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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 headhunts Belarusian IT developers, in vain so far

Astana Hub hoping political unrest could tempt some specialists into coming their way

Sept 4 — “A state-backed IT development hub in Kazakhstan is hoping to capitalize on the climate of uncertainty in Belarus to poach some fresh talent, but their fishing expeditions have so far yielded nothing. That Kazakhstan was trying to lure away disgruntled Belarusian specialists at companies coming under pressure from the government to disavow their sympathies for anti-government protestors came to light in an interview this week with Yury Plyashkov, head of Minsk-based company IdeaSoft.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-headhunts-belarusian-it-developers-in-vain-so-far

Number Of Political Prisoners On Rise In Kazakhstan, Activists Say

Authorities in Kazakhstan still show little tolerance to political opposition and dissent

Sept 8 — “The number of political prisoners in Kazakhstan has risen to nine, local human rights defenders say in an update of a register they keep of such persons. The chairwoman of the Almaty-based Ar. Rukh. Khaq. (Dignity, Spirit, Truth) rights group, Bakhytzhan Toreghozhina, said on September 8 that six more Kazakh citizens prosecuted in recent months or being prosecuted have now been recognized as political prisoners on the list, which does not include numerous cases where rights and political activists are jailed for less than 30 days.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/number-of-political-prisoners-on-rise-in-kazakhstan-activists-say/30826893.html

Kazakhstan: Classes continue in remote format

Distance-learning may make sense from an epidemiological perspective, but teachers have found it difficult to cope with the challenges of instructing by means of digital technology, such as instant messengers

Sept 10 — “With another wave of coronavirus cases looming, educational authorities in Kazakhstan have decided to pursue distance-learning for children in the first term of the scholastic year, despite calls from parents for a resumption of classroom-based teaching. Officials said at a briefing on September 10 that their decision was based on the experience of countries that saw a spike of new COVID-19 cases after schools reopened.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-classes-continue-in-remote-format

KYRGYZSTAN

What Leads to Protests in Kyrgyzstan and Where Can They Lead Us?

Expert Zamira Isakova reveals the triggers of protest moods in Kyrgyzstan

Sept 3 — “There was an obvious awakening among the citizens of Kyrgyzstan, which grew into a decisive readiness to use their fundamental right to freedom of expression and, through peaceful protests, convey to the authorities the message “we are not happy with you”. There are several triggers of the protest mood in the country: impunity for corrupt officials,[2] nepotism,[3] pressure on the media[4] and activists,[5] attempts to limit citizens’ rights to freedom of speech (the bill “On Manipulating Information”),[6] ugly mutation of the public service providing agencies into the service of persecution and punishment,[7] but the final flourish became insufficient effectiveness in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/what-leads-to-protests-in-kyrgyzstan-and-where-can-they-lead-us/

Kyrgyzstan vote: New-look parliament but old-style politics

Since independence, votes in Kyrgyzstan have been contested more toughly than those in its Central Asian neighbors. But competitive does not always mean clean

Sept 4 — “The battle lines for Kyrgyzstan’s October 4 parliamentary vote have been drawn and 15 parties are ready to duke it out for slots in Central Asia’s liveliest parliament. But what are these elections actually about? Eurasianet spoke to several local experts to get their views on one of the few votes in the region still capable of springing a surprise.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-vote-new-look-parliament-but-old-style-politics

Volunteer Medics Came To Kyrgyzstan To Fight COVID-19. Now They Can't Go Home

Nearly 100 medical volunteers arrived in Kyrgyzstan when the country faced a severe shortage of health professionals, hospital beds, drugs, and equipment earlier this year

Sept 8 — “At the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in Kyrgyzstan this summer, dozens of Kyrgyz medics generously came from Russia to help fight the virus, which had overwhelmed the poor Central Asian country's health-care system. After several weeks of volunteer work in the pandemic's so-called red zones -- the areas with high infection rates -- many of the workers are now unable to return home due to Moscow's lockdown measures.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/volunteer-medics-came-to-kyrgyzstan-to-fight-covid-19-now-they-can-t-go-home/30827591.html

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan: 30-year-old unknown makes presidential run to fight police abuse

All opposition figures have to date been marginalized, imprisoned or hounded out of the country

Sept 4 — “When Tajikistan voted in a 2016 referendum to lower the age threshold for presidential candidates to 30 years, it was generally assumed that it was done to enable a run by the incumbent’s son, 32-year old Rustam Emomali, now the mayor of Dushanbe. But if Emomali has any ambitions to become head of state, he has decided to put them on hold for now. His father, Emomali Rahmon, 67, was on September 3 formally nominated as a candidate for the fifth time by his People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-30-year-old-unknown-makes-presidential-run-to-fight-police-abuse

Tajikistan resumes the supply of electricity to Afghanistan

Currently, Afghanistan is receiving daily up to 1.3 million kWh of Tajik electricity

Sept 7 — “Tajikistan has resumed the supply of electricity to neighboring Afghanistan, Nozir Yodgori, a spokesman for Barqi Tojik (Tajikistan’s national power utility company), told Asia-Plus in an interview. According to him, the electricity deliveries to Afghanistan have resumed after water levels in the reservoir powering the Nurek hydroelectric power plant (HPP) have reached the required mark.” READ MORE: https://asiaplustj.info/en/news/tajikistan/economic/20200907/tajikistan-resumes-the-supply-of-electricity-to-afghanistan

Will Emomali Rahmon Have Any Serious Challengers for the Tajik Presidency?

A 30-year-old Tajik lawyer declared his intention to run and was almost immediately questioned by the security services. Rahmon is unlikely to tolerate a genuine challenger

Sept 9 — “While Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election, set for October 4, is a roiling sea of parties contesting for votes from a very much undecided electorate, neighboring Tajikistan’s presidential election, to be held on October 11, is more straightforward. President Emomali Rahmon has, over the course of his 28 years in power, pushed all serious political challengers off the board. While Tajikistan has an array of political parties — Communists, Socialists, Democrats, the Agrarian Party, and others — they seldom make news and one would be hard-pressed to figure out how they impact the making of state policy or advocate on the behalf of their constituents. Tajikistan, like much of Central Asia, equates the trappings of democracy (parties, legislatures, elections) with the existence of a democracy.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/09/will-emomali-rahmon-have-any-serious-challengers-for-the-tajik-presidency/

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: They call me Mr. Boombastic

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

Sept 8 — “The reliable flow of news about the leader of Turkmenistan’s zany antics often blinds distracted observers to the arbitrary severity of the repression over which he presides. Consider the ways that the government is enforcing its coronavirus prevention measures. RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, Radio Azatlyk, reported on September 1 that people in the Mary province unable to pay 60 manat ($17) fines for failing to wear masks are being sent by police to pick cotton. Each violator is required to gather 20 kilograms of cotton daily.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-they-call-me-mr-boombastic

Turkmen Lawyer Arrested After Protests Abroad, Rights Groups Say

In recent weeks, Turkmen citizens have held rallies in several countries around the world to protest a plan by authoritarian leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to introduce amendments to the constitution

Sept 8 — “Rights groups say a Turkmen lawyer has been arrested and accused of having links to Turkmen activists residing abroad who recently staged a number of rallies in the United States, Turkey, and Northern Cyprus to protest against constitutional amendments in the tightly controlled Central Asian state. The Moscow-based Memorial human rights center and the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF) said in a joint statement dated September 7 that police detained 48-year-old Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, a lawyer at a state oil company, after a man attacked him near a grocery store in the western city of Balkanabat.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmen-lawyer-arrested-after-protests-abroad-rights-groups-say/30827104.html

Celebrations of the Independence Day to be limited to a parade only

Turkmen authorities still insist there are no coronavirus cases in the country

Sept 9 — “On 27 September, 2020 Turkmenistan will mark its 29th Independence Anniversary. In the previous years preparations for the celebrations, rehearsals of concerts and other large-scale events involving public sector employees and students started two months ahead of the holiday. Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report, however, that this year neither public sector employees nor students have been obliged to attend the marching and rehearsals.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/09/celebrations-of-the-independence-day-to-be-limited-to-a-parade-only/

UZBEKISTAN

The Untouchable Governor Of Uzbekistan's Ferghana Province

Shukhrat Ganiev, the governor of Ferghana Province, has accumulated a record of nasty behavior and abusive language during his rule

Sept 8 — “Despite what Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and other top officials say about reforming the system and respecting the rights of all Uzbeks, the governor of the eastern Ferghana Province is busy demonstrating he can do and say anything he wants and get away with it. Born in the Ferghana city of Margilan in 1968, Shukhrat Ganiev has been in charge of the regional governor's office since 2011, having come to power under authoritarian President Islam Karimov. He previously served three years as first deputy governor.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/the-untouchable-governor-of-uzbekistan-s-ferghana-province/30826974.html

Reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Uzbekistan: Will Expectations Come True?

The recent series of negative incidents involving the use of torture, which resulted in the death of citizens, clearly demonstrated that the Ministry of Internal Affairs itself is not capable of regulating shortcomings in its activities

Sept 8 — “Many people associate the beginning of reforms in the structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan with the entry into force of the law on internal affairs bodies on March 16, 2017.[1] According to the Uzbek authorities, this law draws a dividing line in the history of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of independent Uzbekistan on “before” and “after”. The long-awaited law, which replaced the existing Charter on the Activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, adopted back in 1990, clearly delineated the powers and responsibilities of the internal affairs bodies, which was received with cautious optimism by local and international experts and human rights activists.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/reform-of-the-ministry-of-internal-affairs-in-uzbekistan-will-expectations-come-true/

Uzbekistan: Pay increased for cotton-pickers

Better salaries may inject some needed dynamism into ailing rural areas

Sept 11 — “Authorities in Uzbekistan have set a new pay scale for cotton-pickers with the hope of injecting economic dynamism into rural areas badly affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The Agriculture Ministry announced this week that pickers will earn anywhere between $0.10 and $0.40 for every kilogram of cotton collected by hand. That is up from the $0.08-$0.02 range of 2019.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-pay-increased-for-cotton-pickers

AFGHANISTAN

The Future of Extremist Groups in Afghanistan Amidst Inter-Afghan Dialogue and Peace Process

Tajik political analysts Mahmud Giyosov and Sherali Rizoyen reveal the Afghan warring parties’ stance on the peace process. A major issue for the Central Asian states in this process is the future of foreign terrorist groups that have citizens of post-Soviet countries in their ranks

Sept 4 — “The current military-political situation in Afghanistan remains a sustained crisis after 2014. Over this period, there had been an increase in military clashes, including terrorist attacks by the armed opposition, which led to a significant loss of human life. Since the signing of a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban on February 29, 2020, in Qatar, terrorist attacks continue and had grown. This can be attributed to the opposition’s ambition to attain a more stable status and influence in the forthcoming negotiations for the power-sharing agreement.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/the-future-of-extremist-groups-in-afghanistan-amidst-inter-afghan-dialogue-and-peace-process/

Afghanistan war crimes

There is ample evidence, drawn from all sources — eye witnesses, victims, documents and confessions — confirming the involvement of American soldiers in war crimes in Afghanistan

Sept 7 — “The United States has penalised the International Criminal Court for investigating war crimes in Afghanistan. In a bizarre but not unpredictable move, Washington has imposed penalties on the Prosecutor of the ICC for investigating crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan. Sanctioning the officials of the ICC for carrying out their mandated duties would amount to an attack on the international system of criminal justice and indeed an attack on the rule of law.” READ MORE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/2262957/afghanistan-war-crimes

Why Did The Taliban Appoint A Hard-Line Chief Negotiator For Intra-Afghan Talks?

Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, the Taliban's new top negotiator, is reputed to be "a hard-liner dedicated to sustaining the jihad" until an Islamic emirate can be reestablished in Afghanistan

Sept 10 — “Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai spent years lying low in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership has been based since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist group from power in neighboring Afghanistan. A hard-line cleric, Ishaqzai until recently ran an Islamic madrasah, or seminary, in the Ishaqabad area of Quetta, from where he led the Taliban's judiciary and headed a powerful council of Taliban clerics that issued religious edicts to justify the group's brutal insurgency in Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/why-did-the-taliban-appoint-a-hard-line-chief-negotiator-for-intra-afghan-talks-/30832252.html

WORLD

China business briefing: Whose Belt and Road is it anyway?

The loss-making Tajik company behind a mysterious Belt and Road investment is not a harbinger of economic transformation

Sept 9 — “Darvoz, in Tajikistan, is a province of dusky canyons and snowy peaks, villages perched across the river from Afghanistan. Terraces turn brilliant shades of green in summer with water channeled from above. Far from Dushanbe in hours and attitudes, Darvoz is crossed by roads of varying quality where trucks rumble through to and from China. Readers of official Chinese news now know Darvoz as an economic miracle that, thanks to Chinese technology and Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, promises Tajikistan a prosperous future.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/china-business-briefing-whose-belt-and-road-is-it-anyway

Expanding Armenia - Israel Relations: Implications for Iran’s Foreign Policy in the South Caucasus

Iran views the boosting of Armenia-Israel ties with sensitivity and concern, and while stressing the maintenance of close bilateral relations between Tehran and Yerevan, is warning the Armenian government that the expansion of its ties with Israelis not only threatening Iranian national security, but it also puts the Armenian security at stake

Sept 10 — “Close bilateral ties between Iran and Armenia have been overshadowed by sudden expansion of Yerevan-Tel Aviv links. Tehran views Israel as a "third factor" playing a negative role in Iranian relations with its neighbors including Armenia, and threatening security and stability throughout the South Caucasus. Armenian officals mantain that the decision made by Yerevan was known to Tehran at the outset, and the boosting of Yerevan-Tel Aviv ties is not directly against others, including Iran.” READ MORE: http://cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/13639-expanding-armenia-israel-relations-implications-for-iran’s-foreign-policy-in-the-south-caucasus.html

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