WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 636, November 30, 2010

BLAST IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL RAISES TENSIONS  Authorities accuse Islamic radicals of 
planting bomb, though others are not so sure.  By Yevgenia Kim, Timur 
Toktonaliev

INTERVIEW

TIME FOR TAJIKISTAN TO END DEATH PENALTY  Government should move from 
moratorium to full abolition, leading lawyer says.  By Zarina Ergasheva

KYRGYZSTAN ON ALERT AFTER OSH CLASH  Security service insists operation 
targeting armed group was pre-planned and does not mark return to instability.  
By Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Dina Tokbaeva

TOUGH TIMES FOR KYRGYZ WOMEN’S GROUPS  As foreign grants dwindle, NGOs turn to 
cash-strapped government.  By Asyl Osmonalieva, Nargiza Ryskulova

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BLAST IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL RAISES TENSIONS

Authorities accuse Islamic radicals of planting bomb, though others are not so 
sure.

By Yevgenia Kim, Timur Toktonaliev

A bomb blast in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek is the work of the same shadowy 
group whose members were involved in a gunbattle with police in Osh less than 
24 hours earlier, officials say.

The bomb went off a day after a firefight between police and unidentified armed 
men in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh (For more, see Kyrgyzstan on Alert After 
Osh Clash.) 

It also came just two days before United States Secretary of State Hillary 
Clinton was due to visit Kyrgyzstan, which hosts an American military air base. 

The explosion happened at about nine in the morning on November 30 outside a 
sports facility where the high-profile trial of members of former president 
Kurmanbek Bakiev’s administration has been going on since mid-November. They 
are accused of ordering police action that caused the deaths of at least 70 
people during protests in April that led to Bakiev being ousted.

Kyrgyzstan’s interior ministry said two policemen and a civilian were injured 
by the explosives, placed in a drain at the Kojomkul Palace of Sports. It 
happened about five minutes’ walk from the White House, where the Kyrgyz 
parliament sits.

Interior ministry and National Security Service officers launched an immediate 
investigation to identify the nature of the explosive device and track down 
possible culprits.

Marat Imankulov, the secretary of Kyrgyzstan’s Security Council, said the blast 
was so powerful that part of the manhole cover over the drain was blown 300 
metres away.

“The explosive device was activated by a remote control unit or a mobile phone, 
so in theory the perpetrator could have been observing as a bus transporting 
police drove up to the Palace of Sports. But the bus drove off, and ten seconds 
later there was a powerful explosion,” he said.

Imankulov said there was undoubtedly a link to the group targeted by the police 
operation in Osh the previous day. He also said he believed the attack was 
intended to disrupt the trial in the sports facility.

The authorities have already said one of the men killed in Osh was positively 
linked to a plan to stage terror attacks in Osh and the Kyrgyz capital; this 
was discovered in an earlier police operation carried out on November 22. That 
raid resulted in several arrests and the seizure of home-made explosives and 
remote control detonators.

Following the Bishkek blast, the deputy head of the National Security Service, 
Kolbay Musaev, said the main suspects had connections to the Islamic Movement 
of Uzbekistan, IMU, and the Islamic Jihad Union.

The IMU conducted raids in Central Asia in 1999-2000 and is currently operating 
out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Islamic Jihad Union is a splinter group 
which broke with the IMU in northwest Pakistan some years ago, apparently over 
future plans for militant action.

IWPR asked Artur Medetbekov, formerly deputy chief of the National Security 
Service and now head of a private security agency called Alfa-Antiterror, to 
comment on possible motives for the bombing. He said it was a professional 
attack designed to sow fear among the public and send a warning to the 
authorities. He too made a connection with the ongoing trial.

Kadyr Malikov, head of the Religion, Law and Politics Centre in Bishkek, 
remains sceptical that the IMU or other Islamic groups were behind the bomb.

He told the AKIpress news agency that Islamic radicals would have little 
interest in disrupting the Bishkek trial, as it covers only unrest in April and 
not the mass ethnic violence that left over 400 dead in southern Kyrgyzstan 
this June. In addition, the pan-Islamic agenda involved uniting different 
ethnic groups against the state.

“The IMU is interested in winning wider support among the public and uniting 
ethnic groups around the ideology of political Islam,” he explained. “It isn’t 
in the IMU’s interest to draw attention to itself with explosions [targeting] 
the public, particularly the Kyrgyz-speaking public, as this could lead to 
ethnic conflict.”

Malikov believes other hands are at work. He sais there is insufficient 
information to identify them but they may well be forces with economic or other 
vested interests, which could exploit instability and chaos to their own 
advantage.

Political analyst Marat Kazakpaev expressed concern that Kyrgyzstan could see 
more attacks of this kind, as police raids appeared to have failed to capture 
and neutralise the group involved.

Other analysts say incidents like these point up the need for more effective 
policing.

In the April unrest, police were accused of meting out harsh treatment to 
demonstrators, and following the June ethnic violence, they came in for a lot 
of criticism for failing to protect the public impartially.

Political analyst Mar Sariev suggested that the authorities might use the 
Clinton visit to ask for more counter-terrorism assistance.

Yevgenia Kim, Timur Toktonaliev are IWPR-trained journalists in 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.


INTERVIEW

TIME FOR TAJIKISTAN TO END DEATH PENALTY

Government should move from moratorium to full abolition, leading lawyer says.

By Zarina Ergasheva

A lawyer working for the Tajik interior ministry says that five years after 
introducing a moratorium on executions, it is time to abolish capital 
punishment altogether.

In an interview for IWPR, Karim Soliev, deputy head of the Academy of the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the move would bring Tajikistan into line 
with its obligations under international law.

Tajikistan introduced moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in 2004 and 
no executions have taken place since then. But capital punishment remains on 
the lawbooks, making Tajikistan the only Central Asian state where this is the 
case for common crimes, as opposed to exceptional circumstances such as in time 
of war.

IWPR asked Soliev to explain why he thinks it is time to move forward to total 
abolition.

Karim Soliev: There always have been and always will be supporters and 
opponents of the death penalty, and Tajikistan is no an exception. The 
announcement of a moratorium on the death penalt, in a speech to parliament 
which the president of Tajikistan [Imomali Rahmon] delivered in April 2004 was 
an important step for our country. As the head of state noted, “no one can 
deprive anyone else of the right” to life.

It should be recognised that the death penalty issue and attitudes to it in our 
country… is gradually changing, I would say in a positive way. Evidence of this 
can be seen in state policies such as initially cutting the number of crimes 
subject to the death penalty, and subsequently applying a moratorium to 
ordering the death sentence and carrying it out.

There can be no doubt that in the near future, there can be no place for the 
death penalty in a civilised society, all the more so given that Tajikistan has 
declared itself to be part of the international community, which means 
respecting and following its principles.

The next step for the country’s political leadership and legislature should be 
to abolish this ultimate punishment, as has been done in many countries of the 
world, including members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

IWPR: Is the public in Tajikistan ready to accept the idea of abolishing the 
death penalty?

Soliev: The public generally finds it hard to accept the idea of dropping the 
death penalty from the list of criminal penalties. That’s probably a result of 
the difficult history of violence [1992-1997 civil war] and harsh circumstances 
which people have endured. This shapes the view that crime must be dealt with 
by harsh measures. Hence, the public often demands that criminals are executed.

I believe that we need to conduct a survey to find out what public view is. I 
don’t think there’s a need to put it to a referendum; that wouldn’t produce a 
positive outcome for resolving this problem. I can say in advance that the 
majority of Tajikistan’s population would favour preserving the death penalty. 
If public opinion had been taken into account, no country would have abolished 
it.

I think the authorities should demonstrate political courage and push through 
the solution of the problem, unilaterally. According to the human rights 
organisation Amnesty International, more than 100 countries have abolished 
capital punishment. Several dozen of countries retain and use the punishment.

When the First World Congress Against the Death Penalty took place in 
Strasbourg in 2002 under the aegis of the Council of Europe, participants 
called on all world countries to abolish the death penalty. Terrible statistics 
were presented at the congress, estimating that about seven per cent of the 
death sentences carried out were erroneous or were handed down unfairly.

IWPR: The moratorium in Tajikistan means capital punishment is replaced by life 
imprisonment. The authorities say there aren’t suitable facilities to 
accommodate convicts serving life sentence. Ought this problem to be solved 
first?

Soliev: An institution of this kind needs to be built, we mustn’t forget about 
it. But we cannot wait until new facilities for lifers have been built, and 
fail to live up to our international humanitarian obligations.

IWPR: En route to abolition¸ the Tajik government needs to work on public 
attitudes and also amend the national legislation. What needs to be done in the 
latter regard?

Soliev: One of the objectives of the legal system reform currently being 
carried out in Tajikistan is to bring national legislation into line with the 
standards of international law. The 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which seeks the abolition 
of the death penalty, is of no small importance here. But our country has not 
ratified this protocol yet.

Second, we need to overcome what seems to be a constitutional problem – article 
18 of Tajikistan’s constitution permits the application of capital punishment 
for particularly grave crimes. Now, crimes of this kind may be committed in 
peacetime and may be of a non-military nature. The constitution allows 
deprivation of life, but it does not require it; it makes [executions] possible 
but not mandatory. This leads us to conclude that this constitutional provision 
is optional rather than fundamental.

The constitution needs to contain a clarification that declaring the citizen’s 
rights, freedoms and interests as the supreme good presupposes abolition of the 
death penalty in peacetime, although it does not exclude its use in wartime, 
for the most heinous war crimes.

I believe this would allow us to bring our national legislation fully into line 
with the Second Optional Protocol.

Zarina Ergasheva is an IWPR-trained reporter 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.


KYRGYZSTAN ON ALERT AFTER OSH CLASH

Security service insists operation targeting armed group was pre-planned and 
does not mark return to instability.

By Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Dina Tokbaeva

Security officials in Kyrgyzstan have appealed for calm after a firefight with 
suspected militants in the southern city of Osh, insisting the authorities are 
in control and there will be no repetition of the mass violence seen in June.

The interior ministry said four armed men were killed on November 29 when they 
put up resistance to a raid by security forces targeting a group of “national 
separatists”. Three appear to have been shot and the fifth killed himself by 
detonating explosives.

Four members of the security services were injured.

The clash took place next to the central bus station in Osh, and five minutes’ 
walk from the main market, one of the city’s most crowded locations. This part 
of Osh is mainly home to ethnic Uzbeks.

A statement from the National Security Service appealed to people not to be led 
astray by rumours that Osh was about to undergo a renewed wave of ethnic 
violence.

Osh and Jalalabad and rural areas around them experienced a sudden, brief and 
brutal outbreak of clashes involving the ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities in 
June. The fighting left more than 400 people dead, according to the government, 
and a trail of deliberate destruction in its wake.

The security service statement said the police were in full control in Osh, 
patrolling the streets and setting up checkpoints at entry points to the city.

It said at least one of the men had been positively linked to a plan to stage 
terror attacks in Osh and the Kyrgyz capital, which was foiled by a police 
operation carried out on November 22. That raid resulted in several arrests and 
the seizure of home-made explosives and remote control detonating devices.

In Osh, the sound of gunfire sparked panic among locals who feared the June 
bloodshed was about to start all over again. The mood of fear has since 
subsided, eyewitnesses say.

A market trader who gave his name as Rahmon recalled how people in the city 
market started fleeing after hearing an explosion.

“Kyrgyz and Uzbeks started running away from the bazaar without thinking of 
their goods and belongings – anything just to get away,” he said.

The Osh bazaar came close to a standstill following the clashes this summer, 
and trade has picked up slowly. When the explosion described by Rahmon 
happened, it was near the end of trading and people were beginning to leave.

The driver of a minibus taxi described the scene of panic, “There was a 
stampede, but none of my passengers got hurt.”

A construction worker called Akmal left the building site he was on near the 
market after hearing the blast.

“There were rumours that an ethnic war had started,” he explained. “We could 
see that people were scared, above all of being in the one place, in this 
market. They were fleeing in droves.”

Early accounts of the armed group’s identity were unclear. The secretary of 
Kyrgyzstan’s Security Council, Marat Imankulov, told a press conference in 
Bishkek that the police operation in Osh was a follow-up to earlier raids in 
which alleged supporters of the “Islamic Movement of Turkestan” were detained.

This is presumably a reference to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a known 
group active in Central Asia in 1999-2000 and currently operating out of 
Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At press conference earlier in the day, before the explosion in Osh attracted 
public attention, Kyrgyz interior minister Zarylbek Rysaliev said the suspects 
arrested in the police raid a week ago were part of a group with underworld 
connections, and no link to international terror organisations. These armed 
men, he said, were hired to destabilise Kyrgyzstan by a group of individuals 
whom he did not identify.

But after the fighting was over, the interior ministry spoke of “national 
separatists”, without giving any further explanation.

Analysts say southern Kyrgyzstan remains vulnerable to disruption and the 
authority of central government remains weak there.

Kadyr Malikov, head of the Religion, Law and Politics Centre in Bishkek, says 
there are any number of potential threats to stability – supporters of 
ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was ousted during popular unrest in April; 
new forces thrown up by the ethnic violence; organised crime groups, old and 
new; Islamic extremists, either from known organisations like the IMU and Hizb 
ut-Tahrir or new ones as yet unidentified; and hired troublemakers, paid by 
some external force.

Experts say the authorities need to ensure their narrative of events hits the 
right note and avoids stirring up tensions.

“The most important thing for this country and society right now is to prevent 
this incident in Osh being labelled as ethnic,” Elmira Nogoybaeva, head of the 
Polis Asia think-tank in Bishkek, told IWPR. “This could happen with lightning 
speed, given that there are many pretexts for ethnic manipulation, which 
destructive forces can use to their advantage.”

Nogoybaeva said excessive speculation in the media would be unhelpful, “When 
people get agitated, it has a snowball effect on the level of rumour-mongering. 
That’s dangerous and it will have consequences, because the public reacts to 
such things immediately. What happens today in one individual region of 
Kyrgyzstan reverberates across the whole country.”

Isomidin Ahmedjanov is an IWPR-trained journalist in Osh. Dina Tokbaeva is 
IWPR’s 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.


TOUGH TIMES FOR KYRGYZ WOMEN’S GROUPS

As foreign grants dwindle, NGOs turn to cash-strapped government.

By Asyl Osmonalieva, Nargiza Ryskulova

The few women’s crisis centres that exist in Kyrgyzstan are finding it hard to 
carry on as the international donor support they rely on is drying up. 

In the absence of domestic charity fundraising opportunities, the best hope 
seems to lie in applying for state funding.

But with the Kyrgyz government itself seeking bail-outs from Russia and other 
countries to cover its most urgent expenditures, there is unlikely to be much 
spare cash around.

There are currently 12 crisis centres for women across the Central Asian state, 
according to Alexandra Yeliferenko, who heads an association bringing these 
groups together.

Most are able to offer legal advice, counselling, and where necessary food and 
medicines to women who suffer abuse in the home or who find themselves 
destitute. Few, however, can offer shelter to victims of domestic abuse.

“Crisis centres don’t have the resources to maintain temporary refuges,” 
Tahmina Ashuralieva, coordinator of a domestic violence protection project, 
said. “To do so, they need premises and the cost of food, utility and staff 
wages.”

Until recently, Sezim was the only group with the resources for a shelter for 
abused women, located in Bishkek. Two more have now opened in the southern 
cities of Osh and Jalalabad in response to the ethnic violence this June that 
left over 400 people dead and left widespread devastation of buildings and 
social disruption in its wake.

Rights activists say the international donors that have provided training and 
grants for women’s crisis centres over the last ten or 15 years are now 
encouraging them to sustain themselves from other funding sources.

“The support provided by international organisations has now come to an end, as 
they believe that this is the state’s problem; that it’s up to the state to 
take care of its own citizens,” Mahabat Turdumamatova, who heads the domestic 
violence and gender discrimination department at the Kyrgyz ombudsman’s office, 
told IWPR.

Turdumamatova said that under Kyrgyzstan’s National Action Plan for Gender 
Equality, local government should be providing crisis centres with office 
space, and contracting them to provide welfare services in cooperation with 
police and the healthcare system.

“This doesn’t always happen in practice,” she conceded.

Bubusara Ryskulova, the head of the Sezim group, says her group has been given 
premises by the Bishkek mayor’s administration, as has the Ak Jurok crisis 
centre in Osh.

“But that isn’t enough,” she said, explaining that the need to assist 
vulnerable women was greater than ever. “When unemployment is rising, the 
economic situation is getting worse, the flow of labour emigration is 
increasing, and all this increases stress levels, then it becomes essential 
that international donors and the government support crisis centres.”

Kyrgyzstan passed a law in 2008 allowing the government to contract NGOs to 
carry out social programmes on its behalf.

Yeliferenko agreed that government funding was now the main option still 
remaining, but she noted that despite the 2008 law, government spending 
constraints meant there were currently few state-funded projects on offer to 
NGOs.

Aziza Abdurasulova, head of the Kylym Shamy human rights group, agreed that 
more help from the state was essential, but noted, “This is a problem that 
faces not just crisis centres, but also the entire NGO sector in Kyrgyzstan.”

Abdyrasulova suggested Kyrgyzstan could copy models used in other countries 
where taxpayers can elect to have a small proportion of their taxes paid to 
charity.

Aida Alymbaeva, director of the Social Studies Centre at the American 
University in Central Asia argues that with government finances in such a dire 
state, NGOs including women’s groups cannot rely wholly on state funding.

“The state is already doing its bit by maintaining children’s homes, rehab 
centres and other institutions,” she said. “We should now be working to develop 
a culture of charitable giving in society. Responsibility for promoting such a 
culture rests with business and with successful individuals. Hollywood stars, 
for instance, give charitable donations and set an example to others. Here, 
such actions are one-offs.”

Ryskulova doubts that groups helping women in difficulties will become a magnet 
for private donors.

“Charity isn’t at all well-developed in our country,” she explained. “Sometimes 
people bring humanitarian aid to our centre, but that happens very rarely. 
Wealthy people sometimes provide assistance for disabled institutions or 
children’s homes, but crisis centres are not generally a focus of attention for 
benefactors or sponsors.”

Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR-trained journalist. Nargiza Ryskulova is a 
freelance reporter 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.

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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, 
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IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The 
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The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and 
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REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal 
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