of progress three days after independent journalist gets ten-year jail term.  
By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek

approach to keeping neighbours on board and allaying their concerns about 
recent conflict.  By Mirgul Akimova in Bishkek

KAZAKS CAUTIOUS ON RUSSIA-GEORGIA DISPUTE  Opinions vary as to whether Kazak 
economic retreat from Georgia was result of pro-Moscow politics or pragmatism.  
By Anton Dosybiev in Almaty

and allegations of ballot-stuffing tarnish the latest exercise in democracy.  
By Chynara Karimova in Bishkek

government needs to do more to stop Islamic radicals channelling grassroots 
discontent.  By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek


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European officials speak of progress three days after independent journalist 
gets ten-year jail term.

By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek

The European Union has eased the sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan following 
the violence in Andijan in May 2005, lifting a visa ban on senior officials but 
prolonging an embargo on arms sales for another year. 

Following a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council 
on October 13, a statement was issued saying the EU “welcomes the progress 
achieved in Uzbekistan in the last year with regard to respect for the rule of 
law and protection of human rights”. 

It cited as positive examples the release of human rights activist Mutabar 
Tajibaeva from jail last year, legislative and judicial reforms, the abolition 
of the death penalty, and the ratification of conventions against child labour. 

It also hailed Tashkent’s willingness to discuss issues, for instance in 
consultations on human rights in June and a seminar on media freedom held in 
Tashkent on October 2-3. Participants invited by the EU to the latter seminar 
issued a statement ahead of the sanctions review, explaining why the event 
could not be viewed as evidence of improvement in the area of free speech. 

At the same time, the EU said it remained “seriously concerned about the 
situation of human rights in some domains in Uzbekistan and urges the 
authorities to implement their international obligations fully in that regard.” 

The EU called on the government to release all imprisoned activists, revoke 
restrictions on non-government groups, cooperate with United Nations special 
rapporteurs on torture and on freedom of expression, and grant accreditation to 
a representative of leading rights watchdog Human Rights Watch. 

The easing of sanctions came three days after a court in Nukus in the north of 
Uzbekistan handed down a ten-year sentence against Solijon Abdurahmonov, an 
independent journalist convicted of selling drugs. Abdurahmonov has denied 
possessing or using drugs, still less selling them. 

Human rights groups have in the past documented numerous cases where criminal 
charges including drugs offences have been used to discredit and incarcerate 
critics of the Uzbek government. 

“Abdurahmonov’s conviction is an affront to human rights and free speech in 
Uzbekistan,” said Igor Vorontsov, Uzbekistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. 
“He often criticised local authorities, including law enforcement. It is clear 
that he is being punished for his work. Once again, the Uzbek government is 
showing that it will not tolerate dissent.” 

The EU imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan in November 2005 after President Islam 
Karimov refused requests for an independent international inquiry into events 
in Andijan in May 13, in which governmental troops fired into a crowd of 

Officials said 189 people were killed, but some human rights groups put the 
number of dead closer to 800. 

The EU sanctions included an embargo on arms sales to Uzbekistan and a visa ban 
on senior officials believed to have played a role in ordering the use of 

After Andijan, Uzbekistan’s relations with the West cooled dramatically. As 
well as refusing to allow an independent inquiry, the government clamped down 
on human rights activists and closed down the local offices of international 
media and non-government organisations. 

Observers believe that Uzbekistan is now keen to send out a signal that it 
wants to put the Andijan issue behind it in relations with the international 

A source close to the government says President Islam Karimov has found it 
increasing difficult to deal with the Andijan issue when it comes up at 
high-level meetings. Aware that he cannot ignore it, Karimov takes the 
initiative and tries to frame the violence as a crackdown on extremists, the 
source said. 

Tashpulat Yoldashev, a political analyst now living in exile, said, “Karimov is 
trying to win the trust of Western countries so that relations with them can be 
restored to the previous level.” 

Analysts point out to a number of steps the government has made in the past few 
months such as abolishing the death penalty; drafting an action plan to 
eliminate child labour – a major problem in the cotton industry in recent 
years; the creation in June of a research centre to look at ways of making the 
judicial system more independent; and several improvements to judicial 
procedure such as introducing the principle of habeas corpus, better defence 
rules, and some softer penalties. 

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Foreign 
Minister Vladimir Norov presented these initiatives as proof of “consistent 
steps” to improve the human rights situation. 

Some analysts argue that the Uzbek leadership has been driven to seek a 
rapprochement with the international community because domestic economic 
conditions are deteriorating. 

Yoldashev notes that the dispute over Andijan had a disruptive effect on 
Uzbekistan’s external relationships, and says the economy is now “suffocating” 
from an absence of foreign investment and a marked decline in exports of 
minerals, gas and agriculture produce. 

The most urgent issue is exporting Uzbek cotton which accounts for the bulk of 
country’s hard currency earnings and places the country in the top three world 
exporters of this commodity. 

Analysts say the growing boycott of Uzbek cotton by leading western retailers 
and importers, over the issue of child labour, has put a lot of pressure on 
Tashkent. In September, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, joined the 
boycott and asked its suppliers not to use cotton from Uzbekistan. 

A coalition representing major US retailers and cotton importers, including 
Wal-Mart, was set up to look into the issue, and in August it warned the Uzbek 
government that the practice of using child labour must stop. 

According to Yoldashev, cotton is now “piling up at the [collection] 

Nadezhda Ataeva, head of the Paris-based Human Rights in Central Asia 
Association, pointed out, “The problem of cotton is acute for the authorities. 
Karimov understands that if a general boycott is imposed, the leadership will 
not be able to feed people and secure a living wage.” 

A businessman in Uzbekistan who asked to remain anonymous said the authorities 
had realised the extent to which isolation was constricting economic potential, 
and noted that the country was currently suffering from high food and fuel 

“The price of bread price was raised again on October 6, and there are long 
queues for cottonseed [cooking] oil in some shops,” he said. “Two weeks ago, 
petrol prices went up. That’s a sign of an economy falling apart at the seams – 
we will not be able to survive in isolation.” 

Inga Sikorskaya is an IWPR editor in Bishkek. 


Moscow to adopt softly, softly approach to keeping neighbours on board and 
allaying their concerns about recent conflict.

By Mirgul Akimova in Bishkek

A meeting of former Soviet states in Bishkek presents Moscow with an 
opportunity to shore up support among its traditional allies following its 
conflict with Georgia. However, persuading them to back Russia in its growing 
confrontation with the West is not going to be easy, analysts say. 

The Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS, is holding a summit in the Kyrgyz 
capital on October 9 and 10. On the second day, heads of states that are 
members of the CIS’s economic grouping, the Eurasian Economic Community or 
EurAsEC for short, were scheduled to hold a separate meeting. 

While the CIS includes all the states of the former Soviet Union bar the three 
Baltic countries, with Turkmenistan holding only associate member status, 
EurAsEC is a narrower grouping comprising the Russians and Belarusians and, in 
Central Asia, the Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks. 

These meetings will be followed by a meeting between leaders of the Central 
Asian states. 

The agenda for the three meetings covers a wide range of issues including 
economic cooperation as well as water, energy and security. 

The CIS summit is the first since Russia’s short war with Georgia in August, 
which resulted in Moscow formally recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as 
independent from Tbilisi. One immediate consequence of the war that the meeting 
has to address is Georgia’s announcement that it is withdrawing from the CIS. 

When CIS foreign ministers met on day one of the Bishkek summit, two 
controversial issues came up – first, Russia’s desire to get other members to 
recognise the two breakaway republics; and second, the possibility that – in 
light of its deteriorating relationship with the West – Moscow might pressure 
Kyrgyzstan to close an airbase close to the capital used by the United States 
since 2001. 

Sergey Lebedev, who chairs the CIS’s executive committee, told reporters that 
the independence issue was not on the agenda. Instead, he said, each member 
state must decide for itself how it would handle the issue. 

“No collective decision on this matter has been taken, and as far as I know 
none will be taken,” he said. 

Lebedev’s comments reflected the challenge that Moscow will face as it tries to 
win over its neighbours on Caucasus conflict. With the exception of Kazakstan, 
none of the normally loyal Central Asian states has openly backed Russia’s 
military intervention in Georgia. And even the Kazaks have not gone as far as 
recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 

Their cautious stance may be partly due to a reluctance to join Moscow in open 
confrontation with the West, and in part because these leaderships were taken 
aback by the way Russia flexed its muscles in a neighbouring state. 

When Central Asia leaders joined their Russian and Chinese counterparts for a 
meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in August, they withheld full 
backing for Moscow’s actions. The final resolution they issued urged all sides 
to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiations, and underlined their 
commitment to upholding the territorial integrity of states – a clear allusion 
to Moscow granting recognition to two territories still claimed by Georgia. 
(See Moscow Fails to Win Over Regional Allies, RCA No. 549, 05-Sep-08.) 

On the second issue, the US base at Manas airport, Russian deputy foreign 
minister Andrei Denisov told the Interfax news agency on October 9 that Moscow 
would not pressure Bishkek to sever its security ties with the West. 

“The US military presence in Central Asia lies within the competence of the 
sovereign countries,” he said. 

Denisov added, however, that Moscow would countenance a continued American 
military presence in Kyrgyzstan only if its purpose was to support operations 
in Afghanistan – its original aim – and not to project US power to the 
detriment of other regional players. 

His carefully nuanced remarks appeared to be designed to indicate where 
Moscow’s red lines lie without actually telling the Kyrgyz what to do. 

According to Orozbek Moldaliev, a political analyst in Kyrgyzstan, it is a 
question of priorities. “Right now, what is more important for Moscow is not 
getting rid of the airbase, but for Bishkek to recognise South Ossetia and 

Central Asian expert Daniil Kislov agrees that Moscow is not going to make a 
big issue out of the US airbase, although its own plans in Central Asia 
undoubtedly do not envisage a strong American presence there. 

Pointing out that Russia has its own military airbase in Kyrgyzstan only a few 
kilometres from the American one, Kislov said Moscow had been “shocked” by the 
arrival of NATO warships in the Black Sea during the recent conflict, and by 
their proximity to Russian naval vessels. 

Many analysts believe that pressing for the recognition of Abkhazia and South 
Ossetia is part of a broader attempt by Russia to recruit support as it 
positions itself as a counterbalance to Washington. 

“Russia is trying to restore…its influence in the ex-Soviet republics,” said 
Elmira Nogoibaeva, head of the Polis Asia think-tank. “It needs new allies, a 
new political protectorate consisting of post-Soviet countries on which it can 
count in its new political confrontation with the West.” 

Another analyst, Mars Sariev, argues that Moscow will seek to project its 
influence in the region through persuasion rather than intimidation. 

“Russia will build a constructive dialogue with CIS countries and pursue soft 
diplomacy,” he said. 

Noting that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been touring Russia’s neighbours 
with pledges of investment and loans, Sariev describes this as Moscow’s “new 

“In light of Kazakstan’s recent statement that it wouldn’t recognise South 
Ossetia, Russia is going to gently reel in the CIS states by means of 
investment projects,” he said. 

Mirgul Akimova is the pseudonym of a journalist in Kyrgyzstan. 

Reporting Central Asia


Opinions vary as to whether Kazak economic retreat from Georgia was result of 
pro-Moscow politics or pragmatism. 

By Anton Dosybiev in Almaty

In the wake of the recent Russian-Georgian conflict, Kazakstan has been 
steering a cautious diplomatic path between supporting its traditional ally 
Russia and maintaining good relations with western states. 

While Kazakstan has pulled out of a number of economic contracts with Georgia, 
analysts note that officials have made much play of their government’s policy 
of maintaining diverse or “multi-vector” political relationships so as not to 
be forced to come down on one side or the other. 

Comments made by Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin during an October 5 press 
conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Astana are a prime 
example of this balancing act. 

“It's very important that relations with the United States and Russia are 
good,'' said Tazhin. “Russia is our strategic partner,” he said, adding that 
the relationship with Washington was “stable and strategic”. 

Unlike other Central Asian leaders, Kazak president Nursultan Nazarbaev 
publicly backed Moscow following its military incursion into Georgia. (For the 
muted reaction from the August 28 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation 
Organisation, see Moscow Fails to Win Over Regional Allies, RCA No. 549, 

Kazakstan did not, however, follow Russia’s example in recognising the 
independence of the two breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, on 
August 26. 

Foreign Minister Tazhin explained that his country believed in maintaining the 
territorial integrity of sovereign states, the main principle of the 
international law. Speaking at a meeting hosted by a Washington-based think 
tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on October 2, he insisted 
that “double standards must not be applied”. 

“We did not recognise Kosovo, and we did not recognise Abkhazia and South 
Ossetia,” he explained. 

Local analysts point out that Moscow’s use of military force in a neighbouring 
state, and its argument that it had the right to intervene on behalf of the 
many South Ossetians who had taken out Russian citizenship, sets an alarming 
precedent for the other former Soviet states. Kazakstan, for example, has a 
substantial Russian minority concentrated in the north of the country. 

“Of course the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States are 
dependent on Russia politically and economically,” said Sergey Duvanov, a 
political analyst in Kazakstan. “I think that political elites in these 
countries are facing legitimate questions about whether Russian could present a 
potential threat to them. We understand that Ukraine and its [substantially 
Russian] eastern regions and Crimea are next in line. After that, there might 
well be questions about northern Kazakhstan – why not?” 

Duvanov said the precedent had been set, although whether Moscow chose to use 
it would depend on “how the political situation develops and how the rulers of 
these countries behave”. “Everyone has now seen how the mechanism for 
pressuring them works in reality,” he continued. “It used to be economic forms 
[of pressure], but now it’s about protecting their [Russian] citizens in 
neighbouring states. I’m not saying this is going to happen; I am saying this 
factor is now a reality.” 

If Kazakstan sought a middle way on the diplomatic front, it took more decisive 
action on economic matters, withdrawing from investment projects including 
plans to build a grain terminal in the port city of Poti and an oil refinery in 
Batumi, further south on the Black Sea coast. 

Kazakstan is Georgia’s biggest investor after the United States, and despite 
its denials, these project cancellations have been seen by some analysts as 
tacit support for Moscow’s economic boycott of the Caucasian state. 

A representative of the state oil and gas company Kazmunaigaz, who asked to 
remain anonymous, told IWPR, “The decision not to build a refinery in Batumi 
has nothing to do with politics; it is a purely economic decision that has to 
do with the purchase of a similar plant in Romania.” 

In a related move, the Kazak authorities halted oil supplies to the Baku-Ceyhan 
pipeline, the only route by which Caspian crude can reach western markets 
without going through Russia. After Kazak oil crossed the Caspian by tanker, it 
entered a pipeline running from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia. The 
Kazmunaigaz representative noted that the route was shut down for 15 days 
because of the conflict. 

The Kazmunaigaz official said a round of talks in late September resulted in a 
proposal from Moscow that the oil should be diverted to pipelines running 
across Russian territory, already the main route for Kazakstan’s crude exports. 

Once again, it was hard to disentangle politics from the Kazaks’ natural 
reluctance to operate in a high-risk environment in which their economic 
interests might suffer. 

“I see it as a desire to sit between two stools,” said Duvanov. “On the one 
hand, Kazakstan strikes a compromise and shows Russia it’s ready to cooperate 
on an economic boycott in Georgia, while on the other, it refrains from making 
critical remarks about what happened in Georgia.” 

Other observers, however, argue that Kazakstan’s disengagement from Georgia 
were dictated by economic interest alone. 

“Putting money into Georgia, in the state that it’s currently in, is a fairly 
risky business,” said Anton Morozov of the Kazakstan Institute for Strategic 
Studies. “Of course Kazakstan has lost out by turning down the [grain] terminal 
and refinery construction work. But if we were to invest money in them right 
now, it’s uncertain how much we might lose in the future,” 

Political scientist Viktor Kovtunovsky predicted that Kazakstan’s position 
might change again in future. 

“The serious outflow of investment from Georgia was due to political 
instability,” he said. “If the situation in Georgia becomes [more] favourable, 
investments will come pouring back in.” 

Kovtunovsky added that it was important for the Georgians not to misread 
Kazakstan’s intentions, as any reciprocal action they took might derail future 
economic cooperation between the two states. 

Anton Dosybiev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kazakstan. 


Election official’s claims of intimidation taken up as an opposition cause.

By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek

The resignation of Kyrgyzstan’s election chief last month came as an unexpected 
gift for the country’s opposition parties, which attempted to capitalise on the 
controversy after months of apparent drift.

However, Klara Kabilova, chair of the Central Electoral Commission, has since 
distanced herself from the opposition, saying she refuses to be part of their 
political agenda. One local analyst argues that the real confrontation going on 
behind the scenes is not between opposition and government, but between rival 
factions in the ruling elite. 

On September 26, a recorded statement by Kabilova was made public; in it she 
claimed she had been unfairly pressured after she asked for the release of a 
candidate for the October 5 local elections, currently in police custody. In 
the video recording, she said she was visited by Maxim Bakiev, the son of 
Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev, who employed “outrageous pressure and 
obscene insults” to intimidate her. 

Maxim Bakiev, a prominent local businessman, has denied the claims outright, 
saying he never even contacted Kabilova. After prosecutors questioned him about 
the case, he gave an interview to the Bishkek Press Club on September 30 at 
which he said, “I am certain that all these intrigues surrounding the video 
recording in which I’m mentioned are designed merely to sully the president’s 

The main opposition parties seized on the issue, airing the video of Kabilova’s 
statement at a September 26 press conference. 

One party, Ak Shumkar, said that in view of Kabilova’s allegations, the results 
of the parliamentary election held last December should be cancelled on the 
grounds that they were unfair. It also wants all the CEC’s members to step 

The December election was won by Ak Jol, a party set up only two months before 
the polls, and even the leading opposition party, Ata Meken, failed to win a 
single seat. Opposition groups are concerned that ten months on, the CEC has 
yet to publish a detailed breakdown of the ballot results.

The opposition press conference had swift repercussions – within a few hours, 
President Bakiev sacked Kabilova, while her colleagues in the CEC lined up to 
accuse her of seeking to escape liability for any procedural abuses committed 
while she was in office. 

Her interim replacement, Damir Lisovsky, said, “We CEC members are extremely 
indignant at the irresponsible and provocative statement made by Klara 
Kabilova. Her lack of professionalism has placed the local council elections in 
jeopardy. Kabilova’s statement is an attempt to shirk responsibility.”

Opposition leaders claim that Kabilova went into hiding on September 20, made 
the tape five days later, and later fled the country after unsuccessfully 
seeking protection from the National Security Service. The former elections 
chief has not herself confirmed this sequence of events, although it is clear 
she is now in Moscow.

Ata Meken leader Omurbek Tekebaev suggested that more revelations might be on 
the way. “She fears for her life but she’s ready to fight,” he said of 
Kabilova. “It’s possible that in the near future she will make other statements 
regarding last year’s parliamentary election.” 

The Kyrgyz opposition has been notably silent this year, in contrast to the 
mass demonstrations it had staged on several occasions since the March 2005 
revolution that brought President Bakiev and his administration to power. Many 
analysts believed the opposition’s failure to achieve significant victories 
through protest actions, coupled with its effective exclusion from the 
legislature in last December’s polls, had left it with no real sense of 

Now the Kabilova controversy has given the opposition a real issue to get its 
teeth into.

“After the early parliamentary election, the opposition and specifically Ata 
Meken were pushed into the background,” political commentator Toktogul 
Kakchekeev told IWPR. “Kabilova’s statement has given the opposition carte 
blanche to contest the election results in a real way. Even though the Kyrgyz 
judicial system is subservient [to government] , the opposition will be able to 
use this statement during the presidential election in two years’ time. It 
could be their ace card.”

Dinara Oshurakhunova, who heads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, 
hopes Kabilova will reveal all about past violations of election procedure. 
“She must tell the truth about the results of the 2007 parliamentary election. 
Publication of these facts would ultimately help to prove that the current 
[legislative] body is illegitimate,” she said.

Meanwhile, the authorities and their allies have moved to limit the damage and 
prevent the opposition from exploiting the case. 

Kabay Karabekov of the pro-presidential Ak Jol party said Maxim Bakiev had no 
reason to intimidate the CEC head, especially since the October elections were 
merely for local councils and would not reshape the political landscape. 

The prosecution service appears to have shifted the focus of its investigation, 
launched a day after the opposition showed the Kabilova video. Having begun by 
looking into a possible case of interference in the electoral process and 
questioning most of the CEC’s members as well as Maxim Bakiev, it now seems to 
have turned its attention to the question of how the opposition got hold of the 
offending video. Opposition leaders who attended the press conference were 
summoned for questioning on October 2.

As chief prosecutor Elmurza Satybaldiev put it, “it is important for the 
investigation to recreate the sequence of events that preceded Klara Kabilova’s 
vocal statement”. 

Cholpon Jakypova of the legal aid group Adilet told the 24.kg news agency that 
investigating prosecutors were interested “not in the content of the former CEC 
chief’s statement but in how the recording reached the opposition, in other 
words who it came from and who gave permission to air it”. 

In Moscow, Kabilova sought to distance herself from opposition activists. After 
speaking to her by phone, Kyrgyzstan’s human rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun 
told 24.kg that the ex-CEC head confirmed the authenticity of the videotape but 
that she had intended her statement for “the public, not the opposition” and 
was “astounded” that it had ended up in the hands of opposition leaders. 

She insisted, said Akun, that “she has nothing in common with opponents of the 

One local analyst believes the controversy is not about fair elections or about 
opposition-government relations. According to Mars Sariev, “There are two 
groupings around the president – one comprising his son Maxim Bakiev and 
presidential administration chief Medet Sadyrkulov, and the other including his 
brother Janysh Bakiev and others.” Kabilova is said to be close to the latter 

“Effectively what we have is a struggle for resources going on around the 
president,” added Sariev. 

To complicate matters, Sariev said the Maxim Bakiev/Sadyrkulov faction has won 
backing from movers and shakers in the north of Kyrgyzstan, while the other 
group derives its power from the south. In a country where regionalism plays an 
important part in politics, the Bakiev administration has traditionally been 
associated with southern Kyrgyzstan. 

To prevent this factional rivalry opening up the regional divide, President 
Bakiev must “balance between these groups and work in the interests of the 
entire republic, not just the south”. 

In an interview he gave during the October 5 local elections, the president 
responded to allegations that he was under the influence of powerful elite 

“It’s very difficult to influence me – pressuring the president is a thankless 
task,” he said. “Individuals or groups that try to do so find themselves in an 
awkward position. I always listen to what those around me say, but I take the 

For the moment, it looks as though the president will ride this crisis out. 

In the interview, he speculated that Kabilova had fallen prey to “games played 
by politicians” and insisted that last year’s election was fair. 

Some analysts are predicting that Bakiev will attempt to co-opt some of his 
opponents into government, as he has done in the past. It would make sense for 
him to consolidate his position politically, they say, as he has some serious 
problems to cope with in the real world. 

Winter is on the way, and some forecasters are predicting a repeat of last 
year’s exceptionally harsh weather. Kyrgyzstan is already experiencing power 
cuts because it is unable to generate enough electricity, and high world fuel 
prices are making imports prohibitively expensive. 

Yrys Kadykeev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Bishkek. Aida Kasymalieva, 
IWPR’s editor for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, contributed additional reporting.


Two high-profile resignations and allegations of ballot-stuffing tarnish the 
latest exercise in democracy. 

By Chynara Karimova in Bishkek

Opposition parties and civil rights activists in Kyrgyzstan have disputed 
official claims that the October 5 local elections were a success, saying they 
observed so many breaches of procedure that the ballot counts as a setback for 

The arguments come as the departure of Kyrgyzstan’s election chief revived 
allegations that last December’s parliamentary election – won outright by the 
pro-president Ak Jol party – were less than fair. Klara Kabilova, chair of the 
Central Electoral Commission, CEC, is now in self-imposed exile in Moscow after 
claiming she was intimidated by the son of President Kurmanbek Bakiev. (See 
Kyrgyz Opposition Rears Head Over Video Scandal, RCA No. 551, 08-Oct-08) 

The CEC said turnout was 64 per cent for the nationwide elections to 7,647 
seats on municipal and rural councils, for which more than 15,000 candidates 
were competing. The vast majority stood as independents, with only about 850 
candidates formally nominated by Kyrgyzstan’s political parties. Detailed 
results were not available when this report was published, but early signs were 
that Ak Jol had done well again, with its opposition rivals Ak Shumkar and Ata 
Meken getting few seats. 

Among the problems reported by election observers were people finding their 
names missing from the electoral roll; voters being allowed into the polls 
without showing ID; busing people in en masse; multiple voting; the alteration 
of ballot papers; and plain bribery. 

“The most basic violation is that many people couldn’t find their names on the 
electoral registers,” said Dinara Oshurakhunova of the Coalition for Democracy 
and Civil Society, a pressure group. She noted that in some cases, additional 
voter rolls were drawn up, of dubious legality. 

Maksat Joldoshbekov from the Aliza Ene Charity Fund, who served as an election 
monitor, described what looked like a clear case of people being corralled in 
to vote when they were not on the electoral roll in the capital Bishkek. 

“There was a building site near the polling station where some young men from a 
village [elsewhere] were working,” he said. “Some people brought them in, they 
were ‘registered’ and they voted. We wrote a formal complaint about the case.” 

Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the Ata Meken party, said the authorities did 
nothing to stop open attempts to buy votes. “In Bazar-Korgon, my home in the 
south of the country, an Ata Meken member brought a court action against a 
school principal and another candidate, who entertained voters with food one 
day before the elections. The judge advised them to reconcile with each other, 
and when our candidate refused to do so, he lost his case,” said Tekebaev. “I 
want to stress that this time round, vote-buying has happened on a massive 

Many observers claimed that election officials deployed to local polling 
stations were untrained and vulnerable to manipulation. 

“The CEC has spent vast sums of money on training these people. But it turns 
out they are untrained and don’t even know how to fill in an election return,” 
said Elena Voronina, head of the Interbilim non-government group. “These 
elections were accompanied by gross violations on a massive scale, just as 
happened during last year [parliamentary] election.” 

Many of the temporary staff the CEC hires at election time are teachers. One 
headmistress who took part, but did not want to be named, told IWPR, “I was 
amazed at the deftness of the tricks they performed. I felt sorry for the 
observers doing a pointless job. Commission officials deliberately sign reports 
using a pencil to create confusion, and fail to stamp the returns.” 

She claimed that election staff were notified in advance about which candidates 
were to win, and they made sure this influenced the count. 

“The names of the ‘golden four’ were known from the morning – the four 
candidates who were to win in the constituency. This happened everywhere,” she 

Some NGO representatives said the absence of international observers made the 
electoral process less transparent. 

International relations expert Askarbek Mambetaliev distributed a statement 
suggesting the failure to bring in foreign election monitors would look bad for 
Kyrgyzstan’s international image. 

“The CEC itself should have an interest in having international observers 
participate so as to increase voter confidence,” he said in the statement. 

However, a senior CEC official, Kudaybergen Bazarbaev, responded, “There’s no 
hidden political agenda. It’s just a matter of procedure. We received 
applications from international observers too late.” 

In the face of mounting criticism, the CEC admitted that there had been a few 
minor problems but insisted there was nothing serious. As of October 9, it said 
it had received only 72 complaints and was looking into 46 of them 

The CEC’s rebuffals of alleged abuses were phrased in unusually fierce 
language. Dismissing allegations made by the Taza Shailoo election monitoring 
group, the CEC’s new head Damir Lisovsky said, “Anything just to make a 
complaint. I don’t even know how to evaluate these reports.” 

In a written statement, the CEC entered political territory by attacking 
opposition parties for claiming the ballot was unfair, describing such claims 
as “false, invented and entirely unfounded”. 

“The position set out in the media by a number of opposition groupings is 
designed to destabilise the situation,” it went on. “This kind of statement 
should be regarded as defamatory.” 

As the opposition Ata Meken made plans to contest the results for Bishkek city 
council, another party – this time a historically pro-government one – 
complained of major ballot-rigging. 

In an interview for RFE/RL on October 8, Jany Kyrgyzstan’s secretary general 
Ismail Isakov alleged that government resources were deployed to shape the 
desired election outcome. 

“Irregularities during the count have caused anger and outrage among citizens,” 
he said. 

What is remarkable about Isakov’s criticisms is that they came from someone 
serving as secretary of the national Security Council, a key decision-making 
body in Kyrgyzstan. 

On October 10, Isakov submitted his resignation from the council, citing 
disagreements with President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s domestic, foreign and personnel 

Analysts note that Jany Kyrgyzstan, one of the older parties which counts many 
senior figures among its members, has an axe to grind against the newcomer Ak 
Jol, which President Bakiev set up only two months before it swept the board in 
the December 2007 election. 

In the interview, Isakov claimed that Ak Jol does not enjoy wide voter support, 
while in a statement on October 7, Jany Kyrgyzstan leaders blamed the 
government and Ak Jol for the current economic crisis, in which the whole 
country is suffering periodic power-cuts, and threatened to stage protests in 
November if things did not improve. 

Chynara Karimova is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kyrgyzstan. 


Analysts say government needs to do more to stop Islamic radicals channelling 
grassroots discontent.

By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek

The authorities in Kyrgyzstan have dealt with an Islamic protest in the south 
of the country by arresting many of the participants. However, they have also 
recognised that local government was at fault for ignoring legitimate concerns 
expressed by the Muslim community. 

The unrest broke out in the town of Nookat on October 1, when Muslims in 
Kyrgyzstan marked Eid al Fitr – known locally as Orozo Ait – the festival that 
marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The trouble began when a group 
of young men and adolescents gathered outside the local government offices in 
Nookat to complain about a decision not to arrange an Eid celebration in the 
town centre. 

A local policeman told IWPR that the protesters numbered over 1,000, although 
other accounts put the figure at about 60. 

Police and local officials moved in, first offering a sports stadium as an 
alternative venue for the celebration. However, the demonstrators refused to 
back down and, according to officials, began throwing stones at police and 
smashing windows and doors in the local government building. Five policemen 
were injured. 

The crowd was eventually dispersed by riot police bused in from the regional 
centre Osh, who used tear gas to drive protestors away. 

Seven protestors were arrested on the spot, and more alleged participants were 
picked up later. On October 13, the State Committee for National Security 
announced that 32 people were in custody. 

It said all of those detained were active members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic 
group banned in Kyrgyzstan. Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group of Middle Eastern origin, 
appeared in Central Asia in the Nineties and advocates the replacement of the 
region’s secular governments by an Islamic state. It insists its methods are 
non-violent, although regional governments have accused it of being behind a 
number of attacks. 

In Kyrgyzstan, the group is particularly active in the south of the country, 
where Islamic observance has traditionally been stronger, and in recent years 
it has become adept at publicising itself by supporting local communities with 
grievances. See Islamic Group Quietly Builds Support in Kyrgyzstan, RCA No. 
516, 16-Nov-07) 

Kanybek Osmonaliev, director of the State Agency for Religious Affairs, took a 
tough line on the demonstrators and their motives. 

“Attacking the Nookat district administration building by throwing stones is a 
direct challenge by destructive elements,” he said. “The Muftiate [official 
Muslim governing body] says they have nothing in common with Islam.” 

At the same time, the Kyrgyz authorities have acknowledged that local officials 
in Nookat behaved insensitively towards repeated requests to mark one of the 
key dates on the Muslim calendar, thus opening the way for Hizb ut-Tahrir to 
get involved in protest actions. 

After the incident, President Kurmanbek Bakiev sacked Nookat district chief 
Abdygany Aliev. 

Deputy Interior Minister Jenish Jakipov told journalists, “Representatives of 
the Muslim community had asked the local administration in advance for 
permission to hold this [Eid celebration] event. But local government did not 
treat their request with the seriousness and respect it deserved, and 
consequently no solution was found. 

“Representatives of the extremist religious party Hizb ut-Tahrir exploited the 
popular dissatisfaction and incited young people to illegal acts.” 

The head of the Kylym Shamy human rights group, Aziza Abdirasulova, agrees that 
local government blundered. 

“The Muslims in Nookat have twice approached the district government chief with 
a request to allocate a venue for celebrations,” she said. “People took it 
badly when they were ignored. The fact that neither the governor nor his 
deputies reached an agreement with local people, and did not offer them 
alternative venues ahead of time, tells me that it was they who provoked this 

Some observers caution against dismissing the protestors as religious 

“To say unequivocally that all the demonstrators were Hizb ut-Tahrir members or 
radial Islamists would not be correct,” said Miroslav Niazov, a former 
government official now active in politics. 

Niazov believes that support for Hizb ut Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan is growing not 
because people espouse radical ideologies, but because they are profoundly 
unhappy with government policies and lack of responsiveness. 

“Against a backdrop of poverty, corruption and diminishing confidence in the 
authorities, Hizb ut-Tahrir members have increased their engagement with the 
population through social projects such as free distribution of food and mass 
action,” said Kadyr Malikov, an academic who specialises in Islamic studies. 

According to Malikov, the government and its allies need to tackle Hizb 
ut-Tahrir head on by addressing the same issues that it highlights – among them 
poverty – and setting out arguments to counter its extreme views. 

Malikov said influential Muslim religious leaders had a large role to play in 
changing popular attitudes to Hizb ut-Tahrir. They must do more than talk, he 
said, recommending instead “practical grassroots work to tackle poverty, 
supported by local government”. 

“This conflict [in Nookat] is the first serious alarm-bell signalling a need to 
change the strategy and methods for countering Hizb ut-Tahrir,” he said. 

Yrys Kadykeev is a pseudonym used by a journalist in Kyrgyzstan.

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