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February 21 2014

February 14 2014

Despite Bans, Central Asians Observe Valentine's Day

Central Asian countries have a special relationship with Valentine's Day. While some nations in the region embrace the holiday that has become popular in recent years, other countries ban or try to replace it with more “authentic” local celebrations.

Global Voices has reported about social media debates related to Valentine's Day in Tajikistan, where one third of people celebrate the holiday according to a recent survey. Below is a brief overview of how Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have observed February 14 this year.


The authorities in Kazakhstan are generally much more tolerant towards new holidays and traditions than their neighbors in the region. Kazakhs are free to celebrate Valentine's Day as they wish. As in many other countries, however, social media users argue about whether the holiday should be celebrated. Responding to frequent portrayals of Valentine's Day as a holiday that contradicts Islam, blogger Ainura Rai asserts [ru] that the holiday has a “secular character” and, therefore, does not run against any religious conviction. Another blogger, Kuanushbek Zhakparov, agrees that “the day of love” is a secular holiday but contends [ru] that Valentine's Day is an “evil” capitalist phenomenon promoted by companies that make money by selling cards, flowers, and other love-themed products. Other bloggers discuss [ru] inexpensive gifts that people could give their loved ones on February 14.

Meanwhile, in the northern Kazakh city of Kostanai, traffic police has used the holiday as an opportunity to improve its image among drivers:

In Kostanai, police officers presented drivers with Valentine's Day Cards.

An unusual group of police officers was on duty at the Abay Avenue, near TSUM, today. Drivers did not expect such a surprise from police officers.

On the Day of Love, [police officers] gave drivers Valentine's Day Cards and gifts from insurance companies.


Kyrgyzstan has joined the list of “enemies of Valentine's Day” this year. Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a member of Kyrgyz parliament (who has been calling for a ban on Valentine's Day for several years now) recently called February 14 a “holiday from the devil”. The authorities in the southern city of Osh have banned the observance of Valentine's Day in schools, arguing that the “holiday of love is a bad influence on children’s morality.” Education officials have suggested that schoolchildren should instead observe the Family Day on February 15.

This has not stopped young Kyrgyzstanis from celebrating, however. Blogger Bektour Iskender reports [ru] that students in several school in Osh did organize Valentine's Day events. Similar events were held in many schools and universities across the country. On, blogger Darya Solovyova shares [ru] gift ideas for Valentine's Day.


Uzbekistan has been more aggressive than its neighbors in trying to root out celebrations of Valentine's Day. For several years now, the country's authorities have been trying to convince people to celebrate February 14 as the birthday of Mohammed Zahiriddin Babur, the Uzbek people's “great ancestor”. 

The birthday of Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur is celebrated today.

This year, the authorities have stepped up their campaign against Valentine's Day. Officials at a number of universities in the country have forced students to sign contracts affirming that they will not observe “the day of love”. A traditional February 14 concert by a popular Uzbek pop singer has been cancelled. In many mosques throughout Uzbekistan, mullahs have denounced Valentine's Day during Friday sermons as a “harmful holiday that contradicts both Islam and local traditions”.

Despite these restrictions, however, some people in Uzbekistan have celebrated Valentine's Day. On Facebook and Odnoklassniki, many Uzbekistani users congratulated their followers or shared love-themed images and electronic cards. 

February 12 2014

An “Increasingly Uncertain” Future for Central Asia's Fergana Valley

On the Caravanistan blog, Cycloscope writes about radioactive landfill sites in the Fergana Valley, a region “absurdly divided between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan”:

Unaware of the dangers of radioactivity, the locals take the equipment in the old abandoned mines and sell them as scrap, risking not only their own lives but also the spread of radioactivity. A further problem is the use of rock from landfills as a building material for houses and roads.

The threat coming from radioactive waste is aggravated by unsettled borders, water scarcity, and a history of ethnic riots, making the future of the region “increasingly uncertain”.

February 11 2014

“Dreamlike Kyrgyzstan” As Seen by a Photographer presents [ru] a collection of photos from “dreamlike Kyrgyzstan” by Russian photographer Danil Korzhonov.

Image from, used with permission.

Image from, used with permission.

January 23 2014

A Kyrgyz Woman Abducted for Marriage Tells Her Story on Twitter

Although bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan is a criminal offence punishable by up to seven years in prison, the practice remains a common occurrence throughout the country. Many Kyrgyz, particularly rural men, view the practice of ala kachuu as a national ‘tradition’ and a birth-rite. Therefore, witnesses and victims rarely report the practice to police, and many police officers are reluctant to punish perpetrators.

Screenshot from video, ‘Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan', uploaded on January 17, 2012, by YouTube user Vice.

Screenshot from video, ‘Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan', uploaded on January 17, 2012, by YouTube user Vice.

Yet the situation is changing in Kyrgyzstan, with individual victories gradually helping to root out the practice of bride kidnapping. A young woman, Roza, was recently kidnapped in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, by a group of men who tried to force her to marry their friend. The woman was saved after a person who had witnessed the kidnapping called police. Following her release, Roza told the story on Twitter (@katale_ya). Below are some of her tweets that rapidly went viral in Kyrgyzstan.

Yesterday I took part in an ancient ritual of bride kidnapping for the first time; obviously, I was the bride, or a sheep, that they tried to kidnap!..

I was walking home after work and then suddenly they grabbed me from behind and said, “Don't be afraid, we will not hurt you”…

I thought to myself, “This is the end, Roza, say farewell to your life! They will now drive you devil knows where, rape you, and then kill you…”

Obviously I put up the resistance. I hit one of the men in the eye with a [mobile phone] charger which fell out [of a bag]; I then hit another one and bit someone…

I fought till the end, but then I understood that I was no Uma Thurman [Hollywood actress starring in action movie Kill Bill] and could not fight with seven men… When I became too weak to fight, I started shouting…

They pushed me into a car, then drove somewhere, and then carried me in their hands to an apartment to make sure I didn't escape…

When we entered the apartment, I saw a female neighbor of mine who stood there smiling. There were also other women and men, all staring at me as if I were a monkey at a zoo…

They took me to one of the rooms and started telling me about how good my “fiance” was, that I should marry him, that I would get married anyway and might then regret [not marrying him].

I was tired and sleepy after work, I could not really hear what they were saying…. So I decided to let them put a scarf on my head [a gesture symbolizing an agreement to wed the kidnapper] to calm them down so that I could then run away in the morning.

So I went to bed, but five minutes later, my fiance-to-be entered the room and told me that they were going to my parents’ place; he asked me to tell my parents [over the phone] that I was staying so that they agreed [to the wedding]..

But I told him that I would tell my mother the truth, that I didn't want to marry, and that I wanted [my mother] to save me from there… And then someone rang a door bell! They thought guests came (at 4 am!)

But this was police! Gosh, you can't imagine how happy I was to see them!!!

They asked me whether I was held there against my will. Obviously I said that was the case. Police then took me, the “fiance” and his friend to a [local police department].

It turned out that a man living in a nearby house saw them abducting me (he went out for a smoke just at the right time), called [police], and informed them about the car [in which they drove me away].

Police spent four hours looking for me, they were all over Bishkek, searching for the car…

When we arrived at the [police department], I filed a complaint. For the reference of guys-idiots: [bride] kidnapping is now punishable by a prison term of five to seven years!!

But Roza afterwards decided not to take to court the men who had abducted her. Although many Twitter users disapproved of Roza's decision to let her abductors go unpunished, she said she did not want to “ruin the men's lives”. She tweeted later:

Life goes on, one way or another…

And I want to forget this all as a nightmare…

Things to Love about Kyrgyzstan's Capital

While social media users in Kyrgyzstan often discuss what they don't like about the country's capital, they seldom talk of what they do like about Bishkek. Breaking up with the tradition, blogger Amina Suleyeva offers [ru] a list of qualities that make the Kyrgyz capital a city she loves. These include public parks and tree-lined roads, busy clothes bazaars, cheap and healthy foods, comfortable taxis, barrels with maksym [local drink] on the city's streets, as well as supermarkets and pharmacies that stay open 24/7. The blogger also mentions greater tolerance towards people from other ethnic backgrounds, political freedoms, and respect for women as attributes that she thinks distinguish Bishkek from other Central Asian capitals.


Osh bazaar in Bishkek. Image by Flickr user neiljs, uploaded on May 9, 2009 (CC BY 2.0)

Commenting on Suleyeva's blog post, other social media users discuss additional reasons for loving the city.

Goodbye Alexandros Petersen, Prodigious Guide to China in Central Asia

With a sprinkle of humor, Alex slipped seamlessly and gracefully into a region of stories and storytellers, abundance and poverty, toasts and toast-makers. 

The 29 year-old go-to-scholar and commentator was eloquent and big-hearted in everything he did. 

It was with great shock that I comprehended the loss of Alexandros Petersen, co-author of the excellent Eurasian affairs blog, in a suicide bomb attack carried out by the Taliban at a restaurant in central Kabul on January 17, 2014. 

Alexandros Petersen at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Alexandros Petersen at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

This is not an obituary.

Alex was so well-traveled and well-affiliated that compiling his biography would probably be a task beyond any single person, and certainly the author of this post. A great number of people knew Alex in a great number of capacities, all of whom lost something in this brutal, highly coordinated and premeditated attack.

America-born to a Greek mother and a Danish father, he had friends and admirers across the world, with a notable concentration of both in lands sandwiched between the shores of the Black Sea and the sands of the Taklamakan desert.

As an occasional journalist, I had known ‘Alex the source’ – always reliable for an astute and erudite quote – for some time before I knew Alex the person.

While the first Alex will leave a gaping hole in the rolodex of many analysts and reporters covering Central Asia and the Caucasus, it is the second Alex, known by family, friends, colleagues and students, that will be missed even more. 

As a noted expert in energy politics, Alex's scope was global, yet like many that have traveled through, lived and worked in, or wrote about the states of Central Asia and the Caucasus, there was a specific set of countries he found infectious. As he emphasized in his book The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West, and later through the ChinainCentralAsia blog and book project, this is a region that western policy-makers ignore at their peril.

Many people that knew Alex, even as briefly as I knew him, will know that he had an aptitude for anecdotes. Through the warm fuzzy memory of one of several excellent dinner evenings at a well-known Georgian restaurant in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (a dash of the Caucasus in Central Asia) I can still hear his tale of the duplicitous Azerbaijani ambassador that summoned him for a dressing down after he had written a critical article about that country, only to promptly stop, smile, and break out a teapot and tea cups. The dressing down, it emerged, had been recorded for the benefit of a political high-up in Baku, while the teapot and tea cups were symbols of the perennial hospitality with which any visitor to the region rapidly becomes familiar. 

On a good night, Alex could reel off a dozen such recollections from his years traveling through countries in Europe and Asia, nearly all of which were outrageously funny. A Petersen punch line could leave your ribs hurting from laughter, a potent and particular gift that the Taliban stole from the world.

China in Central Asia

Through, one of the most readable English-language blogs covering geopolitics in the Eurasian region, Alex had begun in combination with co-writer Raffaello Pantucci and photojournalist Sue Anne Tay, to document what he was convinced, with good reason, would be one of the stories of the 21st century, namely China's giant economic push through the countries lying west of its own restive Xinjiang province. These countries, cobbled together as “the stans” by the western media, lie at the historical heart of some of the greatest land empires the world has known, but are now isolated states increasingly shorn of options. Hamstrung by geography, corruption and various other internal problems, they have few reasons to reject Chinese largesse, and even fewer means to resist it.

Belatedly the chronicle of exponentially increasing Chinese trade and investment in Central Asia has started to turn heads beyond the region and its regular gaggle of foreign observers. Last September, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping's whirlwind tour through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan raised eyebrows across the world by virtue of the sheer size of the deals struck for oil, gas and other giant infrastructure projects in the region. For Petersen, Pantucci and others, this is a plot that has been bubbling for some time, and one that is increasingly central to the epic that is China's rise towards superpower status.   

While Alex diligently tracked every stretch of pipeline built by the Chinese in the region, he also knew that China's influence in Central Asia could not be measured in kilometers of road, barrels of oil, and cubic meters of gas alone. Many of the articles on are enjoyable to read precisely because they gather the testimonies of ordinary Central Asians being affected by the changes that have accompanied China's expanding clout; from university teachers observing the installation of Confucius Institutes in their places of work, to local businessmen whose bank accounts have been swelled by trade with China, and villagers who believe the roads Chinese companies are building in their country – paid for by cheap Chinese credit – are designed to support the weight of Chinese tanks in a future military invasion.

The practitioners of Beijing's westward pivot, and the protagonists in the emergence of what ChinainCentral has labelled China's “inadvertant empire” are also human beings rather than mere pawns on a chessboard, a fact Petersen captured in an October article in the Atlantic: 

These actors include Chinese owners of market stalls in Central Asia’s largest bazaars. One I spoke to had lived for years in a shipping container he shared with four other men at the back of a clothes market in Kazakhstan’s largest bazaar. A multi-millionaire, he provided for his children’s Western education, multiple apartments in Shanghai, and even overseas property investments. To him, Central Asia is the land of opportunity. These actors also include Chinese teachers sent to staff the many Confucius Institutes sprouting up around the region. Some I spoke with missed home, but many said they preferred the exciting “frontier life.” CNPC engineers across the region know that they are in for the long haul, as their company and its many subsidiaries build imposing structures in every Eurasian capital. The immense pipeline network CNPC is threading through the region consists of infrastructure set to last half a century.

Alex the Guide

Beyond his writing Alex also inspired as a teacher, and it was during his semester-long stint at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, that I got to know him on a personal level. Among the juniors and seniors in the International and Comparative Politics department (many of whom have written articles for Global Voices) that took his elective courses, and freshmen of all departments undertaking the First Year Seminar, Alex was a universally admired guide and friend, as well as a teller of fantastic stories. To both students and colleagues at the university, he was open, approachable, and a great person to bounce ideas off.

We are thinking of his family.  

A man of many temporary homes, Alex was in Kabul to embark on another research and teaching stint at the American University of Afghanistan. Writing to him a few days before he died I told him I was looking forward to a new series of dispatches on the nature and shape of Chinese influence in this fascinating, beautiful, tortured country. Now those dispatches will never be written and the students he was teaching will miss out on the tremendous wealth of knowledge, experience and color he brought to a classroom. When the Taliban cut his life short so brutally, it was fellow Afghans they punished. 

As his friend and writing partner Raffaello Pantucci communicated via email, “a bright light has gone out.”

Chris Rickleton manages the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

January 22 2014

Kyrgyz Scholar: Marijuana Legalization Keeps Governments in Power

As US President Barack Obama's recent comments on marijuana reignite the liberalization debate across the world, including in Kyrgyzstan, a Kyrgyz scholar offers a non-mainstream explanation for the decriminalization of marijuana in a number of countries. In a blog post on, Dr. Rustam Tukhvatshin claims [ru] that legalization helps governments control protest movements:

…People's addiction to [marijuana] is very convenient to politicians because the addicted individuals will never criticize them. Such people will view any policy decision made by politicians through a marijuana smoke screen, joyfully and complacently.

Most often individuals [addicted to the drug] belong to the discontented strata, and the legalization of marijuana renders these strata [unimportant]. Unfortunately, people who use marijuana are only a step away from experimenting with stronger drugs such as heroin and LSD. This then enables the authorities to put such individuals on record and take measures against them, while society at large will never defend drug addicts. These are, in my opinion, the main reasons for decriminalizing marijuana…

December 14 2013

Czechoslovakia's Architectural Heritage in Kyrgyzstan

Karina Ditkovskaya writes [ru] about a unique architectural heritage left by volunteer construction workers from Czechoslovakia in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan:

In the 1920s a commune of volunteers from Czechoslovakia built a whole district of Bishkek. Now, after almost one hundred years, this area of Kyrgyzstan's capital city stands out due to its unusual architecture…

The volunteers arrived in Bishkek <…> in April 1925, responding to a call by the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin to support the construction of the newly founded socialist empire…

After building several important factories and a district in the city, many of the [volunteers from Czechoslovakia] left [Bishkek] – some of them were purged, some died during the Second World War, and some returned to their motherland.

The blog features photos of the buildings constructed by the volunteers.

December 06 2013

Like Father, Like… Kyrgyz Opposition Leader's Son Gets Arrested

Former Kyrgyz MP Kamchybek Tashiev is mostly known for his radical nationalist rhetoric. He believes that Kyrgyzstan's leader should be a “pure blooded Kyrgyz” and refuses [ru] to give interviews in Russian. Last year, the politician almost ended up in prison after attempting to “get to his place of work” (the parliament) by climbing over the fence of the legislature with a band of some fifty young men, an event that a local judge ruled was a coup attempt (although Tashiev's shoe-throwing supporters later persuaded him otherwise). In a feint nod to the rule of law, Tashiev was sacked from the parliament after the incident.

The nationalist politician largely lost the spotlight after losing his seat in the parliament. On December 2, however, Tashiev found himself back in the center of public attention after police arrested [ru] his son for alleged theft of car wheels:

Kamchybek Tashiev holding a child. Public profile image from Tashiev's Twitter account.

в Бишкеке 1 декабря во время рейда “Автовор” в 5-м микрорайоне были задержаны 4 студента столичных вузов. Как сообщается, они пытались снять колеса с автомашины “Хонда-Аккорд”.

В момент задержания молодые люди находились в автомашине “Мерседес-Бенц”, которой управлял сын экс-депутата Тимур.

On December 1, four students from [Bishkek] universities were detained during a police raid in the fifth mikrorayon [city district],  The young men reportedly attempted to [steal] wheels from a Honda Accord.

The young men were arrested in a Mercedes Benz driven by the son of a former [parliament] deputy, Timur [Tashiev].

In a move resembling political strategies of the supporters of Tashiev the senior, Timur's friends tried to bail him out after the arrest. The young man's “classmates” and “friends” took to social media and news web sites, claiming that Timur has been a victim of false identity, that he was in Russia during the incident, that he was a “good boy”, and that the Tashiev family was too rich for such petty crime.

However, police soon released a footage [ru] of Timur's interview in custody, in which the young man confessed to an attempted theft of car wheels, explaining that he had done that because he needed money.

Timur Tashiev in police custody. Screen capture from YouTube video uploaded by Kiyalbek Toichiev on December 2, 2013.

Timur Tashiev in police custody. Screen capture from YouTube video uploaded by Kiyalbek Toichiev on December 2, 2013.

Online reactions to the news of Timur Tashiev's arrest came thick and fast. “Like father, like son” was the most popular theme in the majority of netizen comments.

Under a news report about the incident, Eles announced [ru]:

это наследственное

this is genetics

Another reader wrote [ru] in an apparent reference to the Tashievs’ reputation for corruption:

бедняжки..уже нечего воровать что ли??

poor things… they have nothing else left to steal or what??

“Pravda” asked [ru]:

и вот такие дети и их отцы хотят управлять страной?!!!теперь вы видите очевидность дебилизма???что они сделают со страной и с нами??!!разграбят…

these children and their fathers want to rule the country?!!! do you see the idiotism now??? what would they do to the country and to us??!! [they would] plunder…

Burul added [ru]:

яблоко от яблони, как говорится

the apple [doesn't fall far] from the tree, as they say

Bermet chipped in [ru]:

куда отец туда и сын…

the son is following in his father's footsteps

There were also rare voices doubting the official account of Timur Tashiev's arrest and suggesting that the incident might have been a “set-up” to exert pressure on his father. It remains to be seen whether the controversial politician's son will end up in prison. After all, his father was allowed to get away with much more serious charges.

November 01 2013

Life in Kyrgyz Prisons Through Camera Eyes

Screenshot from YouTube video featuring Eric Gourlan's photographs. Uploaded September 30, 2013, by

Screenshot from YouTube video featuring Eric Gourlan's photographs. Uploaded September 30, 2013, by “Freedom House KG”.

Photographer Eric Gourlan spent over a month in prisons in Kyrgyzstan, documenting the life of both inmates and guards. Photographs he took there provide a rare “view from the inside” the country's prison system. publishes some of the remarkable photos that are now displayed at a museum in Bishkek.

The documentary film below also features Gourlan's photographs, offering a unique glimpse into the life of children, women, and men behind bars in the Central Asian nation. The film is mostly in Russian, but has English subtitles.

October 31 2013

Young People Revel In Halloween Fun in Kyrgyzstan

Young people celebrate Halloween by joining the

Young people celebrate Halloween by joining the “zombie walk” in Bishkek. Image by Alexey Schatz, October 30, 2013, used with permission.

While debates over the appropriateness of participating in Halloween fun rage in Tajikistan, young people in the neighboring Kyrgyzstan revel in Halloween festivities. The country's most popular blogging platform has published [ru] a map of all venues organizing Halloween festivities in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital. Dozens of people dressed up in zombie costumes took part in the “zombie walk” in central Bishkek. A photo essay published by a Kyrgyzstani blogger shows that schoolchildren too joined in celebrating the holiday by carving pumpkins and improvising costumes.

October 09 2013

Amid More Political Discord, Kyrgyzstan's Media Suffers

While Kyrgyzstan's parliament debates a new ownership structure of the Kumtor gold mine – the largest foreign investment in the country – protests in the Issyk-Kul province where the mine operates ensure the legislature's discussion take place against a fiery background. In reporting on the brewing political crisis, even reputable media outlets seem to take leave of their senses.

On October 7, between 300 and 500 protesters gathered in the center of the town of Karakol, demanding that the Kyrgyz government insist on a 70% stake in Kumtor under the new restructuring, rather than the 50% which the government has so far proposed in negotiations. The restructuring discussions between the company and the government began in January this year and are now reportedly close to conclusion. In May, riots near the mine in the eastern Issyk-Kul region and the seizure of a government building in the country's south rocked the fragile republic. A video posted on YouTube appeared to show the involvement of local criminals in inciting the riots.

Emil Kaptagaev, a former Presidential Chief of Staff and current governor of Issyk-Kul, had a strange day on October 7 (scanned photo taken from

Emil Kaptagaev, a former Presidential Chief of Staff and current governor of Issyk-Kul, had a strange day on October 7 (scanned photo taken from

Now the “K” word is spicing up Kyrgyz politics again. During the afternoon of October 7, in what began as a non-violent demonstration, the governor of Issyk-Kul province, Emilbek Kaptagaev was suddenly taken hostage in bizarre circumstances. During the ensuing hours, which saw police and protesters clash, rumors flew that he had been covered in gasoline and readied for immolation. Once freed, Kaptagaev clarified [ru] that the protesters had only threatened to burn him and “cut him into pieces like mutton”.

It should be noted that Kaptagaev, a former chief of staff to ex-President Roza Otunbayeva, is not a popular public figure. In a comment under an article where he describes his recent experience as a hostage, one reader, writing under the pen name “reader”, wrote [ru] the following:

О Боже, какой он бедный и несчастный! Зарезать прям его хотели…Да и вообще тебя надо было пристрелить или зарезать. а потом волкам на шашлык отдать. Хотя, если так посмотреть, то даже волки достойны лучшего мяса чем у лысика.

My God, poor unlucky him! They actually wanted to cut him… Well, they should have either cut you or shot you, and then they should have served you to the wolves like a kebab. That said, wolves deserve better meat than this baldy.

In parliament meanwhile, an ad hoc parliamentary committee has decided to renew discussions over Kumtor's ownership and also prepare a vote of no confidence in the government.

Dastan Bekeshev, a young Kyrgyz MP and one of the most followed Tweeps in the country found the committee's sudden flurry of activity amusing:

It is strange to see how “timely” Alymbekov's [member of the parliamentary committee] decision to issue a vote of no confidence in the government is. Apparently he [Alymbekov] wants play on the moods of protesters against Kumtor.

Bekeshev also reflected [ru] that without Kumtor Kyrgyzstan's political opposition would not have much to do:

The opposition and other bad forces are lucky to have Kumtor as a pretext [for disturbances]. Otherwise, they would have to come up with something else. 

Edil Baisalov, another former presidential chief of staff and an active Twitter user, argued during the maelstrom that the country's beleaguered prime-minister should leave the office:

By the way, while we are on this topic: [Jantoro] Satybaldiyev [the prime-minister] should resign anyway. He has failed, has not met the expectations, has not been able to make things work. And it is not just about #Kumtor!

Among the republic's small Twitter community, #СпаситеЖанторо [#SaveJantoro] is now trending as a hashtag. The idea is to save the country's beleaguered Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev – by sacking him. 

Protesters in Karakol held governor Emil Kaptagaev as hostage. Image by, used with permission.

Protesters in Karakol held governor Emil Kaptagaev as hostage. Image by, used with permission.

Mainstream media melts down

Although Kyrgyzstan is not a perfect democracy, its media enjoys the dubious complement of being the freest in post-Soviet Central Asia. Mainstream media coverage of events in Karakol, however, was poor. The state-owned first channel, OTRK, aired just a short report about the events, paying much more attention to President Atambayev's trips and his birthday message for the Russian President. The channel did not even mention the fact that the protesters in Karakol held a governor hostage.

Elvira Sarieva a Bishkek entrepreneur tweeted [ru]:

Whoever he [Kaptagaev] is – they cannot simply capture a government representative, the authorities should respond immediately, without waiting for the nightfall; and @KTRK_kg [state TV] should cover the news adequately.

As conspiracy theories whirled about the government being overthrown by ex-presidents and “outside forces” such as the United States, Vecherniy Bishkek, one of the oldest and most respected newspapers of Kyrgyzstan, posted a host of articles citing its “own sources” that seemed designed purely to fan the rumor mill. An article citing [ru] a mysterious figure “in the echelons of power” said that Emil Kaptagaev's capture was planned by his former boss, ex-President Roza Otunbayeva, acting jointly with former Prime Minister, Omurbek Babanov and, surprisingly, Kaptagaev himself.

Under yet another sensationalist article full of unnamed sources, a reader wrote [ru]:

Уважаемая вечерка,понятно,что на вас давят и требуют,чтобы вы размещали подобную информацию из “источников” . Но,помните,что для многих вы являетесь пока еще источником достоверной и объективной информации. Попробуйте объяснить тем,кто на вас давит и заставляет публиковать чернуху и желтуху, что вы просто перестанете пользоваться доверием и превратитесь в такой же отстой, как,скажем,аки-пресс.

Dear Vecherka [diminutive for Vecherniy Bishkek], it is clear that you are under pressure and [they] demand that you print such information based on “sources”. However, remember that for many people you are still a source of reliable and objective information. Try to explain to those who are putting pressure on you and forcing you to publish such rubbish that you will simply cease to enjoy the trust of your readers and turn into the same crap as Aki-press [a Kyrgyz news agency].

Atai Sadybakasov summed up the collective bemusement with arguably the country's leading print and online media outlet when he tweeted [ru]:

Vecherochka [even more affectionate diminutive for Vecherniy Bishkek], my sunshine, have you gone ****ing mad?

Below are scenes from the chaos in Karakol, where one protester threatened to set himself on fire.


October 01 2013

“Without Papers You Are Nobody” in Kyrgyzstan

Hundreds of people living in Kyrgyzstan do not have the country's identity documents. This makes these people ‘invisible’ to the authorities, as Diana Rahmanova writes [ru]:

In essence, you can say, “Here I am. I exist. I live. Here. Here is my body, my face. Look at me. I am not lying!”.

But these statements are of little help when you encounter any state institution, such as a hospital, police, or school…

As they say, without papers you are nobody. You are “invisible”, you do not exist!

The blogger also posts presentations and videos (in Russian) from a recent event focusing on the problems of people without identity documents in the country.

September 27 2013

Kyrgyzstan: “It is Impossible to Propagandize Homosexuality”

Prominent Kyrgyzstani blogger Bektour Iskander reflects [ru] on on the recent law banning gay ‘propaganda’ in Russia and speculations that some Kyrgyz human-rights NGOs are engaged in such propaganda:

It is impossible to propagandize homosexuality. Because a heterosexual cannot turn into a gay, even if she/he communicates with hundreds of gays every day…

A sexual orientation cannot be imposed or implanted onto people. Because it is not a political leaning or a musical preference. Because a person is born with it.

September 24 2013

Disagreements over 2010 Ethnic Violence still Troubling Kyrgyzstan

Most Kyrgyz protsts feature an ОБОН or two.

Most Kyrgyz protests feature an ОБОН or two. (Photo courtesy of

Last week several groups of Kyrgyz protesters attacked organizers of an international film festival featuring a documentary about a famous ethnic Uzbek human rights advocate who was convicted of murder during the country's ethnic violence in June 2010. The attacks highlight the continuing struggle over the narrative of a conflict which killed hundreds and which over three years on is full of unresolved issues.

The annual “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” (One World – Kyrgyzstan) international human rights film festival is well-known for its brave documentaries and bold initiatives to unite people and foster tolerance and pluralism in Kyrgyz society. The festival's principal organizer, Tolekan Ismailova of the NGO Citizens Against Corruption, has persistently lobbied for the release of Azimzhan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek artist and campaigner against torture and police corruption, who was accused [ru] of murdering  Myktybek Sulaimanov, a Kyrgyz police officer, during fighting in his home town of Bazar-Korgon, Jalalabad province.

The attacks appear to have been pre-meditated. On September 19 a loudspeaker-wielding woman and her comrades-in-arms caused a ruckus [ru] near the Manas cinema where the festival was due to be held from September 19-23. The women began to break into the hall, demanding that the film about Azimzhan Askarov be removed from the festival program and insisting on talking to the festival's director. Two days later, on September 21 when the documentary about Askarov was scheduled to screen, another group of people pelted eggs against the cinema facade. While the film was showing another ten men issued aggressive demands to turn it off. With the help of the police the protestors were evicted from the cinema. Askarov, sentenced to life imprisonment by the Kyrgyz supreme court following appeals at district and city level, flatly denies involvement in the murder and attributes his conviction to his prior investigations into police brutality police in his home region. Bazar-Korgon has a mixed Kyrgyz and Uzbek population and now hosts [ru] a bust of Sulaimanov, the policeman Askarov was accused of murdering.

Writing in an online discussion of the first attack that took place before the film festival began, news editor Eldiyar Arkybaev echoed [ru] suspicions that nationalist political elements may have been behind the female protesters:

И кто стоит за этим ОБОН?

And who is behind this OBON [attack]?

OBON play as special role in Kyrgyz politics. The acronym stands for “Отряд баб особого назначения” - ”Special-Assignment-Female-Units” - coined by way of a humorous analogy with Russia's infamous OMON riot police. These loud, provocative women began to appear in the build up to Kyrgyzstan's first revolution in 2005, and are often paid as frontline protesters capable of creating a scene and flustering police. In a press conference on September 23, Ismailova, organizer of Bir-Duino-Kyrgyzstan, accused [ru] police of fearing and even colluding with the female attack units. 

In a Kloop news blog discussion of the September 19 attack, Nurlan Azimbaev also criticized [ru] the police's failure to deal with the original protesters:

милиция в качестве наблюдателей? или у этих женщин какой то особый статус неприкосновенности?

Were policemen acting as observers? Or do these women have some kind of special immunity status?

But Nuriet Mamasaliyev, who claims to have been in the south at the time of the ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, disliked [ru] Arkybayev's characterization of the protesters and blamed prominent Uzbeks such as Askarov and another Uzbek human rights activist, Ravshan Gapirov, for the ethnic conflict:

Эти ОБОНовки как выражаетесь,потеряли своих сыновей.которые умерли за единство нашей страны во время июньских событий. Вам легко их обзывать с стучать по клавам,а у меня перед глазами стоят силуэты погибающих во время этих событий.Виной этих событий были такие подлые собаки,как Аскаров,Гапиров и подобные “писцы” хреновы.Извините,но у меня сердце разрывается когда мутил выставляют как Робин Гудов.А почему не снимают фильм как живется вдове и сиротам Сулайманова???А почему не снимают про тысячи наших парней,которые гниют на нарах????Двойной стандарт Запада,навязанный нашим “умникам” доведет до катастрофы и возобновлению новых стычек между этносами. Одумайтесь,организаторы,пока не поздно!!!

These OBON women, as you call them, lost their sons, who died for the unity of our country during the June events. It is easy for you to curse at them using your keyboards but the silhouettes of dying people during these events appear in front of my eyes. Vile dogs such as Askarov and Gapirov as well as idiot “reporters” bear the guilt of these events. Sorry, but my heart breaks when the culprits are portrayed as Robin Hoods. And why doesn't anybody film a documentary about the wife and children of Sulaimanov?? And why doesn't anybody film anything about the thousands of our guys who are rotting in jail?? The double standards of the West imposed by our own “wise ones” will result in disaster and further clashes between ethnicities. Come to your mind, organizers [of Bir-Duino film festival] before it's too late!

Below is footage of the chaos in the cinema during the screening of the Askarov film, captured [ru] by correspondents:

When interviewed [ru] by a journalist, the protesters admitted that they had not watched the documentary they were protesting against.

Akhmatbek Zhumabayev, another Kloop reader, offered up a pernicious conspiracy theory [ru]:

 Время маргиналов,думаю что МВД само организатор этого кипиша.Где СНБ почему не выяснят кто организатор всего этого.Не хочу оправдывать Аскарова, но такой имидж нашей стране не нужен.

The era of animals. I think that the Ministry of Internal Affairs itself is the organizer of this unrest. Where is the National Security Service and why don't they find the organizers of all this? I do not want to defend Askarov, but our country does not need this kind of image.

Kyrgyzstan's June 2010 ethnic violence remains highly contested. No single interpretation of the events has won popular support in the multi-ethnic country. The author of the most significant international report on the tragedy was declared persona non grata in Kyrgyzstan by the parliament in May 2011 and was threatened with libel by senior politicians the report accused of negligence during the crisis. Many Kyrgyz viewed the report as relying too much on the first hand testimonies of Uzbeks, who most people agree suffered disproportionately during the conflict. In the months following the events, ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek notables released pop songs and poems [GV] offering provocative interpretations of ethnic relations in the republic. Last summer residents of the conflict's epicentre, the southern city of Osh, were fearful that a rap released by an Uzbek MC could reignite hostility [GV].

In the meantime, any objective discussion of the causes and chronology of the events is circumvented for fear of destabilizing the situation in the region again. That rule is especially applicable to the high profile case of the Uzbek human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov.

A Eurasianet interview with Askarov can be found here.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

September 16 2013

Translation of a Shakedown: Secret Camera Pits Canadian Miners against Kyrgyz ‘Minders’

Kumtor Operating Company's logo

The Canadian-run goldmine accounts for 12 per cent of the country's GDP.

Back in May 2013, Global Voices covered the trail of political chaos that resulted when protests close to Kyrgyzstan's Kumtor gold mine turned violent. Now a video has emerged that appears to show the hand of organized crime in the protests and points to the likelihood of future conflicts over the mine.

Peace for money

On August 28 a video featuring men widely acknowledged as instigators of the May unrest negotiating with representatives of Kumtor's parent company Centerra Gold appeared on YouTube and other video-sharing platforms. On camera the two men attempt to extort money from the company, offering peace and stability in the communities around the mine in return.

The video was ostensibly shot in July 2013 and released on state television in late August. Centerra Gold funds various projects in the region surrounding the mine, where locals are divided between supporters and opponents of the company.

Following the release of the video, Kumtor Operating Company announced that it was providing “full assistance” to the authorities in investigating the incident. Kurmanov and Junushbaev subsequently organized [ru] a road block on August 29 to protest against what they claimed was a fake video. They were arrested and are now awaiting their trial.

Netizens had their say on forums and news blogs, with opinions varying from those who felt [ru] the video was a fake created by the Kyrgyz security services to those who argued the footage was real and who registered their disgust [ru] at the local toughs.

Below is the only publicly available video in Russian and Kyrgyz with unabridged English subtitles.

To give our readers a little bit of background about the four key persons in the video, we are also sharing their brief biographical details below:

  • Ermek Junushbaev. Born in 1986 in the village of Saruu of Jeti-Oguz district, Issyk-Kul region. Graduated from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports at the Karakol State University. Currently he is a a deputy of the Saruu village council, and a wrestling coach in Kyzyl-Suu village. Junushbaev was an active organizer of the May-June 2013 riots in the Issyk-Kul region against the Kumtor mine's operations.
  • Bakhtiyar Kurmanov. Born in 1980 in Saruu village, Jeti-Oguz district, Issyk-Kul region. Known in the criminal world as “Batik”. Local media has credited him with being a member of criminal groups run by Interpol-listed Kamchi Kolbaev and later Aziz Batukaev. He has been convicted twice, once for robbery and once for assault. He was credited as the initiator of the shutdown of the electricity station that powers the Kumtor gold mine in May.
  • Turumbek Duishenaliev. Security chief for Kumtor Operating Company, Centerra Gold's Kyrgyzstan-based subsidiary.
  • Douglas Grier. Graduated from the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), and University of Guelph, currently Director of Sustainable Development at Kumtor Operating Company, Centerra Gold's Kyrgyzstan-based subsidiary.

For the convenience of readers, the full conversation from the video and its English translation is available below (note: the conversation is quite long):

Дуйшеналиев Т: Давайте Бахтияр, Эрмек. Дуглас. Сейчас Дугласа ждет в Торонто совет директоров. От него ждут ответа на этом собрании. Дугласа ждут, будет ли рудник работать. Будем ли мы с вами дружить или в разные стороны?

Duishenaliev T: All right, Bakhtiyar and Ermek. Douglas. The Board of directors in Toronto is now waiting for Douglas. He is expected to provide them with an answer about whether the mine will work or not, whether we will be friends or go in opposite directions.

Жунушбаев Э: Дуглас, ты еще не понимаешь, мы тебе говорим, сейчас “Кумтору”, кроме нас, никто шанс не дает второй раз на работу – ни правительство, ни президент. Если они нам ругают, мы его война уже сделаем.

Junushbaev E: Douglas, you still don't understand. We are telling you: no one except us will give Kumtor a second chance to work – neither the government nor the president. If they try to put pressure on us, we will start  a war.

Курманов Б: Эрмек, давай я сейчас объясню. Дуглас, вы теперь поняли, да, кто решает? Поняли да? Не правительство, мы правительства не боимся, мы никого не боимся, только бога боимся. Если договор…если вы не согласны, “Кумтор” работать не будет. Вот, сейчас китайцы готовы стать, японцы есть. Мы с ними договоримся нормально, вот они работать будут. Если с канадцами нормально, дай бог, то работать будут канадцы.

Kurmanov B: Ermek, let me explain. Douglas, do you now understand who makes the decisions here? Do you? It is not the government. We are not afraid of the government. We are not afraid of anyone except God. If the contract… If you do not agree with us, Kumtor will not work. Now we have the Chinese ready [to cooperate with us], we also have the Japanese. We will have an agreement with them, and they will [operate the mine]. If [we reach an agreement] with the Canadians, God helps us in this, then the Canadians will work.

Гриер Д: Это другой уровень но я все передам.

Grier D: [The decision has to be made at] a different level, but I will pass the message on.

Курманов Б: Жапаров, да знаешь Жапарова? Ташиева? Они готовы с нами вместе сотрудничать и вас атаковать. Вам это надо?

Kurmanov B: Japarov, do you know Japarov? Tashiev? They are ready to cooperate with us in attacking you. Do you need this?

Гриер Д: Нет, конечно, и я думаю, здесь тоже людям это не нужно.

Grier D: No, of course not. And I think people here don't need this either.

Жунушбаев Э: Нет, если вы с нами не работаете, мы на все готовы. Вот “Кумтор” закроем, правительство вызовем. Все надо закроем, кого куда уезжайте. А кого-то из вас закрыть, того закрыть надо.

Junushbaev E: [If you disagree], if you don't work with us, we are ready for anything. We will close Kumtor and call out the government. We will close down whatever we need to close down [and you will have to] leave. If we have to close you down, we will close you down.

Гриер Д: Если я здесь, я думаю, это знак, что мы готовы с вами работать.

Grier D: I am here, and I think this is a sign that we are ready to work with you.

Дуйшеналиев Т: Дадим слово, потом вы свои требования выскажете, так?

Duishenaliev T: We will let you know when it is your turn to speak, and you can then state your demands, alright?

Гриер Д: Я просто объясняю, вот это сейчас – это совет директоров, они его там одобрили 20 млн долларов, да, на проект? Мы тоже таким образом…

Grier D: I am just explaining. Currently, the board of directors… They have approved the allocation of 20 million [US] dollars for the project. So in this sense we…

Курманов Б: На какой проект?

Kurmanov B: For which project?

Гриер Д: Ну, раньше мы делали такие, как “Алатин финанс”, которые вообще не работают. Тоже 2 года назад проект шел…

Grier D: Well, earlier we had [projects] such as Alatin Finance, which did not work at all. Also two years ago we had another project…

Дуйшеналиев Т: Я разъясню ребятам. Когда правительство, Бабанов был во главе правительства, те 20 млн, знаете, это 1 миллиард сомов, с теми 7% и Ала-Тоо финанс, который давал в кредит для молодежи, пропали. То были наши деньги, сейчас вот эти 20 млн по требованию Джеты-Огузцев, да? Сейчас одобрено?

Duishenaliev T: Let me explain. When Babanov was the head of government, the 20 million [dollars], you know, which is 1 billion [Kyrgyz] soms… With the 7% [interest] that Ala-Too finance used to give loans for young people… It all got lost. That was our money. Now there is a request for another 20 million [US dollars], a request by [the residents of] Jeti Oguz…[Is this what] has been approved?

Гриер Д: Да. Сейчас, ну, я стараюсь. Вот наш план… это…ну это… одобрено 20 млн. Или бы я давно уехал бы и сказал бы…

Grier D: Yes, well, I am trying… This is our plan… There is an approval for 20 million. If there wasn't one, I would have left long ago, and I would have said…

Жунушбаев Э: Да…

Junushbaev E: Yes…

Жунушбаев Э: Скажем те вещи короче. Если захочет, пусть, если нет, то пойдем… по любому…

Junushbaev E: Let us be blunt about this. If he wishes, let it be… If not, then we will make a move, at any rate.

Гриер Д: Ну, хорошо…

Grier D: Okay…

Курманов Б: Если правительство давить начинать будет, да? Мы объявим войну, гражданская война будет; революция будет. До 20 сентября вот это не решить, мы выйдем. Тогда ни вам, ни этому правительству, там другие будут. Мы с Эрмеком, ты в курсе да? До 20-го, 10-го сентября мы остановим, если хотим. Если… Он в курсе?

Kurmanov B: If the government puts pressure on us, we will declare a war, a civil war; there will be a revolution. If you do not make up your mind before September 20, we will start [the protests]. In this case neither you nor the government [will control the mine]; others will come [to control the mine]. Me and Ermek, you understand, yes? Before the 20th [of September], or even the 10th [of September] [you have tine]. We can stop [the mine] if we want. Does he [Kumtor's president] know?

Дуйшеналиев Т: Нет.

Duishenaliev T: No.

Курманов Б: Хорошо.. Сейчас он пойдет и скажет. Пойдет туда, возьмет и скажет,что здесь с ним такое делают.

Kurmanov B: All right… Now [Douglas Grier] will go and tell him. He will go there and say what we are doing here.

Дуйшеналиев Т: Вы скажите свои требования.

Duishenaliev T: What are you demands?

Курманов Б: Нет, он о том проекте, за этим проектом… Он же сказал про проект, задай ему вопрос, есть ли мы в этих 20 млн?

Kurmanov B: No, he speaks about the project. Behind that project… He has [already] spoken about the project. Ask him whether we have a share in the 20 million [US dollars].

Жунушбаев Э: Объясните ему короче.

Junushbaev E: Explain this to him briefly.

Курманов Б: Нет, если мы будем говорить короче, то он немного не поймет.

Kurmanov B: No, if we speak briefly, he will miss many things.

Жунушбаев Э: Так-то нужно, если не так, то не получится. Объясните не затягивая.

Junushbaev E: That is the way it needs to be – if it is not so, it won't work out. Explain it now.

Дуйшеналиев Т: Кто-нибудь один скажите, что, кроме того, мы будем спрашивать и это.

Duishenaliev T: One of you two say what you want and we will ask for it in addition.

Курманов Б: Дуглас, после орозо люди готовы выйти, да. Их надо остановить или не надо?

Kurmanov B: Douglas, after Orozo [holiday to mark the end of Ramadan, on August 8] people will be ready to come out and protest. Should we stop them or not?

Гриер Д: Нет, ну, я думаю, надо…Это очень важно.

Grier D: Well, I think you should [stop them]… This is very important.

Курманов Б: Это очень важно, да?

Kurmanov B: Very important, right?

Гриер Д: Чтобы продолжался процесс переговоров, потому, что это не в моих руках.

Grier D: [This is important] in order to the negotiations to continue, because [it is not me who makes the decisions].

Курманов Б: Время дать, да?

Kurmanov B: We should give you time, correct?

Гриер Д: Да, да.

Grier D: Yes, yes.

Курманов Б: А люди не хотят, надо решить побыстрее.

Kurmanov B: But people don't want [to wait], we need to reach an agreement more quickly.

Гриер Д: Да.. насчет просто напрямую платить, этого не будет, этого не может быть, потому что опять мы акционерное общество, и это против закона, и все сядут, и от этого ничего не получается. А какие-то другие инвестиции тоже надо посмотреть. Потому, что здесь проблема в том, что если мы это вам, ну, помогаем да, все будут знать сразу. И потом Тон выйдет, и там Барскоон, и вот здесь, и Балыкчы. Поэтому это тоже очень деликатный и сложный вопрос. Как-то решать.

Grier D: Yes… As for paying you directly, this is not going to happen. We cannot do this because, again, we are a joint-stock company. And this is against the law, and we will all go to jail and nothing will come our of it. We need to think about how we can make the investment in a different way. But the problem is that if we give you assistance, everyone will know about it. Then, [the residents of other villages near the mine such as] Ton, Barskoon, and Balykchy will take out to the streets. This is why it is a very sensitive and complicated matter that we need to resolve somehow.

Джунушбаев: Э, Дуглас, ты знаешь, да, Кумтор где, месторождение? В Тонском или Жети-Огузском? Знаете, да?

Junushbaev: Duglas, do you know where Kumtor, the mine, is located? In Ton or Jeti-Oguz? You know, right?

Гриер: Да-да-да

Grier: Yes

Джунушбаев: А вы вот нам дорогу сделаете, да?

Junushbaev: You are going to build a road for us, right?

Гриер: Угу

Grier: Yes

Жунушбаев Э: У нас Балыкчы с Караколом – одно круговое кольцо. Эту проблему полностью надо решить…

Junushbaev E: This problem needs to be resolved.

Гриер Д: Угу

Grier D: Yes

Жунушбаев Э: А вот местные люди – это местные…

Junushbaev E: And local people, they are local…

Гриер Д: Да-да-да…

Grier D: Yes, yes, yes..

Жунушбаев Э: Везде там. Правильно, да?

Junushbaev E: All around there. Correct?

Гриер Д: Да-да-да…

Grier D: Yes, yes, yes..

Жунушбаев Э: Поэтому, как Бахтияр говорит, мы с Родни поговорили, показали, что мы делаем. Если будет, мы тоже стараемся нормально ему.

Junushbaev E: That's why, as Bakhtiyar says, we spoke to Rodney, we showed him what we can do. If [things work out], we will be good with him.

Гриер Д: Насчет какого-либо предложения, либо котельный центр или еще что-то. Я тоже не могу решать здесь. Мне надо решать с Майклом Фишером. Я с ним один разговаривал. Кроме него, нас трое. Это вот так.

Grier D: As for other proposals, like building a heating facility or something else, I cannot make decisions here. I have to discuss this with Michael Fischer [President of Kumtor]. I spoke to him only. There are three of us [who need to make the decision together]. It is like this.

Курманов Б: Совет директоров тебе сейчас не важно. Сейчас тебе вот это общение важно.

Kurmanov B: The board of directors is not important for you at the moment. This conversation is what is important at the moment.

Гриер Д: Да-да. Я думаю мы можем это решать. Просто я сам не могу сейчас решить. Я не могу сказать, да или нет. Да? Поэтому мне надо узнать идеи, предложения. И я с Майком обсудим. Я уже говорил, что…

Grier D: Yes, yes. I think we can solve this. I just cannot make decisions alone now. I cannot say yes or no. Understood? This is why I need to find out what your ideas and proposals are. Mike and I will discuss this afterwards. I have already said that…

Курманов Б: Ты Майку скажешь вот так. Майк скажет наше правительство. Наше правительство по телевидению пустит, тогда уже все. Мы…

Kurmanov B: You will speak to Mike, and Mike will tell our government about this. Our government will go on television, and that will be the end. We..

Дуйшеналиев Т: Он же сказал, например, вот…

Duishenaliev T: He has explained, for example…

Курманов Б: Гарантия где? Где гарантия?

Kurmanov B: Where is the guarantee? Where is the guarantee?

Дуйшеналиев Т: Он знает. Родни не играет здесь. Он знает. Он скажет Майку, и Турумбек знает. Все. Вот так вот…

Duishenaliev T: He knows. Rodney is not playing here. He knows. He will say to Mike. And Turumbek knows. That's it. So..

Гриер Д: Потому что напрямую невозможно просто так, да? Это достаточно большая сумма, и… так не получается.

Grier D: It is impossible (to pay you) directly, right? It is quite a large sum… It won't work.

Курманов Б: Что большая сумма?

Kurmanov B: What about the large sum?

Гриер Д: Ну если это большая сумма, да?

Grier D: Well, if it is a large sum.

Дуйшеналиев Т: Если этот проект большая сумма – просто так подарить… Дуглас начал говорить про реабилитационный центр, да? Это один проект – да. Это большие деньги – да. Дуглас объясняет, что они не могут просто так. Надо подумать. Может, в виде кредита…

Duishenaliev T: If this project costs a lot – to just give the money away… Douglas has started to talk about a rehabilitation center, right? This is one project. This is a lot of money. Douglas is explaining that they cannot simply (give the money).. We need to come up with something.. Perhaps, in the form of credit…

Гриер Д: Надо делать так, чтобы были гарантии у нас. Нужны гарантии. Потому что если бы мы помогли, через месяц еще кто-то скажет: «Давайте я тоже кредит дам». Поэтому нужны гарантии, что это стабильность. Потому что всем нужна стабильность для развития бизнеса. Вот там туризм и все-все…

Grier D: We need to manage it so that we would have guarantees. We need guarantees. Because if we provide this assistance, someone might say in a month: “Okay, I can give you a loan, too”. That's why we need guarantees, to ensure stability. We all need stability to do business. Tourism, and all the rest…

Курманов Б: Это от вас зависит.

Kurmanov B: That depends on you.

Дуйшеналиев Т: Бахтияр, вот Дуглас говорит, что вот мы три человека. Я тоже уйду. Вот Даг будет один с вами работать, больше никто не будет. Он же утверждает, что ни правительство, никто не будет знать, что мы оказываем какую-то помощь. Это не просто взять деньги и вот так отдать. Этого нет. За это его не то что уволят, его посадят.

Duishenaliev T: Bakhtiyar, as Douglas says, there are three of us here. I will leave too. Doug will work with you alone, no one else. He is saying that neither government nor anybody else will find out that we are providing you with some kind of assistance. But we cannot simply give you the money. It's not like that. He would not simply be fired for that, he would go to jail for that.

Гриер Д: Это уже невозможно делать как обычно – писать письмо, вот у нас бизнес-проект, можно поддерживать, поэтому что там видят все, что мы там отплатили.

Grier D: It is also impossible to do things in the usual way, say, for you to send us a letter with a request to support a business project. [If we did so], everybody would understand that we are simply paying you.

Дуйшеналиев Т: Ты можешь без огласки оказать содействие, помощь.

Duishenaliev T: You can provide us with assistance without such publicity.

Гриер Д: Да, и кредиты в другие организации…

Grier D: Yes, through credits to a different organization…

Дуйшеналиев Т: Да. У вас будут деньги.

Duishenaliev T: Yes, you will have the money.

Жунушбаев Э: Ну насчет проекта мы поговорили, да?

Junushbaev E: Well, we discussed the project, right?

Дуйшеналиев Т: Это проект называется. Мы не просто делаем там… Это закрытый проект.

Duishenaliev T: We call this is a project, ok?. This is a project [that we do not make public].

Жунушбаев Э: Это один год зарплату президента “Центерры”, бизнес-проект там.

Junushbaev E: It is a one-year salary of Centerra's President, this business project…

Курманов Б: Сколько у него зарплата?

Kurmanov B: What is his salary?

Гриер Д: Я не знаю.

Grier D: I don't know.

Курманов Б: Вот в ЖК была комиссия. Они показали 3-3,5 тысячи миллион, да? Или миллиард…

Kurmanov B: A commission in the Jogorku Kenesh [parliament] suggested that the salary is about 3 or 3.5 thousand million, right? Or a billion?

Дуйшеналиев Т: Нет-нет, миллиард – это такая сумма. Подумай. Миллиард эмес (не миллиард). Может, три миллиона. Эту сумму они получают один год, а мы говорим не эта Центерра, а один годный зарплату Майка.

Duishenaliev T: No, no. A billion is a huge sum… Think about it. It could not be a billion. Perhaps three million. The [company] might get a sum like that every year. But you are talking about Mike's annual salary, right?

Курманов Б: Нет, не Майка, а где в Торонто сидит главный ваш? Из главнейших кто?

Kurmanov B: No, not Mike's. [I am talking about] your senior boss based in Toronto? Who is the head?

Дуйшеналиев Т: Говорит, Ян? Ян.

Duishenaliev T: He says Ian? Ian.

Курманов Б: Там Аткинсон, да, главный?

Kurmanov B: Atkinson is the boss there, right?

Дуйшеналиев Т: Аткинсон сейчас президент, да? Да, “Центерра” президент. Над ним – Совет директоров.

Duishenaliev T: Atkinson is the president now, right? Yes, he is  the president of Centerra. Then there is the Board of Directors above him.

Джунушбаев Э: Тебе тоже лучше там говорить, мы вот это делаем. Тебе тоже гарантия будет конкретно, потому что мы таких доноров предлагаем.Потому что район тоже такой.

Junushbaev E: It would better to tell them [in Toronto] what we are doing as well. There will also be a guarantee for you, because we are putting forward donors like these. Because the region is like that.

Курманов Б: Это не маленькое дело. Это большое дело. Тоже правильно должны понять это. Принять.

Kurmanov B: Is is not a small matter. This is big business. You should understand it correctly too. And accept it.

Гриер Д: Давайте я тогда с Майклом поговорю. Это нелегкий вопрос. Я понимаю, что это капля в море. Но это вот такой… потому что это не так просто, три миллиона… туда-сюда…

Grier D: Let me talk to Michael then. This is a complicated question. I understand this is a drop in the ocean. But it is not so easy to do: three million here, [three million] there…

Курманов Б: Не, ну у вас есть же…

Kurmanov B: Of course not, but you have the [money]…

Жунушбаев Э: Мы требуем вот эту первую партию надо до 10-го, чтобы конкретно до Орозо…

Junushbaev E: Our demand is that you give us the first portion of the money before the 10th, before Orozo…

Гриер Д: 10 августа?

Grier D: The 10th of August?

Курманов Б: нет, не 10-го августа. Сегодня какое число?

Kurmanov B: No, not August 10th. What is the date today?

Дуйшеналиев Т: 31-е

Duishenaliev T: The 31st

Курманов Б: До 3-го августа ответ.

Kurmanov B: [We need to hear about your response] by August 3rd.

Гриер Д: Хорошо

Grier D: Good.

Дуйшеналиев Т: 3-го Майкл спустится, ты сможешь с ним поговорить?

Duishenaliev T: Michael will come on [August] 3. Will you call him?

Гриер Д: Он в субботу спустится, 3-го числа спустится, а вечером с ним разговариваю. Не хочу по телефону, потому что это тоже…

Grier D: He is coming on Saturday, on the 3rd. I will talk to him in the evening. I do not want to talk about this on the phone, because, you know…

Жунушбаев Э: Да-да…

Junushbaev E: Yes, yes…

Гриер Д: Я лично с ним встречаюсь… И…

Grier D: I will meet him in person…

Дуйшеналиев Т: Какой-то ответ будет, да?

Duishenaliev T: There will be a response, right?

Гриер Д: У меня есть ваш номер.

Grier D: I have your phone number.

Курманов Б: Вы только скажите нам: да или нет.

Kurmanov B: Just tell whether it is yes or no.

Жунушбаев Э: 3-го вы скажете, потом до 10-го вот эти проекты, как говорится, на друг другу доверие надо, как доверие будет, у нас первая партия будет…

Junushbaev E: You give us the answer on [August] 3, then these projects before the 10th. We need to trust each other. If there is trust, we'll play our part…

Гриер Д: Я обязательно приеду тогда. Если все нормально, я приеду хорошо…

Grier D: I will definitely come then. If that is all right, I will come, ok…

Жунушбаев Э: По наличному… А-то на год там, это уже…

Junushbaev E: [We want the money] in cash… Otherwise [the whole thing might take a year]…

Курманов Б: мы не согласны на это.

Kurmanov B: We won't go down that road.

Жунушбаев Э: Если до 10-го конкретно ответ будет, 10-го такую-то сумму наличными дам, потом остальное на проект идет. Хорошо.

Junushbaev E: If there will be a concrete answer before the 10th, give us part of the money in cash before the 10th, the rest goes to the project. Good.

Курманов Б: Нет, не проект. Если хотите дать, то давайте налом( наличными). Хотя бы половину. Половину – так, половину – проектом.

Kurmanov B: No, not the project. If you want to give the money, then give us the cash. At least half. Another half through a project.

Гриер Д: Это я не могу сказать сейчас.

Grier D: This is something I cannot say for sure at the moment.

Курманов Б: Вот это наша последний… это… разговор… как вот…

Kurmanov E: This is our last conversation.

Гриер Д: Хорошо.

Grier D: Okay.

Курманов Б: Если вы не согласны, мы больше так сидеть не будем.

Kurmanov B: If you do not agree [with our demands], we will not be siting idle.

Гриер Д: Хорошо.

Grier D: Good.

Жунушбаев Э: вот эту общение гарантия дайте. Ниче там… мы не боимся. Просто… мы впятером конкретно это решим.

Junushbaev E: Give us a guarantee. We are not afraid of anything. We will just resolve this, the five of us together.

Гриер Д: Даже Родне не скажу. Ничего…

Grier D: I will not say anything.. not even to Rodney.

Курманов Б: Вот, Турумбек ака, ты, Эрмек, я и Майк. Кроме вот этих пять человек, никто не должен знать.

Kurmanov B: So, Turumbek, you, Ermek, me, and Mike. No one besides us five should know about this.

Курманов Б: Если наше правительство узнает, мы все это откажем и…

Kurmanov B: If our government finds out about this, we will deny everything and…

Гриер Д: Вы все равно ничего не делали…

Grier D: You have not done anything yet anyway …

Курманов Б: Нам сейчас, вот этот Ташиев, Жапаров и другие оппозиционеры предлагают нам, да, говорят любые суммы скажите, давайте с нами вместе…

Kurmanov B: At the moment Tashiev, Japarov and other opposition leaders are making offers to us.. They offer us money to join them…

Жунушбаев Э: И последнее слово: Дуглас, мы, как говорится, что мы делаем, говорим, мы делаем. Как его там двуличие, обмануть, лицемерить не будем, лукавить не будем. Ты тоже видел, да, губернатора, на министра говорим… говорим… Делаем, делаем. Завтра уже другого слова не будет да.

Junushbaev E: Lastly, Douglas, we do as we say. No double games, tricks, hypocrisy on our part.. You saw this.. We spoke to the governor, to the minister… We do, we fulfill.. We won't be speaking any differently tomorrow.

Гриер Д: Это не надо говорить, я это знаю.

Grier D: You do not need to say this, I know this.

Жунушбаев Э: Тогда 3-го позвоните, да? После обеда или как?

Junushbaev E: Then you will call us on [August] 3, right? In the afternoon?

Гриер Д: Я утром уезжаю. Ближе к вечеру.

Grier D: I leave in the morning. [So, I will call you] in the late afternoon.

Жунушбаев Э: Дуглас, последнее слово. Ты не боись. Ты позвони мне телефоном

Junushbaev E: Douglas, one last word. Don't be afraid. Call me on the phone.

Гриер Д: Хорошо… здесь ничего личного нету… [My number is] 0775 970162

Grier D: Okay… nothing personal.. 0775 970162

Гриер Д: Позвоните, чтобы это…

Grier D: Call me, to…

Жунушбаев Э: Просто не бойтесь. Мы свое слово держим.

Junushbaev E: Just don't be afraid. We keep our word.

Курманов Б: Если вы хотите дальше работать, с нами надо… как говорится… кроме нас, с Макеевыми, кто вам там обещает…

Kurmanov B: If you want to continue working here, you need to be with us… Besides us [nobody can make this work for you].

Курманов Б: Они уже ничего не решают, вы уже поняли, наверное.

Kurmanov B: [Other local leaders] decide nothing, you have understood this I think.

Дуйшеналиев Т: После того, как вы заявили, они перестали звонить…

Duishenaliev T: After you made your statement they stopped calling…

Жунушбаев Э: Хорошо. Договорились…

Junushbaev E: Good. We are in agreement

September 07 2013

“Central Asia is Watching [Syria] Too”

As the United States and Russia spar over the way ahead in Syria, the governments in Central Asia are following the situation closely, writes Nathan Barrick on

Russia chooses to focus on the perspective that the Syrian government is fighting a battle against Islamic extremists and this message likely resonates with Central Asian governments.  Official silence from Central Asia on Syria should not disguise the real sympathy with Russia’s perspective…

…Central Asia is watching too… not because they will seek to develop and acquire chemical weapons to use against their populations, but to note how much confidence they can place in a security partnership with the United States, or even if they should re-evaluate and partner more closely with Russia.

September 06 2013

Kyrgyzstan Plagued by Bubonic Media Coverage

The story of a 15-year-old boy who died in the eastern part of Kyrgyzstan after contracting the plague caused weeks of excited news coverage both inside and outside the country. But with the tragic case proving isolated, people in the Central Asian republic are now calling for much-needed perspective.

Sanitary services working under the Ministry of Health have ruled out any possibility of an epidemic after the teenager was cremated. The Kyrgyz government has also criticized Russian news portals for stirring groundless panic. Kyrgyzstan's neighbors, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have increased border controls.

A shocking Case

The story, which has been running [ru] since mid-August, began when 15-year-old Temirbek Isakunov visited his relatives in Sary-Jaz village in the eastern Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan, not far from the Chinese border. There the young boy was infected [ru] by a flea from a marmot, orangey-yellow creatures that are an intractable feature of Kyrgyz mountain nature. Some mass media wrote that the family ate the marmot, although there has been no official confirmation of this. He was treated at home until his neck began to swell. Isakunov was taken to a hospital on August 22, where he died on August 25.

A special group of doctors from the capital Bishkek was sent to the region, but they were unable to diagnose the illness until after Isakunov's body was dissected. The doctors ensured people in the surrounding area that the plague would not spread owing to the existence of antibiotics. Roughly one hundred people in contact with the boy were hospitalized for quarantine before being allowed to return [ru] to normal life. Currently there are no signs of a bubonic epidemic among the local marmot population.

The initial reaction of Kyrgyz netizens was summed up [ru] by a comment from 787, a reader of the Vecherniy Bishkek website:

дожили. вот те на, чума!

 Dear me, plague!


Юлия (Julia) wrote [ru]:

даже не вериться,что в наше время опять это страшная болезнь появилась ….ну в принципи опять виноваты чиновники…при союзе еще кто-то работал,а сейчас так кто кому нужен.сами же знают где мы все живем(в горной местности,где таких очегов валам).так почему же вакцинацию не проводят вовремя.обидно за простой народ….

I cannot believe that such a terrible disease has reemerged in our times… Well, again the officials are guilty… In the [Soviet] Union people worked but now no one cares. We know where we live (a mountainous region where there are many such diseases). So why don't they vaccinate people in time? I fear for common people…

Mass Media Drama

The news piece immediately gained attention from Russian mass media. The Kyrgyz government criticized [ru] several platforms for intentionally providing misinformation and “harming the image of Kyrgyzstan as a tourism destination for our neighbors and the whole CIS.” The Kyrgyz blog, headed by local blogger Bektour Iskender, compiled a list of “provocative” news pieces published by Russian news portals that made no reference to the conclusions of professional doctors in Kyrgyzstan:

  • RosBalt [ru]: “Kyrgyzstan is Threatened by a Bubonic Plague Epidemic”
  • NoviyRegion [ru]: “The North of Kyrgyzstan Suffers an Outbreak of Bubonic Plague”
  • RussiaToday [ru]: “Russia May be Threatened by Bubonic Plague from Kyrgyzstan”

But the most outrageous news report was one aired on the Russian channel “Россия 1” (Russia 1). Journalists from “Russia 1″ used footage of migrants from Central Asia and portrayed them as a threat to Russian well-being. An edited clip of the newsreel and a discussion by netizens can be found here [ru].

In the comments to the video, Kloop user Maksik Kuleshov commented [ru]:

зомбо тв на это и расчитывает что бы зомбо смотрящие могли среагировать на очередное зомбо пропаганду..

Zombie-TV relies on its zombie-watchers reacting to yet another piece of zombie-propaganda..

Dmitry Motinov took [ru] a less emotional view of the coverage, but nevertheless criticized it:

для того, чтобы работать в России, каждый мигрант должен пройти и дактилоскопию, и медобследование, даже если он собирается копать огороды у бабы Глаши. так что не надо ля-ля. другое дело, что нелегалы, конечно, этого не делают (но это уже проблема ФМС).

особенно порадовало, что корреспондент ругается на отсутствие перчаток у парня, который расставляет на полки товар в упаковке %) фимозище.

To work in Russia, every migrant must pass both fingerprinting and medical examinations even if he wants to dig up earth in granny Glasha's garden. So please, no bla-bla. On the other hand, illegal [migrants], of course, don't undergo this test, (but this is a problem for the [Russian] Federal Migration Service).

It is especially funny that [Russian] journalists are angered that a [worker in the report] who stacks shelves doesn't wear gloves %). This is pure crap.

Talant Japarov was more succinct [ru]:

фашисты нашли повода

The fascists just found an excuse [to insult Kyrgyz]

Following sensational coverage of the bubonic death, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan strengthened [ru] controls at check-points across their border with Kyrgyzstan, increasing the number of medical checks for foreigners. Chinese and Mongolian sport delegations also revoked [ru] their participation in the XIII International Games for “Asian Cooperation and Peace” which is currently being held at Kyrgyzstan's Lake Issyk-Kul.

No Drama Please

The plague case came as a disproportionately damaging blow to Kyrgyzstan's international image towards the tail end of a tourist season which had already suffered as a result of political disorder [GV]. Now MPs in the parliament are asking their colleagues to stop talking about the incident, and netizens such as Egor (below) are balancing unbalanced coverage with facts.

The tweet of user Егор (Egor) on the news of possible epidemic saying

The tweet of user Егор (Egor) on the news of possible epidemic : “I think the panic about plague is groundless. Cases of plague in our region are registered every year. But epidemics are impossible. Relax.

Central Asia, is the historical heart of the plague. Many historians agree that some of the greatest epidemics were brought to Europe and China by the Mongol warriors or traders through the Silk Road. But while cases of plague are still appearing in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as well as Kyrgyzstan, there is little evidence of a Black Death brewing in the region.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

August 27 2013

Kyrgyzstan to Become a ‘Beam of Light’ in the ‘Dark’ Region?

Blogger Bektour Iskender suggests [ru] that “free” Kyrgyzstan should allow citizens of the less free nations in Central Asia, particularly Turkmenistan, to stay in the country visa-free:

OK, we have [visa-free regime] for citizens of 44 developed nations. This is great.

However, I believe that Kyrgyzstan as the most free country in Central Asia should become something more than just a beautiful country visited by tourists from the West.

It should become the center of knowledge and freedom in the region…

We should understand that we are surrounded by nations that are not free. And we have to become a beam of light in the dark for citizens of these nations. We should become a place where people facing persecution will dream to move…

We should first of all pay our attention to Turkmenistan… [Kyrgyzstan] should become the second home for [persons facing persecution in Turkmenistan].

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