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RFE/RL Review November 12, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of November 6-12, 2004

This was a busy week for RFE/RL broadcasting, with the continuing cliffhanger of the Ukrainian elections, the battle for Fallujah, and the deathwatch for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. All service directors were informed within minutes of confirmation of Arafat's death by an internal SMS news alert to their cell phones and were able to make changes in staff assignments and programming hours before the start of the regular workday.
Radio Free Iraq, Radio Farda, and RFE/RL's Russian, Kazakh, and other services pre-empted regular programming to provide live news updates, and special programs on Arafat's life and legacy; international reaction, discussion and analyses of what comes next for Palestinians and the Middle East. Arafat was a popular figure in Central Asia, where he visited often in Soviet times and was feted as a hero in the ideological struggle against "U.S. imperialism." Several services, including the Uzbek Service and Radio Farda, made use in interviews of the personal recollections of Broadcasting Associate Director Joyce Davis, who interviewed Arafat in 1989 when he was in exile in Tunis.

RFI called on its reporters in Cairo and Jerusalem, as well as inside Iraq, to provide listeners with a well-rounded program of international and regional reaction to Arafat's death and discussion of changed prospects for peace and Palestinian statehood.
At the same time, the long-awaited battle for Fallujah was unfolding, prompting thousands of residents to flee the fighting ahead of advancing U.S. forces. An RFI correspondent traveled to Amman, Jordan to talk to the refugees. In three interviews broadcast November 11, all insisted foreign terrorists were behind the resistance in Fallujah -- not Iraqis. Driver Yasir Jumaili, who has been ferrying people from Fallujah to Amman, said: "The people of Fallujah are innocent, they are victims of the situation. But there are foreigners, Arabs, strangers, we do not know where they come from... They call themselves resistance fighters, but they are terrorists, I swear to God."
Another refugee, Ahlam Al-Badri, a teacher in Fallujah, put it this way: "We keep saying the people of Fallujah are innocent... There are some who are loyal to the former regime and came to Fallujah from other places, on the tribal tradition of extending protection to strangers. At the same time, there is a big group of terrorists who took advantage of lax border controls to slip into Fallujah."
RFE/RL coverage (in English) of the battle for Fallujah can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

November 8 was "Free Speech Day" in Iran, commemorating the day in 2001 when university professor Hashem Aghajari received the death sentence for criticizing Islamic clerics during a lecture. Students, pro-reform activists and journalists celebrate this 'Day of Free Speech," even though the sentence was later revoked. Aghajari did, however, remain in prison for nearly three years and was only recently released.
To mark the occasion, Radio Farda broadcast an interview with pro-reform journalist Saeed Razavi-Faghih, a long-time student leader, who three years ago led student protests against the death sentence and was himself imprisoned. Razavi-Faghih, now living in Paris, spoke about the 2001 protests. He said the fact that the death sentence was finally repealed a few months ago is a ray of hope in one of the darkest periods for freedom of speech in Iran. Razavi-Faghih said it shows thugs and cutthroats cannot triumph completely in the political arena and that resistance against them pays off.

** The News Director of Radio Farda, Mardiros Soghom, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Belarusian Service has been following the trail of alleged Belarusian military involvement in the November 6 killing of nine French peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast.
The service broadcast to Belarusian listeners a statement released by the French Defense Ministry November 9, alleging that Belarusian mercenaries piloted the Ivory Coast air force's two Sukhoi jets that fired on the French peacekeepers. The French allegation was subsequently denied by the Ivory Coast Defense Ministry -- which did, however, tell RFE/RL that some 15 Belarusian mechanics are employed at Abidjan airport as flight repair technicians.
In a separate interview, the Belarusian Defense Ministry told our reporter that no active officers are currently stationed abroad, but said the Ministry cannot vouch for the whereabouts or activities of retired military personnel. A November 10 annual report of the Belarusian government on arms exports notes that Belarus sold the Ivory Coast two military helicopters, 10 high-caliber artillery systems, and 12 armored vehicles in 2002-2003.
The report is available in Belarusian at

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

An EU protectorate in Kosovo should replace the current UN mission in this Serbian province, according to European Parliamentarian Doris Pack. Pack made the statement in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Service (SSALS) Kosovo subunit broadcaster Iliriana Bajo on November 11. Pack is head of the European Parliament's Committee for Southeastern Europe.
In the phone interview, Pack said she would support "conditional independence" for Kosovo, which has a predominantly ethnic Albanian population. "That means the European Union would have a bigger say (in Kosovo affairs) for some time, following independence," Pack said. A member of the European Parliament since 1989, Pack said she planned soon to formally introduce her proposal in parliament. In both Belgrade and Prishtina, Pack's vision for Kosovo sparked political debate and counter-suggestions among RFE/RL listeners.
In the interview, Pack rejected a long-standing proposal by the Serb government to divide the province into Serbian and Albanian enclaves. She said "partitioning Kosovo is not a solution, its territorial integrity must be preserved." But, Pack said, Kosovo Serbs understandably want guarantees for treasured cultural and historical sites in the province and "those guarantees should be granted."
The interview is available in Albanian at the SSALS's Kosovo subunit website, at and in Serbian at SSALS website

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, which broadcasts in Chechen, Circassian and Avar, sent two correspondents this week to cover growing unrest in the Southern Russian republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessiya. The protests were sparked by the murder last month of seven local businessmen, whose mutilated bodies were found on November 8 in a mine shaft. The men disappeared after a meeting with Ali Kaitov, the son-in-law of Mustafa Batdyev, the Kremlin-backed leader of the republic.
Since the bodies were found, daily protests have rocked Cherkessk, the capital of what is normally a quiet province in the restive North Caucasus region. Our correspondent was on the scene on November 9, when nearly 1,000 protesters battered their way into the government headquarters in Cherkessk and filed a report while standing in Batdyev's ransacked office.
The North Caucasus Service this week broadcast interviews, among others, with relatives of the slain businessmen, presidential envoy to the southern federal district Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime-minister of the territory Ruslan Kachkarov, and deputy prosecutor general of the Russian Federation Nikolai Shepel.

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>.

The RFE/RL Kazakh Service is working with their Uzbek and Tajik counterparts on reporting the discovery of a possible Al-Qaeda network in Central Asia.
In an unusual statement on November 11, Vladimir Bozhko, the Deputy Chairman of the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB) announced that his organization had detained a group of suspected terrorists belonging to Al-Qaeda. It said 13 people are in custody, including nine Kazakh citizens and four from neighboring Uzbekistan.
According to Bozhko, four of the arrested Kazakh citizens were women being trained for a suicide bombing mission in Uzbekistan. He said the women are victims, rather than terrorists, that all are single mothers without financial support, and that this made them agree to take part in plans for terrorist attacks. According Bozhko, the larger group was preparing several terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan.
All the Uzbek citizens are to be extradited to Tashkent, while the Kazakh citizens will be investigated and tried in Kazakhstan. Under Kazakh law, if found guilty, they face 15-20 year prison sentences. Bozhko said that the detainees were members of the Jamaat Mujaheddin of Central Asia, an Islamic militant group linked to Al-Qaida.
Bozhko, speaking in Russian, said "Books, videos and audio cassettes containing calls for terrorism, including [Osama] bin Laden's messages, false passports, equipment for their production, parts for explosive devices, weapons and ammunition have been seized from members of this group."
The Kazakh Service's report (in Kazakh) can be found on the service's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>.

In an exclusive interview this week, a senior Kazakh Interior Ministry official told RFE/RL about a recent drug bust in Almaty that netted 24 kilos of pure heroin from Afghanistan. RFE/RL's Kazakh Service broadcast the interview November 8, during a program that shed light on Kazakhstan's growing drug problem and new international drug-smuggling routes to Russia and Europe.
Arman Zhusanbay of the Interior Affairs Department in Almaty told RFE/RL's correspondent that a young man from the Russian North Caucasian Republic of Ingushetia, carrying a duffel bag containing 24 kilograms of unusually high quality heroin, was detained a few days ago by Almaty City police. Zhusanbay said the suspect had managed to travel through Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan, crossing three borders with his sports bag intact. "It's the first time Almaty police seized such a huge haul," he said.
Zhusanbay said heroin on the drug market in Russia is double and triple the price it is in Central Asia and that "for drug dealers in Russia, these 24 kilos would bring a very big profit." According to the Interior Affairs Department, one kilo of heroin costs $1,000 in Afghanistan, $3,000 in southern Kazakhstan, and between $4,000 - $5,000 in the capital, Almaty. But in Moscow, one kilo of heroin could be sold for $10,000 - $12,000.
The Interior Affairs Department says both drug use in and drug smuggling through Kazakhstan are on the rise, largely because of porous borders. Tursyn Uazhanov, Deputy Chief of Kazakhstan's Border Guard Department, told RFE/RL that he agreed that border patrols between Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries are few and far between for such long stretches of land: "The borders are too long. Our border with Kyrgyzstan is over 1,000 kilometers, and our border with Uzbekistan is more than 2,000 kilometers. The number of illegal immigrants is huge. The border's demarcation has not been accomplished yet... That is why the illegal drugs traffickers are able to smuggle drugs. There are many routes for them here, through Kyrgyzstan, through Uzbekistan; through railways and through highways, they manage to escape the border checks and control points."
The full Kazakh Service report (in Kazakh) is available on the service's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service is giving voice to increasingly vocal critics of the way Tajik authorities implement the Constitution of Tajikistan.
On October 6, the country celebrated Constitution Day. A public debate has continued unabated since then, sparked by an open letter by opposition leader Rahmatullo Zoirov that points to discrepancies between what the main law of the country says and how it is practiced.
RFE/RL brought together, in a roundtable discussion, Zoirov and members of the Tajik parliament, who, however, refused to answer Zoirov's questions, claiming only that the Tajik constitution is one of the best in the region and was approved be the people in a referendum, not by parliament. Zoirov was asking about President Imomali Rakhmonov's term in office, which he said ought to expire this year. There is further public debate about how desirable are amendments to the constitution, of the kind that would extend a president's term in office.
A student told RFE/RL's TajikYouth program that the constitution "should not be a toy, subject to change all the time"; a politician said "it would be better to pass another law prohibiting constitution changes for the next 15 years"; another student said: "the Constitution is sacred law of an independent country and should be obeyed without a word".
The Tajik Service's report (in Tajik) can be found on the service's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service gave the microphone to young people in Dushanbe, in a program that aired November 10 about the feelings of youth on their place in a society that is going through the upheaval of post-communist transition.
Our reporter found that the 1992-97 Tajik civil war, 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, domestic economic and social problems all have had a mostly negative impact on the life of young people growing up to become the new citizens of Tajikistan. A medical student said she is worried about her future and that "life was more simple when my parents were growing up." She said they knew their place after they graduated, but "I am not sure if I could find a job tomorrow." A young worker who lost his job said he is desperate and wants to emigrate to find a better life in another country. Another student working as a volunteer for an NGO group welcomed the presence of international organizations in Tajikistan but said the general situation for young people is alarming with unemployment, weak education, widespread corruption, drug trafficking creating an overall climate that makes it too easy for youth to turn to crime. The director of an NGO group working with children told RFE/RL there is a growing number of HIV-infected youth in Tajikistan.
The Tajik Service's report (in Tajik) can be found on the service's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>.

A group of 11 Iraqi politicians, representing the major political parties preparing for national elections to be held in January in Iraq, gave a press conference at RFE/RL's operations center in Prague on November 10. All listed the lack of security in the country as the biggest obstacle to registering voters, conducting an election campaign and ultimately holding elections.
In response to the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah, Baha Aldin Abdul Qadir of the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni) said he expected leading Sunni Muslim clerics in Iraq to instruct followers to boycott the January elections. "They will tell voters to ignore the elections," Qadir said. Another Sunni member of the group, however, pointed out that, unlike Shi'ites, Sunni Muslims are not obliged to obey a clerical edict and can follow their own conscience. Muna Ali, a member of the central leadership of Prime Minister Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party, said many Sunnis feel strongly about voting for a new government to run their own country and would go to the polls in January, regardless.
During the wide-ranging discussion, the Iraqi politicians confirmed that Iraqis living abroad can participate in the elections both as candidates and voters. Salama Abdullah al-Khajafi, member of the Iraqi National Council said anyone who gets a minimum of 500 signatures of eligible voters can be a candidate for office in the presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections. The Iraqi diaspora, estimated to be three million strong, will be able to vote at centers to be set up at Iraqi embassies in countries with sizeable Iraqi minorities, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

** The Coordinator of Outreach in Prague, Ondrej Lukas, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL in the News

The Iraqi politicians, during their November 10 visit to RFE/RL's Prague operations center, also met with members of Radio Free Iraq (RFI) to give interviews about the national elections planned for January and discuss RFE/RL broadcasting to Iraq. Most of the visitors said they listen regularly to RFE/RL broadcasts. The following are some of their comments and impressions, translated from Arabic, about our programs:
* Maan T. Ali, Secretary General of the Iraqi Liberal Party (Al-hizb al-
libirali al-�iraqi) and head of the Iraqi Organization for Free Elections:
"We used to listen to Radio Free Iraq [under the Saddam regime] even though
reception was bad because of jamming. We discussed with friends and
colleagues the main news we heard on RFI."
* Azhar A. Abdalwahhab, head of American Studies at Baghdad University and an
independent activist, said she is very familiar with Radio Free Iraq and
has given interviews on several occasions. She said RFI has always "enjoyed
popularity and [clear] presence in Iraq."
* Ibrahim Y. Noori of the Iraqi Republican Group (Al-tajammu� al-jumhuri al-
�iraqi), focused on the challenges RFI has faced since the overthrow of the
Saddam Hussein's regime and said "The Radio should highlight current issues
that are more connected to the daily problems of Iraqis."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, international communications service to Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

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Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

Managing Editor: Sonia Winter <>

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