WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 614, June 9, 2010 PROTESTS GATHER PACE IN KAZAKSTAN More and more groups voicing concerns through public protests. By Andrei Grishin
TAJIK CELLPHONE CONTROVERSY Why has the president taken against the ubiquitous mobile phone? By Jahongir Boboev TAJIKS CALL FOR DISASTER RELIEF People displaced by flooding say help not reaching them fast enough. By Biloli Shams TAJIK POLIO OUTBREAK STRAINS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA Moscow and Dushanbe fall out over restrictions to prevent disease spreading. By Jahongir Boboev TRANSITIONAL LEADER TO STEER KYRGYZ THROUGH TROUBLED TIMES Roza Otunbaeva becomes Central Asias first female head of state, although only for an interim period. By Pavel Dyatlenko **** NEW ************************************************************************************ CALL FOR ENTRIES: 2010 KURT SCHORK AWARDS IN INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM http://iwpr.net/make-impact/2010-call-kurt-schork-awards-international-journalism VACANCIES AVAILABLE: http://iwpr.net/what-we-do/vacancies **** IWPR RESOURCES ****************************************************************** CENTRAL ASIA PROGRAMME HOME: http://www.iwpr.net/programme/central-asia IWPR COMMENT: IWPR COMMENT: http://iwpr.net/report-news/editorial-comment BECOME A FAN OF IWPR ON FACEBOOK http://facebook.com/InstituteforWarandPeaceReporting FOLLOW US ON TWITTER http://twitter.com/iwpr **** www.iwpr.net ******************************************************************** RSS FEEDS: http://iwpr.net/syndication/builder SUBSCRIBE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/special/subscribe DONATE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/donate **** www.iwpr.net ******************************************************************** PROTESTS GATHER PACE IN KAZAKSTAN More and more groups voicing concerns through public protests. By Andrei Grishin Public protests in Kazakstan are no longer confined to opposition groups, but increasingly involve various categories of people badly hit by economic crisis, analysts say. Analysts say the demands made by these diverse protest groups are becoming more overtly political, and more aligned with the agenda of the countrys formal opposition. Nor are the protests restricted to the capital Astana or the financial centre Almaty. Three recent demonstrations show the diversity of concerns raised by protesters. One recent rally, on May 10, was staged by around 50 shareholders in a building company that had collapsed like many others as a result of the ongoing financial crisis. They assembled outside the government building in Astana to protest about what they felt was the unfair way housing had been distributed to investors as compensation for apartments that were never built. The protest was dispersed by riot police. Two days, the city of Kokchetav in the north of the country was the scene of a demonstration by several dozen market traders angry at the closure of a local bazaar. This incident ended in a fight with police and 25 arrests. In April, around 70 residents of Shanyrak, a squatters settlement on the outskirts of Almaty, clashed with police who tried to stop them entering the city mayors offices. They were trying to get into a meeting taking place to discuss the legalisation of land a matter of vital concern to squatters, who have built homes but are denied registration by the authorities who say they have no right to be there. Increasingly, interest groups are working hand in hand with the opposition. A May Day protest held in Almaty by the Narodovlastie (People Power) bloc, which includes the Alga and Communist parties, was also attended by investors in failed companies, farmers and people having difficulty with mortgage payments. The rally of some 500 people was held on private property, but in a now familiar pattern the event ended in a confrontation with police, who cordoned off streets and prevented the protesters dispersing. The same day, police in Almaty also confronted protestors outside Temirbank, whose homes were subject to repossession because they had missed mortgage payment. After shattering glass jars to symbolise Kazakstans troubled banking system, they resisted police and prevented them from detaining their leaders. Analysts say that since April, the police response has got much tougher. Previously, they often let demonstrations run their course without wading in to break them up. To find out more about what drives the new-style protests, IWPR interviewed Ainur Kurmanov, a leading figure in the interest-based groups that have emerged out of the economic crisis. Kurmanov heads the Socialist Resistance group and is also active in two other movements, Talmas and Kazakstan-2012. In April, he was jailed for 15 days after being found guilty of organising a demonstration without the required approval from the authorities. Social tension is spreading to more and more groups in society, he said. At the moment, we are on the third wave of the crisis whereas in 2007 and 2008, it affected the financial sector, its impact is now being felt in the real economy, with declining production and rising unemployment . The end of last year and the start of this one saw a new wave of bankruptcies affecting individual businessmen and small enterprises. Action by investors who feel cheated comes at a time of continuing tensions in large industrial firms, Kurmanov said, citing three-week strike staged in early March by several thousand oil workers in Janaozen, in the western Mangyshlak region, to demand better pay and new management. The strike was called off after a compromise was agreed, but despite this, 21 people were taken to court and fined for holding an illegal strike action. Kurmanov believes business and political power are so intertwined in Kazakstan that when labour or other disputes occur, the government acts not as independent arbiter but as protector of its commercial allies, and equates social concerns with political opposition. The authorities will always protect their own interests, he said. So people have no other way of defending their rights than staging public protests. Political analyst Eduard Poletaev points out that events in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, where popular unrest on April 6-7 swept Kurmanbek Bakiev from the presidency, have made officials in Kazakstan more worried about of protests. The authorities are on their guard they view them with suspicion, he said. In theory, Kazakstan respects the right of assembly, but in practice demonstrations are being routinely dispersed In Almaty, anyone wishing to hold a demonstration must apply for permission to the city government. Oleg Sidorov, an official with the mayors administration, explained that under a city bylaw, such public events can only take place at one designated venue, on the square behind the Sary Arka cinema. If a request is submitted for a different venue, it will automatically be turned down, he said. At the same time, Sidorov insisted that there was no policy of refusing permission for public protests, and only one in five applications had been turned down since the beginning of the year. Andrei Grishin is a staff member at the Kazakstan Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. TAJIK CELLPHONE CONTROVERSY Why has the president taken against the ubiquitous mobile phone? By Jahongir Boboev Despite widespread poverty, Tajikistan has seen a boom in mobile phones in recent years. Competition among provider firms has slashed call charges, and mobile networks get round all the difficulties of a crumbling landline infrastructure. It therefore came as a surprise when President Imomali Rahmon announced at the end of April that mobile phones were a health risk and their overuse should be discouraged. At an April 30 cabinet meeting, the president instructed the health ministry to inform the public especially the younger generation about the health risks posed by handheld phones. A week earlier, the president had identified another drawback of mobile phone use. He said there were over a million phone owners in Tajikistan, each spending between 50 and 600 somonis a month (from 11 to 135 US dollars) on calls. That amount of money, he said, was a drain on the financial resources of every Tajik family. The presidents comments sparked a series of programmes on state television highlighting the physical effects of using mobiles too much. The next step was taken by the authorities in Dushanbe and other towns, who placed restrictions on billboard advertising by mobile companies. Many adverts were taken down within the space of a few days. The move caused consternation, and not only among mobile providers and advertising companies. Economist Hojimuhammad Umarov said the ban was absurd and illegal. It violates the fundamental principle of a market economy free competition, he said. We were surprised at news of the ban on advertising mobile companies, said Kakhor Aminov, an economist at the Asian Development Bank mission in Dushanbe. It goes against all international standards and market economic principles. Shodi Shabdolov, the Communist Party leader and a member of parliament, pointed out that the president never called for any kind of ban, just moderation in the use of phones. If a company is advertising legally, no one can prohibit or even restrict this, he added. Tajikistans liberal mobile phone market means it now has six provider companies, most of them set up with foreign investment. Russian phone companies hold majority shares in two and China has a controlling stake in another. Competition has brought prices down and allowed technological advances Tajikistan was the first Central Asian state to introduce 3G services. An advertising ban, if introduced formally, would hit advertisers as much as the phone companies. Adverts by these companies account for a large proportion of our budget, said Marat Mamadshoev, chief editor of the Asia Plus newspaper. We arent planning to abandon this advertising at least, not until a court rules that we cannot carry it. This is not the first time the authorities have tried to curb mobile phone use. In 2008, on President Rahmons recommendation, parliament ruled that schoolchildren and college students must not carry their phones on them during lessons. Shokirjon Hakimov, an opposition politician and legal expert, suspects the government has a hidden agenda to limit public access to easy communications. Its no secret that the authorities are fearful of this [mobile phone] area expanding, he said. Suffice it to recall that the world found out about events in Kyrgyzstan [April 2010 revolt] and Iran [2009 protests] through mobile phone communications. For others, such regulations are merely an unwarranted intrusion into private life, similar to other decrees banning excessive spending on weddings and funerals, and forbidding teachers from having gold teeth. Sadly, the experience of recent years shows that the moment the president makes some critical remark on any subject, parliament or another agency immediately try to curb constitutionally guaranteed civil rights and freedoms, by amending the law or other forms of legislation, said Faizinisso Vohidova, a human rights activist from the northern town of Khujand. In Tajikistan, as the proverb goes, if you ask for someones turban, theyll bring you his head. So the president only has to suggest using mobile phones in moderation, and the authorities immediately introduce a ban. Jahongir Boboev is the pseudonym of a journalist from Tajikistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. TAJIKS CALL FOR DISASTER RELIEF People displaced by flooding say help not reaching them fast enough. By Biloli Shams As the Tajik government asks the international community for emergency funding following flash floods and mudflows in the south of the country, people affected by the disaster say help is chaotic and slow in coming. The Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team, REACT, a coalition of government agencies and international relief organisations, said 16 people died when torrential rains caused a mudflow and flooding along the river Tebalay in and around the town of Kulob on May 7. REACTs figure, published in a May 10 situation report, was slightly higher than the 13 deaths reported by Sukhrobshohi Farrukhshoh, a spokesman for the Kulob mayors office. The emergency response centre in Kulob said 600 homes were completely destroyed. Other reports indicated that many more were damaged, and thousands of people in the surrounding countryside lost livestock and crops buried under the mud. Tajikistans permanent representative at the United Nations, Sirojiddin Aslov, submitted a formal request for assistance on May 14, two days after his government issued a general appeal for 5.3 million US dollars in relief aid. In a statement on the flooding on May 19, REACT said two tent camps had been set up in Kulob within a week of the disaster, and relief items distributed to those who moved there. However, some of the people affected complained of delays in handing out humanitarian aid, and told IWPR the effort was not being coordinated properly. Three of Bozorgul Qurbonovas five children died in the mudflow boys aged seven and five years and a seven-month-old baby. Now, she said, The distribution of food and tents is chaotic. Some of the families who suffered the most dont have tents yet, and they havent had either flour or foodstuffs, just two or three cushions and blankets. Like many households in this part of Tajikistan, an extended family of around 30 people lived under one roof. But they have been given just one tent which can accommodate a maximum of ten. Theyre promising us a tent. We are waiting, and as you can see its raining. My two other children have high temperatures that arent going down, she said. Journalist Rajabi Mirzo visited the area and reported that aid distribution was slow. They say the lists of people affected arent ready yet. But thats not the fault of the people who need help right now, he said. Khalil Nasrulloev, 80, whose house was completely destroyed, said the aid effort had not reached him yet. We were visited by the [relief] commission only once, but apart from two quilts, we havent been given any help. Every day they bring in aid and distribute food and flour, but nothing is given to us, he said. Nasrulloev said the explanation he was given was that the road to the area where he lives had not been repaired yet. Farrukhshoh of the mayors office accepted that there had been difficulties in getting aid through because roads had been destroyed. But he told IWPR, Since May 13 weve started regulating the help were giving to all the residents affected, so that humanitarian aid, tents and other kinds of relief are delivered to all. Some residents said that if they had been given adequate warning, lives would have been saved. One female resident said the Kulob branch of the emergency response ministry should have contacted colleagues in the neighbouring Shurabad and Muminabad districts, through which the mudflow passed first, to assess how serious the situation was. The head of the governments emergency response agency for Khatlon region, Abdusattor Khushvakhtov, said it had been impossible to give advance warning as the local branches of his organisation were understaffed and underequipped. They only had one staff member in Shurabad and Muminabad, who had no way of communicating. The national Committee for Emergency Situations still hasnt bought phones or hand-held radios to give to our staff, he said. That was the main reason why our staff in Muminabad and Shurabad were unable to call their colleagues in Kulob and update them. Others felt the disaster was just waiting to happen, as the bed of the river Tebalay, especially where it runs through the town of Kulob in the form of a canal, had not been dredged for years. An elderly man who gave his name as Sadullo said that since Tajikistan became independent in 1991, no work had been done to clear out the sediment and debris carried down the river in previous mudflows. Rahmatullo Karimov, head of the irrigation repair section at Tajikistans land improvement and water management ministry, accepts that the river, which forms a canal as it flows through Kulob town, has not been cleared properly, and said this was due to lack of funding. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the money hasnt been allocated in nearly 19 years, he said. Its clear that if this structure [Tebalay riverbed] had been cleared even once over that period, the population of these streets in the town wouldnt have suffered. Another reason is the lack of modern machinery. We have machinery, but not much of it, and most of it dates from Soviet times and isnt fit for use. Safarmad Valiev, who heads a private construction company, agrees that canal dredging has been inadequate, but argues that even if it had been done, it would not have reduced the damage caused by the flooding. The Tebalay canal section is too narrow to cope with a surge in the water flow, and would need to be widened to allow this, he said. Biloli Shams is an IWPR-trained journalist in southern Tajikistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. TAJIK POLIO OUTBREAK STRAINS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA Moscow and Dushanbe fall out over restrictions to prevent disease spreading. By Jahongir Boboev Moscows tough response to an outbreak of polio in Tajikistan has created some tension between the two nations, as Dushanbe ask for restrictions to be lifted. The outbreak was spotted in April after doctors recorded an unusually high number of cases of with acute flaccid paralysis, a loss of muscle tone which is a symptom of the poliomyelitus virus. By May 16, the Tajik health ministry said there were 83 confirmed cases of polio, including one death. The following day, the World Health Organisation, WHO, gave a higher figure of 129 confirmed cases. The outbreak is concentrated in and around the capital Dushanbe and in the southern Katlon oblast in the south-western part of the country. This is the first outbreak of the disease in Tajikistan since the last case was registered in 1997. Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease affecting the nervous system and sometimes resulting in paralysis. It mainly affects children and is transmitted through contaminated food, drinking water and faeces. The WHO said two rounds of a nationwide vaccination campaign for children under six had been completed, with a third due to take place in the first five days of June. Concerned at the prospect of transmission via imported food or the hundreds of thousands of Tajik nationals who travel to Russia for work, Moscow took action at the beginning of May. On May 2, it banned imports of Tajik nuts and dried fruit. The Russian consumer and health agency Rospotrebnadzor said these food items were a particular concern since they are consumed without being cooked. Four days later, Moscow it introduced a travel ban for children from Tajikistan under the age of six until the end of the immunisation campaign. Rospotrebnadzor head Gennady Onitschenko said the ban became necessary after a nine-month-old baby who arrived from Tajikistan to the Siberian city of Irkutsk wsa diagnosed with polio. For Tajikistan, the food ban was a particular blow as dried fruit and nuts are an important export. On May 6, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi handed Russian ambassador Yury Popov a note requesting an end to the import restrictions. The Tajik authorities argue that the nuts and fruit are safe as they come from the northern Soghd region, where no cases of polio have been recorded. Dushanbe and Moscow also disagreed publicly over a decision to bring Russian children home until the danger had passed. Most of them are the children of personnel stationed at a permanent Russian military base in Tajikistan. In an interview to a Russian radio station on May 11, Onitschenko said his agency had asked the Tajik authorities to provide every possible assistance to allow the children to leave swiftly. But he said obstructions had been placed in the way, and suggested that this was an attempt by the Tajiks to get the food ban lifted. Tajik foreign ministry spokesman Davlat Nazriev denied the allegation, saying there were no obstacles to anyone leaving the country. The Russian embassy in Dushanbe, meanwhile, tried to calm troubled waters by saying any travel problems were due not to obstructionism, but to the May 8-10 public holiday in Tajikistan commemorating the end of the Second World War. The acrimonous exchanges over how to respond to the polio outbreak reflect wider frustrations in Tajikistans relationship with Moscow. Political analysts in Tajikistan interviewed by IWPR suggested the Russians had ulterior motives for coming down hard over the polio issue. They believed it might have something to do with the ongoing construction of the giant Roghun hydroelectric dam. Russian companies withdrew from the project two years ago following contractual disagreements, and Uzbekistan has more recently been urging Moscow to back its own opposition to the plan, which it fears will deprive the region of water. Dodojon Atovulloev, a Tajik opposition member in exile, drew comparisons with other instances in which Russia has imposed bans on former Soviet states when political relations deteriorate. As examples he cited wine from Georgia and Moldova and milk from Belarus. Arkady Dubnov, a journalist in Moscow who specialises in Central Asian affairs, dismisses such suggestions, arguing that relations between Russia and Tajikistan are in fairly good shape. He believes the problems stemmed from an overreaction by Onitschenko, who should not be seen as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin. Jumaboy Sanginov, who heads the parliamentary faction of the governing Peoples Democratic Party of Tajikistan, agreed that Moscow should not be accused of politicising the matter. A doctor by profession, Sanginov said Tajikistan should own up to its own failure to do enough to prevent the polio outbreak. The reason it has spread in Tajikistan is that in the past, not all residents of this country have been vaccinated, he said. Firuz Saidov, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic Studies, linked to the Tajik presidents office, added, We did indeed fail to spot the spread of the polio virus in Tajikistan, and thats a minus point for our healthcare system. Jahongir Boboev is a pseudonym for journalist in Tajikistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. TRANSITIONAL LEADER TO STEER KYRGYZ THROUGH TROUBLED TIMES Roza Otunbaeva becomes Central Asias first female head of state, although only for an interim period. By Pavel Dyatlenko The appointment of Roza Otunbaeva as head of state for a transition period of a year and a half is an attempt to ensure Kyrgyzstan has a strong hand on the tiller until the planned political reforms have taken root. The reasons for elevating Otunbaeva, named as acting prime minister in the administration that came to power in early April, are understandable. There are, however, also a number of problems and potential pitfalls associated with the decision. The interim government took control following the popular unrest of April 6 and 7, which swept former president Kurmanbek Bakiev from power. Under a decree issued on May 19, cabinet chief Otunbaeva becomes head of state until December 31 next year. That means the presidential election that had earlier been scheduled to coincide with a parliamentary ballot this October is now postponed by one year. Otunbaeva will continue performing the functions of prime minister until a new one is appointed after the October election. As political analyst Elmira Nogoibaeva notes, this new role is intended to be a stabilising factor, given the multiplicity of threats facing the country. She believes it will give Kyrgyzstans leaders some breathing-space until October, when a new parliament will be elected and a government formed. Otunbaevas appointment still needs to be approved in a nationwide referendum on June 27, in which the electorate will also be asked to back an all-new constitution that shifts the balance of power away from the presidency to parliament. To be confirmed, she will need the support of at least 50 per cent of people who vote. At a May 11 press conference, deputy prime minister Omurbek Tekebaev, who has been put in charge of the constitutional reform process, announced that the turnout required to make the referendum valid was being cut from 50 to 30 per cent of the electoral roll. He said there were parts of the country such as Batken in the far southwest where turnout was generally low, and there was also a whole chunk of the electorate unlikely to vote about a quarter were working abroad, and another 25 per cent within Kyrgyzstan were living somewhere other than their registered domicile. Asked what the plan was if voters turned the appointment down, government spokesman Farid Niazov said the interim administration was confident this would not happen, as both official and independent opinion polls showed that people felt positively about Otunbaeva. If successful, Otunbaeva will become the first female president in Central Asia. The rationale for appointing a transitional president is clear. It will open the way to addressing many of the issues the government is now struggling with. In the present constitution, the post of president carries more weight than that of prime minister, especially an acting one. For instance, the president has powers to direct and deploy the military and police. Decisions emanating from the head of state will thus have greater legitimacy. The interim government is still struggling to restore law and order in the face of a series of challenges since it came to power. On May 19, there was an outbreak of violence in the southern city of Jalalabad, as crowds of Kyrgyz youths tried unsuccessfully to storm a university associated with the ethnic Uzbek community. The confrontation left two people dead and dozens injured. This incident came less than a week after supporters of Bakiev temporarily seized control of provincial government offices in three southern regions, Jalalabad among them. On April 19, five people died and 40 were injured as police battled several hundred people who had seized and laid claim to land around the village of Mayevka, on the northern outskirts of Bishkek. The appointment also avoids potential problems arising from running presidential and parliamentary election campaigns simultaneously, as only the latter will now take place. Finally, foreign relations will become easier to manage as the Kyrgyz state will have a head with a clear mandate. All these considerations seem to have been taken into account when Otunbaeva was appointed. But that is not to say the road ahead will be free of trouble. Once concern has to be that the decision was made with a narrow circle of interim leaders, without other political forces being involved. Then there is the matter of Otunbaevas name appearing alone on the referendum ballot paper. The lack of an alternative choice must inevitably cast a shadow over the administrations legitimacy. Technically, however, the appointment does not break any law, even there is no precedent for this interim government and therefore no legal arrangements governing the way it should operate. Another big question is whether the plan will actually work whether Otunbaeva will be able to provide the kind of strong, cohesive leadership the interim authorities are clearly hoping for. It remains to be seen whether Otunbaeva will be able to gather support from political groupings outside her current allies. Kyrgyz politics is based around strong personalities who command authority from a substantial power-base. Formal political institutions are weak; they exist nominally but do not wield real power. Thus, it is not enough merely to be a well-known government official. Politicians have to be influential and respected as individuals if they want to secure backing for their policies across the political spectrum. Otunbaeva is certainly an experienced politician and enjoys a reputation as a good negotiator. She comes originally from the south of Kyrgyzstan, but is not associated with any particular tribal group. Although she was formerly an ambassador and foreign minister, she does not have a lot of practical experience of administration. Much of her time was spent abroad, so her connections within Kyrgyzstan were weakened. The question is whether she has managed to revive these over the past three years, when she was a member of parliament with the opposition Social Democratic Party. She will faces challenges even within the interim administration of which she is part. As the parliamentary race draws closer, the unity displayed by leaders from the different political parties represented there may begin to crumble, and rivalries will emerge. Finally, Otunbaeva will be judged by her governments success in turning the economy around. Following the April unrest, neighbouring Kazakstan and Uzbekistan closed their borders with Kyrgyzstan, cutting its foreign trade by more than 50 per cent and hammering the domestic economy. Kazakstan reopened its frontier on May 20 , but the Uzbek one is still shut. Unless significant economic progress is made, Otunbaevas legitimacy as a president could be rapidly eroded, and Kyrgyzstans impoverished people might consider yet another change of leadership. For Otunbaeva herself, the new post seems to have far more drawbacks than pluses. By taking on the interim role, she automatically excludes herself from running for a full five-year presidential when the election comes round next year. She has also had to leave the Social Democratics in order to demonstrate her political neutrality. The interim presidency places an enormous burden of responsibility on her shoulders. It also carries with it the real risk that she will be held personally responsible if things go wrong. Given current levels of political instability, Otunbaeva has virtually no room to make mistakes. Any outbreak of violence would risk plunging the country into civil war, leading to the collapse of the state and the loss of its sovereignty. Pavel Dyatlenko is a political analyst with the Polis Asia think-tank in Bishkek. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. **** 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. 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