Crossroads Asia

Oil Workers on Hunger Strike in Kazakhstan

A strike in Kazakhstan, Dushanbe to phase out marshrutkas and Turkmenistan’s deepening crisis; recommended reads.

Oil Workers on Hunger Strike in Kazakhstan
Credit: Public Domain

Weekend Central Asia reads:

Kazakh Oil Workers on Strike: In the first days of 2017, a court in South Kazakhstan —  the Specialized Inter-District Economic Court — decided to revoke the registration of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPK). The union had about 1600 members. Workers in Atyrau initiated a hunger strike in protest. As Aigerim Toleukhanova wrote in EurasiaNet this week, the strike has grown to about 400 people and is entering its third week. The workers have limited their strike to hunger, and reportedly have continued to work. The authorities have largely ignored the protests, as has the president’s party — Nur Otan — which many of the workers claim to be members of.

The situation is surely one to watch, especially if it evolves beyond a hunger strike into a work stoppage.

Goodbye, Marshrutka? Asia-Plus reported this week that authorities in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe plan to ban “fixed-route minivans” aka marshrutkas. Ghayurbek Iskandarov, the head of Dushanbe’s public transportation authority, said in an interview that there are more than 3,000 minivans in the city. “This decision is aimed at reducing traffic flow and traffic jams in the city,” Iskandarov said. For every eight minivans take off the streets, Dushanbe plans to add a bus or trolleybus. The city plans to open an international tender to pick a transportation supplier and Iskandarov

Turkmen Silence Belies Serious Problems: Turkmen authorities remain relatively mum as reports trickle out of the country of increasingly serious problems: ong lines to buy basic goods, unemployment and long-delayed paychecks, and recently reports of an anthrax outbreak among cattle in a northern province. As Bruce Pannier points out, there have been reports of anthrax among cattle in some parts of southern Kazakhstan as well and Turkmenistan has closed the border.

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“In the case of Dashoguz, part of the problem seems to lie in the rising price of antianthrax vaccines, which is likely to have discouraged some herders from vaccinating their cattle,” Pannier writes.

Pannier goes on to detail several other public health concerns linked to Turkmenistan’s economy, often linked, in part, to rising costs of medicines and services. “It’s a grim start to 2017, which President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has declared the Year Of Health in Turkmenistan.”

Understanding Islamic Radicalization in Central Asia: Usually, my recommended reads point to elsewhere on the Internet for interesting and relevant Central Asia stories. But I do want to make sure no one misses the open letter The Diplomat published yesterday in which 26 Central Asian scholars push back against “specious and methodologically weak conclusions about the extent and threat of Muslim mobilization” contained in last October’s ICG report on radicalization in Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps most important is the conclusion about why it matters to be careful and diligent about how we discuss the region and the processes shaping society there. The scholars urged ICG and others “to think more carefully about the political uses and misuses of their influential studies.”