Heading into the weekend, a few updates and things to watch, as well as a few recommended reads (and podcasts!):
First the updates: I wrote yesterday about the U.S. State department giving a jailed Kyrgyz human rights activist, Azimjon Askarov, the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award. In addition to the foreign ministry, the government has now issued statement condemning the award and going a step further in announcing its intention to repeal a 1993 treaty between the U.S and Kyrgyzstan. The 1993 treaty allows U.S. aid programs to import tariff-free into the country and also exempts non-Kyrgyz working for the U.S. government or private aid programs from income and social security taxes. Eurasianet points out that “while hardly damaging U.S. interests, the move stands to hurt anybody benefiting from Washington-funded aid programs,” and further feed anti-U.S. sentiment. The U.S. and Kyrgyzstan have very different views on Askarov.
Also in Kyrgyzstan, the details of Thursday’s incident in Bishkek are still emerging, there is yet to be clarity. Kyrgyz state police say they killed a total of six terrorists and detained seven others, foiling two plots–one of which reportedly was going to target the Russian base at Kant–and seizing weapons and money. Rakhat Sulaimanov, spokesman for the GKNB security police told Reuters, “Yes, they were all Islamic State members.” The Kyrgyz also claim that the organizer was a Kazakh. No word from Kazakhstan yet on the accusations.
Now some recommended reads: Sarah Kendzior wrote in Foreign Policy this week about some Uzbeks who are taking pictures of themselves holding signs that say “I am not afraid” and posting them on a popular Uzbek Facebook group. Kendzior comments that “In Uzbekistan, “I am not afraid” is a subversive statement, punishable by a nebulously defined state law which makes “slandering the regime” a crime.”
On GlobalVoices Abdulfattoh Shafiev outlines a prison escape worthy of a movie: a man, convicted of murder, escaped from a Tajik prison by hiding in the trunk of the prison head’s car. After escaping, he was recognized by the same police officer who arrested him a year ago and detained. When the police officer made a call to the prison “none of the penitentiary staff seemed aware that there was one less prisoner in the facility.”
Last, for your listening pleasure: Make sure to listen to Ankit Panda and myself discuss Indian Prime Minister Modi’s trip to Central Asia, the BRICS/SCO summit, and India and Pakistan. Then check out RFE/RL’s discussion of Central Asia and the SCO, focusing on the role of Russia-China competition in the SCO’s expansion and direction.