Some Central Asia links to head into the weekend:
Earlier this week, Kyrgyz and Tajiks clashed along the border in the Fergana Valley. The events themselves may seem unremarkable, just another episode in a on ongoing string of incidents. But these small events have regional watchers worried because the causes–an undelimited stretch of border, growing populations, and competition for limited water resources and fertile land–are not going to settle themselves. Solving the Fergana Valley’s jigsaw puzzle requires political will absent in Bishkek, Dushanbe, and Tashkent.
Elena Kosolapova, writing for Trend, argues this week that some solutions used elsewhere to alleviate these tensions–such as relocating villages or fighting it out–will never work in the Fergana Valley, one of the most densely-populated areas in the region. Relocation would require moving thousands of people from their ancestral homes. Kosolapova also notes that such an exercise would be extremely expensive and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are two of the region’s poorest states.
Fighting, besides being destructive in of itself, would only exacerbate tensions throughout Central Asia. While leaders in capitals throughout the region like to emphasize ethnic harmony and unity–Central Asia is made up of multiethnic societies and violence in Fergana could spread elsewhere.
The solution, Kosolapova argues, is not just to deliminate the border but to make it more fluid:
One cannot set strict limits in the Ferghana Valley and introduce strict control over the movement of people from one republic to another. Any attempt to do this will exacerbate the situation and lead to new victims.
The governments must strive for more integration and cooperation in the region, rather than try to divide the population of the region in to one people versus others to prevent conflicts in the future. The existing problems in the region must be solved jointly.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
Moving on to Uzbekistan, Joanna Lillis wrote an illuminating article for Eurasianet this week about the fate of the country’s fashion industry after Gulnara Karimova. The daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov has been under house arrest since last February, but before her downfall she was a gaudy icon, the “first lady of glitz” as Lillis says. Now that she–and her fashion label–are out of business Uzbekistan’s other designers are getting some room to spread their wings:
Designers like Saida Amir take inspiration from the centuries-old traditions of Uzbek textiles and put a 21st-century twist on them. “I love our heritage. I love our traditional techniques,” Amir enthused in an interview at a trendy downtown Tashkent coffee shop. “I’m inspired by our heritage, but I want to develop it and make something new.”
Draped in an elegant black-and-white jacket of her own design made out of silk produced in the Fergana Valley, this up-and-coming 35-year-old designer is a walking advertisement for Uzbekistan’s fashion industry.
And last, check out Casey Michel’s piece this week about how Kazakhstan’s pursuit of opposition media has come all the way to the United States. Tension between Respublika and the Kazakh regime has been long-simmering. The latest point of contention stems from a leak of government documents that the paper reported on last year. Kazakhstan is trying to use U.S. laws on computer fraud to shut the paper down. But in the United States, Respublika won’t have to fight alone. One of America’s foremost digital freedom advocates, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has taken up Respublika’s cause.