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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

Fossil Fuel Giants Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan Slowly Going Green

The Kazakh government wants renewable energy sources to account for some 3 percent of the country’s energy output by the end of 2020 and some 10 percent by 2030

Feb 8 — “Long beholden to fossil fuels for all of their energy, the two most populous countries in Central Asia seem to finally be tapping into their abundant renewable resources. Kazakhstan boasted early this year about some impressive renewable energy figures, while its southern neighbor, Uzbekistan, is planning to construct several projects as it moves to increase its usage of "green energy." READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/fossil-fuel-giants-kazakhstan-uzbekistan-slowly-going-green/30423755.html

Kazakhstan’s Dungan community stunned by spasm of deadly bloodletting

The Kazakh government has characterized the violence that gripped Masanchi and other nearby villages not as an ethnic clash but rather as a mass brawl that began over a dispute about who would give way on a road

Feb 10 — “In a house down a rutted track in the village of Masanchi, in southeastern Kazakhstan, a family was mourning its son. “I have lost my son. I have only one son,” said the head of the household, his face contorted with grief, as well-wishers streamed through to pay their respects. A toddler emerged chuckling from the kitchen, unaware that his father was one of the victims of the spasm of bloodshed inflicted upon the ethnic Dungan community over many hours on the night of February 7. The latest death tally accounts for 10 lives lost.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstans-dungan-community-stunned-by-spasm-of-deadly-bloodletting

What’s Wrong with Women’s Crisis Centres in Kazakhstan?

According to NGO ‘Union of Crisis Centres of Kazakhstan’, about 400 women die from domestic violence in the country every year. Victims’ applications to the police are either ignored or investigated in a slipshod manner

Feb 12 — “Crisis centres are meant to become a place where a victim can be isolated from an abuser, get psychological and legal aid. In Kazakhstan, according to the ministry of interior affairs, there are 40 such centres. According to the report of Human Rights Watch, this number is not sufficient for a country with over 18 million population. The majority of crisis centres are non-state. Dozens of non-governmental organisations provide different kinds of assistance to violence survivors; however, their work, despite its significance, cannot be a full alternative to state services and crisis centres.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/what-s-wrong-with-women-s-crisis-centres-in-kazakhstan/

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan spurn US call to confront China

Kazakhstan has to balance its relationship with China, its neighbor and second-biggest trading partner, with heightened domestic feelings over the mass detentions in Xinjiang and the treatment of ethnic Kazakhs who have crossed illegally into Kazakhstan from China

Feb 13 — “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took advantage of his visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan last week to lambast China over its treatment of its Muslim minorities and reliability as a business partner, but was met with a lukewarm response from the two Central Asian states. Pompeo, who was making the first visit to the region by America's top-ranking diplomat since 2015, apparently left his hosts in Nur-Sultan and Tashkent feeling uncomfortable and drew the ire of China's embassy in Uzbekistan, which leveled accusations of "slander." READ MORE: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Kazakhstan-and-Uzbekistan-spurn-US-call-to-confront-China

KYRGYZSTAN

Knots, Stones, and Passes

A photographic glimpse on present-day Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and its landscapes

Feb 11 — “This visual essay was assembled out of partly spontaneous and short, and other carefully planned and longer trips through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The images swing between urban “archaeology” and documentary photography in order to build a comprehensive archive and understanding of post-Soviet road infrastructure, including post-industrial urban transformations in remote and high-altitude cities and villages in mountains or desert areas.” READ MORE: https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/new-silk-roads/313105/knots-stones-and-passes/

Freedom of Religion in Kyrgyzstan: Necessity, Luxury, or a Threat to National Security?

Periodically arising controversy around religion once again demonstrates the importance of dialogue between the authorities and citizens in the search for an optimal model of the religion-state relationship in Kyrgyzstan

Feb 12 — “The Kyrgyz Republic is preparing to develop a new state concept of faith-based policy. On December 24, 2019, the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) held a round table to discuss the preliminary results of the implementation of the 2014-20 Concept and outlined several issues that are to be included in the new document. Prior to that, “Orthodoxy and Islam – the religions of the world” and “Interfaith dialogue in Kyrgyzstan” conferences were held in Bishkek. These events caused a lively discussion on social media and once again emphasized the importance of the religious issue for modern Kyrgyzstan society.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/freedom-of-religion-in-kyrgyzstan-necessity-luxury-or-a-threat-to-national-security/

Kyrgyzstan’s lucky losers rue their dashed American Dream

Green Card holders from Kyrgyzstan were making final preparations for departure to the U.S. when the Trump administration announced a new travel ban

Feb 14 — “Yekaterina Alfyorova remembers the exact date. It was May 7 when the results of the U.S. government’s Green Card visa lottery were due to be made public. But on that fateful day, the website kept crashing. It took another 48 hours before she learned the good news. The timing felt symbolic. May 9 was the day that her country, Kyrgyzstan, like many other former Soviet republics, celebrates the end of their involvement in World War II.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstans-lucky-losers-rue-their-dashed-american-dream

TAJIKISTAN

Perfect Match: Tajik Moms Donate Livers To Save Each Other's Dying Daughters

Tajikistan still has no official system for taking organs from the recently deceased, and the law only allows living-donor organ and tissue donations by family members

Feb 9 — “Talk about the importance of first impressions. Two Tajik patients and their mothers are recovering from potentially lifesaving operations after being brought together by doctors at the National Scientific Center for Human Organs and Tissue Transplantation in Dushanbe. The mothers, Rukhshona Ahmadova and Zarnigor Sangova, were cautiously introduced last month.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/perfect-match-tajik-moms-donate-livers-to-save-each-other-s-dying-daughters/30424893.html

Tajikistan: Chinese diplomats snarled in anti-coronavirus measures

Tajik health authorities have stepped up preventative measures in recent weeks as part of their efforts to contain the global coronavirus epidemic

Feb 11 — “A group of Chinese diplomats was last week reportedly held at Tajikistan’s main international airport for up to 18 hours after they declined to submit to quarantine procedures intended to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Prague-based website Akhbor reported on February 9 that the impasse was only resolved after the Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Dushanbe got involved.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-chinese-diplomats-snarled-in-anti-coronavirus-measures

Tajik President's Childhood Village To Become Provincial Capital

Reports about Danghara potentially becoming a regional capital come as no surprise in Tajikistan. Residents of the Tajik president's home district say that it has been getting "special treatment" in recent years

Feb 11 — “The childhood village of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon is receiving a major overhaul as it is being transformed into a provincial capital. Tajik officials have confirmed that a flurry of construction activity around Danghara, about 115 kilometers southeast of Dushanbe, is the result of plans to transform what was once a village into a regional administrative center.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajik-president-s-childhood-village-to-become-provincial-capital/30429164.html

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: Shots fired

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

Feb 11 — “Shepherds in remote areas of eastern Turkmenistan have been reporting more frequently about spotting armed militants crossing from Afghanistan, according to a February 10 article by RFE/RL's Turkmen service, Radio Azatlyk. The sound of sustained gunfire is also routine, although the fighting is confined to the other side of the border. Such accounts must generate anxiety in Ashgabat, particularly in view of the president’s diminishing confidence in his own security personnel, as demonstrated by his dressing-down last month of Defense Minister Begench Gundogdyev.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-shots-fired

Only the elderly and schoolchildren are left in Turkmenistan’s rural areas because of migration

Economic woes have taken their toll on the population of Turkmenistan, especially in rural areas

Feb 12 — “On a regular basis “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report about deserted villages whose residents are trying to leave the country. Our correspondent has paid a visit to the village of Marçak in Tagtabazar etrap, located near Turkmenistan-Afghanistan border. Only teachers and employees of the gengeshlik’s offices (local councils) of working age, children of pre-school and school age and senior citizens (about 70 and over) have been left in the village.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/02/only-the-elderly-and-schoolchildren-are-left-in-turkmenistans-rural-areas-because-of-migration/

Turkmenistan's Confused Handling Of The Coronavirus Crisis

Authorities in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, have started distributing booklets on "what to know about the coronavirus" to hospitals and schools

Feb 13 — “The government of Turkmenistan has a long-established habit of ignoring bad news. Dire economic problems, natural disasters, war on the border: as far as Turkmen authorities and state media were concerned, it never happened, even when the people of the country could see it for themselves. The recent global concern over the spread of the new strain of coronavirus from China is another example.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-s-confused-handling-of-the-coronavirus-crisis/30433120.html

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: Beloved avant-garde theater wins reprieve (maybe)

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s daughter, Saida Mirziyoyeva, took to social media in defense of the theater

Feb 12 — “A much-loved avant-garde theater in Uzbekistan had been threatened with imminent closure until the president’s daughter intervened this week, but management is concerned that they are not yet in the clear. Tashkent’s Ilkhom Theater issued a statement earlier this week to say that the new owner of the premises out of which it has operated for four decades had informed the theater it would need to vacate the space. The venue was provided to the theater’s founder, the late Mark Weil, by the government in Soviet times, in 1976.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-beloved-avant-garde-theater-wins-reprieve-maybe

Uzbekistan launches Samarkand-Tashkent-Saint Peterburg bus route

Tashkent seeks to improve the economic, and transport, ties with Russia, where hundreds of thousands Uzbek labor migrants work

Feb 13 — “Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Transport announced the launch of a regular bus service on the route Samarkand-Tashkent-Saint Peterburg from February 25, Trend reports citing the ministry. The cost of the ticket from Samarkand is 840,000 soum ($88), from Tashkent – 800,000 soums ($84). The Uzbek Transport Ministry announced the launch of the bus servicefrom February 25.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/business/transport/3191372.html

Why Uzbekistan should develop creative economy?

Uzbekistan’s Dunyo Information Agency’s interview with the chairman of Creative England and London Mayor’s Ambassador for Creative Industries

Feb 13 — “A week ago British Council in Uzbekistan hosted a conference on opportunities of further mainstreaming creative entrepreneurship education in Uzbek universities. The event took place as a part of Council’s Creative Spark programme. The event brought together representatives of ministries, local universities and international experts. Among them John Newbigin, Chairman of Creative England, London Mayor’s Ambassador for Creative Industries who was closely involved in developing the UK government’s first policies for the creative industries as Special Advisor to the Minister for Culture, Rt Hon Chris Smith MP.” READ MORE: https://dunyo.info/en/site/inner/why_uzbekistan_should_develop_creative_economy-sFC

AFGHANISTAN

How the Good War Went Bad

On America’s slow-motion failure in Afghanistan

Feb 11 — “The United States has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for over 18 years. More than 2,300 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives there; more than 20,000 others have been wounded. At least half a million Afghans—government forces, Taliban fighters, and civilians—have been killed or wounded. Washington has spent close to $1 trillion on the war. Although the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and no major attack on the U.S. homeland has been carried out by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan since 9/11, the United States has been unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, and the Afghan government cannot survive without U.S. military backing.” READ MORE: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2020-02-10/how-good-war-went-bad

Afghanistan: Sexual Assaults Go Unpunished

There is no political will in Afghanistan to prosecute powerful perpetrators, Human Rights Watch says

Feb 12 — “Two recent cases in Afghanistan highlight the failure of authorities to prosecute sexual assault implicating powerful people, Human Rights Watch said today. The Afghan government should take immediate steps to provide justice, support victims, and protect witnesses. The Afghan authorities have failed to arrest senior officials of the Afghan Football Federation indicted for sexually assaulting female players and for participating in a cover-up of the abuse.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/12/afghanistan-sexual-assaults-go-unpunished

Secret Annexes, Backroom Deals: Can Zalmay Khalilzad Deliver Afghan Peace for Trump?

Khalilzad’s deal offers this basic bargain: the Taliban will reduce its violent attacks on U.S. and Afghan troops, and the U.S. will withdraw much its forces from the country

Feb 14 — “The best hope for an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan may lie in a sumptuous conference room in Doha’s Diplomatic Club in Qatar. But there may be only one person who knows whether a paper peace deal negotiated there will translate into actual peace on the ground in the long-suffering country 1,000 miles to the northwest: U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.” READ MORE: https://time.com/5784103/secret-annexes-backroom-deals-can-zalmay-khalilzad-deliver-afghan-peace-for-trump/

WORLD

3 Cents per kWh – Central Asia's Cheap Electricity Entices Chinese Bitcoin Miners

Chinese bitcoin miners have been considering migrating to Central Asia for cheaper electricity

Feb 13 — “As tensions escalated between the U.S. and Iran in recent months, reports have detailed that Chinese bitcoin miners are looking to set up shop in Central Asia and more specifically in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Last spring, Chinese bitcoin mining operations flocked to Iran for extremely affordable electric prices ($0.006 per kilowatt-hour) in the oil-rich nation, but now Chinese miners are finding it easier to migrate to Central Asia for $0.03 per kWh in certain countries.” READ MORE: https://news.bitcoin.com/central-asias-cheap-electricity-chinese-bitcoin-miners/

How the Wuhan Epidemic Has Dented Xi Jinping’s Authority and Prestige

That Beijing has failed to contain the alarming spread of the new virus demonstrates that President Xi Jinping is facing the gravest crisis since he came to power in late 2012

Feb 13 — “In his telephone conversation with President Trump on February 6, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping expressed confidence that Beijing can beat the coronavirus outbreak, and asserted that “the fact that China’s economy will be better in the long run will not change.” But at a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) a few days earlier, Xi expressed fears about the adverse impact that the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic could have on China’s reform and open door policy.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/how-the-wuhan-epidemic-has-dented-xi-jinpings-authority-and-prestige/

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