WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 615, June 15, 2010 SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN SLIDES OUT OF CONTROL Government official insists worst is over, but gunfire continues and refugees run for the Uzbek border. By Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, Dina Tokbaeva, Beksultan Sadyrkulov, Isomiddin Ahmedjanov
KYRGYZSTAN BEGS MOSCOW TO HELP QUELL RIOTS Unrest now too widespread for Kyrgyz authorities to deal with, but Russia says no to intervention. By Dina Tokbaeva RENEWED UNREST IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN Minor fistfight erupts into worst bloodshed seen in two decades. By Beksultan Sadyrkulov, Asyl Osmonalieva, Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Inga Sikorskaya, Dina Tokbaeva KYRGYZ CONSTITUTION IS CENTRAL ASIAS FINEST New constitution will not turn the country into a parliamentary democracy just yet, but its still the most progressive in the region. 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 ******************************************************************** SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN SLIDES OUT OF CONTROL Government official insists worst is over, but gunfire continues and refugees run for the Uzbek border. By Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, Dina Tokbaeva, Beksultan Sadyrkulov, Isomiddin Ahmedjanov Southern Kyrgyzstan remained chaotic following days of clashes that spread from Osh to the neighbouring areas and drove tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks to flee towards the border with Uzbekistan. Local journalists in Osh said the gunfire largely subsided on June 14, although the occasional shot still rang out. In and around Jalalabad, however, fighting between rival armed groups continued. Bodies lay unclaimed in the streets in both towns, and many homes set on fire during clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks were smoking ruins. People were afraid to leave their homes, as bands of men roamed the streets on foot and the occasional vehicle without license plates drove by with Kalashnikov rifle barrels sticking out of the windows. The violence began in Osh overnight on June 10-11, escalated in the city the following day and spread to Jalalabad region over the weekend. (See Renewed Unrest in South Kyrgyzstan on the start of the fighting.) The Kyrgyz health ministry said 124 people died and nearly 1,700 required medical treatment as of June 14. Many ethnic Uzbeks fled towards Uzbekistan. A spokesman for the Kyrgyz border guards told IWPR that preliminary estimates suggested there were some 60,000 refugees at the frontier, although other estimates put the figure higher. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said it was to airlift aid to Uzbekistan to help the refugees. It said Uzbek government figures indicated there were now 75,000 in the country. A resident of Bazar-Korgon who gave his name as Murat was among 3,000 people waiting at a checkpoint to cross into Uzbekistan. He and his family crossed fields to get there, avoiding roadblocks. He told IWPR that the Uzbek frontier guards were only letting injured people, women and children through. The interim government, which came to power in April after popular unrest unseated Kurmanbek Bakiev as president, extended the state of emergency and curfew from Osh to Jalalabad. Interim head of state Roza Otunbaeva asked Moscow to send in its military to Osh, but President Dmitry Medvedev said he had no plans to do so, although he might convene an emergency meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. This Russian-led security bloc has a mandate to send in peacekeepers if requested by a member state. (For more, see Kyrgyzstan Begs Moscow to Help Quell Riots.) Noting that Russia was not planning to send in troops for the moment, Abdygany Erkebaev of the Kyrgyz interim government said his countrys own army and police were manifestly unable to cope. Nevertheless, he suggested that the worst was over. The situation in Kyrgyzstan remains difficult but I believe the peak of these tragic events has passed, he said during a conference in the capital Bishkek. Reporters in Osh said the situation was relatively calm late on June 14. Food supplies were running and the gas supply was cut. Consignments of aid, mainly flour, reached the city and was distributed locally, although it was unclear whether it was reaching those who needed it now. One local resident who gave his first name as Jakyp said humanitarian aid was not a priority for him right now. We need peace and security, he explained. In Jalalabad region, there was shooting overnight on June 13-14 and houses were set on fire. Tensions were high in Jalalabad city and in the nearby towns of Suzak and Bazar-Korgon, which have mixed Kyrgyz-Uzbek populations. A refugee from Bazaar-Korgon who gave his first name as Ziyanuddin said all the Uzbeks had left the town, and the only ones still there were men protecting their property. Those homes left unattended were being looted and torched, he added. Talks took place between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in Jalalabad in an attempt to dampen things down. Kubatbek Baibolov, appointed security chief in Jalalabad in recent days, said the talks went well. In remarks quoted by the Russian news agency Lenta.ru, he said armed factions had started surrendering their weapons, and a group of people accused of inciting the violence had been detained. Some Jalalabad residents said the police force could be doing a lot more to protect civilians and seize weapons from armed groups. Reservists drafted into military units under a June 13 government order were sent to the city. But according to local journalist Jalil Saparov, There are no police or soldiers to be seen on the streets of Jalalabad, still less in outlying villages. We hear that reinforcements have arrived but no one has actually seen them. The curfew isnt being observed, and gangsters and looters come out at night to rob the citizenry. As in Osh, ad hoc volunteer groups appeared on the ground to defend their communities. We and our neighbours are setting up volunteer patrol units consisting of Uzbeks and Kyrgyz and protecting our own home and also the properties of neighbours who have left for safer places in the villages or in Uzbekistan, said Jalalabad resident Zaryl Mamatov. We realise that the city, regional and national authorities are unable to control the situation fully. Ermek, a Bishkek resident currently in southern Kyrgyzstan, said these volunteer militias were problematic, since they frequently disagreed, and some in their ranks were of suspect loyalty. Agents provocateurs are putting on military and police uniforms and shooting at Uzbeks, he said. In Osh, some were already talking about the way forward, and whether reconciliation could take shape after the worst bloodshed Kyrgyzstan has seen since ethnic riots in 1990. Lilia, a housewife in Osh, said after relatives were killed in the clashes, the only members of her large family left were her husband and two sisters. She said she hoped those behind the violence would be caught and punished. Another local man, Nurlan, who is Kyrgyz, said some distant relatives had been killed, but insisted, I dont harbour resentment towards my Uzbeks and Russian neighbours. Saparov said the main thing right now was to restore law and order. People get annoyed when members of the interim government try to identify the culprits instead of sorting the situation out, he said. At the moment, it isnt important who is behind all this. What needs to be done is to halt the bloodshed and make sure that young people dont get sucked into dangerous criminal gangs. Ermek, meanwhile, noted the dearth of politicians and other public figures able to bridge the gap between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek community at such a difficult time. Businessman Abdumalik said the bloodshed might never have happened if the original fight between two groups of young men had been stopped and contained. Now, though, things had changed irrevocably. It is no longer as it was. Were living in a different world now, he said. Ainagul Abdrakhmanova and Isomidin Ahmedjanov are IWPR-trained reporters in Bishkek and Osh, respectively; Beksultan Sadyrkulov is the pseudonym of a reporter in Bishkek. Dina Tokbaeva is IWPRs Kyrgyzstans editor. 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. KYRGYZSTAN BEGS MOSCOW TO HELP QUELL RIOTS Unrest now too widespread for Kyrgyz authorities to deal with, but Russia says no to intervention. By Dina Tokbaeva As riots continued for a second day in the southern city of Osh, the interim government in Kyrgyzstan asked Russia to send in troops, but was turned down. Kyrgyzstan has appealed to Russia to help regulate the situation in the south, acting head of state Roza Otunbaeva told reporters on June 12, in remarks quoted by the 24.kg news agency. We need external forces to be brought into Kyrgyzstan to deal with the situation and quell the confrontation.... Dialogue is not working and shooting and rioting are continuing. We await news from Russia and hope that appropriate measures will shortly be taken. The office of President Dmitry Medvedev responded later in the day with a statement making it clear no Russian forces were coming. Russia does not intend to send peacekeepers at the present time, said a statement on his official website. However, Medvedev is arranging urgent consultations within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a post-Soviet security bloc led by Moscow. The grouping has the right to deploy armed forces in a crisis when member states request assistance. The statement said that the consultations would cover collective response measures, without elaborating. Such a request for military intervention was unprecedented for post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, and reflects the gravity of a situation that began with ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks overnight on June 10-11, and continued escalating despite the deployment of government security forces. (For more on the unrest, see our story Renewed Unrest in South Kyrgyzstan.) The interim authorities who came to power in April when then president Kurmanbek Bakiev was forced to flee by mass protests have faced a series of outbreaks of unrest. But the ethnic clashes in Osh are by far the most serious in fact, they represent the worst bloodshed since similar ethnic clashes in 1990. By the afternoon of June 12, the Kyrgyz health ministry was saying 65 people had died in the violence and 500 were being treated in hospital. Otunbaeva acknowledged that the death toll might be even higher than the officially-recorded number. Civilians have many weapons. There are dead on both sides. We call on all citizens of Kyrgyzstan not to give in to provocation, she said. Local journalist Muzaffar Tursunov, whose home is in a suburban part of Osh that has suffered most in the two days of fighting, agreed the official casualty figures were probably understated. President Medvedev ordered officials to arrange humanitarian and medical aid for Kyrgyzstan, and a special plane to evacuate the wounded. The Kyrgyz authorities asked former army, police and security-service officers and veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan to come and help restore stability to Osh. Fighting between rival groups of Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continued through the day. Shots could be heard, many roads were blocked off by barricades and by the crowds of people milling around, shops stayed shut, and water and power supplies became intermittent. Virtually nothing is left of our district, said Tursunov. Marauders are still prowling the streets. Everyone here thinks these riots were planned in advance. We have defended ourselves as much as we could by barring the door to our yard. Our neighbours, who belong to different ethnic groups, are all afraid. We are helping one another we gave sanctuary to people from the next mahalla [neighbourhood area] which was torched. By 1730 local time on June 12, there seemed to be a lull in the fighting. You can still see columns of smoke, but there is no longer the sound of gunshots, said local journalist Isomidin Ahmedjanov. However, news began coming in of unrest in the Aksy district of Jalalabad, a province that adjoins Osh and that like it, has a mixed Kyrgyz and Uzbek population. Tursunovas verdict on the appeal for Russian intervention was that it was the right thing, but a bit late. Ahmedjanov described how news that Moscow had been asked to step in met with joy and relief in his neighbourhood. Our elders said it [Russian intervention] would be better than having rioting like this, he added. Leonid Bondarets, an expert on international security matters, said Otunbaevas appeal to Moscow meant only one thing The situation has gone beyond the interim governments control. The only state that can help Kyrgyzstan is Russia, he said. The United States is very far away. Bondarets said that while Moscow did not seem to have a clearly-defined policy on Central Asia, nevertheless the Russians need a friendly state, and Kyrgyzstan is the only state that Russia can rely on in this region. Another international affairs expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that if Russian forces did arrive in southern Kyrgyzstan, it would heighten tensions with nearby Uzbekistan, which is concerned about the current unrest in Osh but is generally hostile to the idea of a foreign military presence close to its borders. The greatest risk for Kyrgyzstan at present, though, was that neighbouring Uzbekistan might sent its own armed forces into Osh. That really needs to be prevented, he said. Political analyst Tamerlan Ibraimov is still optimistic that Kyrgyzstan can resolve the Osh crisis on its own, although he accepts that this is the best-case scenario. Meanwhile, Felix Kulov, a former prime minister and security chief, has urged the government to authorise the military and police to shoot to kill when looters, hooligans and other criminal elements refuse to surrender. Dina Tokbaeva is IWPR editor for Kyrgyzstan. 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. RENEWED UNREST IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN Minor fistfight erupts into worst bloodshed seen in two decades. By Beksultan Sadyrkulov, Asyl Osmonalieva, Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Inga Sikorskaya, Dina Tokbaeva Running battles between Kyrgyz and members of the large ethnic Uzbek minority in Osh on June 10 and 11 left 41 people dead. Commentators say it is the worst bloodshed seen in the Central Asian state since the Uzbek-Kyrgyz clashes of 1990, a year before the Soviet Union broke up. Announcing the news, Kyrgyzstans health ministry told the 24.kg news agency that 600 people were injured, with around 400 needing hospital treatment. Confusion surrounds the immediate cause of the clashes, but they appeared to escalate out of a fight between two groups involving a small number of people overnight on June 10-11. News that violence had broken out in the city spread quickly, and many neighbourhoods spent the night in fear of coming under attack. The following day, armed gangs fought it out in central Osh, vandalising shops and burning cars as they went. Shots can be heard everywhere, a local journalist told IWPR. They are torching shopping centres and restaurants. Military units from the army and interior ministry were sent in to restore order. Foreign minister Ruslan Kazakbaev, attending a regional meeting in Uzbekistans capital Tashkent, said his government had done everything necessary to restore stability and could guarantee security for the local population. Speaking in Osh on June 11, Azimbek Beknazarov, deputy prime minister in Kyrgyzstans interim government and special envoy for the southern part of the country, said the imposition of a curfew and the troop deployment had helped calm things down. Although he was confident that the authorities would now maintain control in the city, he noted that there were still some localised outbreaks of trouble. Local journalist Isomidin Ahmedjanov confirmed that after the troops were sent in overnight, the situation in the city centre calmed down. By about midday on June 11, the military were patrolling the centre and not allowing anyone in, he said. Nevertheless, he said, two hours later shots could still be heard from various parts of Osh. It isnt clear whats going on the city outskirts, who is attacking whom. There have been injuries. Ive heard from three separate sources that in residential districts, the crowds are on their own; there are no police or army, said Ahmedjanov. Towards six in the evening, a fresh upsurge in fighting took place in the centre, in the Cheremushki and Amir Temur districts, and in the nearby village of Furkat. Local communities armed themselves to protect their neighbourhoods in case the clashes spread to them. All my neighbours are out in the street with axes and sticks defending the mahalla [neighbourhood], said Nazarbegim, a woman whose home is in the centre of Osh, close to where the main clashes had happened. The fighting was strongly reminiscent though more bloody than the Kyrgyz-Uzbek skirmishes which took place last month in another southern town, Jalalabad. (See IWPRs story Spectre of Ethnic Violence in Kyrgyzstan.) In that case, the Kyrgyz authorities accused allies of former president Kurmanbek Bakiev, ousted during mass protests last month, of masterminding those disturbances. This time, Beknazarov did not accuse any particular group, although made it clear he did not believe it had happened spontaneously. The riots are clearly inter-ethnic in nature, and theyve been carefully orchestrated, he said. Political analyst Elmira Nogoybaeva agreed with this view, saying, It would be naïve to suppose that instability in the south on such a scale is merely the result of a minor clash between groups of young people. Its much more likely to be a carefully-planned act of subversion. In Osh, rumours circulated about the cause of the violence and about who was to blame. Some local residents, Kyrgyz and Uzbek, accused the other community of starting the fighting. Our people got killed today and were very much alarmed, said a retired police officer of Uzbek ethnicity. By contrast, a female pensioner living near the centre of the fighting alleged that the Uzbeks were well prepared and had weapons. They attacked the Kyrgyz, and we are very much afraid for our people. Jalalitdin Salahitdinov, head of the Uzbek National Centre in Osh, said, It was the police who fired first. This is clearly an ethnic conflict, a conflict between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz which has been a long time coming. Many of the people interviewed by IWPR stressed that they felt no animosity towards their own Uzbek or Kyrgyz neighbours. The conflict is being orchestrated, said a Kyrgyz woman who lives in central Osh, near the scene of the fighting. Our [apartment] block is multi-ethnic, and Ive already been to see my Uzbek neighbours to tell them they should move into my flat if theres any danger. Well hide them if necessary. An Osh resident said he had heard two explanations for the unrest. One, he said, was that its Bakievs people inciting it, they are trying to destabilise things so that blood flows and conflict takes off. The other version is that its been provoked by external actors. Political scientist Mars Sariev, too, believes there could be more than one factor at work. On the one hand, it is clearly to the advantage of Bakiev loyalists if the interim government faces yet more unrest and loses credibility in the process. But there are also powerful local forces involved in organised crime, so while the clashes have been portrayed as ethnic, they may actually been sparked by a power-struggle over illicit business including the drug-trafficking. Osh is an important transit point for Afghan heroin smuggled northwards to Russia and the rest of Europe. Kyrgyzstans interim leader, Roza Otunbaeva, noted that the violence came two weeks ahead of the June 27 in which voters will be asked to approve a new constitution offering a major overhaul of the political system. Pavel Dyatlenko of the Polis Asia think-tank agreed that the timing was significant, noting that the province of which Osh is administrative centre accounts for a fifth of Kyrgyzstans population, and having a curfew would make it impossible to conduct a referendum there. Beksultan Sadyrkulov is the pseudonym of a reporter in Bishkek; Asyl Osmonalieva and Isomidin Ahmedjanov are IWPR-trained journalists in Bishkek and Osh, respectively; Inga Sikorskaya is an IWPR editor based in Bishkek but currently in Osh; Dina Tokbaeva is IWPRs Kyrgyzstan editor. 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. KYRGYZ CONSTITUTION IS CENTRAL ASIAS FINEST New constitution will not turn the country into a parliamentary democracy just yet, but its still the most progressive in the region. By Pavel Dyatlenko The finalised version of Kyrgyzstans new constitution has diluted the original plan to create a strong parliament and strip the president of all but ceremonial powers. Yet it is still a genuinely positive step in the right direction, as it should create greater pluralism in the political system and prevent power being concentrated in the hands of one person. And by the standards of other Central Asian states, where authoritarian leaders can expect to retain their grip on power until they drop, it is a truly progressive document. Published on May 20, the draft constitution has been submitted for consultations, and will be subject to approval in a referendum scheduled for June 27. The new constitution does remove some powers from the post of president, but instead of transferring them to parliament as per the original plan, they devolve to the prime minister. On close examination, the president retains enough authority to exert significant influence on the political process. There is some ambiguity in the wording that delineates this power-sharing arrangement, particularly regarding who has ultimate authority over foreign policy, security and defence. This could prove problematic at a time of crisis, or if president and prime minister fall out. They heads of the defence and security agencies report directly to the prime minister, but the president can appoint and sack them. The president loses sole control over foreign policy, but will still take part in defining it. It is unclear whether the president or the prime minister is expected to sign international agreements. The president also has a say in the formation of new governments. The winning party in an election gets to nominate a prime minister, who then submits a proposed cabinet list to parliament. But if legislators fail to approve his chosen ministers within 15 days, or in cases where no one party attains the required majority, the president steps in and may ask other parties to form a government. The president also plays the role of an arbiter when parliament clashes with government, and may choose to ask either of the two institutions to stand down. All in all, the hierarchy of power remains undisturbed the president sits at the top, then comes the speaker of parliament, and only then the prime minister. Even the way the constitution is set out shows that parliament has not taken over as the principal institution of state. In the final draft, the chapter dealing with the head of state sits before the one on parliament, whereas in the earlier version it was the other way around. The reason the final draft differs from the constitution as originally conceived is that the first draft was produced by a team of legal experts working to ensure the document reflected the interim governments vision of a shift to a parliamentary system. Later compromises stem from consultations with various political groups with differing agendas, as well as NGOs and international organisations including representatives of the OSCE, the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters), and experts from Russia. Some of the changes even represent a step backwards from the current constitution. For example, a provision allowing members of parliament to be dismissed if constituency voters are unhappy with them has been taken out. The Constitutional Court ceases to exist as a separate entity, and is reduced to being a component of the Supreme Court. This is problematic, as the Constitutional Court used to offer an avenue where NGOs, for example, could claim their basic rights were being violated when the authorities imposed restrictions on demonstrations. Additional wording to the status of judges could be interpreted as meaning they can be dismissed for reasons other than professional incompetence. Overall though, despite these flaws, the new constitution is the first of its kind in Central Asia, and is undoubtedly a step forward for Kyrgyzstan. It makes the country the first in the region to address the problem of heads of state who seek to monopolise power and remain in charge forever. Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian state that has replaced a sitting head of state. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are still run by the same leaders who came to power following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and they show no signs of stepping down. Turkmenistan declared its first president Saparmurat Niazov president for life, but his reign was cut short when he died in 2006 and was replaced by Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov. In Kyrgyzstan, the presidency is to restricted to one term only although the final version makes this six instead of five years. An upper age limit of 70 has been set for the post. One of the elements that has received most praise in the new constitution is that winning parties are restricted to 50 per cent of the seats in parliament plus five. With the number of seats in legislature expanded to 120, this limited absolute majority will be 65. The system should help strengthen political pluralism, as it will give more influence to opposition parties. One possible drawback is the legislative process may take longer as the ruling party tries to secure the required number of votes. For constitutional matters, a two-thirds majority is needed. The constitution retains proportional representation for parliamentary elections. The system will be entirely based on party lists, with no individual constituencies. There is a danger this will widen the divide between the electorate and members of parliament, given that the latter are not accountable to a particular local electorate. One important point in the final draft is that it reinstates the statement that Kyrgyzstan is a secular state. During the process of revision and debate, there were controversial attempts to remove this statement. The document now draws much clearer dividing lines between state and religion, adding a line prohibiting religious organisations and the clergy from interfering in the work of state institutions. This document is only the start of a process that should eventually take Kyrgyzstan away from the kind of autocratic presidential rule that sparked popular protest in 2005 and in April this year, in both cases leading to the heads of state of the time, Askar Akaev and his successor Kurmanbek Bakiev, being ousted. As with previous constitutions, the test will be how effective it is when applied to the realities of Kyrgyz politics, where informal practices and traditions dominate, political groups engage in strife, and public levels of engagement are generally low. In the words of Gulnara Iskakova, one of the members of the working group that drafted the constitution, Its going to be a long and difficult journey. Pavel Dyatlenko is an analyst at 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. IWPR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; Head of Programmes: Elizabeth Coates. **** www.iwpr.net ******************************************************************** IWPR gives voice to people at the frontlines of conflict, crisis and change. 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