WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 483, February 23, 2007
KYRGYZSTAN: KULOV MAY UNITE OPPOSITION Many opposition leaders have said they
are ready to rally around the former prime minister. By Taalai Amanov in
TAJIKISTAN: DISPLACED COMMUNITY LOSES HOPE Families that migrated about five
years ago searching for a better life have found nothing but hardship in their
new home. By Sayrahmon Nazriev in Bishkent
HOMEMADE HYDRO POWER LIGHTS UP TAJIKISTAN Villagers have come up with a unique
solution to the country's energy crisis. By Anora Sarkorova and Takhmina
Ubaidulloeva in Tajikistan
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KYRGYZSTAN: KULOV MAY UNITE OPPOSITION
Many opposition leaders have said they are ready to rally around the former
By Taalai Amanov in Bishkek
Felix Kulovs pledge last week to unite factions opposed to the government of
Kurmanbek Bakiev may strengthen the countrys opposition movement, but could
also exacerbate the countrys north-south divide, analysts believe.
Kyrgyz citizens had been waiting with interest for Kulovs first public
statement since parliament scuppered his hopes of remaining prime minister
earlier this month.
He resigned along with his cabinet on December 19 but stayed on in a caretaker
capacity. Bakiev put his name forward again on January 18, but he was rejected
by deputies. Legislators said no for a second time on January 25, and Bakiev
then proposed Azim Isabekov who parliamentarians approved.
Though hes no longer prime minister, Kulov made clear in his February 14
speech that hes far from done with politics.
He said he could not and would not be an outside observer of the political
processes in the country, adding he would not restrict himself to his own
political party, Ar-Namys, but would unite and head separate social and
political forces, those which want fundamental positive changes.
Kulov admitted he hadnt fully justified voters faith in the so-called
tandem the alliance he forged with Bakiev to secure victory in the July
2005 presidential election and maintain stability.
He then went on to attack corruption in business and government that he
suggested was similar to sleaze levels seen in the Akaev-era.
The majority of television channels have already come under the control of
people who are close to a certain family, he said. The government and
politics are becoming criminalised. Threats are being made once more, and
persecution has begun of people who do not agree with the so-called ruling
Since Kulovs speech, many Kyrgyz opposition leaders have said they are ready
to join him.
Deputy Melis Eshimkanov urged opposition groups to put aside their differences
and rally around Kulov. For the first time in two years, having freed himself
from the fetters of the tandem, Kulov has told the bitter truth, he said.
Kulov has taken a rational, courageous step, and he has been fully
rehabilitated in the eyes of the Kyrgyz opposition.
Kabai Karabekov, another opposition deputy, also urged his counterparts to join
the former prime minister.
Felix Kulov justly remarked in his speech that at the presidential elections,
the majority of people voted not for Kurmanbek Bakiev, but for the Bakiev-Kulov
tandem. All of us who care about the countrys fate should unite today,
otherwise the present regime will bring the country to collapse, he said.
Other opposition leaders, however, were less enthusiastic.
Edil Baisalov, leader of the coalition For Democracy and Civil Society, told
IWPR that Kulov should make public any information he has about cases of
corruption in power, backed up with evidence.
The leader of the opposition For Reforms movement, Almazbek Atambaev, was
sceptical about Kulovs motives.
[His] words are very eloquent, he said. But you ask yourself, if Kulov had
been approved by parliament, would he be saying these things? Or would he just
have kept working? So its hard for me to believe him at the moment.
Political analyst Alexander Knyazev speculated that the split between Kulov,
from the north of Kyrgyzstan, and Bakiev, whose power-base is the southern
Jalalabad region, could lead to an escalation of the existing conflict between
north and south.
I think that there will be a consolidation of northern opposition forces
around Kulov, Knyazev told IWPR.
He did express some optimism, however, saying that with a charismatic and
experienced politician like Kulov leading the opposition, political life could
change for the better.
It is clear that Felix Kulov is taking a tough position. He is able to
consolidate powerful forces around himself. The opposition which Kulov is
joining will seriously oppose the government, said Knyazev.
Political analyst Nur Omarov agrees that Kulovs change of sides bodes well for
a more stable Kyrgyzstan. People have long expected that he will be able to
lead the constructive opposition in the country, Omarov told IWPR.
The government had little to say about Kulovs announcement with the only
comment coming from the presidential press secretary Nurlan Shakiev, who
focused on the Kulovs departure from the government. He denied Bakiev had
violated the conditions of the tandem.
The head of state could not dissolve the supreme legislative body of the
country [parliament] for the sake of one persons interests, said Shakiev.
This would have inevitably led to a worsening of the already complex political
situation in the country.
Taalai Amanov is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.
TAJIKISTAN: DISPLACED COMMUNITY LOSES HOPE
Families that migrated about five years ago searching for a better life have
found nothing but hardship in their new home.
By Sayrahmon Nazriev in Bishkent
Bishkent seems a place forgotten. The settlement or jamoat - a remnant of the
large collective farms of the Soviet era - in the south of the country is worn
and tired. Concrete houses, also dating from Soviet years, line the few
streets. Some of the buildings are unfinished; others have been ransacked. The
walls of the half-built cultural centre at the entrance to the town have long
since been removed.
Bishkent residents seem beaten and forgotten too. It is easy to see the
desperation and hunger in the faces of seven or eight women clearing weeds and
rubbish when this IWPR correspondent arrived in town. Their bodies are thin,
their faces pale and tired.
Davlatbegim Chorshanbieva, one of the women, is part of a group who came
willingly to the region just under five years ago. About 95 families from
Kulyab in the west travelled voluntarily to Bishkent in the southwest, says a
local leader Mirzo Jumaev. Some came to escape poverty and high unemployment at
home while others left villages that had been wiped out by mudslides.
All were promised land, but today only about 70 of the original migrant
Those who stayed worry for their families. Their complaints range from the lack
of proper schooling, medical services and jobs to the dampness in their homes.
"Our children are ill. Because of the damp in our houses we suffer from
rheumatism. Look at our bedding, it looks like it has been soaked in water,"
Life in general is hard. Brucellosis, typhoid and hepatitis are common - and
there is little dinking water.
It was not supposed to be this way - only in 2002, the government, planning to
settle people here, began to work on town improvements. Little has really been
done with this, however.
Chorshanbieva and her community feel stuck. Internal migrants voluntarily
resettled from Kulyab and the Pamirs to southern border regions of Tajikistan.
But now, many have left, while those who stay hope that the authorities will
solve their problems.
"Most of the families who have been able to have left this land, which is
unsuitable to live on," said Chorshanbieva.
Southern Tajikistan has seen mass labour migration in recent years, with
hundreds of thousands of men leaving for seasonal work in Russia and Kazakstan
while their wives stay at home. Many men never return.
Migrants are constantly accused of not wanting to work, although there is no
work in the region, says Chorshanbieva.
"We are ripped off at the ... farms and not given our salaries. And if we are,
we are only given 5-10 somoni (1.50-3 US dollars). How can you live on this
money?" she said.
And health services are dire, say residents.
The district doctor visits patients once or twice a week and writes
prescriptions, but people say they cannot afford to buy medicine.
Khaitsho Muborakshoev has had tuberculosis for eight months, "I don't have any
way to get treatment. I went to the district hospital several times, but
couldn't find any medicine."
There is a programme for free treatment of tuberculosis in the country which
functions in several pilot regions of the country. But not in Bishkent.
Talab Podabonov complains that there is no nurse and no first aid available. "I
have a sore liver, and there is no one to give me an injection. There is a
doctor who services several villages, but he does not manage to examine
everyone in time," said Podabonov.
The land is difficult, complain the residents. They say they cannot dig holes
for toilets because of the high ground water level. Water simply floods the
holes as soon as digging starts.
"If this continues, then soon all the residents will have infectious diseases
such as brucellosis and typhus," said Podabonov.
And the place has no future as schooling is bad. Few senior pupils remain, as
settlers move to more suitable places to live.
"The most terrible thing is that our children will be illiterate," said
Chorshanbieva. "The school has no teachers of maths, literature, Tajik and
English. And the teachers who work there only have secondary school education."
One of the few male residents agrees.
"Our children are becoming illiterate," said Mirzo Jumaev. "Our children are
given good marks on their reports for maths, physics and chemistry, but in fact
they did not study these subjects, as there was no one to teach them. But at
university, they will be asked questions about these subjects."
According to school head Bibigul Islomova, there are over 350 pupils at the
school and 37 teachers, eight of whom have a higher education and three
specialised secondary education. The rest only have a secondary education.
There aren't enough physics, maths, Tajik language and literature, Russian
language, and chemistry teachers, she says.
"Because many migrants are leaving, we were forced to close the 10th-11th year
classes in the Tajik group, as there was only one student left," she said.
The school itself suffers from flooding and for several years one part has not
had any electricity. Despite repeated promises, local officials have not solved
the problem, she says.
"There is another problem - salaries. We have still not been paid for December.
Some of our teachers are migrants, and it is very difficult for them," said
Glimmers of hope do exist. Jumaev says he aims to help people get small,
short-term loans, a practice known as micro-lending.
This system exists throughout the country, but when migrants went to a
micro-lender, they say they were told that loans were only given to people who
had at least three or four cows or other valuables to use as collateral.
"Now we are putting all our hopes in the visit of the heads of the ... region,
who promised to help local migrants get out of their difficult situation," said
Someone may be listening.
The recently appointed acting head of the region, Makhmad Sharipov, says he is
aware of the migrants' living conditions.
"This place is a sore spot for our region. And as the new head, I see my
primary task in improving and developing it," said Sharipov.
"We know that they have problems with clean drinking water, and also with
arable land, and that they live in difficult conditions," he said. "The
drainage networks here have not been repaired for years, and so it is very
damp. A kindergarten was built in the village, but unfortunately it has not
been working for several years now."
He says the new leadership has already taken measures to improve drinking and
irrigation water for the residents of the region. There is an irrigation
network three kilometres from the village, which he says will eventually be
extended to the villages' entrance.
"We needed 40 water pipes. We have already purchased them and will soon begin
to assemble them. We intend to bring water to the village at the beginning of
February," he said.
The new head of the region promises to improve the lives of migrants. Indeed,
he believes that they can no longer be called migrants.
"Of the migrants who came to the region in 2002, only a minority remain," said
Sharipov. But we cannot call the people who remain here migrants. They have
already become local residents, and we should do everything we can to improve
their living conditions," he said.
As evidence, he says that the migrants were recently visited by another local
government official, Gaibullo Avzalov, who listened to them talk about their
problems. On his orders, medicine was delivered to the local health centre.
Also, said Sharipov, the new leadership of the region will repair the ambulance
which broke down and provide fuel and a salary for the driver.
In fact, 2007 has been declared by the regional leadership as the year of
improving Bishkent, with the aim of turning it into a model settlement, he says.
"This year we decided to plough [the migrants' plots] and also provide them
with seeds," said Sharipov.
But this list of promises fails to convince resident Zukhro Arabshoeva, who
believes that nothing will change with the new leadership.
"Every year [local leaders] change, but we still don't get paid anything.
People leave here to work in the neighbouring Shaatuz region, Dushanbe or
Russia," said Arabshoeva. "What a difficult life we have."
Sayrahmon Narziev is an IWPR contributor.
HOMEMADE HYDRO POWER LIGHTS UP TAJIKISTAN
Villagers have come up with a unique solution to the country's energy crisis.
By Anora Sarkorova and Takhmina Ubaidulloeva in Tajikistan
Tajikistan's eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region had until recently largely escaped
the energy crisis gripping the rest of the country. But on the night of
February 5 the lights went off following an accident at the local power station
that flooded the turbine room and shut down vital equipment. It's not yet clear
how long it will take to fix the damage though officials have promised some
service by mid-March.
In the meantime, electricity is restricted to three hours a day in the region's
administrative centre Khorog. Schools, factories and construction projects have
shut down and bread shortages have been reported. Residents are coping with
freezing winter temperatures by chopping down trees to burn as fuel and sending
children to stay with relatives with wood burning stoves.
"We have no other choice," said local resident Muzaffar Kadamov. "We have to
keep warm any way we can."
But these problems aren't unique to Gorno-Badakhshan.
It has been a bad winter all across Tajikistan with power production dropping
and demand increasing, forcing supply companies to impose tough restrictions on
electricity usage. Even the capital Dushanbe has been affected with residents
claiming supplies are now more limited there than during the civil war days.
Meanwhile, prices go up every year on the recommendation of the World Bank and
the IMF which are attempting to encourage Tajikistan's power generation
industry to be more cost-effective.
Such hardships have forced Tajiks living in rural communities to take matters
into their own hands. Some villagers in isolated and mountainous regions have
built mini-hydroelectric stations which can provide electricity for an entire
Ustokadam Saodatkadamov built one out of used car parts and it now provides
electricity to 30 homes in the Shugnan region's Bachid village in
Abdolbek Nazarshoev, a resident of Khuf in the Rushan region of
Gorno-Badakhshan, has also built his own hydroelectric station for around
1,300-1,500 US dollars. He harnessed water from a nearby canal and diverted it
through a turbine which powers an engine that produces electricity for the
He says the station has already paid for itself, though needs careful
monitoring to make sure it doesn't break down.
"We don't have problems with light anymore," said Nazarshoev. "Imagine how hard
it is to have a wedding or funeral in winter. It's impossible to do this
without electricity, but now everything is in order here. We reached an
agreement with our neighbours, and every night one of us watches over the
station, checks the state of the units and whether the river has frozen over."
Lukmon Akhmedov, from Unji in the Bobojongafurov region of the Sogd region,
spent more than 1,000 dollars on his hydroelectric station, which powers the
village hospital, among other things.
It has been so successful that he has been asked to build others by residents
in neighbouring villages, who will cover his expenses and receive electricity
free of charge in return.
Local tax inspectors have already taken note of this new industry springing up
with some saying the entrepreneurs are using the country's water resources
illegally and should therefore be liable for tax.
Legal expert Gulchekhra Mamadshoeva disagrees. "A citizen who builds a small
hydroelectric station and does not receive income from it should not pay
taxes," she said. "Furthermore, he does not pay the state for electricity, as
the state energy company has nothing to do with this."
Tajik government tax authorities confirm that hydroelectric station owners who
give away the electricity they produce rather than sell it don't have to worry
about paying taxes. However, they advise entrepreneurs to watch out for
unscrupulous inspectors who insist on payments.
The government realises that DIY hydroelectricity stations aren't a permanent
solution to the country's energy problems. So, with the help of foreign
investors, it is embarking on a construction programme to beef up capacity, and
last summer approved a plan to build 71 small hydroelectric stations around the
country by 2020. That's a major improvement on the 30 small, medium-sized and
two large stations in operation today.
Abdullo Kurbonov from the ministry for energy and industry believes the future
development of the industry and the way out of the current crisis lies in these
small hydroelectric stations. Though they are vulnerable to natural disasters,
he says they will satisfy the demands of remote and mountainous regions not yet
connected to the country's energy system and replace the need for the homemade
Anora Sarkorova and Takhmina Ubaidulloeva are IWPR contributors in Tajikistan.
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