WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 575, May 2, 2009

KYRGYZSTAN: COMMUNAL CLASH ESCALATES INTO POLITICAL ROW  A confrontation 
between different ethnic communities has blown up into a dispute among 
national-level officials and politicians.  By Anara Yusupova and Ayday Tokonova 
in Bishkek, and Beksultan Sadyrkulov in Petrovka

FAINT PRAISE FOR TAJIK CRISIS PLAN  Analysts warn that plans to use tax cuts to 
boost manufacturing are over-optimistic.  By Farzona Abdulqaisova in Dushanbe

KAZAK OPPOSITION PARTIES CONSIDER MERGER  Four main parties have agreed 
tactical alliance, but underlying differences make complete union look 
unlikely.  By Elmira Gabidullina in Almaty

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KYRGYZSTAN: COMMUNAL CLASH ESCALATES INTO POLITICAL ROW

A confrontation between different ethnic communities has blown up into a 
dispute among national-level officials and politicians.

By Anara Yusupova and Ayday Tokonova in Bishkek, and Beksultan Sadyrkulov in 
Petrovka

A flare-up of ethnic violence in a village in northern Kyrgyzstan which got out 
of hand has had reverberations well beyond local community level, with central 
government and the opposition hurling accusations at one another over the 
dispute. 

Around 200 people were involved in clashes on April 26 as local Kyrgyz and 
Russians fought with Kurds from the same village, Petrovka. The former were 
demanding that a Kurdish man accused of raping a four-year-old girl should be 
handed over to them. 

Several people being stabbed and two people received gunshot wounds. The 
windows of more than a dozen houses were smashed and several cars destroyed. 

Police arrested more than 90 people they said took part in the rioting. 

The dispute took on an ethnic colouring as Russians and Kyrgyz called for the 
500-strong Kurdish community to leave the village within 24 hours. 

The Kurds moved into the village, in the Chu region 50 kilometres from the 
capital Bishkek, a few years ago. They are part of a community of some 11,000 
scattered across Central Asia after the group was deported wholesale from the 
south Caucasus in 1944 on Stalin’s orders. 

This case bears a number of similarities with a clash in southern Kazakstan in 
2007, in which Kurds were blamed en masse for a crime allegedly committed by 
one individual. (See Kazakstan: Ethnic Clash a Worrying Sign, RCA No. 517, 
23-Nov-07.) 

Residents of Petrovka accuse local police of indirectly causing the trouble by 
failing to handle the original rape claim properly. 

When news of the assault on a child first emerged, villagers held a meeting to 
air their concerns, in particular that police were effectively ignoring the 
case. Some told IWPR they had heard that police were paid off to hush the 
matter up 

“That was precisely what infuriated people. Does that mean no one can protect 
our rights?” said local resident Japar. 

The head of the Kyrgyz interior ministry’s press service, Bakyt Seyitov, 
confirmed to IWPR that the disturbances were provoked by an alleged rape on 
April 7, of which a 25 year-old-man has been accused. 

Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiev insists police did respond to the 
complaint. In remarks quoted by the 24.kg news agency, he said his men 
established the identity of the suspect and launched a search after failing to 
find him at home. 

When Kongantiev’s deputy Talantbek Isaev briefed the Kyrgyz parliament on April 
29, he said the suspect had now been detained by locals and handed over to the 
police. 

Isaev noted that the alleged crime was reported ten days after it took place. 

The dispute has now widened well beyond the individual crime allegation in 
question. Locals are now accusing police of using excessive force to quell the 
unrest, and anti-Kurdish sentiment is rife. 

“My wife went out into the street to see what was going on after she heard loud 
noises,” said villager called Akjol. “At that moment, police armed with batons 
and shields took her away. I don’t know who to turn to. If I go to the police, 
I’m afraid they will detain me too.” 

The day after the violence, several hundred Petrovka resident blocked 
Kyrgyzstan’s main arterial highway leading from Bishkek to Osh in the south. 
They were demanding the release of detained relatives, punishment for the 
suspect, and an investigation into the death of the four-year-old’s 
grandmother. 

The woman reportedly hanged herself after reporting the alleged rape and 
becoming disillusioned with the lack of results. 

Some of these demands were met on April 30, when the Kyrgyz prosecutor 
general’s office reported that the grandmother’s death was to be investigated, 
and that a separate case had been opened with regard to police who, it is 
claimed, committed offences including forgery while handling the rape 
allegation. 

Kurdish community representatives are fearful that indiscriminate hostility to 
them will spread. 

Ibrahim Nadirov, a leader of the Association of Kurds of Kyrgyzstan, said a 
Kurdish family in a different village came under attack on April 29 and had 
windows in their home broken. 

“Residents of the village of Petrovka are saying the Kurds should be evicted,” 
he said, in remarks quoted by the 24.kg news agency. “But where would we go? 
One family tried to move to Sokoluk district, but the people there held a 
meeting at which the told them not to show their faces and pledged to destroy 
all Kurdish homes.” 

Meanwhile, national-level politicians are arguing about who did what to resolve 
– or incite – this local conflagration. 

Central government has blamed local officials, and the Moskovsky district 
administration chief, the district police chief and the district prosecutor 
have all been sacked. 

Meeting the chief prosecutor and the interior minister, President Kurmanbek 
Bakiev said, “It is not the outraged people, to whom the local administration 
denied justice, who are to blame. The fault lies with the heartless bureaucrats 
who ignored [the incident] and tried to cover it up.” 

Raisa Sidorenko, a member of parliament with the governing Ak Jol party, took 
the same view, saying that if local government, police and prosecution 
officials had acted in a legal and timely matter, “the pogroms in Petrovka 
would have been avoided”. 

The opposition is now embroiled in the aftermath of the violence. 

Green Party leader Erkin Bulekbaev visited Petrovka the day following the 
unrest, and was arrested together with opposition activist Sapar Argymbaev and 
two local people. Bulekbaev and Argymbaev were charged with the offence of 
organising disturbances, and were sentenced to two months imprisonment. The two 
others, who are believed to belong to the opposition party Ata Meken, were 
released. 

Interior Minister Kongantiev has turned on the opposition, saying it was aware 
that there was going to be trouble, and accusing members of inciting this 
outbreak of ethnic violence. 

“The investigation has indisputable evidence that the mass unrest was provoked 
deliberately,” said the minister. “There is video footage showing a man calling 
on villagers to give the Kurds 24 hours to pack up and leave the country. 
Standing in the middle of a crowd, he urges people to attack Kurds’ homes. It’s 
obvious that calls like this made in a crowd of emotionally charged people have 
led to the pogrom.” 

The minister’s claims have turned a story about a local clash and allegations 
of police culpability into a full-scale political battle at national level, 
just three months before Kyrgyzstan goes into a presidential election. 

The main opposition bloc, the United People’s Movement, UPM, promptly announced 
that it was suing Kongantiev for slander. 

In the same statement the UPM issued counter-allegations - that the 
disturbances were caused by police “attempting to cover up a heinous crime”, 
and by local government officials who failed to address people’s needs and 
wishes. 

Bakyt Beshimov, who heads the opposition Social Democrats in parliament, 
pointed the finger of blame at central government. 

“It is the local administration that is being blamed, but in a situation where 
the state authorities are far removed from the real problems facing people and 
are making no attempt to respond to citizens’ day-today requests, there could 
be many Petrovkas to come in Kyrgyzstan.” 

Three different enquiries are to be launched into what happened in Petrovka – 
one by the Ak Jol party, another by a public committee including local 
officials, and a third by Kyrgyzstan’s human rights ombudsman. 
Anara Yusupova, Ayday Tokonova, and Beksultan Sadyrkulov are pseudonyms for 
journalists in Kyrgyzstan. 


FAINT PRAISE FOR TAJIK CRISIS PLAN

Analysts warn that plans to use tax cuts to boost manufacturing are 
over-optimistic.

By Farzona Abdulqaisova in Dushanbe

Tajikistan’s government has finally announced how it plans to counter the 
multiple effects of global economic crisis, but analysts worry that its 
analysis of the problems and the cure it prescribes are unrealistic. 

President Imomali Rahmon gave details of the “anti-crisis” action plan in an 
address to parliament on April 15, saying it had actually been operating for 
some time.

The basic approach is to encourage local producers by cutting interest rates 
and attracting investment. The president also described how the government 
budget would be kept afloat by trimming non-essential expenditure and financing 
much of the rest with loans from international lenders. 

Although the budget is being revised downwards in light of first-quarter 
results, Rahmonov gave a firm pledge that spending on public sector wages and 
benefits, hospitals, schools and the like would not be touched.

The Tajik leader painted a grim picture of Tajikistan’s performance to date 
this year. The economy grew by 3.5 per cent in January-March, he said, which 
suggested that overall growth this year would be slower than anticipated. 

The IMF’s latest forecast, published on April 30, suggests the Tajik economy 
will grow by two per cent this year, which compares badly with figures of just 
under eight per cent achieved in both 2008 and 2007.

The president noted that foreign-currency receipts from Tajikistan’s key export 
commodities – aluminium and cotton – had taken a major hit, with world prices 
tumbling by between 30 and 50 per cent.

This has already resulted in lost revenues for central government. Payments 
from aluminium and cotton exports account for a hefty proportion of budget 
inflows – last year’s budget, for example, was based on expectations that 17 
per cent of total revenue would come from the former and ten per cent from the 
latter.

Although these effects started being felt late last year, Rahmon said overall 
revenues really took a hit in the first quarter of 2009, when the government 
received 14 per cent less money than it had planned for.

The finance ministry has now cut its original 1.7 billion US dollar spending 
plan by 130 million. 

That will be achieved by trimming overheads and non-essential business trips in 
the public sector, and by holding off on repair work, new purchases and 
recruitment. 

The cuts would have been deeper were it not for the 70 million dollars in 
financial assistance the government has secured from international lenders. 
Rahmonov said further loans would be sought to support the budget. 

TAX CUTS DESIGNED TO HELP BUSINESSES

On the economic front, the government’s main strategy seems to be to stimulate 
domestic production, although some analysts question how feasible this is.

The central bank has been told to reduce its benchmark lending rate, and 
businesses will also benefit from lower profit and value-added taxes. The 
government is also improving the terms of its fast-track tax system for some 
businesses, and extending the freeze on tax inspections for smaller firms.

Finally, legislation has been put to parliament to cut away some of the 
bureaucracy that hampers new business start-ups by creating a kind of one-stop 
shop to handle the various procedures involved.

Rustam Jabbarov, deputy head of the taxation service, told IWPR the focus was 
on easing conditions for smaller businesses because Tajikistan – in contrast to 
countries like Russia and Kazakstan – had few really big companies.

“Our [revenue] source is based largely on small and medium businesses,” he said.

Firuz Saidov, a departmental head at Tajikistan’s Centre for Strategic Studies, 
is optimistic that the tax breaks and other measures outlined by the president 
will mean more small businesses are set up, generating more money for the 
government. 

“If the system works, the budget won’t lose out; it might even gain if there 
are more people paying taxes,” he said.

However, other economists say things are not that simple, because the bulk of 
companies operating in Tajikistan do not make goods; they simply trade in them.

Tax official Jabbarov acknowledged this was a reality, saying, “Eighty per cent 
of our entrepreneurs are not producers but traders. They buy here and sell 
there. That isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t deliver much [in taxes] to the 
state.” 

Bahor Kamarov, an expert on business development, told IWPR that the dominance 
of the retail sector made it implausible that tax cuts alone could stimulate 
manufacturing. 

With that in mind, Kamarov warned that the government’s decision to slash 
profit tax from 25 to 15 per cent was likely to result in a lower overall 
revenue figure.

“If you look at it [tax cut] in isolation it doesn’t amount to much, but 
multiplied across the country it will create a budget shortfall,” he said.

The measure would only make sense, he suggested, if businesses used their tax 
savings to invest in growth and purchase new technology.

LESS MONEY AROUND TO SPEND

Economists are warning that taxes from retailers are likely to dip this year, 
since consumer spending in Tajikistan is largely driven not by locally-earned 
income, but by the money which the million or so Tajiks working abroad send 
home to their families.

By not only supporting households but also allowing them to buy from local 
businesses, these remittances contribute around 40 per cent of Tajikistan’s 
gross national product, according to World Bank figures. 

Since last year, the construction industry in Russia and Kazakstan, where most 
of the Tajik migrants work, the flow of money has fallen dramatically. 

Central bank figures show that migrant workers sent money transfers of more 
than two billion dollars in the period from January to September last year. But 
after that, the transfers started falling away. These figures do not take into 
account the money migrants bring home in cash.

Saidov noted that Rahmonov’s keynote speech omitted to mention that “we used to 
receive 2.5 billion dollars a year from them [migrant worker] – a substantial 
contribution to people’s livelihoods”.

He added, “It will be very dangerous if the president continues to rely on 
labour migration, because the world is changing…. It’s a question of our 
country’s economic and political security.” 

Saidov predicted that the true extent of the decline in remittances would only 
become apparent after the end of June, when economic figures for the first half 
of the year were available.

The reason, he said, was that “people are still sending back money they earned 
in 2008”

“If the remittances fall by 50 per cent, gross domestic product will fall by 25 
per cent,” he added.

The IMF predicts that remittances will fall by 30 per cent in 2009.

TRANSLATING PLANS INTO ACTION A CHALLENGE

Aside from its hopes that tax cuts will generate more production, analysts 
interviewed by IWPR said the government’s anti-crisis programme largely makes 
sense.

There are, however, still question-marks over how quickly and effectively the 
plan can be implemented.

According to Saidov, much depends on how swiftly the tax cuts can be pushed 
through parliament. 

“If the tax legislation hasn’t been approved by June or July, then Tajikistan 
will face major economic problems this autumn and winter,” he warned.

Member of parliament Yusuf Ahmedov noted that Rahmonov’s speech was largely 
given over to the economy and the creation of new jobs. 

“But how is that going to be paid for?” he asked.

Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy head of the opposition Democratic Party, said 
transparency would be a key issue when it came to implementing the anti-crisis 
programme.

“What [Rahmonov] should have talked about… is how effectively the money that’s 
now being spent to get the country out of crisis is being used,” he said. 
“Bearing in mind the way officials generally behave, only a small proportion of 
the funding allocated to deal with the crisis will trickle down to ordinary 
people.”

Farzona Abdulqaisova is an IWPR-trained journalist in Dushanbe.


KAZAK OPPOSITION PARTIES CONSIDER MERGER

Four main parties have agreed tactical alliance, but underlying differences 
make complete union look unlikely.

By Elmira Gabidullina in Almaty

Despite concerted efforts by Kazakstan’s opposition parties to join forces, 
analysts doubt they will take the final step – a full merger – that would leave 
them well placed to take on the administration of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

During the Forum of Democratic Forces, held in Almaty on April 11, the four 
strongest opposition parties – the Azat Democratic Party, the National Social 
Democratic Party, NSDP, the Communist Party of Kazakstan, CPK, and the Alga 
People’s Party – agreed to form a united bloc. 

A resolution signed by the four party leaders did not delineate the contours of 
the coalition, stating only that a committee would be set up to develop “a 
common vision on a strategy for political, social, and economic reforms in 
Kazakstan”.

“We have to combine our power and resources and leave behind old resentments 
and ambitions in order to implement plans for economic recovery,” said National 
Social Democrat leader Jarmakhan Tuyakbay 

Tuyakbay said the parties had to work together on how to deal with the effects 
of the international economic crisis as they played out in Kazakstan. Accusing 
the government of an “ostrich-like” failure to admit the scale of the problems, 
he claimed that seven out of ten firms in Kazakstan were on the verge of 
collapse. 

Tuyakbay floated the idea of creating a single opposition party capable of 
taking on the president’s Nur Otan, which has a massive membership and was the 
only party to win seats in the 2007 election to the lower house of parliament. 
“We must join hands in order that we do not vanish one by one,” he said. “That 
is why we are setting up a joint committee to establish a single democratic 
party, and we would welcome other parties joining this discussion.” 

Bulat Abishev, the NSDP’s deputy leader, said the unification deal was the only 
way the opposition would stand a chance in future elections. 

“We are uniting because we know who we’re dealing with,” he explained. “The 
huge pro-presidential party has accumulated all the resources, and none of the 
four oppositional parties will be able to run against it alone.” 

The four parties appear divided on how far they are prepared to move towards a 
merger. 

Petr Svoik, one of Azat’s leaders, points out that looser alliances are not 
allowed under Kazak law, so the only real option is complete amalgamation. 

“The main objective of unification is to participate in elections under the 
umbrella of one party, with a single party list,” he said. “Political blocs are 
banned, and elections are around the corner – that requires that we have a 
strong list of candidates. This is why a single opposition party can be the 
only form of unification.” 

Yet Abishev indicated that the NSDP was not planning on disappearing, saying, 
“No matter what form the unified political entity takes, our party wants to 
preserve its own identity.” 

The leader of the Alga party, Vladimir Kozlov, went further than that, telling 
IWPR that “a decision to merge into one party would be not only detrimental but 
dangerous. 

“Even a single party can be torn apart by internal differences. And if these 
are compounded by external disputes when other parties coalesce into one, first 
of all each of them will disappear, and later on, the single party will vanish. 
So this approach would be completely futile.” 

Unlike the other three coalition members, Alga, which emerged out of the main 
opposition party of the late Nineties, Democratic Choice of Kazakstan, has 
never been granted registration as a political party. 

These differing interpretations of what unification might mean offer a clue as 
to why some analysts say the marriage will never work, however it is 
configured. 

Political scientist Dosym Satpaev says it makes a lot of sense for parties to 
come together, given that they lack funds individually yet have the potential 
to tap into growing public discontent at the economic downturn. 

In addition, he said, it is more than likely the authorities will call an early 
parliamentary election. 

As IWPR reported in February, there are signs the authorities might go for an 
early election, partly to get it over and done with before the already 
difficult economic situation gets even worse, and to prevent the opposition 
from pursuing the protest vote. (See Early Polls Looking Likely in Kazakstan, 
RCA No. 567, 24-Feb-09.) 

“The current difficult socio-economic situation presents an opportunity for the 
opposition,” said Satpaev. “The earlier merger of political parties into Nur 
Otan has turned it into a strong pro-presidential fist, opposed by the spread 
fingers of the opposition. Individual fingers obviously can’t fight against a 
fist, and that’s why they want to unite. The question is how viable this 
project will be.” 

At the same time, Satpaev noted that the four parties have quite separate 
ideological views, making it hard to conceive of a combined party with a solid, 
coherent programme. One particular problem, he said, was that they differ in 
how far they are prepared to engage with the Nazarbaev administration. 

“While some parties won’t countenance dialogue with the current government in 
any form, others are more accommodating,” he said. 

Another political commentator, Nailya Musina, shares Satpaev’s scepticism, 
saying the four opposition groups vary in terms of “ideological principles, 
methods, and past relations with the authorities”. 

“The opposition parties have already tried uniting, but these unions did not 
last long,” she said. “And if they do form a single party, there will be the 
question of who leads it. No party will wish to cede this to the others.” 

In 2007, Tuyakbay’s NSDP and Naghyz Ak Jol formed a bloc to contest a 
parliamentary election. But legislation passed only months before the ballot 
outlawed such blocs, leaving the two parties no option but to merge. The new 
party did not surmount the seven per cent threshold needed to win seats in the 
legislature, and the two parties subsequently went their own ways again. 

Naghyz Ak Jol later transformed itself into the present Azat party. 

Three years earlier, the CPK – which had just suffered an internal schism that 
produced the separate Communist People’s Party – fought an election in a bloc 
with Democratic Choice of Kazakstan, but they too failed to get into 
parliament. 

Musin believes a smaller bloc called Narodovlastie (People Power) which the CPK 
formed with Alga this March is much more viable. 

“Although it isn’t officially registered, Alga has been very active in the 
provinces, and they have very serious resources and interesting projects on the 
ground,” she said. “So I am putting my money on Narodovlastie, because if Azat 
and the NSDP were to merge, they’d have serious problems choosing a leader.” 

Elmira Gabidullina is an IWPR contributor in Almaty. 

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