KAZAKSTAN: LANGUAGE TENSIONS MOUNT  Ban on official use of Russian in southern 
region rattles non-Kazak speakers.  By Gaziza Baituova in Taraz

who join Hizb-ut-Tahrir as mere puppets of the men in the banned group, but 
still insist they must be locked up for years on end.  By Madina Saifiddinova 
in Khujand

UNHAPPY JOB SWAPS FOR TURKMEN TEACHERS  When street cleaners are redeployed to 
work on farms, schoolteachers are forced take their place.  By IWPR staff in 

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Ban on official use of Russian in southern region rattles non-Kazak speakers.

By Gaziza Baituova in Taraz

Russian-speakers in the Jambyl region of southern Kazakstan are facing a 
bureaucratic nightmare. Almost overnight, any dealing with officialdom has to 
be conducted in Kazak - a language few of them understand.

"I wanted to submit a complaint to the authorities, but after looking at my 
letter the security guard refused to let me into the offices because it wasn't 
written in the state language," said Yadmin Yaroslavova, a Taraz resident.

At the end of May, the deputy governor of the region, Kenesbek Demeshev 
suddenly announced that Kazak would be the sole language used for local 
government business, leaving the non-Kazak community, just under a third of 
Jambyl's population, bewildered and angry.

"This is a direct violation of Kazak laws," complained Yaroslavova. She has a 
point: Russian and Kazak are both official languages, although the latter has 
higher status as the "state language".

The governor's draconian ruling brings into sharp focus a long-running debate 
over the Kazak language that threatens to alienate the country's Slav 

Although Kazak is officially the principal language of local government 
business in the Jambyl region, as opposed to many other provinces which are 
required to make the transition by 2010, the state programme that set out the 
process in 2001 made it clear that documents submitted in Russian would 
continue to be acceptable across the country. 

Ever since independence, efforts have been made to encourage Kazak language 
usage. But these have been mostly poorly-executed. As a result, the use of 
Kazak has diminished while the number of people who count themselves as Russian 
speakers has steadily grown - today they represent 85 per cent of the 

Attempts to encourage the use of Kazak have included special programmes for 
civil servants, teaching materials for schools and an insistence that 
television stations give equal time to Kazak- and Russian-language broadcasts.  

But civil servants have complained of badly organised courses; teachers have 
been critical of the quality of the materials they have been asked to use; 
while broadcasters have sneaked the Kazak programmes into overnight schedules 
when audiences are negligible.  

Notwithstanding the lack of progress on this front, the Jambyl authorities' 
decision to take such drastic action has been greeted with incredulity. 

Some have suggested that they panicked after money allocated by central 
government for the development of the Kazak language had been used for other 
purposes, such as sprucing up the city of Taraz.   

Demeshev may have also calculated that his move would not provoke too much of a 
storm since Kazaks make up 69 per cent of the local population - one of the 
highest concentrations of the indigenous ethnic group anywhere in the country.

But whatever his thinking, non-government groups and cultural organisations 
were keen to make their feelings known, railing against the edict in a joint 
memorandum on June 19. 

"No one will convince us that restricting the use of Russian will in any way 
assist the development of Kazak, just as one nationality [ethnic group] cannot 
flourish by infringing the rights of others," said Svetlana Chautina, the head 
of the Russian community in Taraz. 

It's unclear how the government will respond to the Jambyl episode, but there 
are signs that it wants to devote more energy to encouraging the use of Kazak - 
it has instructed the committee for languages, which comes under the culture 
ministry of culture, to come up with new approaches to the problem. 

"Russian is the most widely used language in Kazakstan, while the state 
language is in second place. We must maintain the level of use of Russian, and 
by 2010 bring the development of the Kazak language to the same level," said 
culture and information minister Ermukhamet Ertysbaev.

Government critics are not convinced by such pledges, suggesting that there is 
little reason to believe officials when their record on promoting Kazak over 
the years has been so poor. 

"We have ministers who don't know Kazak - what can we expect from ordinary 
citizens?" said Dos Kushim, the leader of the nationalist political movement 
Ult Dabyly (Destiny of the Nation).

In particular, Kushim berates the education and culture ministries for failing 
to deliver on targets set in the late Nineties, and says there must be more of 
a focus on using television to boost Kazak language use.

"Television channels must obey the law and give 50 per cent of airtime to 
broadcasts in Kazak, as the law requires. There must be an end to the tendency 
for a number of television channels to run these programmes [after] midnight," 
said Kushim.

Kushim and his supporters insist that if real progress is to be made, the 1997 
law on languages which effectively gave Russian and Kazak parity should be 
replaced by new legislation whose clear objective is the revival of the local 
language, "We would like all of Kazakstan's citizens to know Kazak just as well 
as Russian."

Such talk alarms organisations which represent other ethnic groups, who point 
out that maintaining the linguistic balance is vital for ethnic harmony.

"A revision of language laws will lead to the departure of the Russian 
population and provoke conflicts within Kazakstan," warned Ivan Klimoshenko, 
the head of the Slavic group Lad.

Gaziza Baituova is an IWPR correspondent in Taraz.


The authorities dismiss women who join Hizb-ut-Tahrir as mere puppets of the 
men in the banned group, but still insist they must be locked up for years on 

By Madina Saifiddinova in Khujand

The authorities in Tajikistan have begun meting out hefty prison sentences to 
female members of the Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, but appear to be at a loss 
to explain what drives women to join the banned movement. 

At series of trials ending in late May, a court in Khujand, the main town in 
the northern Sogd region where Hizb-ut-Tahrir is particularly active, nine 
women received sentences of between five and 11 years for associating the 
group, which has been illegal since 2001.

None was accused of acts of violence, and the most serious charge was calling 
for the state to be overthrown. Other accusations were that they had 
distributed leaflets and recruited new female members.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir - the "Party of Liberation" - is originally of Middle Eastern 
origin, but took root in Central Asia in the Nineties amid political ferment 
and economic decline. It first became active in Uzbekistan, calling for the 
creation of a "Caliphate" based on the early Muslim states, but while it called 
for a change in government to achieve this, it always professed non-violence. 

The authorities in Central Asia have accused Hizb-ut-Tahrir of masterminding 
various acts of violence across the region, although such allegations have 
proved difficult to substantiate independently.  

The organisation has survived thousands of arrests of real and supposed members 
in Uzbekistan through a tight structure of isolated, underground party cells, 
and has spread to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, initially through 
ethnic Uzbek communities but also embracing other groups. 

Governments in the region dislike opposition of any kind, and are especially 
fearful when it comes in the form of political Islam - which appears to offer 
simple solutions to the region's unsurmountable problems of economic, political 
and social marginalisation - and is based on a tradition with deeper roots than 
either Soviet Communism or the neo-nationalism which emerged from it. 

One of the women was identified as head of a female cell of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and 
got 11 years in prison because of her active role in disseminating propaganda, 
according to Sogd deputy prosecutor Asatillo Urunov.

The nine convicted in this trial were among 21 women arrested in Sogd region on 
similar charges since the beginning of the year.

Urunov said the authorities only started arresting women on a wide scale this 
year, in response to a perceived change in their role in the Hizb-ut-Tahrir 

"Until 2006, there were virtually no women among Hizb-ut-Tahrir members who 
were arrested," he said. "Previously, we did not charge them because our 
legislation is humane, but they abused this and began to become active."

The reasons that prompt women to join the Islamic group are unclear. Officials 
talk variously about pressure from male relatives, financial gain, or as one 
investigator put it, "fanaticism". But are these assessments over-simplistic?

The thrust of the May court case was that the women only joined Hizb-ut-Tahrir 
because their husbands, brothers or other relatives forced them to.

Marhabo Turdimatova, the judge in one of the May trials, told IWPR, "It was 
very painful to see the tears of a husband - a Communist - when his wife was 
sentenced for membership of the extremist [Hizb-ut-Tahrir] party, which she 
joined under her brother's influence," 

The sister of a woman sentenced to ten years in jail, speaking on condition of 
anonymity, said she had been forced to join Hizb-ut-Tahrir by her husband. 

"When she discovered that her husband was actively engaged in propaganda work, 
she initially tried to talk him out of it, but he got very angry and even hit 
her. And then he started forcing her to do propaganda work and hand out 
leaflets among the women in our street. She resisted, but he threatened to 
divorce her and take the children with him," said the woman's sister.

"Now she will be separated from her four children for many years, and she's 
only 40."

Another route to membership is recruitment by existing members. Even the 
purported ringleader is said by prosecutors to have joined after meeting other 
wives while visiting her husband in prison. 

In a country where poverty and unemployment are endemic, modest sums of money 
are said to have acted as a powerful incentive. Prosecutors say defendants 
admitted to receiving up to 30 US dollars for delivering leaflets. "For 
carrying out an errand like this, they received the average monthly salary of 
some public-sector employees," said a prosecution official.

A more sophisticated argument is that women really are taking a more assertive 
role in Hizb-ut-Tahrir, if only because so many men have been rounded up. 

"When they saw that the law-enforcement agencies had stepped up  arrests of 
devoted male supporters, they handed over certain powers to women," lawyer 
Muhabbat Juraeva told IWPR. 

But if the official line is that the women of Hizb-ut-Tahrir are passive 
victims who have been coerced and led astray, the question remains why the 
authorities feel they need to lock them up for a decade or more. 

The establishment view seems to be overwhelmingly punitive. 

Even a legal aid lawyer in Sogd region, Gulchekhra Rahmonova, is unsympathetic 
towards those who get caught up in Hizb-ut-Tahrir for whatever reason. 

"Everyone is equal before the law, and it makes no difference if you are a 
women or a man. Judges only take into account whether women have underage 
children. Ten years in prison is a minimum prison sentence, given that 
Hizb-ut-Tahrir men get 15 years for this crime," said Rahmonova, who is head of 
the regional branch of the INIS Legal Aid Centre.

"Only punishment can - in part - stop them from crimes. They are committing 
crimes against the state. Not punishing them means acknowledging their 

Such views appear to ignore the possibility that women might be active 
participants in Hizb-ut-Tahrir in their own right, and join it out of genuine 
religious conviction, even if that is misplaced. 

The suggestion that the women are ignorant and easily manipulated is weakened 
by reports that many of them have had a college or university education. 

"You can't say the party members are uneducated. There are women who've had a 
higher education - in fact, about half of them. One, for example, is a 
paediatrician from the local polyclinic," said judge Turdimatova. 

According to deputy prosecutor Urunov, "Each witness says that the women wear 
hijab [Islamic dress], say the namaz [prayer] five times a day, borrow books 
from their fellow party members, and take part in women's meetings every day."

A woman who was jailed in a separate trial from the nine convicted in May 
apparently became convinced that Hizb-ut-Tahrir was a good thing after her 
husband underwent a complete reform under the group's influence. Her 
sister-in-law, who did not want to be named, recalled, "He drank a lot and 
often, and when he was drinking he'd beat her up - the family was falling 
apart. He changed radically in 2004: he started praying, and was bringing money 
home. It turned out he'd joined Hizb-ut-Tahrir."

The wife followed her husband into the organisation, but both are now in prison 
- she for ten years, he for 16. 

A man whose son is already in jail for membership of the Islamic group recalled 
how his daughter-in-law, too, was drawn in - apparently through conviction. 
"She'd shut herself away in her room and read books. She was constantly meeting 
up with women wearing the hijab," he said. 

"We warned her not to join the banned party, but she said it was her destiny."

Madina Saifiddinova is an IWPR contributor in northern Tajikistan.


When street cleaners are redeployed to work on farms, schoolteachers are forced 
take their place. 

By IWPR staff in London

Like a swarm of ants, scores of people rummage around the pile of demolished 
buildings, clearing away bricks and other bits and pieces of masonry. With no 
gloves to protect their hands and glum expressions on their faces, these 
workers appeared to be labouring under sufferance.

This is hardly surprising, as these workers are in fact teachers who have been 
corralled into the clearance operation by the city authorities in the eastern 
city of Turkmenabat, formerly Charjou, who have no labourers to do the job.  

In a move that reflects a wider policy of forcing public sector employees to 
work in areas other than their own, the cash-strapped city administration has 
given the teachers no choice in the matter. If they refuse to do general 
labouring and cleaning tasks for the municipality, they will lose their jobs. 

President Saparmurat Niazov effectively gave the green light for this form of 
exploitation last year, when he began using soldiers to cover for hospital 
staff sacked in a massive cost-cutting exercise.   

Although Turkmenistan is a major exporter of gas, the revenues do not appear to 
reach the central government budget, which frequent cuts in jobs and benefits 
suggest is strapped for cash.

In Turkmenabat, while white-collar state employees such as teachers and doctors 
are being dragooned into clearing streets and collecting rubbish after work and 
at weekends, the municipal cleaners who should be really doing the job are 
dispatched, along with many factory workers, to the cotton fields. They spend 
up to three weeks at a time there weeding and thinning out young crops in 
preparation for the harvest.

The exercise is strongly reminiscent of Soviet "subbotniks", when people had to 
turn out for voluntary work at the weekend. In post-Soviet Turkmenistan, 
though, the exercise has something of the absurd about it, as everyone seems to 
be doing someone else's job.

"We are forced to work everywhere that the municipal workers should be working. 
We teachers sweep and clean the streets, pick up rubbish on lawns, and trim 
trees and bushes," said history teacher Raisa Maximova. "We are forced to work 
both weekdays and weekends. But we too have families, children. When can we 
give them any attention if we work with virtually no days off?"

Her colleague, mathematics teacher Batyr Yazyev, spoke of the difficulties of 
combining two jobs. "Every day for two or three hours after teaching lessons, 
we work in these ruins. Is this part of our professional duties?" he asked. 
"The end of the school year is the most intense time at school. There are 
school reports, exam preparations, and repairs to classrooms."

A senior official in the local education department admitted that the 
authorities were putting teachers under unbearable pressure. 

"Teachers [already] have an incredible burden: preparing for lessons, marking 
work, and meeting parents," he said. "We must take teachers' time into account. 
After all, they are laying the foundation for the most important thing of all - 
the future generation of the country, as bombastic as that may sound."

Teachers are bitter and frustrated at having to pay for the inefficiency of 
bureaucrats. "The city authorities solve their economic problems at the 
teachers' expense, thus violating their labour and constitutional rights," said 
a representative of the teachers' union.

While the teachers feel aggrieved, they can at least consider themselves 
fortunate not to be shipped off to toil in the cotton fields, as many other 
urban workers are.

"We're sent out to the fields by force, dozens of kilometres from the city," 
said Batyr Arslanov, whose real job is at a textiles fire. "The management 
ignores our family circumstances. The order comes to the workshops and we are 
divided into shifts and sent off for ten or 15 days at a time."

To add insult to injury, the "volunteers" have to fork out the cost of both 
getting to the fields and food provisions for the duration of their time there.

Some find creative solutions such as the staff at one Turkmenabat plant, who 
pay villagers to do their work for them. 

Others end up being forced into resigning, like Lachin Mamedova, who left her 
job at a silk factory. 

"I have three children, my husband works, and I cannot leave my family and 
children for two or three weeks and travel a long way from home," she said. 
"The management gave me a choice - either go to the fields or write a letter of 
resignation. I chose the latter. Another four employees at our factory did the 

(The names of people speaking in this article have been changed for safety 

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