News Digest

May 24, 2020

Media Digest

May 24, 2020


Bi-weekly CAW Media Digest.
The Digest provides updates on
the most recent developments in Central Asia.
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On May 13th, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court denied a final appeal that would have released journalist Azimjan Askarov (now 68 years old) from his life sentence. Mr. Askarov, a journalist and human rights activist who documented police brutality against ethnic Uzbeks, was arrested and charged with inciting violence during the ethnic riots in Osh ten years ago. His case has negatively impacted relations between Kyrgyzstan and the US, with the Department of State conferring Mr. Askarov the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award and the Kyrgyz retaliating by terminating the 1993 agreement of cooperation between the two nations.
RFE/RL's Bruce Pannier and Azatlyk service wrote a great article on the increasing signs of unrest in isolationist Turkmenistan. Disappointing economic performance over the last five years has resulted in an under-served populace that has recently been struck particularly hard by natural catastrophes and the suspected spread of COVID-19 (both of which Ashgabat has essentially ignored when it comes to providing support or policy change). Despite harsh control of its population, Turkmenistan has seen a surprising amount of public protests both in the provinces and beyond the borders of the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated tensions surrounding the presence of Chinese businesses and workers in Central Asian countries. Tajik anti-riot police dispersed a crowd of Chinese workers as the Chinese workers demanded to be sent back to China.
The use of Russian language in official capacities has flared up in Uzbekistan. Uzbek lawmakers had proposed a bill that would impose fines on those submitting official documents in languages other than Uzbek (the only state language), and this move duly prompted an inflammatory statement from a spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Official Uzbek responses were muted.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pushed back on Eurasian Economic Union strategy.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the U.S. Erzhan Kazykhanov recently wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post discussing Kazakhstan's success in combating COVID-19. He claims that Kazakhstan should be viewed as the "anti-pandemic role-model for Central Asia," and highlights the leadership role that the country has played while supporting its smaller neighbors.

CAW Team