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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 draft law on rallies crushes hope of political thaw

While the plans under discussion only slightly loosen rules on rallies, penalties for breaking the rules are being made harsher

Feb 24 — “Last year, Almaty-based activist Gennady Krestyansky was twice prosecuted on charges of inciting people to and participating in an unauthorized public demonstration. He spent 30 days behind bars in total. The first time was in February, when he posted a message on Facebook to advertise the date and location of a flash mob. A few hours later, he was pulled off the street by police and sentenced to 15 days in jail.” READ MORE:

How Kazakhstanis Change Their Religious Views?

According to researchers, nearly every tenth Kazakhstani changes their religious views and about two per cent convert to another religion

Feb 25 — “22-year-old Kazakhstani Alena was raised in an Orthodox family, attended church, but when she was a teenager, she converted to Islam. As she said, her soul led her to this religion. ‘My grandmother used to pray and attend the church – I was inspired by that. I was asking her to take me with her to the church and to teach me how to pray. I was 13 then. We had a big library at home and I saw four volumes of Arabian fairy tales “The thousand and one nights”. I was attracted by cover images and started to read them.’” READ MORE:

The Green Steppe? Kazakhstan and Its Green Energy Future

Gas- and oil-dependent Kazakhstan is trying to increase its reliance on greener energy sources

Feb 26 — “New data provided by the Kazakhstani government shows that the Central Asian state is continuing its trend toward green energy to meet the demands of its 18 million citizens. While the country will continue to rely on gas and oil for the foreseeable future, even slow switches to green energy are noteworthy at a time when the global effects of climate change become more and more alarming (case in point, the ongoing heat wave in Antarctica).” READ MORE:

'No Regrets': Kazakh Activist Continues To Fight Despite Losing His Freedom, Job For Criticizing Government

A Kazakh schoolteacher became involved in civic activism after seeing big disparities in society

Feb 27 — “Criticizing the authoritarian Kazakh government has cost Nurbol Onerkhan his freedom and his job. The 26-year-old village teacher from North Kazakhstan Province is currently serving 15 days in jail for "administrative arrest," his second such detention since December. His arrest on February 20 came just days after Onerkhan staged a one-man protest in front of the local government's office in his native village of Birlik to demand that authorities allow people to hold peaceful rallies.” READ MORE:


Another Belt And Road Project Bites The Dust As China’s New Silk Road Continues To Struggle

The Kyrgyz people said no to a joint venture between China and Kyrgyzstan that would see 200 hectares of land leased to a Chinese firm for 49 years that would include a giant logistics zone, a warehousing area, hotels and shopping malls

Feb 25 — “Last year, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kyrgyzstan for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, a new $275 million free-trade zone on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border was born. Led by the Chinese firm One Lead One (HK) Trading Limited and a Kyrgyzstan partner, the project was to become a vital artery of cross-border trade in Naryn region—à la Khorgos in Kazakhstan, a place where goods could flow freely between nations and people-to-people exchanges between cultures could blossom.” READ MORE:


In August 2019, German adventurer Markus Stitz set off on a 10-day bikepacking trip through the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan

Feb 25 — “One event in history will stay in my memories forever. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. I was born in East Germany, not too far from a deadly border that divided families and friends over decades. I spent the first 10 years of my childhood in a country where freedom was non-existent. I grew up in a state where a corrupt government and one of the best-organised and -funded secret services in the world made sure they justified their own existence first, and then thought about the people. On that day in November I received the biggest gift of my life: personal freedom. A gift for life, hopefully. Something many people have fought long and hard for peacefully.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan: Gender Equality Issues Must Always Be on the Agenda

One third of Kyrgyzstanis wants to see more women in politics, while the majority of people thinks that women should fulfil themselves in social sphere and household

Feb 26 — “Nazik Akparova is the youngest deputy of Saruu aiyl kenesh (village council – editor’s note) of Issyk Kul region. At her 28, she raises four children, teaches at school, and has time to work with her voters. Her relatives suggested that she take part in the election campaign, and her husband supported her much. However, it was not easy to win the necessary number of votes – male candidates acted openly against the women’s quota.” READ MORE:


Tajikistan parades newly acquired Chinese-made equipment

China increases its influence on Tajikistan in the economic and military spheres

Feb 25 — “Tajikistan’s military displayed a large number of newly acquired Chinese-made platforms and weapons during a parade held in the capital, Dushanbe, on 21 February to mark the 27th anniversary of the founding of the Tajik Armed Forces. The military displayed customised VP11 mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles supplied by the China North Industries Corporation (Norinco). The vehicles have been fitted with open-top turrets mounting the Degtyaryova‐Shpagina Krupnokaliberny (DShK) 12.7 mm heavy machine gun (HMG).” READ MORE:

Islamic Party Leaders Unfairly Imprisoned In Tajikistan, UN Group Says

For the first time in 20 years, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan will not be participating in parliamentary elections being held on March 1

Feb 25 — “Eleven political leaders have been in a prison in Tajikistan for more than four years and, according to a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, they should not have even been charged with crimes. The men are all senior members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), which was part of a coalition of groups that joined to fight the Tajik government during the 1992-97 Tajik civil war. The June 1997 peace accord that ended the war provided for the wartime opponents of the government -- including the IRPT -- to share power.” READ MORE:

What to Expect from The Parliamentary Elections in Tajikistan?

The People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan (presidential party) is the favorite front-runner in the elections

Feb 27 — “In few days, on March 1, 2020, Tajikistan will hold elections to the republic’s legislative body. The fifth parliamentary elections in the post-war period of Tajik history will be held with a minimum political intrigue and with only one official opposition party participating. The ruling party feels more confident than ever. The systemic and non-systemic Tajik opposition is trying to influence the process but does not acquire the necessary resources.” READ MORE:


Turkmenistan Pledges To Help Revive Afghanistan’s Economy, Adopt Humanitarian Aid Policy

Turkmenistan has been helping to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan primarily in the form of infrastructure and energy projects

Feb 22 — “Turkmenistan is delivering on its commitments to help restore sustainable economic growth in neighboring Afghanistan with a new humanitarian package that includes a series of projects masterminded by the Caspian country. Earlier this week, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow approved a three-year state program to provide Afghanistan with humanitarian assistance. According to the document, Ashgabat will help post-war Afghanistan build new public facilities across the country, as well as provide financial assistance in the realms of health and education.” READ MORE:

Turkmenistan: A digit in every pie

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

Feb 25 — “A dozen or so Uzbek TV stations earlier this month disappeared from the roster of channels carried by Turkmenistan’s telecommunications satellite, TurkmenAlem. The prevailing theory is that this happened after one privately owned Uzbek station, Sevimli TV, aired the Netflix-produced movie 6 Underground, which is partially set in a dictatorship bearing some very loose similarities to Turkmenistan. Sevimli TV is not even carried by the satellite transmitter, but it looks like Turkmen officials wanted to play it safe.” READ MORE:

The police penalize a female resident of Ashgabat for wearing a mask

As more cases of the coronavirus are registered worldwide, wearing protective masks in Turkmenistan would mean ‘spreading panic’

Feb 27 — “On 24 February, 2020 a female resident of Ashgabat was detained by a police patrol for wearing a medical face mask. Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that when the woman was on her way home in the evening, she was stopped by law enforcement officers from the police department of Chandybil etrap. There were no issues pertaining to residence registration but the commanding officer of the police patrol did not like the fact that the woman was wearing a mask.” READ MORE:


Are Innovations in the Public Sector of Uzbekistan Real?

Numerous problems still impede the dynamic development of the public sector in terms of accessibility of public services. This sector is managed in the old way, and changes are introduced quite slowly

Feb 24 — “In Uzbekistan, 2018 was declared as the year of entrepreneurship and support of innovative ideas and technologies,[1] thereby launching the introduction of innovations in all spheres of the economy and society, became as a priority for the government. Administrative reform of the general government sector, aimed at enhancing the role and status of public servants, as well as introducing innovations in public service and administration, were identified as priorities for economic, political and civil development. Accordingly, Uzbekistan began to introduce “best practices” of management, including through the introduction of new, innovative methods of providing public services.” READ MORE:

How to Visit Uzbekistan, A Country Undergoing a Tourism Renaissance

Everything you need to know for a DIY adventure to Uzbekistan

Feb 24 — ““Don’t forget my license plate number,” my driver said, dropping me off in front of a soaring, tile-clad mausoleum. “We all drive white cars—you’ll never find me otherwise!” The popular color seemed illogical considering the smudging gray desert winds that regularly blew through. The explanation (“It’s got something to do with a knight and his white horse”) didn’t quite satisfy, but the fairy tale comparison was apt. There were many times on my trip through Uzbekistan when I half expected a magic carpet to swoop me up into the air.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan: Karimova makes fresh bid to buy freedom

Karimova’s fall from grace began even before her father, Islam Karimov, died in September 2016. She was arrested in Tashkent in August 2015 on charges including corruption and tax evasion

Feb 26 — “The imprisoned daughter of Uzbekistan’s late president has said in a statement that she is prepared to relinquish claims to $686 million held in frozen Swiss banks accounts in exchange for clemency in her case. Gulnara Karimova said in a letter addressed to the Uzbek president, and posted to Instagram on February 25 by her daughter, Iman Karimova, that $131 million were already being released for charitable use in Uzbekistan. That process has been held up because of pressure from the State Security Service, or SSS, and the office of the General Prosecutor, she claimed.” READ MORE:


Afghanistan Needs Trade, Not Military Might and War

It is only through trade that the country’s infrastructure can be rebuilt and utilized for a better and prosperous nation

Feb 26 — “For many, what comes to mind when they hear Afghanistan is the Taliban, Al Qaeda, years of civil war, unrest, and a complete lack of civilization. This image shows nothing but the stories of historical battles of rulers such as Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, Shah Babur, and King Alexander the Great, and not to forget, the Anglo-Afghan wars and the defeat of the Soviet Union.” READ MORE:

Stumbling Block Or Bargaining Chip? The Fate Of 5,000 Taliban Prisoners In Afghanistan

The issue of Taliban prisoners could be a key obstacle in launching the country's peace talks or be used as a bargaining chip to exact concessions from the militants

Feb 27 — “The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country. The Taliban is demanding the release of the detainees before the launch of direct negotiations between Afghans and the Taliban over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing arrangement.” READ MORE:

Afghans view U.S.-Taliban deal with skepticism

The Taliban now control or hold sway over half the country, and are at their most powerful since the U.S. invasion

Feb 28 — “Many Afghans view Saturday's expected signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal with a heavy dose of skepticism. They've spent decades living in a country at war — some their whole lives — and wonder if they can ever reach a state of peace. The deal expected to be signed in Doha, Qatar is meant to set the stage for a U.S. troop withdrawal and to usher in talks among Afghans on both sides of the conflict about their country's future. There's been bitter squabbling among political leaders, concern of a temporary truce being undermined, and the challenge of uniting a fractured country remains daunting.” READ MORE:


The Exaggerated Threat of Islamist Militancy in Central Asia

The relationship between the state and Islam in Central Asia makes the region inhospitable to extremist mobilization

Feb 25 — “Last November, a gunfight at a security checkpoint along Tajikistan’s border with Uzbekistan left 15 masked assailants and five Tajik security forces dead—at least according to the government’s official account. The Tajik authorities immediately blamed the Islamic State for the attack, which it said originated from Afghanistan. Some journalists with longtime experience in the region remained cautious and skeptical. But other outlets and news agencies with far bigger readerships uncritically relayed the government’s narrative, while adding wildly exaggerated estimates of the number of Central Asians fighting with the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” READ MORE:

Why are Central Asian countries so quiet on Uighur persecution?

China's considerable investments and trade ties have chained the Central Asian states to Beijing

Feb 25 — “To Arslan Hidayat, the reluctance of Central Asian governments to lambast or even address China's persecution of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities is all about Beijing's investments. "For [these governments], all of this is a matter of economics," the 32-year-old ethnic Uighur activist, whose parents fled China after Mao Zedong's death to settle in Australia, told Al Jazeera.” READ MORE:


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