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. By Lola Olimova and Nafisa Pisaredjeva in Dushanbe
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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