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RFE/RL Review January 21, 2005

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The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of January 15-21, 2005

RFE/RL BRINGS RICE HEARINGS, DEBATES ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY TO BALKAN, EURASIAN, CENTRAL ASIAN, MIDDLE EASTERN AUDIENCES All RFE/RL language services mined the wide-ranging Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearings on January 18-19 for statements on human rights, the war against international terrorism and in support of democratic values, and U.S. foreign policy towards countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region. Services relied mostly on features and analyses produced by RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs department. Washington correspondent Andrew Tully covered the hearing highlights ( and explained what happened during the nomination and confirmation process (, a concept that is unfamiliar to RFE/RL listeners in Central Asia, Eurasia, the Middle East and the Balkans.
The Belarus Service focused on the comments made by US Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation hearing concerning Belarus--and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's reaction to them.
During the hearing on January 18, Rice branded Belarus an "outpost of tyranny," saying that the situation in the country would require close attention from the United States. The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to Rice's remarks during the service's evening broadcast that day by asserting that that she was out of touch.
According to foreign ministry spokesman Andrey Savinkh, "The mention of Belarus in Condoleezza Rice's announcement shows that her conception of Belarus is, unfortunately, as yet quite far from reality... False stereotypes and prejudices are a poor basis for the formation of effective policy in the sphere of foreign relations. We are certain that only constructive dialogue, based on common sense and existing realities, will foster the normalization of relations between our countries." (
On January 19, the Belarus Service also broadcast reactions from people on the street ( as well as opposition politicians ( to Rice's comments, and provided an explanation of the process of confirmation hearings in the US government (
The Russian Service interviewed Russian and American policy analysts to discuss the new U.S. Administration and relations with Russia (, as well as profiles of former Secretaries of State and what they do when they leave office.
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service was the only media to bring early morning news (from 6 AM to 7 AM local time) on the Senate hearings to its Kazakh-speaking audience.
The Uzbek Service prepared a package, broadcast January 19, that included interviews with a Washington political analyst, and independent Uzbek experts talking about the hearings and US foreign policy with Rice as top U.S. diplomat. One of the panelists spoke about the hearings as an example of US democratic processes and an important element of US democracy. The analyst stressed that a hearing, where a high- ranking Government official, before being approved, has to answer questions from members of Congress demonstrates the functioning of a democratic separation of powers and the multi-party system. He also elaborated on the criticism regarding Iraq and US foreign policy, expressed by some Congressmen. Finally, analyst spoke about Condoleezza Rice, as a politician and what kind of foreign policy she might promote.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>; the Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>; the Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>; the Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL DEVELOPS SPECIAL PROGRAMMING ON THE 2005 HAJJ As many as three million Muslims from 70 countries took part in the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca last week. With a couple of exceptions, all of the countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region have Muslim populations that are keenly interested in all aspects of this sacred rite. As a result, RFE/RL's language services worked with our News and Current Affairs department to produce a four-part series on the hajj for special programming, particularly by RFE/RL Central Asian services. Part One took a look at the history, rituals and meaning of the pilgrimage; Part Two addressed the increasing numbers of young people undertaking the pilgrimage; Part Three examined complaints of bribery, corruption and price-gouging at the pilgrimage; while Part Four looked at security issues -- the fears of the pilgrims and Saudi security measures. The series is available on the RFE/RL website at

** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN REPORTS FROM SCENE OF DOSTUM ATTACK An RFE/RL correspondent was at the scene of the failed assassination attempt on January 20 against General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the prominent Afghan military leader, where he recorded the sound of the explosion and secured interviews with eyewitnesses.
The attack by a suicide bomber occurred outside a mosque, just moments after the conclusion of prayers for the Eid al-Adha festival in the northern Afghan town of Shirberghan. General Dostum was less than 10 meters from the explosion, but was protected by the bodies of a crowd of people.
One man in the crowd gave this account to Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent: "I was just four or five meters away [from the suicide bomber] and I heard the sound of the explosion. But I couldn't see anything [because of the crowd of people between the bomber and myself]. Later on, I realized I had sustained some minor injuries."
Dostum escaped unhurt but 25 people were injured in the attack. Doctor Haroon Arif, at Shirberghan hospital told RFE/RL's correspondent that of those injured "five are in serious condition and they are in our emergency operation room. Our surgeons are working to save these people. Besides the suicide bomber himself, nobody else was killed [at the scene of the attack]."

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE IRAQ BEGINS COUNTDOWN TO ELECTIONS Radio Free Iraq and other RFE/RL language services and departments have begun their countdown to January 30 parliamentary and municipal elections in Iraq, with more news, analyses, facts and interpretation of the election process and the issues at stake.
Highlights of RFE/RL election coverage are available on a special English-language web page launched January 18 ( The page includes a wealth of background information on the Iraqi parliamentary, Kurdish parliamentary, and provincial elections; RFE/RL election reports and features; as well as archived election material. The site provides an interactive map that provides details on the situation in each of Iraq's 18 governorates, and in a separate section English-language transcripts of special Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviews, reports from RFI correspondents inside Iraq, in neighboring countries and in the U.S. and Europe; commentaries from the Iraqi press; a list of the "major contenders" on the ballot; a comprehensive list of the political parties competing in the election; and a summary of the platforms and programs of the major parties.
RFI aired an interview on January 18 with Iraqi election official Mohammed Al Assadi in London, about the registration of Iraqis living in diaspora. Al Assadi made use of the RFE/RL microphone to send an appeal to Iraqis to take part in the upcoming polls, saying he thinks his call will have a lot of impact because RFI enjoys a great reputation among Iraqis. Speaking in Arabic, Al Assadi said: "Through your respectable radio I call upon all Iraqis living in Britain and elsewhere to hurry up and register. Registration is important. It began yesterday [January 17] and will continue until January 23 from 8AM to 5PM. Let us not lose this chance for our people."
Radio Free Iraq's network of more than 20 correspondents outside Baghdad is interviewing Iraqi officials, party leaders and voters in major cities throughout Iraq, including Ba'quba, Arbil, and Basra. Iraqi Police Lieutenant Colonel Kareem al-Zaydi, head of the press and public relations department at Basra police headquarters, told RFE/RL in an interview aired January 20 about training programs for police officers protecting polling stations. He also mentioned the "cooperation between our command and other security forces such as the (Iraqi) National Guard, who are to be mainly responsible for this operation. There is also cooperation in this context with multinational forces."
In another exclusive interview with Radio Free Iraq, Kamal Ganbar, chief of the High Independent Electoral Commission in Arbil, said on January 20 that restrictions imposed in other areas of Iraq, such as the curfew, are not being enforced in the Kurdish Arbil governorate because security conditions are relatively good there. But he said precautionary measures will be taken a few days in advance of Election Day: "all necessary measures will be taken to protect voters and voting centers beginning January 26th until the end of the elections and the period afterward," Ganbar said.
In Baghdad, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, vice-president of the Iraqi Republic party, said in an exclusive interview with RFI that the Iraqi people are now "moving with clear determination" to free elections and that "the will of people is stronger than the will of enemies" and will defeat attempts to sabotage the poll. Al-Ja'fari appealed in the interview to those Sunnis who said they will stay away from the voting, saying: "As for those who want to boycott the elections from well-meant positions, just because their analysis of the situation is different, I think that the door is still open for them. They can still revise their opinion and participate in the process. This would be just one step in a series of steps toward next elections."
On January 18, RFI profiled a woman journalist in Arbil who is running as a candidate of the Kurdistan Alliance List [Qa'imat al- Tahaluf al-Kurdistani], which unites several Kurdish, Turkmen, Chaldean, and Assyrian parties. Intisar Bakr Salih spoke about the political program she would try to implement if elected to the Iraqi national Assembly. She said "Kurdish journalism still needs some encouragement to develop," and that "political power can help raise journalism standards. Private newspapers can also make a contribution... I will be, God willing, able to help at least a little in the advancement." Salih stressed that if elected she will work to advance women in working careers: "Women will need in the coming time plenty of solidarity, special care, and esteem. This will offer them more opportunities and place them in charge of more [executive] posts. They will be actively present in more spheres of life in Kurdistan and Iraq. For this, I will above all demand that women be given opportunities, dignity, and equality."
RFI correspondents also are interviewing representatives of the coalition forces to clarify their role during the elections. An RFE/RL Baghdad correspondent visited Basra with the help of British authorities, who arranged a series of interviews with security and election officials there. The spokesman of Multinational Forces in South East Iraq, Major David Gibb, told RFI in an interview aired January 21 that "it is important the Iraqi people do not see international troops at the polling stations." He said coalition forces will provide help and support from a distance and Iraqi police and army will be responsible for security around the voting centers. Major Gibb said that, in Basra, the situation is generally calm, adding "We have good relations with Iraqi citizens. I think people in Basra know that we are here to help them. We want security and they also want security and stability. I think most of the people in Basra want to work with us against terrorists".

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

ARMENIAN TROOPS LEAVE FOR IRAQ An RFE/RL Armenian correspondent was at the airport in Yerevan on January 18, to cover a farewell ceremony for a small contingent of Armenian non-combat troops headed for Iraq. The departure of the 46 servicemen, including medics, sappers and truck drivers, culminated more than a year of preparations for the mission--which remains controversial in Armenia. Critics of the deployment warn against possible retaliation terrorist attacks on thousands of ethnic Armenians living in Iraq. But Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said in a speech at the ceremony that peace and stability in Iraq is important for Armenia: "our efforts to fully integrate into the international community create moral responsibilities to make our contribution to the resolution of problems facing that community," he said.
Commander of the transportation unit, Major Hamlet Hovakimian, said in an RFE/RL interview that Armenia is a small nation but can be useful everywhere. The RFE/RL broadcast also included a statement by U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, who said at the airport ceremony that the decision to send this contingent to Iraq was not an easy one, adding "but it is very important for the world and this region in particular that democracy and stability should come to Iraq, the people of which have suffered so much."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <>.

EBADI CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT DURING RADIO FARDA INTERVIEW Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, on behalf of the Iranian Society in Defense of Human Rights, called on Iranian authorities to abolish what she described as "solitary confinement" of political dissidents during a January 17 telephone interview with Radio Farda's Mosaddegh Katouzian. During the interview, broadcast on Radio Farda's evening news magazine that day, Ebadi termed solitary confinement a form of torture that should be banned altogether. She added that, contrary to claims made by officials of the Iranian judiciary, a number of such prisons exist in Iran that are run "unofficially" by militant groups linked to government officials.

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

UZBEK SERVICE HIGHLIGHTS SUSPICIOUS DEATH IN CUSTODY CASE RFE/RL's Uzbek Service followed closely the controversy, possibly involving an official cover-up, which swirled around the suspicious death of a prisoner, Samandar Umarov, while in jail. Umarov, serving a 17-year sentence after being convicted of being a member of the banned Hizb-ut Tahrir organization, died January 2. His death was investigated by the Uzbek Prosecutor General's Office, as well as a delegation of local and foreign experts organized by the Washington-based Freedom House. They announced at a joint Tashkent press conference on January 17 that Umarov died from natural causes, although the Freedom House team could not definitively rule out the possibility of torture. Umarov's family had told RFE/RL earlier that the dead man's body showed signs of torture.
In a separate interview with RFE/RL that day (, Surat Ikramov, chairman of Uzbekistan's Independent Group for Human Rights Defenders--the group that first called attention to the Umarov case--asserted that the official findings had reached "an absolutely wrong conclusion and it goes absolutely against the law. Our organization was first to provide information on Umarov's death. I personally went to his family's house and collected all the photos. His parents and family gave interviews to journalists. From the photograph of the body [the cause of his death] is obvious. His body was not exhumed. I don't know how the examination could provide a conclusion without exhumation. No one from independent rights groups was allowed to be part of the investigating team."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FARDA LOOKS AT NEW PHENOMENON AMONG IRANIAN YOUTH: RELIGIOUS CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY In a special report for the January 16 edition of Radio Farda's youth magazine, "New Glance," correspondent Nima Tamaddon talked with a young man in Iran who did something highly unusual in the Islamic Republic -- he converted from Islam and became a Christian. Tamaddon also talked with an Iranian girl who lives in California and is a devoted Moslem, and hosted a discussion with several other young listeners, some of whom expressed their dissatisfaction with those who are converts to other religions, while others asserted that religion is a private matter and nobody should interfere with a person's faith.

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

KYRGYZ SERVICE FOCUSES ON PROTESTS IN RUNUP TO ELECTION All this month, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service has focused on unprecedented rallies and protests against election regulations that would prevent four opposition leaders from running in next month's parliamentary elections because, as former Kyrgyz ambassadors, they spent some time abroad during the last five years. The Kyrgyz Service was the only media to bring daily reports to its Kyrgyz audience on political developments concerning the right of the ex-ambassadors to run and failed moves in parliament to pass an amendment permitting their candidacy. Articles on Kyrgyz Service coverage of the pre-election protests can be read (in Kyrgyz) on the service's website, at,, and
On January 18, the service interviewed one of the banned candidates, former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, after the Supreme Court rejected her appeal against the ban ( Otunbayeva criticized the Kyrgyz justice system, saying "It is sad that all these 13 years [since the collapse of the Soviet Union] have been a waste of time for the judges [Kyrgyz judicial system]. [President Askar] Akayev has been boasting about reforms but nothing has changed for the judiciary system." Otunbayeva said she and others are determined to change the justice system." Later in the week, the Kyrgyz Service aired interviews with the other former ambassadors (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

PAZNIAK ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY DURING BELARUS MORNING PROGRAM Zianon Pazniak, the leader-in-exile of the opposition Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian Popular Front, said during a telephone interview on January 18 during the Belarus Service's morning program ( that he would be the "national alternative" candidate to current leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 2006 presidential election.

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

EU OFFICIAL CRITICIZES LACK OF EUROPEAN FOCUS ON KOSOVO DURING INTERVIEW ON RFE/RL ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE BROADCAST Erhard Busek, who heads the EU Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service's Iliriana Bajo during a visit to Prague on January 18.
Busek, an experienced Austrian politician known for his outspoken views, discussed European Union policy towards the region and criticized what he called a strategy deficiency toward Southeastern Europe, including a position on Kosovo's status. He said that typically, when the Europeans do nothing, the U.S. steps in and that the United States could now decide to move unilaterally toward recognition of Kosova independence. Busek said that this was the case in the 1990s, during the war in Bosnia. He said the EU currently does not seem to view Kosovo and southeastern Europe as a priority. "It's quite clear that everybody is looking to Turkey; nobody is looking to Southeast Europe", said Busek.
A transcript of the interview (in Albanian) can be found on RFE/RL's Albanian-language website,

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

TOP BELARUSIAN INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR TAKES PART IN BELARUS SERVICE ONLINE FORUM RFE/RL's Belarus Service continued its practice of conducting periodic on-line forums with prominent personalities in politics, the arts and the sciences on January 14 with a live chat featuring special guest Jury Zisser. Zisser, one of the most successful businessmen in Belarus in the information technology/Internet sector, is the founder of most popular Belarusian website, visited by tens of thousands every day.
Guests to the forum asked Zisser more than 80 questions, most of which he answered during a 90-minute period. The forum page was viewed about 500 times on the day of the event, while the final transcript of the online conference ( has to date been viewed about 1,200 times.

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

RFE/RL in the News

AZERBAIJANI JOURNAL REPRINTS AWARD-WINNING RFE/RL ARTICLE Azerbaijan International, an English language journal produced in Los Angeles (, featured in its most recent Winter issue an article by one of the Azerbaijani Service's Baku-based correspondents that was found by her peers to be RFE/RL's Best "Success Story" of 2004 and thus became the winner of the most recent biennial RFE/RL DoBIE (Division of Broadcasting Innovation and Excellence) Award. RFE/RL correspondent Shahnaz Beylerqizi won the award for her moving report "A Portrait of Faiq Karimov," an avid reader blinded in war, who rose above his handicap to build a family and career. The journal published a story about the award ceremony and the winning feature.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azeri Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>.

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Copyright (c) 2005. 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.

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