WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 626, August 26, 2010

COMMENT

KYRGYZSTAN: PROTESTS ON DEMAND  Marginalised groups serve as rent-a-mob 
demonstrators whenever the country is convulsed by unrest.  By Pavel Dyatlenko

KYRGYZSTAN GOES TO DONORS FOR POST-UNREST AID  Funding details to be confirmed 
after election produces new government.  By Asyl Osmonalieva

TAJIK GOVERNMENT TO TAX LUCRATIVE PHONE BUSINESSES  New tax likely to be passed 
on cash-strapped consumers, experts say.  By Jahongir Boboev

TAJIK DISABLEMENT LAWS OBSTRUCT ACCESS TO JOBS  Categorisation as “unfit for 
work” bars people who would otherwise be keen to enter employment.  By 
Davlatsho Shoetiborov

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COMMENT

KYRGYZSTAN: PROTESTS ON DEMAND

Marginalised groups serve as rent-a-mob demonstrators whenever the country is 
convulsed by unrest.

By Pavel Dyatlenko

Kyrgyzstan has experienced periodic bouts of political turbulence over the last 
decade. On each occasion, many of the characteristics have been similar – large 
crowds calling on someone to resign, lofty words from the orators addressing 
them, and plenty of journalists on hand to report this surge in political 
activity by members of the public. 

Yet the truth is that people in Kyrgyzstan are not actually very politically 
engaged, as can be seen by the generally low turnout figures in elections.

How, then, has it been possible to get them to come out into the streets to 
protest so easily, and so often?

The answer lies in social and economic changes that have created a large 
under-class which is virtually available for hire by anyone with the money to 
pay them and the skills to direct their anger against the required target.

The biggest protests and other forms of unrest – the revolutions of March 2005 
and April 2010 which both resulted in regime change, and the mass violence in 
southern Kyrgyzstan this June involving local Kyrgyz and Uzbeks – fit the 
pattern to some extent, but should be viewed separately because other factors 
were also at play, and because of their sheer magnitude.

A recent protest staged by Urmat Baryktabasov, a businessman turned politician, 
is a more typical example of the kind of routine protest I am talking about.

On August 5, thousands of people turned out in the northern town of Balykchi to 
voice support for Baryktabasov to become prime minister of Kyrgyzstan, and also 
for criminal charges he faced to be dropped. The demonstration was soon over, 
as riot police moved in firing tear gas, stun grenades and even live 
ammunition. Eleven people were injured, and Baryktabasov himself was arrested.

So what kind of people turn up for such demonstrations? At one level, they are 
often local supporters of the political figures leading protests in their home 
region, as in the case of Baryktabasov.

At the same time, they commonly fall broadly into two marginalised social 
groups – impoverished urban residents struggling to adapt to the market economy 
and the collapse of Soviet-era state employment and welfare safety nets; and 
migrants who have left rural areas in search of a better life in the larger 
towns.

What these groups have in common is their poverty and their unclear sense of 
purpose. Migrants from the countryside, for example, lose their ties with their 
roots, as they see no future back in their villages, but have not developed a 
new urbanised identity with which they are comfortable.

Typically, the core of such protesting crowds is made up of young men 
frustrated and angry at their lack of prospects. The weak Kyrgyz economy is 
unable to absorb the growing number of people looking for work. Many go abroad 
to Russia and other countries to work, but large numbers are destined for 
unemployment at home.

Taking part in protests can give them a sense of direction, the feeling that 
they are part of an elemental force influencing decision-making.

Aside from this nascent form of political engagement, many are driven by purely 
economic factors, and become “protesters for hire”. Even if the issues they are 
called on to protest about are close to their hearts, the prime motive for 
taking part is to get paid for a relatively easy day’s work.

As well as food and sometimes alcohol, protest participants often get paid – 
some observers say the going rate is the equivalent of between eight and ten US 
dollars a day, plus food. That may not seem much, but in Kyrgyzstan it is 
decent money.

Thus, all that organisers need is a few thousand dollars, a team to recruit and 
mobilise participants, and tacit approval from the local authorities for the 
event to go ahead. The kind of individuals able to do this in pursuit of their 
interests range from politicians and businessmen to top underworld figures.

Paid demonstrators find their services particularly in demand around elections 
and during sustained periods of anti-government protests.

The only way people will be weaned off their penchant for demonstrating will be 
when the Kyrgyz economy is revived and more jobs are created across the 
country, in rural as well as urban areas.

As things stand, these periodic protests are a drain on the government’s 
resources and on economic activity as a whole, costing large amounts to police, 
forcing businesses to close temporarily, and putting off potential foreign 
investors.

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.


KYRGYZSTAN GOES TO DONORS FOR POST-UNREST AID

Funding details to be confirmed after election produces new government.

By Asyl Osmonalieva

International donors have shown they are willing to help Kyrgyzstan recover 
from the damage caused in June’s ethnic violence, but they will defer firming 
up aid offers until a new government is formed after the October parliamentary 
election. 

Analysts in Kyrgyzstan say it is crucial to ensure that any foreign aid is used 
effectively.

A donor conference in the Kyrgyz capital on July 27 resulted in pledges of 1.1 
billion US dollars over the next two-and-a-half years. The money will go 
towards restoring infrastructure destroyed or damaged during several days of 
clashes in and around the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad in June, which 
left at least 330 people dead and homes, shops and official buildings ruined by 
looting and arson attacks.

Apart from the immediate devastation cause by the unrest, the Kyrgyz economy 
also suffered as neighbouring Central Asian states temporarily closed their 
borders, stifling trade.

Farid Niazov, the government’s public relations coordinator, said the funds 
would go towards covering an anticipated large budget deficit resulting from 
lower-than-expected revenues and the high cost of rebuilding the south, as well 
as directly towards reconstruction work in Osh and Jalalabad.

A second donor conference, this time hosted by neighbour Kazakstan, is due to 
take place once the October parliamentary election is over and Kyrgyzstan gets 
a government to replace the transitional administration in place since April, 
when the then president Kurmanbek Bakiev fled the country.

The timing of the event was announced on August 16 by Kazak prime minister 
Karim Masimov, during a bilateral meeting in his country’s capital Astana to 
discuss aid plans for Kyrgyzstan.

The donor conference will follow up on the pledges made in July and invite 
further offers of assistance.

Kazak deputy foreign minister Nurlan Yermekbaev, who attended the Astana 
meeting, said at least 29 countries and 17 international organisations had been 
approached and asked how much they would contribute.

“These negotiations will be more detailed and specific in nature. The kind of 
assistance on offer will be discussed – whether it is to be grants or loan, the 
conditions, the timing, and so on,” Bishkek-based analyst Askar Beshimov told 
IWPR.

Beshimov said donors wanted to wait to firm up the detail with a more formally 
constituted government than the present interim body.

At the Astana meeting, Kyrgyz finance minister Chorobek Imashev said, “Our 
long-term strategy is not to depend on foreign aid but to rely on our own 
resources, to generate revenues from economic activity.”

Beshimov, however, argues that the priority at the moment is survival rather 
than planning for the future.

“We have a 20-million [dollar] budget deficit; we are firefighting local 
conflagrations as they begin here and there, and we aren’t thinking about the 
country’s strategic development even two or three years ahead. And we are 
expecting gross domestic product to fall by six per cent,” he said.

At the same time, Kyrgyzstan is having to service an external debt of over two 
billion dollars.

“It’s possible there may also be a discussion on postponing the repayments, 
although this will just mean the payment schedule is put back,” Beshimov said.

The net result of new loans will be to increase Kyrgyzstan’s debt burden 
further. However, analysts say the key thing is not how much money comes in, 
but how it is used so that it contributes to real economic growth.

According to economist Jumakadyr Akeneev, “Over the last 19 years, loans have 
not been used effectively, although they were taken out to help the economy 
develop. Now we’re forced to accept money to fund our current needs, and we 
must not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Akeenev would like to see new mechanisms put in place to make sure aid funding 
is used transparently and accountably.

“If the authorities set up a supervisory council that includes representatives 
of civil society, we will be able to ensure transparency in the use of loans,” 
he said.

Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR-trained journalist 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.


TAJIK GOVERNMENT TO TAX LUCRATIVE PHONE BUSINESSES

New tax likely to be passed on cash-strapped consumers, experts say.

By Jahongir Boboev

The government in Tajikistan is considering changing the tax legislation to add 
mobile phone services to the list of items like alcohol and tobacco on which 
excise duties are paid.

Analysts say the move is an attempt to shore up falling government revenues. 
The mobile phone industry is one of the few sectors showing growth at a time 
when other businesses are hard hit by the effect of economic crisis.

In an interview for IWPR, Saodat Vahhobova of the finance ministry department 
for taxation policy and revenue forecasting said an excise tax of three per 
cent would be levied on all services provided by mobile phone operators.

The bill is currently being reviewed by various government ministries. If 
approved by them, it will go forward to parliament.

It is the second attempt to impose additional taxes on mobile operators. A 
similar move in 2007 failed after the phone companies lobbied against it.

There are nine mobile phone companies in Tajikistan – MLT, Babilon-M, Tcell, 
Beeline, ?.??ko, ?elecom In? (Skytel), ??-Mobile, ?ajiktelecom, and Telecom 
Technology. Most were set up with foreign investment.

Their combined annual income is put at around 320 million US dollars.

Rustam Jabborov, an independent analyst, believes the government is trying 
again because other revenues are in decline.

Tajikistan has been hit by the global economic crisis in several ways – demand 
for its export commodities, aluminium and cotton, has fallen; and the 
remittances sent home by hundreds of thousands of Tajik migrants working abroad 
have declined as jobs dry up in Russia and Kazakstan.

“Revenue targets have not been reached for the last one and a half years, and 
the government is therefore looking for additional sources of income. The 
communications sector is one of the most profitable in the country,” Jabborov 
said in an interview for the Asia Plus news agency.

Despite widespread poverty, Tajikistan has seen a boom in mobile phone use in 
recent years. There are around 4.3 million subscribers in a population of 7.5 
million people. Competition among provider firms has slashed call charges, 
which are among the cheapest in Central Asia.

Concerns are now being voiced that the new tax on phone services will hit the 
average consumer by forcing companies to raise their prices.

Behzod Faizulloev, director of Babilon-M, told IWPR a three per cent tax would 
mean at least a five per cent increase in phone charges for the consumer, and 
would also slow the development of the industry.

He says the phone companies are already contributing a lot of money to the 
government’s coffers.

“Suffice it to say that just one company, Tcell, pays more taxes than all the 
banks in Tajikistan,” he said.

Economist Kakhor Aminov warned that the tax “will ultimately affect a 
population of which around 60 per cent live below the poverty line”.

Firuz Saidov, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic Studies said the net 
result of the new tax could be exactly the opposite of what the government 
intended.

“Price increases on these services will lead to a fall in the number of 
customers, which will result in reduced tax revenues from the mobile phone 
companies,” he said.

The deputy minister for transport and communications, with special 
responsibility for the mobile phone industry, Beg Zukhurov, told IWPR he was 
unable to comment on the bill as it was yet to be approved.

“I will comment when the final decision is taken,” Zukhurov said.

The head of the Association of Mobile Phone Operators, Ghofur Irkaev, 
complained that the application of excise taxes would effectively categorise 
mobile phones alongside items with a harmful effect on society and the 
environment. He said that in other countries, such items typically included 
petrol and other environmentally unfriendly fuels, as well as alcohol and 
tobacco.

Earlier this year, the authorities began suggesting that mobile phones could be 
harmful if used to excess.

At the end of April, President Imomali Rahmon said mobile phones were a health 
risk and their overuse should be discouraged, and instructed the health 
ministry to inform the public, especially younger people, about the health 
risks.

A week earlier, Rahmon had spoken of another drawback of mobile phone use – the 
cost. He said there were over a million phone owners in Tajikistan, each 
spending between 11 to 135 dollars a month on calls. That, he said, was “a 
drain on the financial resources of every Tajik family”.

The president’s comments sparked a series of programmes on state television 
highlighting the physical effects of using mobiles too much. The municipal 
authorities in the capital Dushanbe and other towns then started restricting 
billboard advertising by mobile companies, although this was later reversed.

Jahongir Boboev is the pseudonym of a 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.


TAJIK DISABLEMENT LAWS OBSTRUCT ACCESS TO JOBS

Categorisation as “unfit for work” bars people who would otherwise be keen to 
enter employment.

By Davlatsho Shoetiborov

Bobosharipov, 27, is struggling to find paid work because, being classified as 
disabled, he is seen as unemployable. 

A resident of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Bobosharipov uses crutches to get 
about because of leg injuries he sustained as a child while playing on a 
railway track.

He has had brief spells in work, first on the staff of a local education 
department, and then as an accountant in a school. The latter job paid the 
equivalent of some 30 US dollars a month, which barely covered his travel 
expenses.

If he had work, he would be the main breadwinner for his family, but he has 
been unemployed for over a year. One possible avenue – working as a taxi driver 
– is closed to him as a “category two” disabled person.

“To tell you the truth, I can drive as well as any taxi driver, but with 
category two disability, I’m unable to get a driving license,” he said. “I have 
knowledge and strength and I can work just like an able-bodied person. But for 
over a year, I’ve been unable to find a job paying a wage high enough to live 
on.”

Tajikistan inherited the Soviet Union’s three-tier official classification for 
disability, which decides what benefits and rights a person is entitled to.

All three groups are eligible for payments according to a graded system, though 
even those with the gravest “category one” impairments receive no more than 35 
dollars a month. People who become disabled after a period in employment 
receive a pension worth 70 per cent of their previous salary, while those 
disabled from childhood receive only benefits.

Niyoz Qurbonov, head of the labour market department at Tajikistan’s State 
Agency for Social Welfare, Employment and Migration, explained that under 
current laws, only “category three” disabled people are deemed able to work and 
are therefore entitled to apply for jobs and claim unemployment benefit.

“People with category-one and -two disabilities cannot register as unemployed. 
They receive benefits and that means they don’t have to work,” Qurbonov said.

In addition to benefit payments, the first two categories receive 50 per cent 
subsidies on utility bills and free landline phone connections.

Asadullo Zikrikhudoev, the director of the Dushanbe Disabled Association, told 
IWPR there were many like Bobokhonov who were willing and able to work, but who 
were rejected at every turn because they were in the “wrong category”.

“Young disabled people who could work in any organisation get rejected wherever 
they go,” he said. “The reason is that the category-one and –two disablement 
certificates they’ve been given say ‘unfit for work’.”

Zikrikhudoev said that of the 7,000 people registered with his association, 
only one in ten has a job. The other 90 per cent have to scrape by on state 
benefits. Some are supported by their families, while others survive by begging 
in the streets and outside mosques.

Tajikistan is the poorest of the Central Asian states, with about half the 
population living under the World Bank-defined poverty line of an income of two 
dollars a day.

Zikrikhudoev said that in an economic climate in which everyone finds it hard 
to get work, the disabled at are an extra disadvantage, especially when they 
are officially classed as unfit for employment.

In his own case, Zikrikhudoev said, the disablement and child benefits he 
received added up to around 38 dollars a month, and he had a wife, mother, two 
sisters and a younger brother to support.

“I don’t need benefits. The main thing for me is to work with able-bodied 
people and receive a good wage,” he said. “I badly need a job; otherwise I will 
have to start begging at markets or on the street.”

The ministry of labour and social welfare says there are about 200,000 disabled 
people in a total population of 7.5 million, although experts say the true 
figure could be higher.

Government officials admit that there are problems with access to employment.

“Today, when able-bodied people cannot find work, it is even harder to provide 
jobs for the disabled. There are thousands of young and older people going off 
to work to Russia and other countries,” a labour ministry official who 
requested anonymity said.

Qurbonov said that under an overall job-creation plan, the government aimed to 
provide some 220 workplaces earmarked for the disabled this year and nearly 640 
next year.

“The programme also envisages quotas requiring any organisation with 20 
employees, whatever its line of work, to hire one disabled person,” he added.

The labour and welfare ministry has a special service which monitors the 
disabled employment. It can penalise employers who withhold rights due to their 
disabled workers – but it can also punish them if they take on staff officially 
classed as “unfit for work”.

Rahmatillo Zoirov, a legal expert and heads of the opposition Social Democratic 
Party, says this classification should not automatically exclude a person from 
employment

“The term ‘unfit for work’ needs to be defined more precisely. What it means is 
that these people cannot do some types of work, but are able to perform 
others,” he said. “People in category one except those with mental disabilities 
can still work from home.”

Qurbonov accepts that the legislation needed to be improved, and says his 
ministry is now drafting a new law to give people in all three categories the 
right to work.

At the moment, even hiring a category-three person classed as able to work can 
look unattractive to many employers. Zikrikhudoev said the right to a six-hour 
working day, 42 days of paid annual leave plus two unpaid annual leave period 
made employers reluctant to take on such individuals.

Zoirov says the government should exempt companies from certain taxes as an 
incentive for hiring more disabled people, and also return to the Soviet system 
of funding the various disabled associations to create work for members.

Turbek Davlatov, who heads Tajikistan’s Association for the Blind, recalls the 
old days when benefits were relatively better and the state set up special 
enterprises to employ the visually impaired.

These organisations, which came under the Association for the Blind, are now 
largely run down as their machinery has worn out and the household items they 
used to manufacture have been outpriced by cheap Chinese imports.

“We used to receive good salaries and we were able to build our own homes, 
Davlatov said. “Today, most blind people are unemployed and living below the 
poverty line.”

Davlatov says that of the 10,000 people with visual impairments in Tajikistan, 
only 640 are officially in work, and the real number is probably even lower.

“We have a serious problem with education. When blind people are unable to get 
a good education, have no profession and no job, they’ve got no choice but to 
take up begging in order to survive and avoid dying of hunger,” he said.

Davlatsho Shoetibor is a freelance 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.

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