-older-tajiks-are-nostalgic-about-the-communist-era

Tajiks Balk At Price Tag On Kitschy 'French' Theme Park

As Tajikistan tries to promote tourism as a source of much-needed revenue, many are skeptical that French Street in the city of Kulob is the answer

Sep 8 — “An expensive new park in southern Tajikistan -- known as French Street and replete with a faux Eiffel Tower -- has sparked mixed feelings in a country suffering from large-scale unemployment and dependent on remittances from relatives working in Russia. Tajik officials will officially open the $4 million French theme park in the city of Kulob as part of events marking Independence Day next week.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-french-theme-park/30152658.html

Tajikistan: Roghun inches forward, but money is scarce

To build the giant Roghun hydropower plant and dam, Tajikistan had to borrow on the international financial market

Sep 9 — “Tajikistan has brought the second generating unit at its giant Roghun hydropower plant project online, but with a five-month delay. And mystery persists as to where Dushanbe is going to find the money to continue works. Speaking at the commissioning ceremony on September 9, which also marks Tajikistan’s day of independence, President Emomali Rahmon once more described the hydropower project in unqualified glowing terms.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-roghun-inches-forward-but-money-is-scarce

TURKMENISTAN

Why we must keep shining a light on Turkmenistan

The task of getting objective information out of Turkmenistan is as difficult as it is crucial, says the founder and editor of Turkmen.News, a Netherlands-based news site launched in 2010 under the name Alternative Turkmenistan News

Sep 9 — “My country is one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world. Turkmenistan, an arid country in Central Asia, is ruled by a narcissistic president known for bizarre publicity stunts and vanity projects, alongside a truly appalling human rights record. He presides over a state that, despite having a wealth of natural resources, is in deep economic crisis. The situation for ordinary Turkmens is dire, with rising unemployment and food shortages. As the queues outside stores grow, fights break out over bread.” READ MORE: https://globalvoices.org/2019/09/09/why-we-must-keep-shining-a-light-on-turkmenistan/

Turkmenistan: All men must make their way come Independence Day

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

Sep 10 — “It is only bad news that usually gets out of Turkmenistan’s prisons. So it was a rare happy day on September 6. Labor activist Gaspar Matalaev was released from prison after serving almost three years on charges of bribery and fraud. His supporters say the accusations were trumped up – punishment for documenting cases of forced labor during cotton harvests.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-all-men-must-make-their-way-come-independence-day

Analysis: Who's So Keen On Seeing Turkmenistan's Regime Stay In Power?

Other governments see Berdymukhammedov's regime as optimal, and Turkmenistan might be receiving more outside help than is immediately apparent

Sep 11 — “According to its late first president, Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan was destined to become a second Kuwait -- a land where everyone owned a Mercedes. As the country's 28th anniversary of independence approaches, the country is far -- very far -- from becoming a second Kuwait. And some question how the government of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has managed to survive.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/who-s-so-keen-on-seeing-turkmenistan-s-regime-stay-in-power-/30159412.html

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan Is The Hidden Gem in China's New Silk Road

Uzbekistan’s strategic location makes it a key link in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Sep 9 — “Uzbekistan may very well be the best under-the-radar investment story in the world today. But the transformation spearheaded by the country's new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, from socialism to capitalism should put the $50 billion economy on investors radar screens.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rainermichaelpreiss/2019/09/09/uzbekistan-is-the-hidden-gem-in-chinas-new-silk-road/#77112baa3bd5

Religion, Beards, and Uzbekistan’s Secular Government

The president of Uzbekistan reacted with new appointment and policy changes following the latest beard-shaving raids

Sep 9 — “Religious matters are a contentious issue not only in Uzbekistan, but in all of Central Asia. Attempts by the Uzbek authorities to maintain a secular government but also control the spread of some Islamic practices — seen by some as non-traditional for the region — have resulted in embarrassingly odd situations.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/09/religion-beards-and-uzbekistans-secular-government/

Unclear Boundaries in a Changing Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, a growing gap between the rhetoric of change and continued police discomfort with activism

Sep 11 — “It was a quiet Saturday evening. The sun was setting over a summer-fatigued Tashkent and Anvar Nazirov, an Uzbek historian and human rights activist, was finishing preparations for an event he had been planning to hold the following day. On September 1, Uzbekistan’s Independence Day, Nazirov and his Facebook followers were going to gather at the Kökcha cemetery in Tashkent to lay flowers on the graves of two Uzbek national heroes: Elihan Tore and Mirtermir Mirabdullaev.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2019/09/unclear-boundaries-in-a-changing-uzbekistan/

AFGHANISTAN

Why Did Trump Call Off The Taliban Talks: A Negotiating Tactic, Washington Worries About The Deal, Or Showmanship?

U.S.-Taliban talks are likely to resume at some point because many say there is no military solution to the conflict

Sep 9 — “U.S. President Donald Trump’s bombshell decision to cancel a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghan leaders and halt peace negotiations with the militant group has upended nearly a year of painstaking diplomacy to end an 18-year war. After nine rounds of grueling talks with the Taliban in Qatar, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said last week he had reached an agreement “in principle” with the Taliban militants.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/trump-taliban-talks-/30155367.html

New generation of Taliban fuels battles in northern Afghanistan

Badakhshan’s shift from relatively peaceful region to war zone is due in large part to a strategy adopted by the Taliban over a decade ago

Sep 10 — “After years of resisting Taliban control, Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan has become yet another battleground in the fight for control of the country, thanks in large part to a long-term shift in the Taliban’s recruitment strategy, observers say. Badakhshan never fell to the Taliban when they ruled the country in the 1990s, but last week, Afghan forces supported by NATO launched an offensive to recapture three districts in the province that had been seized by the militant group.” READ MORE: https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/new-generation-of-taliban-fuels-battles-in-northern-afghanistan-1.598168

Want to Know What’s Next for Afghanistan? Ask Vietnam

There’s already a historical precedent for ending a misguided war, American-style

Sep 11 — “When the conflict that the Vietnamese refer to as the American War ended in April 1975, I was a US Army captain attending a course at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In those days, the student body at any of our Army’s myriad schools typically included officers from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).” READ MORE: https://www.thenation.com/article/afghanistan-war-vietnam/

WORLD

Putin Tries to Find Asia Beyond China

Russia’s relations with China are far longer on mutual praise of the unique strength of the “strategic partnership” than on economic substance

Sep 9 — “The Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week (September 4–6)—the fifth one since the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2012—was traditional in its pompous proceedings but rather unusual in the content. Originally, the main purpose of this high-level gathering was to energize economic development in the Russian Far East by opening it up to dynamic neighbors in the Asia-Pacific and encouraging their investments.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/putin-tries-to-find-asia-beyond-china/

Keeping Afghanistan in Afghanistan

As a possible peace and removal of American troops appears imminent, how do Afghanistan’s Turkic neighbors view the regional security situation?

Sep 10 — “From the early days of their independence in late 1991, the five Central Asian states that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union were acutely aware of its instability. Refugees, weapons, narcotics, and eventually militants crossed Central Asia’s more than 2,000-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were no longer Soviet republics and no longer had the security guarantees which the suddenly defunct state had provided for decades.” READ MORE: https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/keeping-afghanistan-in-afghanistan/

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