Tag Archives: rights and freedoms

Turkmen police kidnap doctor, says HRW

JULY 21 2021 (The Bulletin) — Human Rights Watch, the New York-based lobby group, accused the Turkmen government of the illegal abduction of  Kursanai Ismatullayeva, a doctor, a few days after the European Parliament discussed her case for wrongful dismissal from a clinic near Ashgabat in 2017. Philippe Dam, the HRW Central Asia director, said that Turkmenistan had a “horrific” record of abducting people who tried to expose government corruption.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Georgian Dream opponents say government tries to smear reporter

JULY 19 2021 (The Bulletin) — Opponents of the Georgian Dream government accused it of trying to smear Alexander Lasharava, a TV cameraman killed this month by anti-gay rights protesters, by accusing him of being a heroin user after traces of an opiate were found in his blood. Lasharava’s supporters said that he was given morphine by a hospital before he was discharged. He died at home. His death sparked several days of anti-government protests.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Pegasus spyware targets Azerbaijani and Kazakh opposition

BAKU/ALMATY/JULY 18 2021 (The Bulletin) –Officials in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have been using the Pegasus Israeli spyware to eavesdrop on opposition journalists and politicians, as well as senior members of the Kazakh elite including President Kassym Jomart Tokayev.

The Berlin-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said in its dossier, entitled “A World of Surveillance”, that Azerbaijan had targeted 1,000 people and Kazakhstan had targeted 2,000 people. 

The accusations were based on information from a whistleblower at Israeli company NSO Group which manufactured Pegasus for clients across the world. Most of the targets in Azerbaijan were journalists and politicians, including investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilov, who works for OCCRP.

“Secretive government surveillance doesn’t only affect the target,” she said. “My sources, my family, and my friends have also been swept up in the state’s campaign against me.”

The OCCRP said that the Pegasus spyware could read messages, eavesdrop on phone calls and act as a microphone to record conversations. 

Pegasus’ targets in Kazakhstan included journalists, as well as Pres. Tokayev, successor to Nursultan Nazarbayev, PM Askar Mamin and businessman Bulat Utemuratov. 

“The dozens of numbers suggest that the entire Nazarbayev regime, practically from top to bottom, was being spied on — most likely by its own security services,” the OCCRP said. It is not clear when the surveillance was ordered or by whom.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Georgian priests and rightwing party promise to disrupt Gay Pride

JUNE 16 2021 (The Bulletin) — Georgian priests and leaders of the right-wing political party Unity, Essence, Hope promised to disrupt a Gay Pride march planned for the start of July. They have said that homosexuality runs against Georgian traditions and the march should be banned. Previous Gay Pride marches have been attacked by opponents of gay rights. 

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Kazakh court sentences activist to prison for Ablyazov links

JUNE 15 2021 (The Bulletin) — A court in Shymkent, southern Kazakhstan, sentenced Nurzhan Mukhammedov, a political activist, to two years of “limited freedom” for his links to the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK). The DVK is linked to Mukhtar Ablyazov, the Paris-based opposition leader who has been accused of stealing billions from a Kazakh bank.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajikistan accused of sending Uyghurs to China

DUSHANBE/JUNE 10 2021 (The Bulletin) — The Tajik government is rounding up Uyghurs and sending them to China where they are imprisoned in so-called re-education camps, rights activists told the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

In a statement to the ICC, the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE), an Uyghur group that wants to see an independent Xinjiang, said that Chinese agents were directing Tajik police in raids against Uyghurs. It said that the number of Uyghurs living ins Tajikistan had dropped to 100, from around 3,000.

“Those without the ‘correct paperwork’ are then deported back into China by Chinese authorities in small groups of up to 10 to avoid international attention,” the ETGE told the ICC. “The remaining Uyghurs are completely controlled by the Consulate and have to participate in weekly meetings with informers who report back to the Consulate.” 

Neither the Tajik nor the Chinese government has responded to the accusations. Tajikistan is a member of the ICC but China isn’t.

Western governments have accused China of trying to wipe out Uyghurs by imprisoning 1m Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz living in Xinjiang. China has denied the claims and said instead that it has set up a network of camps to re-educate Muslims to help them succeed in modern-day China.

Activists have accused the Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments of ignoring the plight of their people in China but this is the first time that a government has been accused of rounding up Uyghurs for the Chinese authorities. Activist hope that they are able to bring pressure on China by highlighting Uyghurs’ plight in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan has built up strong relations with China over the past decade, taking cheap loans to build roads and infrastructure and to beautify its towns and cities.  

In return, China has built up major political and economic patronage, controls many of Tajikistan’s most valuable mineral and energy assets and has reportedly set up a military base in the Tajik section of the Pamir Mountains.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Georgian flour mill workers call off strike

JUNE 10 2021 (The Bulletin) — Workers at the Gulistani flour-milling plant in western Georgia have ended their 38-day strike after agreeing terms with management, said Georgia’s Trade Union of Agriculture and Industry. The trade union didn’t give any details of the terms and conditions reached. Georgia has been hit by a wave of industrial disputes this year.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Uzbek police force pious Muslims to shave beards

JUNE 9 2021 (The Bulletin) — Police in Angren, east Uzbekistan, have forced pious Muslims to shave off their beards, the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported by quoting residents. According to the report, police ordered Muslims to their office to watch them shave. Despite talking up a liberal agenda, Uzbek officials are wary of overtly religious Muslims.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Uzbek journalists accuse official of beating them up

TASHKENT/JUNE 7 2021 (The Bulletin) — Concerns over the Uzbek authorities’ commitment to media freedom have once again been raised after journalists covering the trial in Andijan of three reporters accused of libel said that they had been beaten up by the son of a local official.

This year, the Uzbek government passed a law that bans criticism of Pres. Shavkat Mirziyoyev ahead of an election in October. This preceded the arrest of several journalists and bloggers, considered to be anti-government.

Western media freedom groups have become increasingly sceptical of statements by Pres. Mirziyoyev, who took over from the reclusive Islam Karimov in 2016, that he wants a more free society and open society in Uzbekistan.

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Abducted eductionalist held in Turkish embassy in Bishkek, says wife

JUNE 6 2021 (The Bulletin) — Orhan Inandi, the Turkish educator and opposition figure, is being held captive at the Turkish embassy in Bishkek, his wife, Reyhan, said in a Twitter video. Mr Inandi disappeared on May 31 in an apparent abduction. His supporters have said that Turkish security forces kidnapped him. Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames supporters of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen for a failed coup attempt in 2016 and has vowed to track them down. Mr Inandi, who holds Turkish and Kyrgyz citizenship, is head of the Gulenist network of schools and universities in Kyrgyzstan.

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021