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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

Kazakhstan: Dzhakishev granted parole after 11 years behind bars

The former executive's imprisonment is often attributed to his ties to a Kazakh government foe

Mar 3 — “A judge at a court in northern Kazakhstan ruled on March 3 to grant parole to Mukhtar Dzhakishev, the ailing former head of the national uranium company who was imprisoned in 2010 on charges of corruption. Dzhakishev’s case has long and widely been regarded as an act of reprisal by the state against a much-respected manager for his ties to regime bête noire Mukhtar Ablyazov, a disgraced banker who fled the country in 2009 and has since waged a relentless political vendetta against Kazakhstan’s government.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-dzhakishev-granted-parole-after-11-years-behind-bars

Repercussions of the Transit Power in Kazakhstan and Its Projection in 2020

The transit of power in Kazakhstan has led to a newly formed and significantly more complicated power configuration

Mar 4 — “Speaking of 2020 forecasts for Kazakhstan, we can be certain on the prolonged trends of “long 2019”. The epoch-making event of 2019, the transit of power, and its “side effects” in the form of increased civic activism, protests, politicization of youth, as well as the update of Kazakh government’s socio-economic policies, coupled with the stated political modernization – all cast a shadow over 2020, simultaneously setting its agenda.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/repercussions-of-the-transit-power-in-kazakhstan-and-its-projection-in-2020/

Russia Bound? Dungans Don't Believe In 'Peaceful Future' After Deadly Ethnic Conflict In Kazakhstan

Dungans in Kazakhstan's Qordai district consider moving to Russia's Krasnodar, Saratov and Volgograd regions, which have good farmland and many empty villages

Mar 5 — “The mistrust is palpable among the local communities in southern Kazakhstan's Qordai district nearly a month after ethnic clashes between Kazakhs and Dungans claimed 11 lives and injured dozens of others. Many Dungans are uncertain if they want to rebuild their homes and resume their lives in the villages where the deadly events occurred the night of February 7-8. They say they don't feel safe anymore and are unsure about the future.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-dungans-dont-believe-in-peaceful-future-after-deadly-ethnic-conflict/30470418.html

Kazakhstan’s Unheard Voices - Domestic Violence Victims

Kazakhstan’s government has taken important steps to address domestic violence in the last decade

Mar 6 — “Every year on March 8, Kazakhstan’s leaders commemorate International Women’s Day – a national holiday – in speeches praising women for their professional competitiveness and achievements, beauty, and “love for family values and traditions.” What they don’t mention is the fact that women – who make up over half the population – in modern Kazakhstan also remain easy targets for domestic violence. Today Kazakhstan’s women need more than just praise and admiration.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/06/kazakhstans-unheard-voices-domestic-violence-victims-0

KYRGYZSTAN

Law, Politics and Elections 2020 in Kyrgyzstan

The law in Kyrgyzstan is similar to a drawbar in that it will follow in any direction in which it is lead or turned

Feb 28 — “Authorities – from the lowest officials to those in high offices – are supposed to do everything in accordance with the law in Kyrgyzstan as defined in the constitution of the country. They should act as they would in any state bound to the rule of law. Witnessing clearly illegitimate and unfair cases carried out, seemingly, within the framework of the law, however, will soon cause the citizens of Kyrgyzstan to lose faith in the law itself. About seven years ago, I remember some central government departments being concerned about the problem of legal nihilism in society. They should have looked for the problem of legal nihilism, however, in government itself.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/2020-law-politics-and-elections-in-kyrgyzstan-atambayev-s-legacy-and-the-pseudo-legal-system/

Kyrgyzstan: Religious Education Still Unarranged

A recently held investigation showed that many young people leave abroad to study religion upon private invitations and with financial support of unknown persons

Mar 5 — “The concept that sets forth the state policy in religious sphere for 2014 to 2020 raises a question of arranging the process of sending students abroad for study. Despite this 6-year-long issue, the young people still choose foreign religious institutions on their own and do not know who will sponsor their studies. After getting education abroad, many of them become imams upon their return to Kyrgyzstan. As each of them has their own religious views, which they convey within the community, they tend to split the community over time.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/kyrgyzstan-religious-education-still-unarranged/

Deon Badenhorst: We have an opportunity to extend life of Kumtor mine

An interview of the president of Kumtor Gold Company, Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold producer, with 24.kg news agency

Mar 5 — “Kumtor Gold Company is a company in the mining industry, which seriously influences the economy of Kyrgyzstan and is one of the ten largest taxpayers in the country. Not only Centerra’s shareholders, but also local residents and politicians watch closely what is happening at Kumtor mine. Despite the accident in December 2019, the enterprise fulfilled all its obligations to the republic.” READ MORE: https://24.kg/english/145600_Deon_Badenhorst_We_have_an_opportunity_to_extend_life_of_Kumtor_mine/

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan’s security ties with China a Faustian bargain

Tajikistan is hooked on the Chinese economy and is now taking risky security advice from Beijing

Mar 2 — “At a military parade in Dushanbe last month, among the ubiquitous Russian and Soviet-made hardware, Tajikistan showed off its new Chinese-made weapons. Beijing owns most of Tajikistan’s debt. Its soldiers are camped out in Tajikistan’s mountains. And the president seems too interested in enriching his family to notice that Beijing’s advice is undermining security in his small, corrupt and dysfunctional country.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/perspectives-tajikistans-security-ties-with-china-a-faustian-bargain

A New Human Rights Agenda for Tajikistan

Tajik government could use parliamentary elections as springboard for change

Mar 4 — “The parliamentary elections in Tajikistan on March 1 were sadly a predictable affair. Eurasianet and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that parties close to authoritarian president Emomali Rakhmon won all the seats in an election marred by irregularities and no space for genuine political pluralism.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/04/new-human-rights-agenda-tajikistan

Tajikistan’s long-serving ruler dispenses with all political opposition

President Rahmon’s People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan scooped 75% of seats in parliament. Five other parties won seats, offering different manifestos but uniform devotion to the great man. Their role is to provide a semblance of opposition

Mar 5 — “Mammoth photos of Emomali Rahmon, Tajikistan’s bushy-eyebrowed president, are everywhere in Dushanbe, the capital: striding in a suit, posing in a poppy field, waving regally. But as voters went to the polls to elect a new parliament on March 1st, advertising for political parties was all but invisible. The subliminal message was clear: however voters vote, the president—officially, the Founder of Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation—will still run the show.” READ MORE: https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/03/05/tajikistans-long-serving-ruler-dispenses-with-all-political-opposition

TURKMENISTAN

Interview with British Ambassador to Turkmenistan Hugh Philpott

British Ambassador talks about the UK-Turkmenistan relations and the new areas that the Embassy will be focusing more over the coming months

Feb 27 — “– Mr. Ambassador, you have been in Ashgabat for four months with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Great Britain to Turkmenistan, and during this time you have managed to get acquainted not only with the Turkmen capital, but also to visit all regions of the country. In this regard, are there any projects, plans, and in what sectors do you intend to implement together with Turkmenistan in the interests of mutually beneficial Turkmen-British cooperation?” READ MORE: https://turkmenportal.com/en/blog/25494/interview-with-british-ambassador-to-turkmenistan-hugh-philpott?fbclid=IwAR2sYnNMWhy8ZFNMsUrsLISc9T1FJ3ED6gz5n3RzVMFNborSc3y1py0QK5Y

Turkmenistan: Going viral

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

Mar 3 — “Coronavirus anxiety is reaching fever pitch in Turkmenistan, which has reacted by closing nearly all its land borders. RFE/RL's Turkmen service, Radio Azatlyk, reported that the border with Afghanistan was shuttered on February 26. The border with Iran, which has a larger confirmed number of coronavirus-induced COVID-19 cases, was closed earlier last week, possibly as early as February 24, according to the Vienna-based Chronicles of Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-going-viral

Secretive Turkmenistan Beefs Up Coronavirus Measures Amid Reports Of First Infections

Coronavirus remains a taboo topic in Turkmenistan, where authorities and state media haven't mentioned it publicly since the worldwide crisis began in December

Mar 5 — “Medical sources in Turkmenistan claim at least two Turkmen have tested positive for the coronavirus at a hospital near the capital, Ashgabat. An employee at the hospital in Choganly told RFE/RL on March 2 the two patients were being kept under quarantine and in "strict isolation" since being diagnosed with COVID-19 some 10 days ago.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/secretive-turkmenistan-beefs-up-coronavirus-measures-amid-reports-of-first-infections/30470538.html

UZBEKISTAN

A Hard Lesson Learned On Uzbekistan’s Road To Economic Reform

There are officially some 2 million people from Uzbekistan working as migrant laborers abroad, mostly in Russia

Mar 1 — “Uzbek Prime Minister Abdullo Aripov has threatened to close down all the privately owned employment agencies in the country -- and for now that might be a good idea. Shavkat Mirziyoev, the president of Uzbekistan since September 2016, has vowed to pull his country’s economy out of the stagnation it had fallen into under his predecessor, Islam Karimov, the country's first president who died in 2016. And in Mirziyoev's efforts to kick-start the economy there were bound to be some rough patches.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/a-hard-lesson-learned-on-uzbekistan-s-road-to-economic-reform/30462615.html

Uzbekistan Appears to Settle on Observing the Eurasian Economic Union

Tashkent has lined up its rationale and settled on a narrative for cooperation with the EEU

Mar 2 — “Uzbek officials have come close to clarifying Tashkent’s status with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Following President Shavkat Mirzuyoyev’s ambiguous statement on January 24, during his annual state-of-the-union address, that Tashkent was looking into “cooperation” with the EAEU, rumors spread that Uzbekistan would settle on observer status initially instead of full membership.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/uzbekistan-appears-to-settle-on-observing-the-eurasian-economic-union/

Uzbekistan: Former Defense Ministry journalist sentenced to 12 years in prison

Kaloshin is one of several figures formerly or currently close to the Uzbek security apparatus that have reportedly been targeted for prosecution for alleged espionage on behalf of the Russian government

Mar 4 — “A military court in Uzbekistan on March 4 sentenced a journalist who worked at a Defense Ministry newspaper to 12 years in a minimum-security prison on treason charges, Moscow-based news website Ferghana has reported. Vladimir Kaloshin, who is in his late 60s, was stripped of his rank of lieutenant colonel of the Uzbek armed forces. He worked at Vantanparvar (Patriot) newspaper from July 1992 until he went into reserve retirement in 2007.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-former-defense-ministry-journalist-sentenced-to-12-years-in-prison

AFGHANISTAN

Are Afghan Elites Ready for an Afghanistan Without America?

Peace will come when the Afghans decide they will stop fighting amongst themselves

Mar 2 — “An unwinnable war is now a potential opportunity for diplomatic victory. That is what President Donald Trump, U.S. Special Representative Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and Khalilzad’s team have achieved with the help of Qatar and Pakistan through Saturday’s accord with the Taliban. The U.S.-Taliban agreement is no peace deal. At its core, it exchanges a full U.S. military withdrawal for Taliban counterterrorism guarantees. But it does more than that. It includes a Taliban commitment, in exchange for the release of some five thousand prisoners, to participate in a political dialogue with other Afghan leaders, including those from President Ashraf Ghani’s government, on their country’s future.” READ MORE: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/are-afghan-elites-ready-afghanistan-without-america-129027

A crucial moment for women’s rights in Afghanistan

The Afghan government has been an unreliable supporter — and sometimes even an enemy — of women’s rights

Mar 5 — “This is a moment of both fear and hope for Afghan women — and an urgent time for the world to support their hard-won rights. The Feb. 29 deal between the US and the Taliban could pave the way for a peace that Afghans desperately seek. But there are huge risks for women’s rights in this process. Women have suffered deeply during Afghanistan’s 40 years of war, and they desperately long for peace. They have also fought ferociously for equality in the years since the fall of the Taliban government and have made great progress.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/05/crucial-moment-womens-rights-afghanistan

No, President Trump, the Never-ending War in Afghanistan Is Not Ending

Trump is wrong to pretend he’s bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. All he’s agreed to do is bring them back down to the level they were at when he took office

Mar 6 — “Don’t fall for the hype. That is the one lesson that we all should have learned about President Donald Trump. He’s a salesman, not a statesman. He offers up fantasies, not facts. The most recent agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan is a clear example of this.” READ MORE: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/06/no-president-trump-never-ending-war-afghanistan-not-ending

WORLD

Chinese business briefing: Corona cursed

Central Asia claims zero cases of coronavirus, but the economic symptoms are everywhere

Mar 4 — “The five states of Central Asia were among the first to slam shut their borders with China at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Though all five still claim – in the face of healthy skepticism – zero cases of the novel coronavirus, supply disruptions and economic anxiety have swept the region. Banana prices in Uzbekistan fell 60 percent as consumers feared the fruits were arriving from China. In Bishkek’s Junhai market, a crowd forced Chinese traders to close up shop on February 29. Turkmenistan has largely barred its citizens from leaving the country.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/chinese-business-briefing-corona-cursed

Neo-Ottomanism Edging Out Pan-Turkism in Central Asia

The continued strength and influence of pan-Turkism in the Central Asia region is clearly not what it once was, and the neo-Ottomanism that is taking its place may pose even greater challenges to the West than to the Russian Federation

Mar 5 — “In the last several years, Turkey has shifted from promoting pan-Turkism in the Turkic-speaking countries of the post-Soviet space to backing neo-Ottomanism, a move which reflects both developments inside Turkey and Ankara’s assessments of what will best work for its interests in the post-Soviet space. And while Ankara has not officially acknowledged this change—nor have many in Moscow or the West recognized it—that new reality has particularly affected the Turkic states of Central Asia.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/neo-ottomanism-edging-out-pan-turkism-in-central-asia/

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