Stories from Quick Reads and Kyrgyzstan
Neweurasia.net report on the upcoming release of Kyrgyzstan's first animated film, Aku, drawn by Tolgobek Koichumanov. Judging by the trailer Koichumanov's illustrations will offer the perfect introduction to Kyrgyzstan, capturing both the republic's startlingly beautiful nature as well as the less startlingly beautiful aesthetic of its capital city, Bishkek. According to neweurasia.net:
The animated film tells the story of love between two people, which passed through the barriers of distance and time. A guy named Maksat and a girl named Aku had been friends since childhood. They grew up in a quiet little village on the shore of a mountain lake. And there wasn’t a day when they were separated from each other. Aku dreamed of seeing Paris, Maksat wanted to become an artist. Then the fate played a cruel joke with the characters, but like any other blessed love stories, the story of Maksat and Aku is going to have a real happy end.
The recent opening of an Islamic prayer room in the Kyrgyz parliament has triggered a heated online debate about the boundaries between the state and religion in the Central Asian country. Responding to criticisms, MPs designed and circulated among journalists and bloggers a six-page document suggesting that prayer houses in parliament or government buildings were common across countries.
Kloop.kg provides [tj] the full text of the document, claiming that it is the “first time” that the country's parliamentarians make such an effort to explain themselves publicly.
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 kloop.kg, 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…
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. Kloop.kg 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.
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.
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.
More than 20 young activists from the Central Asian nations of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are learning the basics of blogging at a summer school in northern Tajikistan. Rustam Gulov reports [ru] on Blogiston.tj that participants at the summer school learn to use social media to contribute to public debates on how best to address the region's most pressing social problems.
Most girls and women in Kyrgyzstan are afraid of leaving their homes alone when it gets dark, believing that a dark street is the most frequent crime scene in the country. In reality, as SQ blog suggests [ru], four out of five crimes against women in the country take place at their homes and are committed by their husbands or other relatives.
The parliament of Kyrgyzstan is considering a bill that criminalizes any activity seen as promoting “a positive attitude toward non-traditional sexual relations”. Very similar to Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, the bill is expected to become law soon. Meanwhile, a Kyrgyz blogger argues [ru] that the bill which is targeting the members of the LGBT community will also impact a much broader segment of the country's population – the younger, heterosexual Kyrgyz who do not always share their parents and grandparents’ views on sexuality.
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”.
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.
Commenting on Suleyeva's blog post, other social media users discuss additional reasons for loving the city.
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.
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.
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.
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].
UnitedKyrgyzstan blog tells [ru] a story of the daily struggle for clean water faced by women and children in many parts of rural Kyrgyzstan:
It is the task of women and children to queue up for drinking water and then carry home heavy tanks with water through hundreds of meters of broken rural roads…
Personal appearance can tell a lot about a person and his nation. Traditional clothes of the Kyrgyz people is important part of material and spiritual culture of the nation, and it is closely linked with the country’s history
Nurzhan Kadyrkulova writes about the historical evolution and cultural significance of traditional Kyrgyz clothing.
After lengthy debates, the parliament in Kyrgyzstan has adopted legislation banning young women from travelling abroad without parental consent. On Registan.net, Alisher Abdug'oforov suggests that the new legislation not only violates the country's constitution, but is also unlikely to solve any problems it is designed to address.