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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

"The administration said we were at 'war'" How health workers of Kazakhstan fight Covid-19 pandemic

Since Kazakhstan declared pandemic, over 46,000 health workers have been involved in the fight against coronavirus. As of September 23, 2020, 13,139 health workers had been infected with Covid-19, which is 22 per cent of their total number. 198 of them have died

Sept 29 — “It was very scary. They warned us if we did not have enough beds, our unit would be used as a place for coronavirus patients. Every day I thought, "Please, not today." I was so scared. And then we had the news that we would open for Covid patients. All pregnant women and doctors of pre-retirement and retirement age were sent to another hospital, while young people remained in the infectious hospital. We were living in a hotel. I have been living here for six months and I have not seen my family since then.” READ MORE: http://longreads.cabar.asia/the-administration-said-we-were-at-war

'Prosecutor Pretended He Couldn't Hear Me!' Kazakhstan's Online Trials Raise Concerns Of Rights Violations

In a country where the government clamps down on critics and courts are accused of pro-government bias, many activists believe that online trials with bad Internet connections have made it easier for authorities to punish its opponents

Sept 29 — “Almaty-based activist Danaya Kalieva is among dozens of government critics who have been tried and sentenced in an "online trial" since Kazakhstan ordered all courts to hold their proceedings only via video due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kalieva told RFE/RL that a weak Internet signal throughout the trial held by the Zhetysu district court using the Zoom application was a major problem, as the prosecutor appeared not to properly hear the defendant.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-online-trials-concerns-rights-violations/30864919.html

Kazakhstan: Is ruling party primaries season all theater?

Nur Otan's sudden urge to seek legitimacy is likely motivated by what has been happening outside the government’s strict control

Sept 30 — “Kazakhstan may not be growing more democratic, but at least people are getting to vote more often. That, at least, seems to be the idea behind the primaries now being held by the governing Nur Otan party. Critics of the process describe it as theater and a sham. Votes to select candidates for the 2021 election for the lower house of parliament are an attempt to inject a semblance of popular representation into a government-controlled political system.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-is-ruling-party-primaries-season-all-theater

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: Party leader’s anti-independence quip sparks election drama

Amankulov appeared to tell Russian colleagues independence might have been an error

Sept 27 — “The leak of video footage showing a prominent politician in Kyrgyzstan appearing to suggest the country should reconsider national independence has injected eleventh-hour drama into a parliamentary election lacking clear demarcation lines among the parties. Marat Amankulov, the chairman of Birimdik, a self-styled Democratic-Socialist party closely aligned to President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, is understood to have made the remarks during a roundtable in Russia earlier this year, although the exact date of the footage is in dispute.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-party-leaders-anti-independence-quip-sparks-election-drama

The elections in Kyrgyzstan will be a test of democracy and inclusion

This Sunday’s elections in Kyrgyzstan will be a key test of the country’s democratic credentials and could be the most inclusive yet, writes Louise Chamberlain, the Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to the Kyrgyz Republic

Sept 28 — “Boasting a reputation as the only parliamentary democracy in Central Asia and a country with considerable freedom of speech, Kyrgyzstan is approaching its next elections on 4 October. The campaign period leading up to the polls on is dynamic, and competition among the 16 registered parties close. With only three decades since independence, Kyrgyzstan does not have a long democratic tradition. The early years after independence involved a period of turmoil and complex social, economic and political changes, leading in 2010 to a second revolution and tragic events of ethnic violence.” READ MORE: https://www.euractiv.com/section/central-asia/opinion/the-elections-in-kyrgyzstan-will-be-a-test-of-democracy-and-inclusion/

Kyrgyzstan Could Ultimately Vote ‘Against All’ in the Parliamentary Polls

Kyrgyzstan will elect a new parliament this weekend – why is it so hard to forecast the outcome?

Sept 30 — “On October 4, Kyrgyzstan will elect a new national parliament, and survey data shows that more than three quarters of the 3.5 million eligible voters are planning to exercise their democratic rights this weekend. But who will they vote for? As ever, analysts are hesitant to forecast electoral outcomes, though this is not so much a function of fairness relative to neighboring countries’ elections.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/kyrgyzstan-could-ultimately-vote-against-all-in-the-parliamentary-polls/

TAJIKISTAN

Everything You Need to Know About 2020 Presidential Elections in Tajikistan

Presidential elections in Tajikistan will be held on October 11 this year. However, experts believe that their outcome is predetermined and the current President will retain his post

Sept 29 — “The President of the Republic of Tajikistan is elected for seven-year term. Basic requirements for a candidate: 1. to be at least 30 years old; 2. to speak state (Tajik) language; 3. to live in Tajikistan at least for the last 10 years at the time of nomination. One person cannot be a President for more than two terms. However, since 2016, this rule does not apply to the current President of the republic Emomali Rahmon, thanks to the amendments to the Constitution of Tajikistan.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/everything-you-need-to-know-about-2020-presidential-elections-in-tajikistan

Tajikistan revives on-off dispute with Iran

Tehran summoned the Tajik ambassador to account for accusations of supporting terrorism

Sept 30 — “Iran is, for some reason, back in Tajikistan’s bad books. State television earlier this month carried a sensationalist documentary once more accusing Iran of funding militant activity in Tajikistan and, separately, the Supreme Court has sentenced dozens of graduates of Iranian universities to lengthy prison terms. The airing of the documentary prompted the government in Tehran to summon the Tajik ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to register its unhappiness over what it called “baseless allegations.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-revives-on-off-dispute-with-iran

Impact of COVID-19 on Lives, Livelihoods and Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in Tajikistan

Women and youth at higher risk of long-term unemployment as pandemic exacerbates inequalities, UNDP COVID-19 Social and Economic Impact Assessment Report finds

Oct 1 — “As COVID-19 hits global economies, social and economic disparity grows in Tajikistan, putting women and youth at higher risk of long-term unemployment, UNDP finds in a comprehensive study of the pandemic impact on social and economic situation in Tajikistan, which was conducted in close collaboration with the Government and inputs from development partners.” READ MORE: https://reliefweb.int/report/tajikistan/impact-covid-19-lives-livelihoods-and-micro-small-and-medium-sized-enterprises

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: A United Nations of weaponry

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

Sept 29 — “Independence Day celebrations in Turkmenistan are a stand-in for a State of the Nation address. Through speeches and visual displays, the authorities set out their agenda, articulate dominant themes and brag of their achievements. In keeping with that format, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov dwelled in particular, during the September 27 proceedings, on last week’s amendments to the constitution. The full implications of that tinkering, whose most significant adjustment was to usher in a two-chamber parliament, is yet to be fully understood, beyond its implications for a potential succession strategy.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-a-united-nations-of-weaponry

It cost $700 to be included in Berdymukhammmedov’s pardon list

Corruption is widespread and commonplace in authoritarian Turkmenistan

Sept 29 — “In honour of the Independence Day President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov pardoned 815 convicts, including 812 Turkmen nationals and 3 foreigners. Those involved in putting together the list of those pardoned and pardoned prisoners have told correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” how the lists are drawn up.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/09/it-cost-700-to-be-included-in-berdymukhammmedovs-pardon-list/

The quarantine zone in Turkmenabat is overcrowded

Turkmenistan continues to claim it has no coronavirus cases

Oct 1 — “Because of inbound passengers arriving in Turkmenistan in evacuation flights there is a shortage of beds in the quarantine zone of Turkmenabat. In this connection those Turkmen nationals who have returned from abroad are accommodated in seven buildings of the former infectious diseases hospital and the psychiatric rehab facility located in the centre of Turkmenabat, according to correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan”. READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/10/the-quarantine-zone-in-turkmenabat-is-overcrowded/

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan: Authorities turn to citizens to help bust traffic rule breakers

People will be able to report motorists using mobile phone footage

Sept 27 — “Authorities in Uzbekistan are enlisting the general public in a campaign to improve road safety by allowing for more types of video footage filmed by the public to be used as evidence against wrongdoers. The draft proposal, which was last week posted on the Interior Ministry website for public scrutiny, will allow for mobile phone and close-circuit camera footage to be used in reports to traffic police, as well the dashboard cameras footage that is already deemed suitable for that purpose. People filing reports are eligible for financial rewards.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-authorities-turn-to-citizens-to-help-bust-traffic-rule-breakers

We Must Pay Attention To Uzbekistan, The Big Hope For Stability In Central Asia

In December 2019 The Economist named Uzbekistan country of the year, one that “has travelled furthest” in its reforms and improvements on all fronts, adding that it needed to keep improving. That has certainly happened

Sept 30 — “Should we be concerned with the fate of Uzbekistan, a landlocked country forgotten by the world in recent decades, overshadowed by great powers such as Russia and China, until recently utterly isolated and beset by crushing environmental and economic hardships? The answer is emphatically yes - we must be concerned for multiple reasons. It borders Afghanistan and can influence that country and the region's stability. It has the potential to act as a game-changer in the strategic alignments of the world simply by changing the way Moscow and Beijing relate to Central Asia, their back yard. And, unexpectedly in a few short years, Uzbekistan has come charging out of its long sleep to set an example to all the 'Stans roundabout on how to usher in a new era. In many ways, it is returning to its historical role as the hub of the Silk Road.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkaylan/2020/09/30/we-must-pay-attention-to-uzbekistan-the-big-hope-for-stability-in-central-asia/#562365971fb6

Uzbekistan to take part in COVID-19 vaccine trials

Officials say Uzbekistan plans to produce its own vaccine when tests are done

Sept 30 — “Health officials in Uzbekistan have said the country intends to take part in testing trials for COVID-19 vaccines being developed by scientists in China and Russia. The head of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare Agency, Bahodir Yusupaliyev, said at a press briefing last week that Uzbekistan would also like to pursue its own production of any eventual vaccine devised.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-to-take-part-in-covid-19-vaccine-trials

AFGHANISTAN

Facing IS, last embattled Sikhs, Hindus leave Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s community of Sikhs and Hindus has been declining in numbers for years because of deep-rooted discrimination in the majority Muslim country

Sept 27 — “Afghanistan’s dwindling community of Sikhs and Hindus is shrinking to its lowest levels. With growing threats from the local Islamic State affiliate, many are choosing to leave the country of their birth to escape the insecurity and a once-thriving community of as many as 250,000 members now counts fewer than 700.” READ MORE: https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-discrimination-islamic-state-group-kabul-archive-b310aecece22454cc5918756e245810c

Beijing Ramps Up Investment Push In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Despite Risks

Beijing faces tremendous obstacles as it tries to navigate the notoriously troubled political situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Sept 28 — “China is cautiously increasing its role in South Asia by rejuvenating economic interests in Pakistan and forging closer ties to Afghanistan with peace talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban under way. The enhanced footprint for Beijing in the region comes amid a flurry of activity this summer centered around breathing new life into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an estimated $62 billion bundle of projects that forms the cornerstone of China's sweeping Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to build infrastructure, expand trade links, and deepen ties across Eurasia and Africa.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/beijing-cautiously-ramps-up-belt-and-road-dreams-in-pakistan-afghanistan/30862796.html

Why the First Anglo-Afghan War Still Matters

In the West, the war is largely remembered from the British point of view – but Afghans have not forgotten their experience

Oct 1 — “On October 1, 1838, George Eden, also known as Lord Auckland, the British governor-general of India, issued the so-called Simla Manifesto, essentially declaring war on Afghanistan. Britain’s raison d’etre for the invasion was safeguarding its Indian empire from threats emanating from Afghanistan and beyond. The British wanted to replace Dost Mohammad Khan, the ruler of Kabul province and its principalities, with a more compliant monarch: Shah Shuja Durrani — a former Afghan monarch and a grandson of the country’s founder, Ahmad Shah Durrani — who had been living in exile in Kashmir and Punjab since 1809.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/why-the-first-anglo-afghan-war-still-matters/

WORLD

What does Iran and China's US$ 400 Billion Defense and Trade Deal Mean for India?

Iran’s growing dependency on China benefits Pakistan greatly as it reduces the threat posed by India’s presence on the country’s Western border and would weaken the Chabahar port’s role as a potential competitor to Gwadar

Sept 30 — “China and Iran’s US$ 400 billion trade deal will hurt India’s economic and security interests. With Iran likely to offer China the Chabahar port project, India’s Central Asia policy has suffered a huge setback. The Iran-China deal increases the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project that India opposes. Going forward, India’s ability to isolate Pakistan and balance China’s role will be severely circumscribed. The concerted effort of Iran, Pakistan and China to increase economic connectivity will definitely also involve Afghanistan, whereas India’s diplomacy faces an uphill task with the loss of a key ally to China.” READ MORE: http://cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/13642-what-does-iran-and-chinas-us$-400-billion-defense-and-trade-deal-mean-for-india?.html

Pulling Back The Curtain On China's 'Project Of The Century'

China has sunk hundreds of billions of dollars into ports, railways, and energy projects across Asia, Africa, and Europe to become Central Asia's top investor and the African continent's premier economic force

Sept 30 — “From building strategic seaports in Pakistan to connecting railways across Central Asia, perhaps no foreign-policy topic has received more attention in recent years than China's global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But for all the bold headlines and focus from policymakers around the world, the BRI's internal machinery and how its many infrastructure deals, pipelines, railways, and roads stretching across Eurasia and Africa actually work remains poorly understood.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/pulling-back-the-curtain-on-china-s-project-of-the-century-/30866260.html

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