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Month in Review: Central Asia in October 2019

October 2019 in Central Asia was remembered by the selection of Chinese face recognition systems in the capitals of three countries, meetings of regional leaders within the CIS and the Turkic Council, toughening Internet censorship and active cooperation in the military sphere. The analytical platform CABAR.asia provides a brief overview of the most significant events of the region over the past month.


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KAZAKHSTAN

Tokayev on “Valdai”

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, took part in the plenary session of the XVI Annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club at the behest of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. This year, a representative forum uniting authoritative politicians, famous experts and public figures from dozens of countries of the world, was devoted to a discussion of the role of the East in global geopolitics.[1]

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took part in a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club. Photo: akorda.kz

The second president of Kazakhstan, Tokayev, takes part in the forum for the first time. However, the topic of East and Asia is close and well known to the head of state and international diplomat. In his speech, he spoke about the growing role of Asia, outlined the main challenges and problems, and made specific recommendations.

In addition to the heads of Russia and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, King of Jordan Abdullah II and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had a speech at the plenary session.[2]

In Kazakhstan, a scientist was sentenced to 10 years of prison on charges of treason

A court in Almaty sentenced the Sinologist Konstantin Syroezhkin to 10 years in prison on charges of treason.[3] The 63-year-old Syroezhkin, who was identified as a citizen of Kazakhstan in a KNB report, was detained in February this year in connection with an investigation into the alleged leak of state secrets. Details of the case are not given in the committee’s one-sentence report.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), an American newspaper, wrote in their article (dated July 10) with reference to an informed source, that “Syroezhkin may have passed secret documents to China in exchange for a financial reward.” The publication notes that the Chinese authorities described the Syroezhkin case as “news concocted out of thin air.” WSJ drew attention to the fact that Syroezhkin was an adviser on China to the current president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, back in the years when he worked as a prime minister.

A native of Almaty, 63-year-old Konstantin Syroezhkin, was a graduate of the Higher School of the KGB (USSR), and was considered as one of the leading experts on China. He is the author of more than a thousand articles in Russian, English and Chinese. Since 2006, Syroezhkin worked as the chief scientific associate of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of Kazakhstan.

The President of Kazakhstan did not like the new alphabet in Latin

The Kazakh alphabet based on Latin graphics require improvements. This opinion was expressed on Twitter today, October 21, by the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.[4]

“The historic decision on switching to Latin script was made about two years ago. However, there are still flaws in the alphabet. Linguists need to refine the alphabet. I have given the relevant instruction to the Minister of Culture and Sports Aktoty Raimkulova. There is a lot of work ahead,” Tokayev wrote on his page.

On October 26, 2017, Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan at that time, signed a decree on the translation of Kazakh language alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin script. The government was instructed to ensure a phased translation of the Kazakh language alphabet into the Latin alphabet until 2025.

Tokayev banned the construction of the Kok-Zhailau resort

Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev once again spoke about the construction of a ski resort on Kok-Zhailau, which is located near Almaty.[5] At the meeting, as part of a working visit to Almaty, the President called plans for the construction of the resort as a problem. “In order not to return to this issue every time, today I forbid to engage in this project. That is, we do not need the construction of a ski resort on Kok-Zhailau,” said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. “Moreover, all professional ecologists and the competent public are against it,” he added.

Last spring, activists of Save the Kok-Zhailau group sent Tokayev a request to stop the construction of the ski resort and return this natural landmark to the Ile-Alatau National Park.

Tokayev instructed to cancel the registration of foreign citizens in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, the mandatory registration of foreigners with the migration police should be abolished.[6]

 “If we really want to strengthen the investment and tourist attractiveness of the largest cities and the country as a whole, we need to get rid of this anachronism as soon as possible. In addition to inconvenience for foreign guests, compulsory registration is a source of corruption. The very fact that foreign guests have passed border control is migratory registration. Why is digitalization being carried out, about which we discuss so much?” – said the President at a meeting in Almaty.

He added that the government should resolve the issue before the new year. The Minister of Interior affairs, Yerlan Turgumbayev reported to the president that the agency was ready for this.

Now, foreign citizens arriving to Kazakhstan (except for certain categories) are required to register in the internal affairs bodies within five days from the date of crossing the border.

Tokayev expanded the powers of Nazarbayev

The first president of Kazakhstan, the head of the Security Council, Nursultan Nazarbayev, received powers in the field of personnel policy, allowing him to control almost all major appointments in the republic.[7] The decree of the current president of the republic, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, dated October 9, is published in the legal information system of statutory and regulatory enactments.[8]

According to the decree, the president will have power to appoint ministers, with exception of the heads of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. These appointments may occur only after agreement with the head of the Security Council.

The head of the council should agree on the appointments of heads of bodies directly subordinate and accountable to the president of Kazakhstan – the administration and management of the president, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the National Security Committee, the National Bank, the Republican Guard, the foreign intelligence service, the president’s security service, the Accounts Committee for monitoring the execution of the republican budget and anti-corruption agencies.

Presidential spokesman Berik Kurmangali called the decree[9] “orderly” and dictated by the provision of the law “On Security Council”, which was adopted in 2018, even before Nazarbayev resigned.

Grandson of Nazarbayev convicted in London for assaulting a policeman

Aisultan Nazarbayev, 30-year-old grandson of the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was sentenced to probation for assaulting a policeman in London.[10] The sentence involves a probationary period, continued treatment for drug addiction, community service and a fine.

Nazarbayev was found guilty of the fact that, being under the influence of drugs, he resisted the police, hit and bit one of them. According to investigators, the policeman’s hand left a deep bite mark, and “blood flowed plentifully from the wound.”

The sentence involves a trial period of one and a half years. If during this period he breaks the law, the sentence will become conditional.

Tokaev instructed to establish a Chinese face recognition system in the capital

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev praised the method of digitizing personal data in China, saying that Kazakhstan should adopt the experience of Beijing.[11] This statement by Tokayev was made against the backdrop of increased anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan and US sanctions against Chinese companies for the production of video surveillance systems and digital technologies. The president praised Hikvision cameras, which can accurately recognize people’s faces, and instructed the government to work in this direction.

Tokayev at the office of Hikvision in Hangzhou in September 2019. Photo: akorda.kz

The Hikvision company, which is included in the US sanctions list, has been supplying Kazakhstan cities with video surveillance cameras and security equipment for the last three to four years. So far, Hikvision cameras in Kazakhstan control only road safety.


KYRGYZSTAN


Atambayev’s advisor was sentenced to seven years in prison

Ikramzhan Ilmiyanov, a former adviser to ex-president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev, was sentenced to seven years in prison, a fine of 160 thousand KGS ($ 2.3 thousand) and confiscation of property.[12]

The court found Ilmiyanov guilty of receiving $ 150,000 from the Diesel complect company for helping to end the criminal case of tax evasion.

Ilmiyanov moved to the post of adviser to Atambayev from being his driver first, which caused sharp criticism from opponents of the head of state. In October 2018, Ilmiyanov was put on the wanted list; a few days later he was arrested. He became one of the many associates of Atambayev who were persecuted after the ex-president began to deteriorate relations with his successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan may become a participant in a criminal case

Pre-trial proceedings have begun on the payment of $ 11 million by the government of Joomart Otorbaev to Sistem Muhendislik in the case of the Ak Keme hotel.[13]

Joomart Otorbaev. Photo: Founded Shevchenko / Sputniknews.kg

According to the lawyer of Otorbaev, in 2014, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) decided to recover $ 11.4 million from the government of Kyrgyzstan. And the Cabinet, headed by Joomart Otorbaev, transferred this money, although it had no legal grounds.

Otorbaev served as Prime Minister from March 2014 to April 2015. He was criticized even before his resignation for transferring $ 11.4 million.

60 cameras for face recognition were installed in Bishkek

Sponsors purchased 60 cameras with a face recognition system for the Bishkek police department.[14] A digitalized command center for the Central Internal Affairs Directorate is also being created. Its task is to monitor the provision of public (with a system of personal identification and face recognition) and road safety, as well as improving the operational response to messages, statements of citizens and increasing the detection of crimes and misconduct.

Earlier it was reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic and one of the Chinese companies agreed to supply cameras with a face recognition system. Another Chinese company Shenzhen Sunwin Intelligent Co. Ltd will implement the second phase of the Safe City project.

Atambaev refused to appear in court

On October 11, the court was to begin consideration of the first of the cases, in which Atambayev was involved – the case of the unlawful release of the crime boss Aziz Batukaev.[15] But the first meeting failed due to the fact that the ex-president refused to leave the prison cell and go to court. On October 15, the court agreed to hold preliminary hearings without Atambayev’s participation.

Meanwhile, one of Atambayev’s closest associates, former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov, who has been in jail since the summer of 2018 on charges of corruption in the modernization of Bishkek’s TPP, took a similar step. On October 24, he attended yet another court session, but after he was brought to the pre-trial detention center for lunch, he refused to go back. The former prime minister said he would not leave the prison cell until the court agreed to question two witnesses (experts who issued an opinion on the damage).

Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Shinzo Abe met in Tokyo

President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today in Tokyo.[16]

The meeting discussed the prospects for Kyrgyz Japanese bilateral cooperation, the Information Policy Department of the Presidential Administration of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

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Jeenbekov congratulated the Japanese people on the intronization of Emperor Naruhito, noting that Kyrgyzstan attaches great importance to the development of comprehensive cooperation with Japan.

He also thanked for the assistance in developing the economy of Kyrgyzstan, and the implementation of significant socio-economic projects in the country.

Parliamentary elections will be held in October 2020

The Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan has compiled a schedule for elections to the republican and local keneshes for 2020-2023.[17]

The VII convocation of the Jogorku Kenesh will be elected by citizens on October 4, 2020.

The total expenses of the CEC in 2020 will amount to 928 million KGS. 944.5 million KGS were spent on the elections of the Jogorku Kenesh in 2015, and 724.7 million KGS were spent on the presidential elections in 2017. The increase in election costs in 2015 is associated with expenditure on development and use of biometric database of Kyrgyz citizens.


TAJIKISTAN


Uzbekistan and Tajikistan held talks on border demarcation

On October 24-27, in Dushanbe, another yet meeting of the delegations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was held to coordinate the legal issues of Uzbek-Tajik state border demarcation.[18]

During the negotiations, draft regulatory and technical documents on demarcation of the Uzbek-Tajik State border were agreed, as well as a schedule of meetings for 2020, the press service of the Foreign Ministry said. An agreement was reached on introducing the above documents for approval by the Joint Demarcation Commission.

According to the agreement, the first meeting of the Joint Demarcation Commission will be held on the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan

The USA has built a border post for Tajik border troops on Tajik – Afghan border

In Tajikistan, the Okultun border post was opened on the border with Afghanistan by financial support of the USA.[19] The $ 900,000 construction project was funded and implemented by the Military Cooperation Office of the US Embassy in the Republic of Tajikistan. The border post provides the border forces with the potential to continuously monitor and patrol the border with Afghanistan in the Shahritus region of Khatlon oblast. This facility should expand the capabilities of the border troops to monitor and prevent illegal border crossings at a distance of 15-20 kilometers, and also counteracts transnational threats such as drug dealers, smugglers and violent extremists.

US Chargé d’Affaires John Ginkel and Colonel Shohien Abdusattor, Deputy Commander of the Border Troops of the Republic of Tajikistan, attended the opening ceremony of the border post. Photo: tj.usembassy.gov

The US Embassy supported the construction of 9 border posts and 2 detachments along the Tajik – Afghan border in order to strengthen the security of Tajikistan’s borders. Since 2005, the US government has provided assistance of more than $ 100 million to strengthen Tajikistan’s border security.

China will give Tajikistan $ 360 million for road repairs

The lower house of the Tajik parliament has ratified an agreement on the provision of free aid by China in the amount of about $ 360 million.[20] This document was signed by the governments of the two countries on June 15, 2019 during the state visit of President Xi Jinping to Dushanbe.

The Chinese leader announced his intention to provide Tajikistan free aid in the amount of 2.5 billion yuan (about $ 360 million) under the agreements on technical and economic cooperation for 2018-2020 back in 2017, during the visit of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to Beijing.

The funds received will be used for the rehabilitation of roads in the cities of Kulyab and Bohtar, the reconstruction of the Dushanbe-Kulma highway section, as well as for other purposes.

Russia has transferred the C-300 missile system to Tajikistan

For the first time ever, the S-300 Favorit air defense missile system divisional set was transferred to Tajikistan.[21] The main tasks of the division will be to cover the facilities of the 201st military base from aerospace attacks, as well as the air defense of the Central Asian collective security region together with the forces and assets of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan.

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This is the first “Favorit” missile system, which will be on the border with Afghanistan, where international coalition forces operate. Earlier in Central Asia, the S-300 was in service only with Kazakhstan.

Over 1,600 prisoners were amnestied in Tajikistan

On October 25, the lower house of the Tajik parliament approved the law on Amnesty, introduced for deputies’ consideration by president Emomali Rahmon, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the republic.[22] According to the document, more than 20 thousand people fell under the amnesty, including 3,100 prisoners of correctional institutions and 3,000 prisoners who are in penal colony settlements.

Convicted for murder, terrorism and extremism or who have committed crimes against the constitutional order and state security are not subject to amnesty ”.[23] The law also does not apply to those sentenced to life imprisonment, the death penalty, to those whose sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, pardoned by previous amnesty laws and committed repeated crimes, as well as to those who have committed crimes in prison.

Near the correctional institution No. 7 of the city of Dushanbe, October 28, 2019. Photo: asiaplus.info

CSTO military training drill were held in Tajikistan

On October 21–29, at the Harb-Maidon training ground in Tajikistan, the opening of the military training drills of the countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) “Unbreakable Brotherhood-2019” (Нерушимое братство-2019) was held.[24] The first stage of the training was attended by servicemen from Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

During the first stage of the training, the Rapid Deployment Forces of the Central Asian region carried out a counter-terrorist operation on destroying and blocking combat groups and detachments of illegal armed groups.

At the second stage, the CSTO collective peacekeeping forces conducted a peacekeeping operation to maintain peace in the Central Asian region of collective security. The second stage of the joint training was attended by two more foreign military contingents – from Armenia and the Republic of Belarus.

Tajik Supreme Court Recognizes Opposition National Alliance as Terrorists

The opposition National Alliance of Tajikistan (NAT) has been recognized by the Supreme Court of the Republic as a terrorist-extremist association. The corresponding decision was made on August 15 this year, however it became known only now.[25]

According to the press center of the Supreme Court,[26] by its decision, the Supreme Court granted the petition of the Prosecutor General of Tajikistan to recognize NAT as a terrorist and extremist organization.

NAT was created in September 2018 in Warsaw by four Tajik opposition organizations, that are operating abroad. The association includes the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), which is banned in the republic, the Movement for Reform and Progress, the Forum of Free-Thinkers of Tajikistan and the Association of Central Asian Migrants in Europe. Leader of IRPT, Muhiddin Kabiri was appointed as the leader of NAT, who was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in his homeland.

Tajikistan transferred silver deposit to China

On October 1, 2019, the lower house of the Tajik parliament approved the transfer of the Yakdzhilva silver deposit to Chinese investors.[27] The deposit is located in the Murgab district, in the Pamir Mountains at the altitude of 4,500 meters above the sea level. This is the highest mountain deposit in the country. Investors were exempted from their payments for seven years. In particular, all duties on the import of equipment and machinery were canceled. However, the company will be required to hire and train local residents.

At the end of August 2019, it became known that Tajikistan transferred a gold deposit in the Aininsky district to a Chinese company.[28] In Tajikistan, more than 80% of gold is mined by joint Sino-Tajik companies.


UZBEKISTAN


Integration of Uzbekistan to the EAEU

Active discussions, which still continue, provoked a statement by Valentina Matvienko, Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia, who visited Tashkent, on the study of the issue on Uzbekistan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union.

The official reaction from Uzbekistan appeared only at the end of the week. First Deputy Chairman of the Senate Sadik Safayev informed that nobody is forcing the country to integrate into the EAEU,  decision on this issue is still pending, while consultations are underway. He also mentioned that “sufficient progress” in Uzbekistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization is expected soon.

Tashkent police received cameras with face recognition in the crowd

Tashkent district police departments received buses equipped with cameras, which have the function of face recognition in the crowd.[29] 360-degree cameras are able to identify citizens who are caught by cameras, and through the integration of the system into the database, officers of the authorities can quickly establish the identity. The device will be used to prevent criminal actions and fight criminality. These cameras are installed on small buses, which the press service prefers to call mobile centers.

UK and Uzbekistan sign partnership and cooperation agreement in case of Brexit

On October 31, 2019, the United Kingdom signed a political and cooperation agreement with Uzbekistan.[30] This is the first agreement of this kind signed with one of the countries of Central Asia. The agreement, officially known as the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan (PCA), ensures that the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan continue to provide each other with the most-favored nation treatment for trade.

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and British Ambassador to Tashkent Tim Torlot. Photo: British Embassy in Uzbekistan.

The PCA of the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan to the extent possible repeats the existing provisions of the EU PCA. The agreement provides for broad cooperation in the fields of trade and investment, sustainable development, environmental protection and energy, as well as human rights and governance.

This agreement is intended to enter into force when the agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan ceases to apply to the United Kingdom, either after the expiration of the implementation period or through the inaction of Brexit. The agreement will be subject to internal parliamentary procedures in the UK and Uzbekistan until its entry into force.

Uzbekistan acquired a large batch of armored vehicles from Russia

Uzbekistan purchased from Russia a large batch of Typhoon armored vehicles (K53949), and deliveries will begin this year.[31] Earlier in 2019, Uzbekistan had already purchased Russian BTR-82A armored personnel carriers, Tiger armored vehicles, and Sopka-2 radio-detector stations. In addition, a contract is currently in force for the supply of 12 transport and combat helicopters Mi-35M to Uzbekistan.

Typhoon is a fleet of high-security armored vehicles developed by the cooperation of more than 120 enterprises, including the Ural Automobile Factory, Kamaz, Yaroslavl Motor Factory, and Nii stali. They were first demonstrated in 2011 at the training ground, and on May 9, 2014, at the military parade in Moscow (Typhoon-K).

Fined have been calculated for fancy weddings In Uzbekistan

The Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan proposed to fine citizens for holding too fancy weddings in the amount of 2.2 million UZS ($ 230).[32] Such sanctions are spelled out in the draft law posted on the portal for discussion of regulatory legal acts.

Fines are intended not only for organizers of celebrations and holidays, but also for officials of wedding halls, cafes and restaurants. In case of violation of the holiday order, they will have to pay 6.7 million UZS ($ 700). In case of repeated violation within a year after applying the administrative penalty – 11.2 million UZS ($ 1.2 thousand) will be paid.

Weddings under the new rules can last no more than one day (06:00 to 23:00). The number of guests should not exceed 200 people (exceptions with an excess of up to 300 are allowed). The wedding cortege should have no more than three cars. In this case, the mahalla committee must be notified of the marriage in a week.

The comments of Internet users will be taken under control in Uzbekistan

The Agency of Information and Mass Communications (AIMC) under the Presidential Administration of Uzbekistan intends to take control of the removal of information that violates the legislation of the republic, from the Internet, even if it is user’s comment.[33] The norm is contained in the draft government decree, laid out for public discussion.

The AIMC Center for Mass Communications, which monitors websites and instant messengers, will identify information that is contrary to the laws of Uzbekistan and entails criminal and other liability. By information, it is meant articles, information, materials, user comments posted in the public domain.

After the detection of illegal content, the Agency will send a notification to the owners of the resource, including bloggers, with a request to remove the specified publication. The users will be given 24 hours from the receipt of the notification. In case of disobedience, AIMC will file a lawsuit to resolve disputes in court.

The flow of foreigners to Uzbekistan in 2019 increased by 30%

The number of foreign citizens visiting Uzbekistan in January-September 2019 amounted to 6055.3 thousand people. This indicator increased, compared with the corresponding period of last year, by 29.8%.[34]

The number of foreign citizens who entered Uzbekistan on tourist trips that included goals – “official”, “study”, “travel”, “visiting relatives”, “treatment”, “commercial” according to the International Recommendations on Tourism Statistics (UNWTO-2008 ), in January-September 2019 amounted to 4938.5 thousand people and, compared with the corresponding period of 2018, increased by 26.1%.

The largest flow of foreign citizens to the republic was noted from the following countries: Kazakhstan – 1881.0 thousand people (31.1% out of the total number of all arrivals), Tajikistan – 1698.6 (28.1%), Kyrgyzstan – 1086.8 ( 17.9%), Russia – 463.5 (7.7%), Turkmenistan – 412.0 (6.8%),  and Belarus – 14.5 (0.2%).

Mirziyoyev approved the Strategy for the Development of Agriculture 2020-2030

On October 23, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev approved the Strategy for the Development of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020-2030.[35]

In accordance with the Decree, one of the priority areas for the implementation of the Strategy is development and implementation of the state policy on food security, which provides for food safety, and the production of food products in the required quantity.

Also, the Decree approved the composition of the Coordinating Council for the implementation of the Strategy. The Ministry of Agriculture is determined by the working body of the Coordinating Council.

Agriculture, being the leading sector of the economy of Uzbekistan, provides employment for 3.6 million people (27 percent of those employed in the economy as a whole). The industry’s share in the country’s GDP is 32 percent.

Uzbekistan participated in the summit of the Turkic Council as a full member

On October 15, the seventh summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States was held in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku. 

The meeting was attended by the heads of state members of the organization – the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sooronbai Jeenbekov, and the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The event was also attended by the Prime Minister of Hungary (observer country) Viktor Orban, as well as the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, Purli Agamuradov.

For Uzbekistan, this was the first participation in the summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (Turkic Council) as a full member. The Republic joined this authoritative international structure this year.

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At an informal meeting of some heads of the Turkic Council in Baku. Photo: Facebook page of Davut Gazi Benli

The main goal of the organization is to build confidence and relations between the fraternal countries, develop cooperation in trade, economy, transport, energy, tourism and the cultural and humanitarian sphere, and coordinate efforts to ensure peace and security in the region.


TURKMENISTAN


President of Turkmenistan fired the Minister of Internal Affairs

On October 1, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov fired Interior Minister Iskander Mulikov.[36] After hearing the report of the Prosecutor General of Turkmenistan Batyr Atdaev, who in his speech, among other things, stated that Mulikov had taken advantage of his position, Berdimuhamedov announced his dismissal and drove him out of the courtroom.

CIS Summit in Ashgabat

On October 11, a meeting of the Council of CIS Heads of State was held in Ashgabat. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, the President of Moldova Igor Dodon, the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived in the capital of Turkmenistan. The host of the summit is President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, as head of the CIS chairman country.

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The meeting discussed topical issues of interaction within the Commonwealth, including the draft declaration on strategic economic cooperation of the CIS countries. In addition, bilateral meetings of leaders of countries took place on the sidelines of the summit.

The Council of Heads of State decided that Uzbekistan will chair the CIS in 2020. Next year, Turkmenistan is declared as the co-chair of the Commonwealth as a former chairman, and Belarus is the next chairman.

Turkmenistan entered the list of countries with the deterioration of religious freedom

The situation with religious freedom in the first half of 2019 has worsened in several countries,[37] according to a statement issued by the British Foreign Ministry on October 22. 

The statement was a continuation of the 2018 Human Rights and Democracy Report, published by the British government in June. The document provides an updated assessment of 30 “priority countries”, where the human rights situation is of a great concern to the British Foreign Ministry, which in turn believes that “the UK can really make a difference.”

It is noted that in some countries the situation with human rights, including religious ones, is deteriorating. In others, it has slightly improved. Separately noted the existing restrictions on religious freedom in Russia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.

State employees are driven to pick cotton

The population of Turkmenistan continues to pick cotton.[38] According to independent media outlets, currently there are many employees of state institutions and enterprises are involuntary involved in agricultural work among the cotton pickers in the fields.

The “cotton shift” lasts 10 days. Workers should take food with them, as well as provide themselves with housing. There are no living conditions in remote areas. Most workers prefer to ransom from the forced cotton picking.

Despite international criticism for the use of forced labor in cotton production, the Turkmen authorities do not abandon the practice of forced labor.

Several VPNs and access to Google’s cloud blocked in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan has blocked access to Google’s cloud data storage.[39] 

Blocking occurs by replacing the DNS server and issuing a false IP address. As a result, the page requested by the user is supposedly inaccessible.

Also, over the past month, several of the most popular VPN applications have been blocked in the country, with the help of which citizens bypassed the country’s Internet blocking.[40]

Free VPN services, paid ones, and even those created by local specialists taking into account the Turkmen specifics are also blocked. Sources also note that most often residents of Turkmenistan do not install VPNs themselves. This service is provided for a fee by repair technicians or phone sellers. Recently, due to the tightening of control, citizens began to abandon attempts to bypass blocking. They do not want to pay for installing a VPN, which will be blocked within few days.


This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.


[1] What Tokayev spoke about at Valdai. Tengrinews.kz. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/o-chem-govoril-tokaev-na-valdae-380700/

[2] A shaky miracle and a new cold war – Tokaev outlined the problems of Asia on the Valdai. Sputniknews.kz. https://ru.sputniknews.kz/politics/20191004/11690225/tokaev-valday-vystuplenie.html

[3] In Kazakhstan, the scientist Syroezhkin was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of treason. Maxala.org. https://maxala.org/kazahstan/71974-v-kazahstane-uchenyj-syroezhkin-prigovoren-k-10-godam-tjurmy-po-obvineniju-v-gosizmene.html

[4] The President of Kazakhstan did not like the new Latin alphabet. Eadaily.com. https://eadaily.com/en/news/2019/10/21/prezidentu-kazahstana-ne-ponravilsya-novyy-alfavit-na-latinice

[5] Tokaev banned the construction of the Kok-Zhailau resort. Fergana.agency. https://www.fergana.agency/news/112051/

[6] The head of state held a meeting on the development of the city of Almaty. The official website of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. https://www.akorda.kz/ru/events/astana_kazakhstan/working_trips/glava-gosudarstva-provel-soveshchanie-po-voprosam-razvitiya-goroda-almaty

[7] Nazarbayev received powers in the field of appointment of ministers and heads of regions. Fergana.agency. https://fergana.agency/news/111846/

[8] On amendments and additions to some acts of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Public services and information online. https://egov.kz/cms/ru/law/list/U1900000184

[9] A spokesman for Tokaev commented on a decree on the coordination of personnel with Nazarbayev. Azattyk.org. https://rus.azattyk.org/a/30228338.html

[10] The grandson of ex-President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev received a suspended sentence for an attack on a policeman in London. BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-50090710

[11] “Recognizes even masked people.” Does Kazakhstan need Hikvision cameras? Azattyk.org. https://rus.azattyq.org/a/kazakhstan-china-survelliance-camera/30210035.html

[12] Ikramzhan Ilmiyanov was sentenced to seven years in prison. 24.kg. https://24.kg/obschestvo/133639_ikramjana_ilmiyanova_prigovorili_ksemi_godam_lisheniya_svobodyi/

[13] The former prime minister is accused of withdrawing funds. Transferred $ 11 million to foreigners. 24.kg. https://24.kg/obschestvo/133634_eks-premera_obvinyayut_vvyivode_sredstv_perechislil_11_millionov_inostrantsam/?fbclid=IwAR3UMMeuB4EMzs8UpTrG0qB-pKSrAcZ8yVtyucevteevtevecvteyucevteevecvtezucrte

[14] 60 cameras are installed in Bishkek for face recognition. Sputniknews.kg. https://ru.sputnik.kg/society/20191029/1046086039/kyrgyzstan-mvd-kamera-pokupka-sponsor.html

[15] The Batukaev case. Lawyers do not know how to bring Almazbek Atambayev to court. 24.kg. https://24.kg/obschestvo/133190_delo_batukaeva_kak_dostavit_vsud_almazbeka_atambaeva_yuristyi_neznayut/

[16] Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Shinzo Abe met in Tokyo. What was discussed. Kabar.kg. http://www.kabar.kg/news/v-tokio-sostoialas-vstrecha-sooronbaia-zheenbekov-i-sindzo-abe-chto-obsudili/

[17] The parliamentary elections will be held on October 4, 2020, and the BGK will be elected on April 11, 2021. 24.kg. https://24.kg/vlast/132799_parlamentskie_vyiboryi_proydut_4oktyabrya_2020goda_bgk_izberut_11aprelya_2021-go/

[18] Uzbekistan and Tajikistan held talks to demarcate the border. Ca-news.org. http://ca-news.org/news:1574045

[19] The US Embassy has built a post for the border troops of the Republic of Tajikistan on the Tajik-Afghan border. US Embassy in Tajikistan. https://tj.usembassy.gov/ru/pr-11012019-ru/

[20] China will give Tajikistan another grant. $ 360 million will go on roads in Khatlon and GBAO. ASIA-Plus. https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/economic/20191030/kitai-predostavit-tadzhikistanu-ocherednoi-grant-v-360-mln

[21] The Ministry of Defense showed a video of the transfer of the S-300 to the border with Afghanistan. RBK. https://www.rbc.ru/politics/26/10/2019/5db45b1b9a79472abb4c7664

[22] Amnesty declared in Tajikistan / In Tajikistan, more than 1,600 prisoners have already been released under amnesty. ASIA-Plus. https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/laworder/20191028/v-tadzhikistane-na-svobodu-po-amnistii-uzhe-vishli-bolee-1-600-zaklyuchennih

[23] In Tajikistan, hundreds of prisoners were released under an amnesty. Azattyk.org. https://rus.azattyq.org/a/tajikistan-prison-freedom-amnesty/30241546.html

[24] CSTO teachings, “Indestructible Brotherhood – 2019” begin in Tajikistan. TASS. http://0s.mz2w4y3unfxw4.nvuwyltsou.cmle.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12257822@egNews

[25] The Supreme Court of Tajikistan recognized the opposition National Alliance as terrorists. Fergana.agency. https://fergana.agency/news/111636/

[26] REFERENCES. http://www.sud.tj/markazi-mat Press/khabarho/284/

[27] Tajikistan gave the Chinese company a silver deposit, exempting it from taxes for seven years. Current time https://www.currenttime.tv/a/tajikistan-silver-china/30193479.html

[28] Chinese investors took into development a group of gold deposits in Tajikistan. Current time https://www.currenttime.tv/a/tajikistan-gold-mining-china/30131784.html

[29] Modern high-tech tools – to help the internal affairs bodies. Website of the Central Internal Affairs Directorate of Tashkent. https://iibb.uz/ru/news/sovremen

[30] UK and Uzbekistan sign partnership and co-operation agreement. Gov.uk. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/united-kingdom-and-uzbekistan-sign-partnership-and-cooperation-agreement

[31] Uzbekistan purchased a large batch of Typhoons from Russia, a source said. RIA News. https://ria.ru/20191029/1560329416.html

[32] The Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan calculated fines for magnificent weddings. Fergana.agency. https://fergana.agency/news/111960/v

[33] The comments of Internet users in Uzbekistan will be taken under control. Fergana.agency. https://fergana.agency/news/111828/

[34] Persons who entered and left the Republic of Uzbekistan in January-September 2019. STATE COMMITTEE

REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN BY STATISTICS. https://stat.uz/en/press-tsentr/novosti-komiteta/7475-litsa-v-ekhavshie-i-vyekhavshie-iz-respubliki-uzbekistan-v-yanvare-sentyabre-2019-goda-23232

[35] The Strategy for the Development of Agriculture for 2020-2030 was approved. UZ Daily. http://uzdaily.uz/ru/post/47066

[36] The President of Turkmenistan dismissed Interior Minister Mulikov. Radio Azatlyk. https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30195105.html

[37] British government notes ‘deterioration’ of religious freedom in several countries. Crux.com. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-uk-and-ireland/2019/10/23/british-government-notes-deterioration-of-religious-liberty-in-several-countries/

[38] State employees of Turkmenistan continue to pick cotton. Radio Azatlyk. https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30221662.html

[39] Turkmentelecom has blocked Google’s cloud storage. Turkmen News. https://turkmen.news/news/turkmentelekom-zablokiroval-oblachnoe-hranilishhe-dannyh-google/

[40] Turkmenistan has tightened control over VPN applications. Chronicle of Turkmenistan. https://www.hronikatm.com/2019/10/vpn-bolonok/

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