WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 579, 11-Jun-09
UZBEK BORDER LOCKDOWN AFTER ANDIJAN VIOLENCE Traffic and trade with
Kyrgyzstan halts as uneasy calm settles in Uzbek east. By IWPR staff in Central
TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY SLOWLY SIDELINED Mainstream religious group failing to
make headway in politics despite efforts to modernise and grow. By Daler
Gufronov and Aslibegim Manzarshoeva in Dushanbe
KAZAKS USE SCARE TACTICS TO CUT YOUTH CRIME Lukewarm response to new
initiative intended to prevent adolescent crime. By Yana Bachevskaya in
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UZBEK BORDER LOCKDOWN AFTER ANDIJAN VIOLENCE
Traffic and trade with Kyrgyzstan halts as uneasy calm settles in Uzbek east.
By IWPR staff in Central Asia
Tight border controls remain in place on Uzbekistan's eastern border following
the armed attacks in and around the eastern city of Andijan on May 25-26.
The frontier with Kyrgyzstan remains all but sealed off, with only a handful of
checkpoints still open. The only people being let through are Uzbek nationals
returning home, while according to the Bishkek-based Kyrgyz news agency
AKI-press, Kyrgyz citizens - even diplomats - are being allowed to cross only
if they can prove their business is pressing.
The Uzbek authorities are now planning to create a 50-metre-deep buffer zone on
the stretch of border nearest to Andijan, according to AKI-press, and officials
have already told residents of one area - 180 households in all - that they
will have to move out.
Details of the violence are still sketchy because information coming out
through Uzbek state media is carefully filtered.
The main source is a statement from the Uzbek prosecution service saying that
overnight on May 25-26, a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Khanabad, a
town in Andijan region, was attacked by two or three armed individuals. A
policeman and one of the attackers were wounded in an exchange of fire, and all
the attackers got away, the statement said.
Foreign media reports said the Khanabad offices of the Ministry of Internal
Affairs, which controls the country's uniformed police, and the National
Security Service, SNB, were also attacked.
The following afternoon, again according to the prosecution service statement,
a suicide bomber killed himself and a policeman in Andijan itself, injuring a
number of passers-by.
The statement did not point the finger at any particular group, but the Russian
news agency Interfax quoted an anonymous source in the Uzbek security services
as suggesting the attack was carried out by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,
IMU, an outlawed insurgent group.
In 1999 and 2000, IMU guerrillas mounted raids on Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan,
and the authorities in Tashkent have also accused the group of involvement in
subsequent outbreaks of violence.
A claim by Uzbek prosecutors that the attackers came into the country from
neighbouring Kyrgyzstan has been challenged by officials from that country, who
have asked to see proof of this allegation.
When Uzbekistan's president Islam Karimov visited Andijan on May 31, he drew an
explicit connection with the violence that shook the city four years earlier.
"These events demonstrate that those who pursue evil designs have not renounced
them," he said in remarks carried by state TV.
He also hinted darkly at foreign support for the latest attacks.
On May 13, 2005, government troops opened fire using automatic weapons on a
crowd of demonstrators, killing several hundred civilians, according to
estimates by human rights groups.
In the face of calls for a proper investigation, Karimov was defiant, saying
less than 200 died, most of them armed Islamic extremists or else policemen
doing their duty.
On May 28, the armoured personnel carriers deployed in and around Andijan in
response to the violence were taken off the streets, AKI-press reported.
Speaking on June 1, a local observer said vehicles and travellers entering
Andijan were being checked.
"There are more than the usual number of traffic police in the city, but the
situation is stable," he said. "I haven't heard who might be under suspicion
but I understand police have been visiting homes looking for someone."
In the city, very little information was available publicly and no one was
discussing what had happened.
"People are scared of each other. It's a very strange situation," said the
Kyrgyz border guards said they ended the heightened security arrangements on
their side on May 28 as things were back to normal. However, there is no sign
of easing on the Uzbek side.
The tight security measures have hit communities on either side of the
frontier, reducing cross-border trade and consequently raising prices at local
markets - on the Uzbek side, for Chinese-made consumer goods, and in
Kyrgyzstan, for imported Uzbek foodstuffs.
"How many days have already passed without vegetables and herbs and other
foodstuffs passing through the border?" asked Ulughbek, a young man at the
market in Bekabat, a town on the Kyrgyz side.
Ulughbek said traders, porters and taxi drivers had been left without work
because of the clampdown on traffic of any kind.
In the aftermath of the attacks, the question remains of who was behind them.
Such is the dearth of hard information that speculation ranges from a
resurgence in IMU activity to a put-up job by the Uzbek secret police.
The observer in Andijan said local people were blaming Islamic fundamentalists,
but added that he himself was more inclined to believe "it's the government
behind all this", the aim being to justify "another wave of repression and
In an earlier interview, a former police officer in Uzbekistan who used to work
on counter-insurgency said the country's security services and military had
been engaged in a major operation against a group of armed militants. The
attacks in Khanabad and Andijan were, he said, a rearguard action by these
An Uzbek political analyst now based abroad, Tashpulat Yoldashev, says it would
be premature to jump to conclusions. He claims that in a number of previous
attacks ascribed to the IMU, there are leads that point to the SNB having some
Asyl Osmonalieva, a journalist based in Bishkek, contributed to this report.
TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY SLOWLY SIDELINED
Mainstream religious group failing to make headway in politics despite efforts
to modernise and grow.
By Daler Gufronov and Aslibegim Manzarshoeva in Dushanbe
A year before elections are due in Tajikistan, the Islamic Rebirth Party, IRP,
the only political group holding parliamentary seats in Central Asia, is
finding it impossible to broaden its constituency.
In part, this is due to the limited appeal of Islamic ideology as well as the
IRP's history as an armed opposition force during the 1992-97 civil war.
However, analysts say the party is also hampered by the obstructions placed in
the way of political groups other than the People's Democratic Party, PDP, of
President Imomali Rahmon.
With just over 30,000 members, the IRP is the third largest party in
Tajikistan, but it was won only two seats in the legislature in the last
election, held in 2005. In April, it lost one of these when Muhammadsharif
Himmatzoda stepped down on health grounds.
The proportional representation system means that parties field a list of
candidates in elections, so the IRP argued that Muhammadali Hayit, the man
ranked third after party leader Muhiddin Kabiri and Himmatzoda, should move up
and fill the seat. But the Central Electoral Commission refused to sanction
this, citing a law that says members of parliament cannot be replaced if they
resign with less than a year to go before elections. It refused to back down
even when the IRP objected that this rule applies to seats allocated to
independents, not to those that are filled from party lists.
According to party leader Kabiri, the loss of the seat does not make much
difference. "All in all, it does not particularly change the situation and
[would not] even if there were three or four deputies in parliament," he said.
Even so, the difficulties the IRP has faced in trying to reclaim the second
seat reflects the declining ability of this once powerful force to maintain,
still less improve, its political standing.
Rahmatullo Zoirov, who heads a smaller opposition group, the Social Democratic
Party, says it is hard for political groups to contest elections as everything
is stacked against them.
The fact that political parties are not represented on election commissions
means they have no way of knowing how the ballot has been conducted, and
therefore "regardless of how many votes you [as a party] have got, in the event
it will not be reflected on the protocol [document]," said Zoirov.
As another example of the difficulties facing opposition parties, Zoirov cited
the 1,700 US dollar non-refundable deposit that candidates have to pay in order
to stand. This is a massive amount for a country that is the poorest in Central
Tajik electoral legislation, he said, "places all the cards in the hands of the
government apparatus and obviously the election commissions."
(For a report on the campaign to do away with the deposit, see Tajik Opposition
Campaigns for Fairer Election Rules, RCA No. 576, 08-May-09.)
In Zoirov's opinion, the PDP has a monopoly hold on Tajik politics. With 52 of
the 63 seats in the lower house of parliament, the party benefits from a
nationwide membership of 100,000-plus, proximity to power and resources, and
the expectation that national and local government officials will join as a
matter of course.
The only other group represented in parliament, apart from the IRP, is the
Communist Party, which won four seats in the last election.
In next February's ballot, political parties will compete for 22 seats in based
on proportional representation, and will also have a chance to win some of the
remaining 41 seats for which individual candidates are directly elected on a
Under the terms of the peace deal which ended the war in 1997, the United Tajik
Opposition, UTO - in which the IRP was the main player - disbanded its
guerrilla army, and the Islamic party was legalised and granted a mandatory
quota of government posts.
In the immediate post-war years, political analyst Parviz Mullojonov explains,
"Its influence... was immeasurably greater [than now] as the UTO had armed
groups under its control and the government was forced to take its leaders'
views into account every step of the way."
These days, Mullojonov says, "As a purely political force whose [armed] groups
were disarmed back in 1999, the IRP is no longer viewed as an equal partner by
the Tajik government. Therefore its ability to influence those in power, and
affect the way important decisions are taken has been reduced substantially,
and continues to decrease with every year that passes."
This has happened despite the IRP's efforts to refashion itself into a
political modernist force, setting up branches across the country and
recruiting more and more new members.
"Today the IRP is a fully-pledged political party that has accomplished the
process of building itself up in a shorter space of time than any other public
association in Tajikistan," said Mullojonov. "Paradoxically... its political
influence on the ground is growing, but at government level it is gradually
"The main reason for this paradoxical situation is that the Tajik political
system isn't transparent and there is no mechanism for dialogue between the
authorities and the opposition. The authorities have stopped taking the
opposition seriously and listening to it."
Mullojonov believes IRP leaders are partly to blame as they did not secure the
right to maintain their own media outlets as part of the peace deal. "It's
perfectly logical that now they're having problems getting access to electronic
media - if they didn't get it at the end of the Nineties when they were still
to be reckoned with, under current circumstances there's no way they will get
Interviewed by IWPR, Kabiri acknowledged that lack of media access was a
"I can say on behalf of my party that we are quite active. What's also true is
that the voters, the electorate know very little about this," he said. "There
is a lot of work to do to earn the voters' confidence, and thank God the
dynamics are positive - for example, we have 100 people joining us every
Kabiri addressed a charge that has often been levelled against the IRP - that
it has been insufficiently critical of government policies in the interests of
maintaining its position.
"We have always sought compromise, and put aside our party interests in the
national interest," he said.
Analysts say that despite serious attempts to modernise and widen its
geographical scope from its traditional rural heartland, the IRP is always held
back by its image as a religious party.
Kabiri says women now account for 46 per cent of the party's members, while
Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, who heads the IRP's research department, says the
party now draws in intellectuals, civil servants and businessmen - the latter
also helping to fund activities. Another important source of contributions, he
said, was the large population of Tajiks working abroad who send money back
The regional colouring of the civil war meant that the IRP long found it
difficult to win trust anywhere outside the opposition strongholds in the
mountain valleys of eastern Tajikistan and around Qurghonteppa in the southwest
of the country. These days, figures cited by Saifullozoda suggest that half the
party's total members live in Soghd province in the north of the country, which
would previously have been unthinkable.
Saifullozoda insists the party's theological principles remain core values.
"It's an objective fact that our party fits with the religious interests of
people," he said.
According to Mullojonov, though, the message is too restricted to bring wider
popular appeal, suggesting the IRP will not gain much ground in next year's
"The IRP party's main problem at the moment is that its ideology remains
somewhat one-dimensional. By focusing on problems of a religious nature while,
practically ignoring social and economic problems, the IRP won't be able to act
as a party with nationwide appeal," he said. "Against the backdrop of the
current [economic] crisis, only those political parties that focus on the
problems that worry ordinary citizens, in other words welfare, the economy and
employment, can attain nationwide standing."
Both Kabiri and Saifullozoda admitted that the party did not have a formulated
set of economic and social policies that it would implement if it ever came to
"Only the ruling party has the right to implement its programme as it has
national and state resources and public money at its disposal," said Kabiri.
IRP leaders are always at pains to stress that theirs is very much a Tajik
party and that it has no truck with extremist groups of foreign origin like
Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose activists are frequently arrested and jailed. The Tajik
government sees these groups as a threat to secular nature of the state in this
overwhelmingly Muslim nation.
By contrast the IRP declares support for the Tajik constitution, avoids foreign
influence, and draws its funding from membership fees and local contributions.
"Our political platform is that of a centrist party, and radical and extremist
ideas cannot infiltrate our ranks," said Saifullozoda.
He said the party put a lot of efforts into working with young people and
keeping them on the straight and narrow when they are at risk of being drawn
into Islamic extremist groups. "We give them sound advice so that they turn
away from the wrong direction," he said.
Analyst Rashidghani Abdullo says the existence of the IRP as a legitimate
political group represented in parliament is good for Tajikistan's image, since
it indicates a degree of pluralism not found elsewhere
IRP leaders are adamant that there can be no return to the bad old days of
conflict. They were therefore alarmed when, in an annual state-of-the-nation
address on April 15, President Rahmon urged political groups in Tajikistan not
to succumb to the influence of "foreign backers", and appeared to point the
finger at the IRP by saying similar errors had been made during the civil war
In response, Kabiri told IWPR that "I can say in all certainty that we are not
the danger factor the president is talking about....The question arises why
this has become a problem a year before the next election, and why the
president felt it necessary to talk about it in his address to parliament."
Daler Gufronov is a correspondent for the Asia-Plus news agency. Aslibegim
Manzarshoeva is an IWPR-trained contributor in Dushanbe.
KAZAKS USE SCARE TACTICS TO CUT YOUTH CRIME
Lukewarm response to new initiative intended to prevent adolescent crime.
By Yana Bachevskaya in Taldykorgan
The public response to an experiment to take schoolchildren round prisons to
deter them from committing offences has been less enthusiastic than organisers
The interior ministry department in Taldykorgan, the administrative centre of
the southeastern Almaty region, has teamed up with local schools and
psychologists to design a programme to prevent children identified as at risk
of becoming involved in crime.
The overall aim of the initiative is to prevent offences before they happen.
The most controversial measure involves tours of pre-trial detention centres,
the idea being that once adolescents see the harsh reality of detention
facilities, they will think twice before offending.
Taldykorgan is only one of a number of cities in Kazakstan where prison visits
are being piloted.
Lieutenant-Colonel Samet Nurgaliev, who heads the Taldykorgan police's
department for juvenile affairs, explained that the programme targets children
who are on the records as having been in trouble.
"The head of the detention centre will conduct the tour and explain the kind of
offences that can result in a custodial term, and the consequences of seemingly
petty mischief," said Nurgaliev.
In Almaty region, senior inspector Major Nurakhmet Kobeykhan says nearly 5,000
minors were detained from January to the end of April, although only 80
recorded crimes were ascribed to them.
Although statistics on the interior ministry's webite suggest the incidence of
youth crime in Kazakstan is falling at a rate of six or seven per cent year by
year, minors are still responsible for 44 per cent of all crimes and eight per
cent of serious ones.
In Taldykorgan, the pilot projects - launched in late April - are running in
just two schools at the moment, because the public response to the
government-backed scheme less than positive.
According to Dilbar Tulegenova, the head of a group of experts dealing with
minors, says the project had to be introduced in a scaled-down version.
"We approached schools in the region with the idea. When we failed to find
support for it, we decided not to introduce it region-wide and we selected two
schools for the experiment," said Tulegenova, in remarks quoted by the
Informburo news agency on May 4.
Rimma Razbaeva, deputy head of one of two schools participating in the project,
explained that the prison visits were only one element of the programme
designed to address behavioural problems.
Since the beginning of the year, teachers and police have been working closely
with the families of such children, through home visits, school meetings and
one-to one sessions.
According to Razbaeva, "We conducted assessments, selected children liable to
offend, and - after obtaining consent from their parents, a psychologist, and a
school inspector - we took them to the detention centre."
Gulmira Juaspaeva, a teacher at the other school in involved in the scheme,
said, "The visit was depressing for the pupils, who are children, after all.
They saw with their own eyes the 'attractions' of life behind bars.... All too
often children never think about responsibility. The damp, dark cells will
remind them that punishment is inevitable."
For the children who took part, the experience was an eye-opener.
Ludmila Chetvergova said her grandson "came back depressed from the trip; he
didn't like what he saw".
Damir Haibulin,, whose daughter volunteered to visit a detention centre rather
being required to go, said, "I support the school's initiative. Such trips are
not only useful, they are essential. If some pupils don't understand what's
being said, they could even be left in a cell for a few hours."
His daughter Ruzia said, "I wanted to compare the way it looks in movies with
how it is in real life. It was cold and dark in the cells. I was surprised that
there was no table and that the toilet was next to the bed, all in the same
She said the visit had a salutary effect on her classmates, "Our boys
immediately changed their view of prison as an adventure. They were all in
shock, but it was valuable for those who misbehave."
Many parents and relatives, however, were unhappy with the idea that children
should be shocked into obeying the law.
"As a former kindergarten teacher, I think such educational measures are
inappropriate," said Chetvergova. "They will see the negative side of life when
they grow up.... They should be being taken to museums, theatres and
exhibitions and taught to create, not destroy."
Andrei Kirpichnikov said he would never let his 15-year-old daughter visit a
"You won't stop crime using such methods.," he said. "Parents should teach
their children by example. Real hooligans won't be afraid of a detention
centre, and well-behaved children shouldn't go."
Yana Bachevskaya is an IWPR-trained journalist in Taldykorgan.
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique
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