ANDIJAN REFUGEES SENT BACK TO UZBEKISTAN  The Kyrgyz government stands accused 
of trading refugee rights for a better political relationship with Tashkent.  
By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek for IWPR

UNBLOCKING TAJIKISTAN'S GIANT DAM PROJECT  Tajik officials complain Russia's 
RUSAL firm is not moving ahead fast enough on a major hydropower project.  By 
Ramzan Sharipov in Dushanbe

TURKMENISTAN: TESTING TIME FOR TEACHERS  Niazov puts new squeeze on education 
spending by making it harder for teachers to get pay increases.  By IWPR staff 
in London

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The Kyrgyz government stands accused of trading refugee rights for a better 
political relationship with Tashkent.

By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek for IWPR

International groups have voiced concern that the Kyrgyz authorities is quietly 
returning refugees and asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan in contravention of 
international law. 

Kyrgyzstan won international plaudits last year for allowing 440 people who 
fled following the May 13 violence in the Uzbek city of Andijan, where 
journalists and human rights groups reported hundreds of civilians killed by 
security forces. Now it appears to be buckling to pressure from its bigger 
neighbour to deliver people wanted for questioning, even if they are 
technically entitled to the Kyrgyz government's protection as holders of or 
applicants for refugee status.

The Bishkek office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, 
issued a statement on August 24 saying it was worried about the fate of five 
individuals based in the city of Osh, four of whom disappeared last week. All 
five had applied for refugee status.

UNHCR said it had received credible information that at least two of them were 
now in custody across the border in Andijan. 

"UNHCR regrets the obvious erosion of the Kyrgyz asylum system, which until 
recently was an exemplary one in Central Asia," the statement concluded. 

The US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch named the four asylum-seekers detained 
most recently as Ilhom Abdunabiev, Bakhtiar Ahmedov, Valim Babajanov, Saidullo 
Shakirov, while Isroil Kholdorov, an Uzbek opposition activist, disappeared on 
July 10.  

"We're afraid these men have been handed over to Uzbek authorities and that 
their lives are in danger," said Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia 
director Holly Cartner, referring to the four most recent cases. "Kyrgyzstan is 
responsible for the safety of refugees and asylum seekers in its territory, and 
it must find these men."

The previous day, the United States embassy in Bishkek expressed concern at the 
detention and likely return to Uzbekistan of two registered refugees, and urged 
Kyrgyzstan to respect international conventions on refugee rights and torture. 
The embassy statement referred to members of an earlier group comprising four 
registered refugees - Jahongir Maksudov, Rasul Pirmatov, Odiljon Rahimov and 
Yakub Tashbaev - and asylum-seeker Fayezjon Tajihalilov, who were extradited to 
Uzbekistan on August 9. 

In the latest case, Kyrgyz authorities have responded by denying everything. 
Police in Osh say they were not involved in any detentions, while the 
prosecutor general's office said it had not received any Uzbek requests to 
extradite people who had applied for refugee status. 

That claim is disputed by Aziza Abdrasulova, the director of Kylym Shamy, a 
human rights centre, who said the Uzbek authorities have informed their Kyrgyz 
counterparts of 26 people they want to have detained. 

"At present, the [Kyrgyz] state is not fulfilling its obligations with regard 
to refugees, and is in fact violating these obligations through such actions 
[as secret detention and extradition]. I think that if Kyrgyzstan cannot or 
does not wish to fulfil its international obligations, it must revoke them. 
Then the whole world will know... and refugees will not come here," said 

Khurnisa Makhardinova, a lawyer with the Adilet human rights group, which works 
on refugee rights, said disappearances were now a regular occurrence, "It is 
becoming the system, and has reached the point where many refugees want to 
return home because they're scared they may be forcibly and secretly 

Makhardinova attacked the authorities' response - or rather failure to respond 
- calling it "a policy of silence". 

"They pretend nothing is happening, even though this is above all the 
responsibility of the authorities," she added. 

Tursunbek Akunov, the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's official human rights 
commission, told IWPR his agency was looking into the matter, and blamed police 
chiefs for ignoring Kyrgyzstan's own laws and pandering to Uzbekistan.

"The Kyrgyz authorities place insufficient value on the UN convention on 
refugees, while our secret services carry out the bidding of their Uzbek 
colleagues," said Akunov, alleging that unless action was taken against the 
officers concerned, Kyrgyzstan would face international ignominy. 

Political analyst Nur Omarov is in no doubt why the government of President 
Kurmanbek Bakiev, which swept to power on a wave of pro-democracy hopes in 
March 2005, now appears to have dumped its concern for human rights. 

Uzbekistan is a large and irascible neighbour, and the Kyrgyz depend on it for 
energy supplies. The leadership in Tashkent was alarmed by the March 
revolution, in which Askar Akaev was summarily removed as Kyrgyz president, and 
angered by Bishkek's decision to allow 400-plus refugees to go abroad, since 
the implication was that it was unsafe for them to go back to Uzbekistan.

Bakiev is due to visit Tashkent at the end of September, and a few swift 
extraditions may improve relations beforehand. 

"By doing this, Kyrgyzstan has decided to show loyalty to Uzbekistan," said 
Omarov. "The aim is to restore the economic and political partnership before 
winter sets in. Kyrgyzstan is reliant on Uzbek gas supplies, so extraditing 
refugees may be a step to prevent possible hitches during the negotiations on 
gas supplies and debt payments."

Meanwhile, the remaining refugees and asylum-seekers in southern Kyrgyzstan 
fear they will be used as currency in the transaction between the two 

"I am so tired of being a refugee that I sometimes think that if I get this 
status, I will hand myself over to the Uzbek authorities," said one young man 
who is an asylum-seeker in Osh. He is well aware of the consequences - his 
younger brother was recently extradited to 13 years in prison after being 
extradited from Kyrgyzstan. 

"I am scared of being followed, so I try to stay inconspicuous. There are 
rumours among the refugees that the Uzbekistan secret services kidnap refugees 
and take them across the border by force. The recent disappearances confirm 
this," he said.

A human rights activist who came to Kyrgyzstan eight months ago said he knew of 
14 people who had disappeared, most likely abducted by the Uzbek secret police.

"We thought Kyrgyzstan was a more democratic country that Uzbekistan, and until 
recently we felt fine here. But recent developments show Kyrgyzstan is 
gradually turning into a totalitarian state where dissent is crushed," he said. 

"It is frightening to go out of doors because you don't know whether you'll be 
kidnapped by the Uzbek secret services. We hide in our rented apartments like 
trapped animals."

Taalaibek Amanov is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.

(The names of interviewees have been withheld out of concern for their safety.)


Tajik officials complain Russia's RUSAL firm is not moving ahead fast enough on 
a major hydropower project.

By Ramzan Sharipov in Dushanbe

The Tajik government is trying to recruit the Russian government to help speed 
up construction of a giant hydroelectric power scheme, but analysts say the 
tactic could backfire. 

At a July 21 press conference in Dushanbe, Tajik energy minister Abdullo Yerov 
reported that a phone conversation between presidents Imomali Rahmonov and 
Vladimir Putin had resulted in a verbal agreement that the Russian government 
would provide direct funding for the work needed to complete the dam, which if 
it reaches a planned 335 metres will be the world's highest. 

If this report is confirmed and Moscow goes ahead with the funding, it could 
unblock a process that appears to have run into trouble following the initial 
optimism that surrounded a deal with Russian aluminium giant RUSAL. A two 
billion US dollar package agreed by RUSAL in 2004, covering the Rogun dam and 
aluminium production, gave rise to hopes that the troubled construction project 
would be resurrected at last. 

RUSAL's main interest is in generating electricity for its investment in the 
giant Tajik aluminium plant at Tursunzade, with a possibility that it will also 
build a new smelter close to the dam. Aluminium production is notoriously 
energy-hungry, and a mountainous country like Tajikistan is ideally placed to 
power the industry. The dam turbines could generate sufficient electricity to 
run the smelters, meet much of Tajikistan's domestic needs, and sell power to 
neighbouring countries. 

Work on the Rogun hydroelectric scheme, on the Vakhsh river in southern 
Tajikistan, began back in the Seventies, but remained incomplete by the time 
the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Tajikistan, the smallest and poorest Central 
Asian republic, quickly descended into civil war and economic collapse, and for 
the next decade there was no prospect of the project resuming.  

But nearly two years on, officials in Tajikistan are complaining that the 
Russian company has not started practical work.

First Deputy Energy Minister Pulod Muhiddinov reported on July 24 that the 
Russian firm was still assessing the state of the structure left at Rogun, 
which has been battered by years of neglect and flooding. This should be 
completed by the end of August, but Muhiddinov complained that his ministry was 
unsure how matters would proceed after that. 

"Perhaps RUSAL will wake up and start construction," he said. 

RUSAL counters that the Tajik position is a complete misreading of the facts, 
and an unhelpful one at that. Its office in Dushanbe was quick to respond, 
rejecting suggestions that it was deliberately holding up the work. It said 
part of the problem was that many of the enquiries on technical matters it had 
addressed to the Tajik government were simply ignored. 

"Tajik officials have put words into Vladimir Putin's mouth which he did not 
say," said Konstantin Zagrebelny, RUSAL's man in Dushanbe. "The irresponsible 
interpretations that Tajik officials have made of phrases or words used by the 
Russian president cause only bewilderment among Russian members of the 
intergovernmental commission and the Russian [government] departments involved 
in this project."

Apart from the slow start-up, Tajik officials are also unhappy about the 
technical plans RUSAL has come up with. The Russian firm wants to build the dam 
up in stages, eventually reaching a height of 280 metres, while the Tajiks are 
insisting on the original specifications laid down in 1978 which would make the 
structure 55 metres higher. There is also disagreement about the materials to 
be used. 

According to Rasul Sattarov, an independent economist, the dispute is also due 
to the diverging interests of RUSAL, which wants to power its aluminium 
projects, and the Tajik government, which needs to satisfy a growing demand for 
electricity in the rest of the economy as well. 

The suspicion is that RUSAL would be happy with a lower and thus cheaper dam 
which would be adequate for its own needs, but Sattorov said  this would not be 
in Tajikistan's interests.

"That is why the government is trying to put pressure on RUSAL via the Russian 
government," he said. 

However, Sattorov cautioned that this could be a miscalculation - RUSAL is a 
major player by any standards, and is also seen as close to the Kremlin.

"Given the friendly relations between Putin and [RUSAL chairman Oleg] 
Deripaska, the Russian government may not react in Tajikistan's favour," he 

Meanwhile, the Tajiks appear to believe government-to-government contacts are 
the right way to proceed. "Tajikistan and Russia intend to resolve the dispute 
surrounding the construction of this major Central Asian hydroelectric station 
at state level," an anonymous source in the Tajik government told IWPR. 

The next opportunity for this will come when an intergovernmental economic 
commission meets in September.

Ramzan Sharipov is the pseudonym of an independent journalist in Dushanbe.


Niazov puts new squeeze on education spending by making it harder for teachers 
to get pay increases.

By IWPR staff in London

The Turkmen president has taken another swipe at the country's hard-pressed 
education sector by setting tough new teaching grades to make it harder for 
teachers to qualify for higher salaries.

Those who fall short of the requirements for the lowest grade retain their 
jobs, but are likely to be the first to go should the authorities choose to 
slash teaching numbers in future, analysts believe.

The latest cost-cutting exercise by President Saparmurat Niazov, better known 
as Turkmenbashi, which comes on the eve of the new school year, has deepened 
the gloomy mood of a profession that has the experienced numerous blows over 
the last ten years.

The introduction of new pay grades appears to have been prompted by Niazov's 
conviction, expressed in a July cabinet meeting, that teachers "were eating up" 
most of the government's budget.

The president's assessment is hard to fathom as the education budget has been 
shrinking for over a decade. As a result, schooling has been cut from ten to 
nine years; the number of schools using Russian, Uzbek and Kazak minority 
languages has been reduced; and the number of subjects taught has been slashed.

According to the new teaching requirements, which come into force this month, 
teachers will have to have taught pupils who've won school prizes to qualify 
for the lowest pay grade; and they will require a PhD and to have published 
academic papers and manuals to achieve the highest one.  

But, most controversially, to be considered at all for the new pay awards, a 
teacher will have to have published a number of articles in Turkmen newspapers, 
praising Turkmenbashi and his policies. 

Ashgabat Mathematics teacher Gozel Mamedova told IWPR that there was panic 
amongst his colleagues as it was nearly impossible to prepare articles and get 
them published in time for the new grading process, especially since there are 
only two daily newspapers in the whole country.

A journalist in Ashgabat told IWPR how at the end of July and the beginning of 
August, newspaper offices were besieged by teachers.

"They brought enormous articles. But we had to turn them into two paragraphs, 
because they contained nothing but praise for Turkmenbashi.

"And they asked for written confirmation that the material would be published. 
The teachers were ready to pay simply to be published."

The slew of articles written by teachers left many readers bewildered. "I don't 
understand what is going on," said Ashgabat pensioner Roza Narzullaeva. 

Not only have teachers been compelled to draft fawning articles about the 
president, but as part of the new pay award scheme they also have to take an 
examination that tests both their knowledge of the president's philosophical 
works and the country as a whole.  Sayara Zaitova, a junior school teacher in 
Ashgabat, said she failed because she didn't know how much gas was produced in 
Turkmenistan annually.

With the new school year fast approaching, teachers have been anxious to be 
assessed as quickly as possible - with unscrupulous education officials and 
newspaper staff demanding bribes to speed up the process. 

Raisa Odekova, a resident of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnvodsk), in the western 
Balkan region, fell victim to corrupt staff at the local education authority.

"I have taught biology for a long time and according to all the criteria I 
should qualify for the highest teaching grade," said Odekova.

"But at the city education board I was given a frosty reception, and they 
listed all these documents I would need to be considered. It took a whole month 
to gather them all together." 

However, Odekova said she soon found out that it wasn't the documents they were 
after, "They immediately told me that if I wanted the top teaching grade I 
would have to hand over 200 US dollars. I got angry, expressed my indignation 
and left."

There have also been reports of editors taking advantage of teachers 
desperation to be published.  Enegul Gubavea, from a village school close to 
the capital, told IWPR, " I went along to a newspaper [to present my article], 
but they said there was no space. Then I offered to pay and they agreed."  

The new grading process appears designed to make it harder for teachers to get 
pay rises. For instance, in Mary province in the south of the country, out of 
one hundred people who applied for the top pay category only eight achieved the 
required standard.

The new procedure seems to have further demoralised the long-suffering teaching 
profession. A junior school teacher from Turkmenabat summed up the mood amongst 
colleagues, " We work long hours. After lessons there are always some events, 
marches, when we have to stand in line along the road for various high-ranking 
officials. In return, they not only make it hard for us to get certain grades, 
we don't even get a full salary - almost all teacher are on half pay."

The names of those featured in this article have been changed out of concerns 
for their security.

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