Stories from Quick Reads and Uzbekistan
A group of young activists in Pavlodar, a city in northeastern Kazakhstan, have founded a movement aimed at teaching manners to drivers. The young people confront motorists who park on sidewalks or in other improper places and ask them to move the vehicles to designated parking spots. The movement coordinates its activities and recruits activists via social media.
A Kazakhstani blogger interviews [ru] the founder of the movement:
When we just began to carry out our raids, motorists often threatened us and told that we were not police, using very offensive language. This is the only problem we have encountered so far. We are seeking support from the authorities because we help them enforce the law and ensure public order…
Renowned Russian sports newscaster has apologized for mistaking the national team of Uzbekistan for that of Tajikistan during a live television broadcast from this year's Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Responding to thousands of angry messages addressed to him through social media sites, Dmitry Guberniev posted [ru] an apology on his website:
Dear residents of Uzbekistan!
I would like to apologize for a mistake I made while reporting from the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Sochi. I will try to be more accurate in future.
I wish your athletes success [at the Games]!
EurasiaNet.org presents “Twenty Photos Uzbekistan Does Not Want You to See“, a collection of black-and-white images by photojournalist Timur Karpov. The photos were removed [ru] from a group exhibition at Tashkent's House of Photography two hours before the beginning of the show on January 25, apparently because they were deemed to be “undermining” national pride. Another photographer whose images were deemed “offensive” by the organizers of the show is Svetlana Ten. Her photos can be seen here.
Karpov is one of the eight activists who were detained by Uzbek police on January 29, after an unsanctioned rally in support of protesters in Ukraine. Karpov was ordered by court to pay a fine of around 1,000 US dollars and has now been released.
The Aral Sea lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was once one of the world's four largest lakes. Over the last five decades, however, the sea has lost over 90 percent of its original size, mainly as a result of disastrous irrigation projects which diverted rivers feeding it. On the Caravanistan travel blog, Aziz Murtazaev presents a photo report about his recent trip to the “dying sea”. A more detailed report by the blogger, in Russian, can be accessed here and here.
After disappearing from Twitter yesterday, Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's “enduring dictator“, has returned to the micro-blogging service. In a flurry of angry tweets, Gulnara is blaming [ru] her mother for using intimidation and arbitrary arrests against her colleagues, allies, and business partners. Gulnara also suggests that her mother is preventing her from seeing Islam Karimov, her 74-year-old father who has ruled the country since 1989.
In a post re-tweeted by Gulnara, one of her followers wrote today [ru]:
— Елена (@elenapetuhov) November 22, 2013
@GulnaraKarimova fires like a good machine gun; her account is open.
As Kazakhstan prepares for a highly controversial shift from Cyrillic script to Latin alphabet, its netizens are keen to note that a similar reform implemented years ago by Uzbekistan has not been very successful. Reflecting on her recent trip to Uzbekistan, Margarita Bocharova writes [ru]:
It was also very interesting to see for myself whether Uzbekistan has fully switched to the Latin script. You know, it hasn't at all. I would say that only about half (or even less) of all signs that we passed were written in Latin alphabet. The rest [was written] in Cyrillic script…
Generally, this has only reinforced my conviction that forcing a language to follow state-dictated policy is so difficult that it is hardly possible at all within 20 years or so.
After going offline for about a week, the top Russian-language social network service Odnoklassniki has become available again to tens of thousands of users in Uzbekistan. Blogger Doch’ Bukhari (Bukhara's Daughter) explains [ru] why Internet users in the Central Asian country choose this social network over other ones and why the network is “addictive like a drug”.
Uzbek Music Friday is a (rare) feature in which I post a pop music video from an artist in Uzbekistan. It could be catchy, annoying, funny, insightful, brilliant, awful, or anything in between. It’s what’s playing on the radio, what all the cool kids are listening to these days… [It] gives you a glimpse into how pop music is done on this side of the world.
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”.
[The system is so inadequate and outdated that] a wealthy few head to foreign countries for medical treatment, drawing on their own savings and often those of their close relatives, whereas the majority poor can only hope not to get sick. They have nobody to rely on except for God.
On January 29, police in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, detained eight individuals for picketing the Ukrainian embassy in support of Euromaidan protesters. Those arrested for holding an unsanctioned rally included a prominent photographer Umida Akhmedova, photojournalist Timur Karpov, and culture blogger Alex Ulko. Following the activists’ arrest, blogging platform NewEurasia.net asserted:
What happens when you mix Kiev politics with Tashkent security? Disaster.
Yesterday, a court in Tashkent sentenced three of the detained activists to 15 days in jail. Another four activists were ordered to pay fines. An eighth activist is still awaiting trial.
Qaraqalpaqstan (or Karakalpakstan) is one of the least-known “stans” of Central Asia. Part of Uzbekistan, this region is a true gem for a curious traveler. On the Caravanistan blog, Steven writes about this “forgotten stan”:
…Living under the shadow cast by the desiccation of the Aral Sea, this little-known stan has gotten a bad rep and has drawn mostly disaster tourism in recent years.
Tourists with an open eye, an extra day to loiter and the imagination to appreciate the weight of history, the power of landscape and the nomadic traditions of a desert nation however, will find Karakalpakstan a fascinating place…
Most surprising is the long history of the region. Places like the UNESCO World heritage desert castles of Toprak Qala, Ayaz Qala, Koy-Kirilgan Qala, Big Guldursun, Pil Qala, Anka Qala, Kurgashin Qala and Djanbas Qala Mizdakhan give an inkling of a once-blooming society, the powerful state of Khorezm that guarded part of the ancient Silk Road. These are places few foreigners get to see, and they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of archaeological treasures strewn around in the desert…
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.
The authorities in Uzbekistan are seeking to impose strict controls on the country's bloggers. Alisher Abdugofurov on Registan.net shares his opinion about why this is happening in a society where there are not many bloggers to start with.
On Registan.net Noah Tucker reports that the 71-year-old father of an Uzbek opposition politician has disappeared in police custody in Uzbekistan. The authorities intimidate the elderly man (as well as scores of his relatives) apparently because his son founded an opposition party that had been quite successful in mobilizing supporters in the Central Asian nation.
Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the infamous President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, is very different from the children of the leaders of other countries in Central Asia. A Harvard graduate, she has served as Uzbekistan's ambassador to UN in Geneva. She has also launched a pop singing career, a fashion line, a perfume, and a charity. Karimova is also very active in social media, and her provocative Twitter posts and photos shared on Instagram often raise eyebrows among the mostly conservative audiences in Uzbekistan and other countries in the region. Blogger Ayana Seidimbek presents [ru, en] a collection of the most controversial posts and images the ‘Uzbek princess’ has shared in social media.
On Registan.net, Noah Tucker speculates about what is wrong with the way Central Asian governments deal with religious activity that is not sanctioned by the state:
[I]n former Soviet Central Asia there is little debate that the root problem [of extremist beliefs] is “foreign ideas,” defined so broadly as to become a target of opportunity for both every political purpose and every local policeman or official’s ambition. Any sign of dissent from state policies or ideology <…> can be enough to bring the wrath of the state, sometimes with great violence.