WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 590 Part 1, October 8, 2009 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION MP UNDER PRESSURE Kubanychbek Kadyrov could now face charges, in what his opposition colleagues see as a politically-inspired campaign to marginalise government critic. By Anara Yusupova in Bishkek
CONCERN OVER NEW TAJIK LANGUAGE LAW Critics warn effort to make Tajik compulsory discriminates against those who mainly speak Russian. Nafisa Pisaredjeva in Dushanbe UZBEKISTAN LOSING ITS SCIENTISTS Qualified scientists can earn far more money and respect by taking their skills abroad. By IWPR staff in Central Asia TAJIKS INCANDESCENT OVER LIGHT BULB BAN Energy-saving bulbs are too expensive for most people, and should never have been imposed by decree, say critics of new scheme. 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For more information about how you can support IWPR go to: http://iwpr.net/donate **** www.iwpr.net ******************************************************************** KYRGYZ OPPOSITION MP UNDER PRESSURE Kubanychbek Kadyrov could now face charges, in what his opposition colleagues see as a politically-inspired campaign to marginalise government critic. By Anara Yusupova in Bishkek Opposition politicians in Kyrgyzstan have expressed outrage that a colleague has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity so that prosecutors can question and possibly charge him. The prosecution service, meanwhile, argues that Kubanychbek Kadyrov has been using his immunity to obstruct an investigation into unrest during the July presidential election. Parliament, which is dominated by the governing Ak Jol party, voted on September 18 to strip Kadyrov of his statutory rights to immunity. The prosecution service requested the move on the grounds that it suspected Kadyrov, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, of being behind disturbances that broke out in Balykchi, a town on the shores of Lake Issykkul, as voters went to the polls on July 23. After opposition supporters clashed with police during a protest against the conduct of the election, 20 arrests were made. The trial of the 19 who were eventually charged began on September 11. As well as causing public disorder and disrupting the electoral process, they also stand accused of the more serious offence of attempting to seize power, which effectively means mounting a coup detat. They deny the charge. Although small demonstrations were staged in other parts of Kyrgyzstan, there is little evidence to suggest any ambition to overthrow the government. Statements by opposition leaders and demonstrators have focused on the argument that the election was stolen by incumbent president Kurmanbek Bakievs backers through various kinds of election fraud. The national election body said Bakiev won overwhelmingly with 76 per cent of the vote. His nearest challenger, Almazbek Atambaev, the Social Democrats leader nominated by the United Peoples Movement, UPM, a coalition of opposition parties, was awarded just eight per cent. Atambaev believes Kadyrov is being punished for taking a stand during the election. The authorities are persecuting dissidents and anyone who speaks out about the mass fraud in the presidential election, he said. Omurbek Tekebaev, who leads the Ata Meken, also part of the UPM coalition, accuses the parliamentary majority of pandering to the authorities. The Ak Jol members dutifully carried out their orders, he said. These actions mark a new phase in the intimidation of political opponents. However, Ulugbek Ormonov, who leads the Ak Jol parliamentary group, insisted that the decision to remove Kadyrovs immunity had nothing to do with politics and could not be construed as a tactic to smear the opposition. The decision was taken not in order to put Kadyrov behind bars, but to ensure he does not obstruct the investigation by citing immunity, he said. A court will decide whether he is guilty or not. Isa Omurkulov of the Social Democrats parliamentary group said there had been no need for legislators to act against Kadyrov, as his party was keen to see him cooperating with the Balykchi investigation. The parliamentary vote came as another Social Democrat in parliament, Baktybek Beshimov, left the country and issued a statement saying he had received death threats. In the September 28 statement, he also condemned the action taken against Kadyrov, saying this had completed the destruction of the legislature. Kyrgyz prosecutor-general Elmurza Satybaldiev told IWPR that Beshimov had not informed the authorities of any death threat. There was no threat to his life. There was no written complaint from him, he said. Although the two cases are different, some analysts see them as part of a larger effort to neutralise the opposition by hounding the more uncompromising figures like Beshimov, and coopting those with more moderate views. The moderate opposition will remain in politics if it changes its strategy, while the radicals will be excluded, said political analyst Mars Sariev. There are indications that elements within the UPM are making tentatively attempts to engage with the Bakiev administration. However, Azimbek Beknazarov, a leading UPM figure, told IWPR that dialogue would be possible only on the oppositions terms. Leaders of the united opposition are prepared to sit down at the negotiating table with President Bakiev, to discuss an end to the persecution of his political opponents, he said, adding that the Balykchi trial would be one of the issues raised. Anara Yusupova is a pseudonym for a journalist in Kyrgyzstan. CONCERN OVER NEW TAJIK LANGUAGE LAW Critics warn effort to make Tajik compulsory discriminates against those who mainly speak Russian. Nafisa Pisaredjeva in Dushanbe A new law making Tajik the only language acceptable for official use is likely to create discrimination against those who do not speak it well, critics say. The special status previously enjoyed by Russian is omitted from the law, passed by the lower house of Tajikistans parliament on October 1 and approved by the upper chamber two days later, leading to fears that the countrys close political and economic relationship with Russia could suffer. The law makes it mandatory to use Tajik in official communications, and appears to leave out the option of using Russian. As in the last law, adopted in 1989 in the last years of Soviet rule, Tajik is designated the countrys official language. What has changed is that Russian is no longer accorded unique recognition as the language of interethnic communication. Instead, the law speaks generally of the right to use other languages in daily life, and guarantees that there will be no obstructions to this. As well as being the mother tongue of the now small Slavic population in Tajikistan, Russian is commonly used as lingua franca. Non-native Tajik speakers include the substantial Uzbek minority and a clutch of ethnic groups in Badakhshan whose Iranian languages differ substantially to Tajik, a form of Persian. Supporters of the new law have pointed out that Russians special place remains in enshrined in the constitution, and their aim is merely to encourage Tajiks to speak their language as much as possible, instead of switching to spoken and written Russian when conducting official business. President Imomali Rahmon proposed the new legislation on the annual Language Day on June 22, as part of a campaign to boost the use of Tajik in public life. Few would contest this aim, but many have been unsettled by a clause requiring every citizen to have a knowledge of Tajik. As the Senate or the upper house of parliament gathered on October 3 to approve the bill, its chairman Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev said, It is unpatriotic to be a citizen of the republic and not to know the state language. Earlier, in a lower house dominated by the presidents Peoples Democratic Party, the bill had gone through virtually unopposed. Only Communist Leader Shodi Shabdolov stood up to criticise it. He said the provision requiring a knowledge of Tajik should really only apply for people seeking work in the public sector, and called for Russian to get its legal status back. Opponents of the move point to Tajikistans cultural, political and economic ties with Russia. An estimated one to 1.5 million migrants work mainly in Russia and Kazakstan and the money they send home contributes 30-40 per cent of Tajikistans gross domestic product, according to World Bank figures. To operate abroad, they need a good working knowledge of Russian. Dushanbe-based sociologist Galina Sobirova told IWPR, Russian is needed by our labour migrants, and by the officials and public figures who represent Tajikistan in the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS; former Soviet bloc], and it therefore deserves special treatment. Journalist Khurshed Atovullo expressed a similar view. If we want our labour migrants to avoid running into difficulties in Russia and to help our economy, then we should pay as much attention to Russian as to Tajik. The issue was sufficiently important to the Kremlin for President Dmitry Medvedev to raise it on a visit to Dushanbe in July for a security summit with leaders from Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Following the meeting, Sergei Prikhodko, aide to the Russian president, told reporters that the delegation had been reassured by Rahmon that Tajikistan was still committed to the use of the Russian language. Journalist Jovid Mukim, who supports the new legislation, says he does not believe the role of Russian will recede as a result. As long as we have relations with Russia and CIS countries, it will remain and it wont lose its status, he said. He believes the 1989 law, which made Tajik the number one language for the first time, has failed to deliver, because Russian still prevails in public life and many Tajik officials do not speak their own mother tongue. Over 20 years, the law could have brought a lot of change but failed to do so. The new legislation should fill these gaps, he said. The deputy director of Tajikistans Centre for Strategic Studies, Saifullo Safarov, agreed that a change in the softly-softly approach towards government officials was long overdue. For 18 years, we were soft on bureaucrats who didnt know Tajik. We arranged language courses for them, but many have not taken it seriously, he said. Other ethnic groups may use Russian no one is forbidding them to do so, and this is enshrined in the constitution. The importance of Russian has gradually been eroded since 1991, when Tajikistan became independent. There are 15 schools and one university left that use it as their teaching medium. Russian-language newspapers and radio stations still exist, but mostly in urban areas. Critics fear the new law could encourage over-zealous bureaucrats to discriminate against other communities. Some say it already happens. Zebo, a 30-year-old Dushanbe resident whose father is Tajik and mother is Russian, recalled how an airport official refused to reply to her in Russian. At the airport information desk a young woman replied in Tajik to my question [in Russian], and cited instructions to speak only Tajik, she said. I did not understand her and it was only because I know my rights that I got her to reply in Russian. Another Dushanbe resident, 30-year old ??dina, said that during a recent visit to the public notary, a staff member refused to deal with her request unless she spoke in Tajik. I fear that when the bill becomes law, I will have problems communicating with officials, she added. According to Communist leader Shabdolov, Were aware that even now there are complaints about people getting told off for not speaking Tajik. Those who dont speak Tajik for one reason or another will now be penalised. Fines are envisaged for breaking the new law, although it remains far from clear what would constitute an offence, for instance refusing to fill out a form in Tajik. During the parliamentary debate, one member of parliament raised perhaps the most practical objection of all. Ismoil Talbakov pointed out that at a time when Tajikistans economy is in deep trouble, and that it was going to cost immense amounts of money to produce Tajik translations of the Russian-language documentation of some 100,000 institutions, companies and farms. Nafisa Pisaredjeva is an IWPR-trained journalist in Tajikistan. UZBEKISTAN LOSING ITS SCIENTISTS Qualified scientists can earn far more money and respect by taking their skills abroad. By IWPR staff in Central Asia As recent graduates and longer-established academics from Uzbekistan continue to chase better opportunities abroad, experts warn that the decline in scientific research will have a long-term impact on the countrys economy. They say the key factors prompting the exodus are the chronic under-funding of science in Uzbekistan and the low pay that graduates can expect. Although no official statistics are available, some estimates put the brain-drain at several hundred a year. Those leaving the country include mathematicians, physicists and chemists, who feel underpaid and undervalued at home. The brain-drain is a real problem in our country, said a professor at the National University of Uzbekistan, who asked not to be named. Of the 50,000 students who graduate from Uzbek universities every year, around 40 per cent get jobs in science-based industries, while the rest either find work in other areas or emigrate. Educated young people are leaving for one simple reason its impossible to survive on the salary of a junior- or senior-level researcher, said Usein Kerimov, a lecturer at the National University. When I talk to young people, I often hear them saying theres nothing for them to do here, so its time for them to leave, On average, scientific researchers in Uzbekistan earn 120 US dollars a month, whereas they can expect salaries of up to 1,000 dollars if they move to Russia, as many do. In recent years, southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia have joined Russia as become magnets for Uzbek graduates as their standard of proficiency in English has risen. According to Ilhom Atakhanov, who works at the Institute for Algorithms and Cybernetics in Tashkent, young scientists often feel their skills will not be used if they remain. There are a lot of talented scientists, but in recent years, funding for science has fallen sharply and dozens of experts have gone into other areas. Most have gone abroad, where they are paid good money and are in demand. Those who remain here are working [purely] out of passion, he said. A lecturer at the Institute for Chemical Technology who asked to remain anonymous predicted that state neglect of research would prove damaging for Uzbekistans industrial sector. Just look whats happening in the institutions under the Academy of Sciences theres nothing left there. There are no specialists left. What kind of scientific capacity can there be if the sums allocated to research are so miserable? he asked. The lecturer said his own area, chemistry, was in a parlous state, but no one in government was prepared to listen. Weve spent a long time trying to find out how much exactly is allocated from the state budget for science, specifically chemistry. All the figures are kept secret; there are no realistic figures. The only thing thats clear is that science in Uzbekistan is funded out of whatever is left over, he said. The lecturer said that when scientists ask for higher funding levels, the response from government is that everything is fine as exports of chemicals and petrochemicals are at record levels. However, he said, these export items are mostly raw materials with little value-added, whereas with the right input from scientists, Uzbekistan could be using its chemical resources to manufacture high-value products, many of which it currently has to import. Shavkat Solihov, chairman of the Academy of Sciences, the state body that oversees academia and scientific research institutions, defends the governments record on science. Arguing that Uzbekistan leads the way in many hi-tech areas including bio- and nanotechnology, he said there was close cooperation between academia and industry. Science students could go on from university to further studies at various institutes attached to the Academy of Scientists, where they had access to resources like laboratories and a library held on an electronic database, he said. Uzbekistan is now reaching a qualitatively new level of innovative development, and we are therefore seeking further new ways of attracting scientists into the academys institutes, said Solihov. Aspiring scientists like Danil Bagramov, a physics student from Tashkent, remain unconvinced of the opportunities open to them in their own country. Bagramov feels he will have to go to Moscow once he finishes his first degree because he cannot get the support he needs from his university. I want to leave not because I want to earn a lot of money, but primarily in order to gain fulfilment, he said. I conduct experiments, but despite numerous applications to the university administration for support for my scientific initiatives, I am always told there is no money for specific projects. TAJIKS INCANDESCENT OVER LIGHT BULB BAN Energy-saving bulbs are too expensive for most people, and should never have been imposed by decree, say critics of new scheme. By Lola Olimova and Nafisa Pisaredjeva in Dushanbe Critics have poured scorn on a government plan to solve Tajikistans chronic energy shortages by banning conventional light bulbs. Importing the standard incandescent bulbs became illegal on October 1, with the aim of phasing in energy-saving lamps by the end of the year. The changeover is part of an energy conservation strategy which has the backing of President Imomali Rahmon. Despite an extensive government media campaign, there has been little public enthusiasm for the initiative. Many complain that it is simply another in a long line of decrees that interfere needlessly with peoples private lives. Previous examples include forbidding public servants to get gold teeth and banning students from wearing miniskirts or jeans. University lecturer Roza Hamidullina said the energy-saving drive was just another intrusive initiative, and put her off purchasing the new bulbs. Recalling two recent decrees introducing a dress code for university teachers and making it compulsory to use the Tajik language rather than Russian in state institutions, she said, We are told how to dress, not to have gold teeth, what language to speak and now what bulbs to use at home. Just let them try to make me do it. Tajikistan, with a population of seven million, suffers from acute energy shortages every winter. Its main energy source is hydroelectricity, but generation has failed to keep pace with demand, which experts estimate has risen by 50 per cent over the last decade. A number of major new dam schemes have yet to reach completion, and water levels appear to be falling generally. It is in Tajikistans interest to fill up its reservoirs over the summer and autumn months to increase generating capacity in winter, when demand for power is highest, but the country is under pressure from neighbours like Uzbekistan to release the water earlier so that it reaches them when they need it most to keep their fields irrigated. Tajikistan has few sources of fuel, so it has to import oil and natural gas from other Central Asian states, which charge prices it is less and less able to afford, resulting in periodic outages in the gas supply. That places an additional burden on the Tajik electricity grid, as people in urban areas do much of their heating and cooking by electricity in the absence of other fuels. In the countryside, people are at least able to gather firewood and dried manure to burn. For the last ten years, the Tajik authorities have imposed restrictions on the electricity supply from October to May. In some parts of the country, these power cuts last for much of the day. Officials are confidently predicting that the switch to more efficient lighting will result in a sevenfold reduction in electricity use. Experts and consumers alike remain deeply sceptical that the change will do anything to alleviate the chronic shortfall in electricity generation. A former energy-sector worker who gave his name as Akbarali told IWPR that the campaign would be a waste of money. A lot of efforts are being expended on producing leaflets, putting up banners in the street, and advertising on billboards and on radio and TV, he said. So much money is being spent, and all for nothing. This is not necessarily going to lead to energy-saving. Akbarali explained that any benefits from energy-saving would be swamped by the surge in domestic consumption that happens whenever the power comes on. When its on for several hours, everyone uses all the electrical devices theyve got, he said. Opposition politician and political analyst Shokirjon Hakimov argues that the campaign to use low-energy bulbs ignores the realities of life in a country that is the poorest in Central Asia. Most Tajik families have a very low standard of living, and not everyone can afford these bulbs, he said. The average monthly wage in Tajikistan is worth 80 US dollars, putting energy-saving bulbs of better quality out of reach, as they sell at around ten dollars each. Cheaper versions are available from one dollar upwards, but people say they are of dubious quality, do not give off much light and only last a short time. The normal incandescent bulbs cost between 30 and 60 cents. Khusrav, a market trader in the capital Dushanbe, refuses to sell the energy-saving bulbs. Ive heard theyre bad for your health, particularly your eyesight, he said. And ordinary people dont want to throw their money away. Nazira, an 85-year-old grandmother, said that on her pension of 24 dollars a month she would not even consider replacing her current light bulbs. We lived 80 years without energy-saving bulbs and we can going on doing so. Let those who have the money buy them. Im already saving on everything I can, she said. Hakimov criticised the government for trying to engineer change by decree. In democratic countries, the authorities make recommendations rather than banning things. They organise awareness campaigns and give consumers a choice so that they can make decisions depending on their income, he said. In Central Asian countries, where theres no democracy and human rights are violated, they decree that people should purchase these light bulbs. That goes against the principles of a market economy and against the protection of consumer rights. The government intends to provide 240,000 of the poorest families with energy saving bulbs free of charge. However, this will be a one-off action, and 35-year-old mother of six Zulfia says that when her free bulbs burn out, she will go back to the conventional ones. Its a good thing Ive bought a few in reserve, she added. Lola Olimova is IWPR editor for Tajikistan; Nafisa Pisaredjeva is an IWPR-trained journalist in Dushanbe. **** www.iwpr.net ******************************************************************** REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists, the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly basis. The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better local and international understanding of the region. IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The service is published online in English and Russian. The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR. REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan; Senior Editor and Acting Central Asia Director: John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule Mukhametrakhimova. IWPR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; Head of Programmes: Niall MacKay; Head of Strategy: Mike Day. **** www.iwpr.net ******************************************************************** IWPR is an international network of four organisations which are governed by boards of senior journalists, peace-building experts, regional specialists and business professionals. IWPR builds democracy at the frontlines of conflict and change through the power of professional journalism. IWPR programmes provide intensive hands-on training, extensive reporting and publishing, and ambitious initiatives to build the capacity of local media. Supporting peace-building, development and the rule of law, IWPR gives responsible local media a voice. IWPR - Africa, P.O. 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