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RFE/RL Review January 28, 2005

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The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of January 22-28, 2005

RADIO FREE IRAQ FOCUSES ON JANUARY 30 ELECTIONS During the final week before the January 30 elections, Radio Free Iraq has broadcast a daily special election program to inform Iraqis about the logistics of voting, the candidates and their views, the parties and their platforms, issues of policy and politics, security measures and personal safety precautions, what their leaders are saying and what fellow citizens are feeling in the major cities in the country and in diaspora. The service is covering Iraq and Iraqis in the world with a team of dedicated reporters and correspondents, including 13 correspondents on the ground in Baghdad alone, reporters in other major cities of Iraq (Basra, Najaf, Ba'quba, Arbil, Mosul, Sulaymaniyah, Dahuk and Kirkuk) and in nearby countries -- Jordan, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, United Emirates, Egypt and Israel, correspondents reporting on the voting of Iraqis in Europe and the U.S., and broadcasters and editors in Prague pulling it all together on the air.
Radio Free Iraq journalists have been filing as many as a dozen original reports a day, mostly exclusive interviews with candidates and voters that have also been used by other RFE/RL language services.
This week's broadcasts included special reports on Iraqis voting in other countries, as well as interviews in Iraq with prominent Iraqi political leaders and election organizers, such as Izzuddin al- Muhammadi, a member of the Iraqi Electoral Commission Council (Al- Mufawwadiya al-'Ulya al-Mustaqilla lil-Intikhabat fi-l-'Iraq) who said January 25 that violations of the election rules, committed by some candidates campaigning beyond the permitted limit, are not severe enough to disqualify them (
In another interview in Ba'quba, January 27, Husayn al-Zubaydi, spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party [Al-Hizb al-Islami al-'Iraqi] in the Diyala governorate, spoke to RFI's correspondent about the party's change of mind, first deciding not to participate and then holding a referendum among members and deciding to contest the elections.

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

IRAQI SHI'A LEADER CALLS FOR UNITY IN RFE/RL INTERVIEW One of the most powerful political figures in Iraq appealed for unity and understanding among Iraqis in an exclusive interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Baghdad.
Head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who tops the list of the United Iraqi Alliance [Al-I'tilaf al-'Iraqi al-Muwahhad], said "candidates on the lists, politicians, and [political] subjects who have entered the process of elections, besides following their aims, must unite their efforts so that the elections are held in a peaceful atmosphere."
Al-Hakim said in the interview, conducted in Arabic and broadcast in two parts this week on RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, that there was already a growing unity among Iraq's Shi'a groups going into Sunday's parliamentary elections in response to an initiative from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. According to al-Hakim, representatives of Ayatollah al-Sistani worked with various groups to form a coalition and a unified party list of candidates to the National Assembly. He said "there came a request from Ayatollah al-Sistani's office that it would like to contribute in searching for mutual understanding among the groups and for the concept of a coalition. Ayatollah al-Sistani's office was so kind to help in setting the list of the United Iraqi Alliance... It set the order of names and subjects [on the list]. This is by itself a great work and a big achievement."
Al-Hakim said the National Assembly that will be elected in Sunday's poll should have a limited term of office, not longer than one year and its top priority will be to improve security in the country. According to Al-Hakim, "There will be no progress in the reconstruction of Iraq unless there are acceptable security conditions. And there cannot be any progress in the political process unless there is satisfactory security... The security issue is the prime issue [for us] so we will put a lot of efforts into improving the security situation."
Audio of the interview (in Arabic), broadcast in two parts on January 24 and 27, is available on the Radio Free Iraq website at and An English-language transcript of the interview has been posted to RFE/RL's special "Iraq Votes 2005" web page, . The page contains information on Iraqi parliamentary, Kurdish parliamentary, and provincial elections including featured reports and archived election coverage.
The "Iraq Votes 2005" web page also provides English-language transcripts of Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviews and reports on the elections; 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 stances of some parties. An interactive map gives detailed information on the situation in each governorate, or province.

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

A Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondent in Baghdad spoke January 28 with Songul Chapuk, a candidate on the list of the Civil Society Movement [Harakat al-Mujtama' al-Madani] and a representative of Iraq's Turkmen community in the previous [interim] National Assembly. He asked Chapuk about the goals of Iraqi minorities, what results would they like to see in the elections and in drafting Iraq's constitution.
Chapuk said: "There should be no discrimination against one or the other religious group and all should have the same freedoms. There should be no majority or anyone given first-class rights while others would have only second-class rights. This is something we will never accept. Minorities have to be granted equal opportunities."
Chapuk said there are three million ethnic Turkmens in Iraq and they do not feel they are a minority. "The Chaldo-Assyrians are more than one million. So why should they not be given freedom and why could even the president of republic or the prime minister be not elected from among them? This would not be democracy [if it is not possible]. If there is democracy, we can achieve this in the new constitution [to be drafted]."
He took issue with the customary designations of Iraqis, asking: "Why do we only pay attention, according to whether someone is an Arab or a Kurd, a Sunni or a Shi'i? This is not correct. One must be seen only as an Iraqi. In the coming period, we must deal with this and make [the equality in Iraqi politics] possible. How is it possible when the rights and duties are equal? When any Iraqi can be accepted to lead Iraq as the president of republic, we have to abstract from all these criteria that are related to ethnicity or religion."
An English-language translation of the interview can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

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

AUSCHWITZ LIBERATION - 60 YEARS ON All RFE/RL language services provided extensive coverage of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on January 27. In addition to covering the ceremony and statements by world leaders, RFE/RL paid particular attention to tales of survivors and what young people know and think about the Holocaust in RFE/RL's broadcast region. RFE/RL's central News and Current Affairs department issued a special series of articles and analyses that provided the basis for a number of language service broadcasts.

RFE/RL Interviews Survivor Whose Music Saved Her Life... In one of the stories, RFE/RL reporter Kathleen Moore interviewed German-born Polish Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who stayed alive by playing the cello in a women's orchestra set up at Birkenau to entertain German SS officers. She told RFE/RL that she once performed a Schumann solo for the notorious doctor of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele. Lasker-Wallfisch's story is one of few with a happy ending. After the advancing Soviet army liberated the camps in 1944, Lasker- Wallfisch made her way to England where she helped found the English Chamber Orchestra. Her son Raphael is also a cellist.
Moore's report on her interview with Anita Lasker-Wallfisch can be found 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 <>.

...Learns That No Auschwitz Survivors Remain in Azerbaijan... RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service interviewed representatives of Azeri Jewish groups and found that most Azeri survivors of Auschwitz were long dead and that it is not even known how many Azerbaijanis were inmates at Auschwitz during World War II. The Chairman of the Azerbaijan Mountain Jews Community, Semion Ikhilov told RFE/RL's Baku correspondent that most of the Auschwitz inmates were Soviet troops taken captive and that the last known survivor died 15 years ago, in 1990.

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

...What Young People in the Balkans Know of the Holocaust... RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) devoted its regular midnight program for youth on January 26 to an international survey of what young people know and think about the Holocaust. RFE/RL correspondents found a dismaying level of ignorance and misunderstanding in talking to young people about the subject.
Young people in Serbia, like their counterparts in Britain, Germany and the United States, know almost nothing of the horrors of the World War II death camps. A high-school student in Belgrade, in a typical response to RFE/RL's correspondent, said "Holocaust -- what's that? I never heard of Auschwitz." Several of her fellow students made similar statements, a situation RFE/RL's correspondent also found in Croatia, where the pro-German Ustasha regime massacred Jews, Serbs and others in camps during World War II. Young people interviewed by RFE/RL's Zagreb correspondent professed ignorance about the Ustasha regime as well: "I don't have any clue what the Ustasha regime was about and I am not interested in it at all. What happened happened," said one teenager.
During the live broadcast that connected studios in Prague and Belgrade via satellite, two youth leaders--Dusan Mihajlovic, head of the Civil Alliance of Youth in Serbia and Hana Gelb, from the Youth Jewish Community in Zagreb, Croatia--said that the recent wars in former Yugoslavia show that extremism still thrives in the region and that mutual distrust still runs deep, particularly between Serbs and Albanians. Gelb pointed out that anti-Semitism in the Balkans is a constant phenomenon.
An SSALS correspondent also interviewed Stephan Vopel, Project Manager at the Bertelsmann Foundation, who noted that "there is ample of information about the Holocaust with reference to German history at the time of Nazi regime. The important question is what people do with the information they get, for example to deal with anti-Semitism today." Vopel added that "education on the Holocaust itself is not sufficient to combat current anti-Semitism and other extremist ideologies."
A transcript of the program, in Serbian, is available on the SSALS website at

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

...Finds Gaps about Holocaust in Schoolbooks in Russia, Central Asia RFE/RL correspondents in Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan spoke to schoolteachers, who acknowledged widespread ignorance among students about the Holocaust, noting that there is little mention of it in schoolbooks and that it is not a subject in the curriculum because textbooks have not changed much since Soviet times (
In a rare exception in Kyrgyzstan, the department chairman of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Teaching Academy of the Kyrgyz Education Ministry, Dr. Murat Imankulov, told RFE/RL's Bishkek correspondent that the history of the Holocaust is taught as part of World History, World War II in the 9th grade and also in the 11th grade in Kyrgyz high schools. He said in the interview broadcast January 24 that "the Holocaust is taught as a one of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II."
More English-language articles on issues surrounding the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz can be found 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 <>. The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

INTEREST IN RFE/RL BROADCASTS OF U.S.-KAZAKH MURDER CONNECTION RFE/RL's Kazakh Service is receiving dozens of phone calls in Almaty and is being widely quoted in local Kazakh and Russian language media as the primary source of information on an ongoing saga involving a young Kazakh woman, currently in jail in Texas. The story has sparked a debate inside Kazakhstan about the rights and obligations of Kazakhs living in foreign countries, about U.S. law and the merits of the case.
The girl, Asel Abdygapparova, 28, has been in prison in San Antonio, Texas for four years, awaiting trial for complicity in a murder. Ethnic Kazakh listeners to RFE/RL living in Canada and the United States alerted RFE/RL to the story, which is now making headlines in Kazakhstan. RFE/RL broke the news about the Abdygapparova case in Kazakhstan in January and has remained the major local news source, providing interviews with U.S. authorities in Texas, the Kazakh Ambassador to the U.S., Abdygapparova's family in Kazakhstan and legal experts in several countries.
Abdygapparova is accused of participating in the kidnap, rape and murder of a 37-year old single mother of two in April 2001 in San Antonio. Abdygapparova reported the crime to the police and gave information that led them to arrest the two killers, one of whom was her boyfriend. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth in prison to a baby boy who subsequently was taken by her grandmother back to Kazakhstan. The boy, now three years old, is being brought up by Abdygapparova's family in Almaty. He is named Ramon after his father, who was sentenced to death for the murder and is awaiting execution in prison on death row. Abdygapparova speaks with her relatives in Almaty once a week by telephone awaiting trial. She is scheduled to appear in court in San Antonio in mid-February.
The Kazakh Service's English-language report on the Abdygapparova case can be found on the service's website at service's Russian-language program, "Parovoz" is providing extensive coverage of the Abdygapparova case, with report transcripts available at, and

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

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN HELPS IMPROVE AFGHAN HEALTH SERVICE Radio Free Afghanistan's weekly program "On the Waves of Freedom" featured a special guest in RFAfghan's Kabul studio January 27 -- newly appointed Afghan Minister of Public Health Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi. Dr. Fatemi appeared on the two-hour call-in show, moderated from Prague and Kabul, to answer listeners' questions about medical facilities and the public health service in Afghanistan.
In addition to a chronic shortage of doctors, qualified medical staff, equipment and facilities, an event that day highlighted problems in dealing with medical emergencies. An RFE/RL correspondent was in the Kabul Roos restaurant when a gas pipe exploded, injuring 20 people, several severely with burns. The correspondent said it took 20 minutes for an ambulance to come and asked the Health Minister why. Minister Fatemi said Kabul operates a fleet of only 13 ambulances in the city of 3 million people. But the question prompted him to review the health emergency system and take action to speed up the ambulance service.
The minister telephoned RFE/RL's Kabul bureau the next day, January 28 and asked to be interviewed again to give RFE/RL listeners an update on the issue.
Audio from the January 27 "On the Waves of Freedom" program (in Dari) can be accessed on RFAfghan's website, at,,,

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

UZBEK SERVICE ASKS UZBEKS THEIR OPINION OF BUSH INAUGURATION SPEECH The January 20 inauguration speech of President George Bush was an important story for RFE/RL's Uzbek Service -- and the subject of conflicting opinions inside Uzbekistan. RFE/RL correspondents in Tashkent interviewed a range of Uzbek politicians and experts about their interpretation of Bush's statement that the U.S. is resolved to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world and determined to fight global tyranny. The interviews, broadcast January 26, offered a variety of interpretations.
Otanazar Oripov, the Secretary of the Central Council of the Erk Democratic Party told RFE/RL that U.S. foreign policy is not democratic, that when Bush pledges to fight global tyranny he does not mean fighting tyrants who support U.S. policy and interests. U.S. foreign policy is a policy of double standards, which uses the notion of democracy as a disguise, he said.
Uzbek human rights activist Iskandar Hudoyberganov sees U.S. foreign policy as the best in current international conditions. Hudoyberganov said Bush's pledge to rid the world of tyranny and dictatorship, "when necessary by force of arms," is the best way to respond to the existing situation.
Political expert Malik Abdurazzakov saw Bush's comments as intended primarily for Americans, particularly middle class Americans who, he said, regard democracy and freedom as national values. But Abdurazzakov said Bush's statement was just an empty phrase with no substance. Abdurazzakov said the U.S. has had, for a long time, a list of countries it wants to free from tyranny, even using force. He said that, in addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, the list includes Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria and Belarus.
Erk party leader Oripov said that the U.S. and Uzbek governments are close allies at the moment and likely to remain so, asserting that U.S. policy in Uzbekistan will mostly be determined by the Uzbek government. Abdurazzakov, on the other hand, believes the United States is too busy with Iraq and Afghanistan to pay much attention to Uzbekistan or Central Asia. Hudoyberganov disagreed, saying the U.S. will continue to follow a policy promoting democracy and freedom despite the Uzbek regime's reluctance to recognize and accept change.
To read a report on the interviews with Oripov, Hudoyberganov and Abdurazzakov (in Uzbek), please visit the service's webpage at

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

RFE/RL REPORTS ON NEW THREATS TO TAJIK MEDIA FREEDOM RFE/RL's Tajik Service provided extensive coverage of the closure this week of one of the few independent newspapers in Tajikistan, talking to Tajik journalists as well as Tajik government officials.
Tajik tax police official Jamshed Kasirov justified the closing in an interview with RFE/RL's correspondent in Dushanbe January 27 on the grounds of tax evasion. He said his department was instructed to close the newspaper offices, in a letter from the Ministry of Culture that said "the printing house [Kayhon] doesn't have the right to publish newspapers and magazines. However, the 'Nerui Sukhan' newspaper has been printed here. The printing house has avoided tax payments for printing newspapers and is not registered as a taxable organization."
But the head of the Tajik National Association for Independent Media, Nuriddin Qarshiboev, said the closing was politically motivated and an attempt to block the free flow of information. Speaking January 27 to RFE/RL in Dushanbe, Qarshiboev said "what happened with 'Nerui Sukhan' newspaper is an official attempt to close down an alternative source of information ahead of our [parliamentary] elections."

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

RFE/RL INTERVIEWS GEORGIAN PRESIDENT President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia gave an interview to RFE/RL's Georgian Service after addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, January 26. The RFE/RL correspondent was in Strasbourg to cover the speech, related discussions and interview members of the Georgian delegation. Saakashvili's speech included statements about his efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict with South Ossetia and separatist Abkhazia, but said little new on the issue and was almost immediately rebuffed by authorities in South Ossetia. Saakashvili told RFE/RL in the interview, aired January 26, that Georgia is offering its separatist regions far more autonomy than they had when the region was part of the Soviet Union and was ruled from Moscow.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <>.

SERBIA'S PRESIDENT TELLS RFE/RL: NO INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVO Serbian President Boris Tadic responded openly to questions from listeners to RFE/RL's popular, live, call-in show "Midnight Guest," produced at the Belgrade Bureau of the South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS).
Tadic was the only guest on the weekly program, broadcast January 21, and was inundated with questions about, among other things, the Serb government's failure to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, prospects for a union of Serbia and Montenegro, and the possibility of independence for Kosovo. The proceedings of the program were quoted extensively by media in the region.
Tadic gave a resounding "no" to independence for Kosovo, saying this is "unacceptable." Even while acknowledging that the province is "on the verge of independence" and its Albanian population is in reality beyond Belgrade's control, Tadic argued that "independence... is unacceptable for very specific reasons... [because it would lead to the] fragmentation of the region... [and] the establishment of a new Albanian independent state with its own army and foreign policy, which would in the long run be directed against Serbia. This is absolutely unacceptable to Serbia," he repeated. Tadic said further that an independent Kosovo would not be economically viable and that Kosovo "could live only from smuggling drugs, people, and weapons," repeating a rationale often used by the discredited Milosevic regime.
An RFE/RL listener asked Tadic whether Serbia should form groups of armed volunteers to "defend" the province, because "we will not give up Kosovo at any price" and Serbia needs its lignite coal. The president replied that "there is nothing that is worth more than life or worth doing at any price." The brown coal, however, has the potential to provide some domestic energy sources for Serbia for a rather long time, and this factor "must be taken into account" whenever the Kosovo question comes up for discussion, Tadic added.
Answering a listener's question about the war crimes trials at The Hague, Tadic called for a change in Serbia's political climate to align the country more closely with EU and NATO requirements. He said: "we cannot afford to live outside of this world and therefore have to accept the principles of that world so that we could become a part of it," adding this applies also to the Kosovo issue. Tadic said the only way to foil Kosovo independence is for Serbia to adopt a sophisticated policy that would strengthen its international credibility.
About the prospect for a union between Serbia and Montenegro, Tadic said that both republics are better off staying together: "each respective market is rather small with no real chance for economic development. Therefore, if we were to embark on European integration, the only chance is to integrate our own common market."
Since its introduction in July 2004, the SSALS call-in show "Midnight Guest" has hosted most of the prominent political figures in Serbia, including Speaker of the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro Zoran Sami, Speaker of the Serbian parliament Predrag Markovic and former Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic on its way to becoming one of the most popular radio shows in Serbia. The audio link and transcript of the live call-in interview with President Tadic (in Serbian) can be found at

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

RFE/RL PUTS CZECH-BELARUSIAN ROW IN PERSPECTIVE RFE/RL's Belarusian Service has put in perspective a diplomatic row between Belarus and the Czech Republic, which made shrill front-page headlines in both countries as well as in the media in neighboring states.
On January 21, the Belarus Service was the first to report that Belarus authorities had declared a Czech diplomat persona non grata, expelling him with 24-hours notice after he was detained by police and accused of corrupting the morals of a minor. Belarusian television showed a hidden camera video that allegedly depicted the diplomat embracing a 16-year old youth. In a reciprocal move, the Czech government expelled an unidentified Belarusian diplomat and recalled the head of the Czech diplomatic mission in Belarus, for consultations.
On January 26, RFE/RL broadcast separate statements to RFE/RL reporters by the Belarusian and Czech foreign ministries, each objecting to the other country's actions. Media in the Czech Republic, Belarus, Austria and others continue to follow developments in this story, as does RFE/RL. Articles on the Belarus Service's website on the issue can be found at:,,,

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

RFE/RL in the News

GOVERNMENT HONORS KYRGYZ SERVICE FOR LANGUAGE PROMOTION RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service has received high honors from the Kyrgyz government for promoting the Kyrgyz language. At a ceremony in Bishkek, January 27, the National Commission for State Language presented RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk with an award "in recognition of your major contribution to the development of the state language of the Kyrgyz Republic." RFE/RL correspondent Shailoobek Duisheev also a well-known poet, received a separate award and small monetary prize for his weekly Sunday program "My Language, My Spirit," devoted to Kyrgyz language issues. Under the Kyrgyz Constitution, Kyrgyz is the only state language of the country.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, 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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