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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: Too close for comfort in the age of coronavirus

Officials concede their exhortations to maintain social distance have had little impact

Aug 17 — “One afternoon in July, as medics battled to contain the wave of coronavirus infections washing through Kazakhstan, an ambulance screeched past a freshly minted billboard on an Almaty boulevard popular with pedestrians. “Maintain your distance!” the eye-catching pink sign implored. The billboard illustrated the point with an image of two people separated by an arrow indicating a distance of two meters. Few were heeding that entreaty.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-too-close-for-comfort-in-the-age-of-coronavirus

Death Of Kazakh Ex-President's Grandson Latest Dark Cloud Over Nazarbaev Family

Aisultan Nazarbaev seemed to have lost his way in life years ago and to have deteriorated recently

Aug 18 — “Aisultan Nazarbaev died less than two weeks before his 30th birthday. A child of privilege, he was the grandson of Kazakhstan's first president, Nursultan Nazarbaev. But his death in London on August 16, reportedly of cardiac arrest, becomes the latest chapter in the palace intrigue that increasingly surrounds the first family of Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/death-of-kazakh-ex-president-s-grandson-latest-dark-cloud-over-nazarbaev-family/30790667.html

Only After Finishing School: Kazakhstan Introduced New Requirement for the Adoption of Children

Now, the potential adoptive parents must attend the school for adoptive parents. This measure is expected to reduce the number of children returning to orphanages and reduce social orphanhood in general

Aug 19 — “On July 1, 2020, the new norm on the mandatory psychological training of adoptive parents entered into force in Kazakhstan, which was included in the Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Marriage (Matrimony) and Family” in December last year. The certificate of this training completion is now included in the list of documents required for those wishing to adopt a child. Along with the government agencies, non-profit organizations for assisting in the placement of orphans and children left without parental care can be engaged in the adoptive parents’ training. This concept is newly introduced into the Code, as well as the regulation of the activities of organizations engaged in adoption processes.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/only-after-finishing-school-kazakhstan-introduced-new-requirement-for-the-adoption-of-children/

KYRGYZSTAN

China pushes on with Central Asia trade ambitions despite missing Kyrgyz rail link

Goods departing from China reach Kyrgyzstan, where they are unloaded, before being trucked to Uzbekistan where they are once more loaded onto a train to facilitate the final journey to Tashkent

Aug 15 — “Despite the pandemic, China’s recent moves in Central Asia indicate it harbours growing ambitions in a region that it sees as playing a jumpstart role for its multi-continental Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for modern infrastructure that expands trade and investment. In early June, China unveiled a new transportation corridor running through to Uzbekistan, via Kyrgyzstan. A freight train left the Chinese city of Lanzhou for the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, carrying some 230 tonnes of electrical appliances valued at $2.6mn. On the return journey, it was to bring back $1mn of Uzbek cotton.” READ MORE: https://www.intellinews.com/china-pushes-on-with-central-asia-trade-ambitions-despite-missing-kyrgyz-rail-link-189743/?source=azerbaijan

Kyrgyzstan Pressured Over Detained Uzbek Reporter

Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev said he had recently been accused of operating an anonymous Facebook account that publishes allegations of corruption by government officials under the Uzbek president

Aug 19 — “The U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan has joined calls for Kyrgyzstan to free an Uzbek journalist facing extradition to his home country where, the reporter says, authorities previously tortured him into making false confessions. Bobomurod Abdullaev, who is based in Germany, was detained by Kyrgyz intelligence at a cafe in the nation's capital, Bishkek, on August 9. The following day, a district judge said the arrest stemmed from an extradition request by Uzbek officials who accuse Abdullaev of “disseminating materials that target the constitutional order of Uzbekistan via social media.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/kyrgyzstan-pressured-over-detained-uzbek-reporter

Is the Chosen Model of Distance Learning Justified in Kyrgyzstan?

Blended learning, which allows the use of currently used forms of distance education in conjunction with traditional tools, can become a promising solution of finding an optimal learning model in Kyrgyzstan in the time of the coronavirus

Aug 19 — “According to UNICEF, at the end of March 2020, more than 1.2 billion schoolchildren in 161 countries of the world did not attend educational institutions,[1] including 1 million 100 thousand schoolchildren in Kyrgyzstan (almost 20% of the population). Due to the coronavirus situation in the country, by March 20, 2020, all educational institutions of Kyrgyzstan, including schools, kindergartens and universities, were quarantined. Kindergartens resumed their work only on June 5, 2020, after almost 2.5 months, while schoolchildren and students have not yet started in person studies.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/is-the-chosen-model-of-distance-learning-justified-in-kyrgyzstan/

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan: With elections come repressions

Votes in Tajikistan are now routinely preceded by waves of arrests

Aug 18 — “With Tajikistan’s presidential elections looming, the authorities look set for a wave of arrests targeting figures linked to banned opposition forces, thereby perpetuating a custom of prefacing nationwide plebiscites with a bout of repression. On August 14, law enforcement agencies arrested three sons of Said Kiemitdin Gozi – a late founding member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, which was proscribed and designated an extremist group in 2015.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-with-elections-come-repressions

Tajikistan: Making the world better, one businesswoman at a time

Small-scale entrepreneurship is a lifeline for women abandoned by their migrant husbands

Aug 20 — “Sitora, a 37-year-old from southern Tajikistan village of Qumsangir, set up a sewing shop after her husband called from Russia to say he was leaving her. By means of a simple verbal statement he made a declaration of talaq, a Sunni Muslim marriage annulment rite practiced by many long-term Tajik labor expatriates desiring to move on from families back home, and that was that.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-making-the-world-better-one-businesswoman-at-a-time

Tajik Leader Offers Help in Meeting Afghans on Border

The local residents said they have seen no Afghan president meet the region, which is the most remote part of northeastern Afghanistan

Aug 21 — “Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon in a rare meeting with Afghans across Amu River, on the border with Afghanistan, offered help to residents of Darwaz region in the northeastern province of Afghanistan and said it will happen in coordination with Afghan officials. The two sides chatted with each other from across the Amu River in Shekay district of Badakhshan using loudspeakers.” READ MORE: https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/tajik-leader-offers-help-meeting-afghans-border

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan Set To Modernize Its Marine Fleet With Russian Support

Located on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan has long been undertaking efforts to modernize its navy

Aug 15 — “Russia’s shipbuilding industry corporation USC said on Thursday that its enterprises would help Turkmenistan build ships to modernize the Central Asian country’s fleet. As part of an online meeting that took place on August 13, Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation and Turkmenistan-based Balkan shipyard agreed on basic conditions for industrial cooperation between shipbuilders in the two countries. Officials from both sides are now one step closer to signing a memorandum of understanding, according to a statement issued by the Saint Petersburg City Administration.” READ MORE: https://caspiannews.com/news-detail/turkmenistan-set-to-modernize-its-marine-fleet-with-russian-support-2020-8-15-0/

Turkmenistan: Constitution substitution

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

Aug 18 — “The pause button has been hit on life in Turkmenistan, and it will be weeks at the least before that changes. The national soccer league, for example, has been postponed indefinitely. Arzuw news website reported on August 15 that the suspension of competitions is specifically tied to an earlier Sports Ministry edict on preventing the spread of infectious diseases. The Turkmen state railways company announced the same day that trains will be halted until September 1. This is just a continuation of an existing policy, though. Almost all railway traffic has been at a standstill since mid-July.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-constitution-substitution

Death and Denial in Turkmenistan

The Turkmen government’s inconsistent messaging about the nature and nearness of the COVID-19 pandemic threat has doomed its citizens to confusion and death

Aug 19 — “In early 2020, Suleyman’s* family back home in Turkmenistan was more worried about him — studying abroad — than they were about themselves. The coronavirus pandemic was raging in some places, but had not reached Central Asia, let alone Turkmenistan. Several months later, however, it’s clear that Turkmenistan’s isolation was not enough to spare its people the devastation of COVID-19.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/death-and-denial-in-turkmenistan/

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan pledges to give hopeful migrant laborers loans

Applicants will be eligible for two-year $1,000 loans

Aug 19 — “Uzbekistan’s government has pledged to provide prospective migrant laborers with loans of up to $1,000 on favorable terms to cover the costs of travel and work permit registration fees. Take-up of the initiative is likely to be focused mainly on Russia, where Uzbekistan’s Foreign Labor Migration Agency has representative offices. The COVID-19 crisis has had a deleterious effect on the jobs market in Uzbekistan, but the problem of labor oversupply is longstanding.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-pledges-to-give-hopeful-migrant-laborers-loans

Uzbekistan mulls public assembly law, but with major restrictions

Under the proposed rules, authorities will in theory permit rallies on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The meetings will be allowed to last no longer than two hours

Aug 20 — “Uzbekistan is adopting legislation granting people the right to hold public demonstrations and regulating how and where they can happen. The only catch is that rally organizers will have to apply for permission two weeks in advance. The draft legislation, which was authored by the Interior Ministry, was published on a government portal on August 18 for a public consultation period expiring on September 2.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-mulls-public-assembly-law-but-with-major-restrictions

The Paradox of Uzbekistan’s Budding Virtual Civic Space

Despite continued challenges, Uzbekistan’s civil society is more vibrant than at any time in the country’s young history

Aug 20 — “Despite a regulatory environment that makes it almost impossible for organizations to register, Uzbekistan’s civil society is more vibrant than at any time in the country’s young history. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the vitality of this sector has become wildly apparent as concerned citizens call out corruption but also fill in gaps in the social safety net as the pandemic stretches the state to its limits. Despite such dynamism, this burgeoning civic activism, which exists primarily online, has come under increased threat as the pandemic wears on. It is subject to the capriciousness of authorities who cannot seem to decide whether freedom of expression and association should be tolerated.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/the-paradox-of-uzbekistans-budding-virtual-civic-space/

AFGHANISTAN

How different generations in Afghanistan view the country's independence

After 101 years of Afghanistan’s freedom, TRT World spoke to young, middle-aged and elderly Afghans who all still yearn for peace and equality

Aug 19 — “Every year, Afghans celebrate their independence on August 18, following the Islamic calendar. This year, as the country marks 101 years of freedom, its sovereignty continues to be marred with a history of foreign invasions, prompting decades of violence and bloodshed. Afghanistan claimed independence from British colonial rule in 1919, under the aegis of the reformist King Amanullah Khan who established current-day Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/how-different-generations-in-afghanistan-view-the-country-s-independence-38991

Stalling Strategy? Long-Delayed Afghan Peace Talks Hit By New Obstacles

Some Afghan and foreign observers say President Ashraf Ghani could be deliberately delaying a process that has undermined his administration and boosted the legitimacy of the Taliban

Aug 19 — “Afghanistan's controversial pledge to free the last of some 400 Taliban prisoners was supposed to be the final hurdle before the launch of long-delayed peace talks between the two warring sides. But those talks have been postponed indefinitely after Kabul abruptly halted the release of the remaining inmates, some of whom have been accused or convicted of deadly attacks on Afghans and foreigners since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-taliban-peace-talks-halted-by-concern-over-dangerous-prisoners-other-obstacles/30792422.html

Fortescue Opens Talks With Afghanistan on Nation’s Mining Riches

Previous attempts by foreign firms to develop Afghanistan’s mines have found progress hard to achieve

Aug 21 — “Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. has held talks with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on potential mining sector opportunities in the nation, which has struggled to accelerate development of an estimated $1 trillion worth of minerals deposits. Ghani and the company’s chairman Andrew Forrest held an Aug. 6 video conference over potential investment in iron ore and copper resources, and the billionaire miner is scheduled to visit Kabul in October for further talks, according to Qadeer Khan Mutfi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum.” READ MORE: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/fortescue-opens-talks-afghanistan-nation-051331438.html

WORLD

The Security Component of the BRI in Central Asia, Part Two: China’s (Para)Military Efforts to Promote Security in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan occupy key strategic territory for Beijing’s interests in Central Asia, as seen in their proximity to the potentially rebellious Xinjiang region; their importance for transportation infrastructure projects linked to the BRI; and the strategic location of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of eastern Tajikistan, which covers most of the territory connecting China to Afghanistan

Aug 12 — “Successfully realizing the ambitions of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will require the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to guarantee the protection of its workers, businesses, and critical infrastructure in BRI countries. The first part of this short series of articles discussed Beijing’s general views on the security challenges to PRC interests in Central Asia (China Brief, July 15). This second article is concerned with two specific cases: Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, these two states remained heavily dependent on Russia in terms of economics and security (Ipg-journal.io, April 8). However, China’s increasing influence has now created a state of “competitive cooperation” between Beijing and Moscow.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/the-security-component-of-the-bri-in-central-asia-part-two-chinas-paramilitary-efforts-to-promote-security-in-tajikistan-and-kyrgyzstan/

Turkey’s COVID-19 Diplomacy in Central Asia

Ankara has deployed heath care diplomacy in Central Asia and the Caucasus in the neverending contest for influence

Aug 19 — “Turkey has consistently tried to influence Central Asia through traditional means. In the early 16th century, when the Turkic-speaking khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan came under attack from a resurgent Russia, the Ottoman Emperor Selim II sent troops to assist his fellow Muslim and Turkic-speaking brothers. Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire’s vassal state, the Crimean Khanate, continued to receive both financial and military support from Istanbul until the khanate was annexed by Catherine the Great in the 18th century.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/turkeys-covid-19-diplomacy-in-central-asia/

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