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Central Asia in Focus: August 30, 2022

A teacher hands out papers to students in a Bishkek classroom.
KYRGYZSTAN – Children at the school in Bishkek on March 5, 2022.

What’s Happening in the Region

Cars for Kyrgyz Teachers

Cheers for Mayor Kanbolot Tutuev of Naryn, a city in northeastern Kyrgyzstan, for providing an incentive for teachers.

Tutuev promised on August 26 that every teacher in the city who has a student earn a Gold Certificate in All-Republic Testing will receive a car.

A Gold Certificate is given to students with the highest scores in national tests and those students who receive the certificate are virtually guaranteed of being accepted into any university in Kyrgyzstan.

Last school year 35 students at schools in the capital Bishkek received the certificates, seven students at schools in the Osh Province got them, five in Issyk-Kul Province, four in Chuy Province (in addition to those in Bishkek schools), three in Batken, and there was one each in Jalal-Abad and Naryn provinces.

So, Mayor Tutuev’s intent is clear, but the timing of his announcement was important also.

On August 24, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov handed over the keys to 306 new flats to members of the State Committee for National Security.

Apparently, some people thought the new flats should be given to teachers and doctors, and Japarov mentioned at the ceremony to give new flats to members of the security committee that authorities continue to “pay close attention to providing affordable housing for teachers and health workers.”

Why It’s Important: For years, teaching in Kyrgyzstan was a low paid and thankless profession, with most schoolteachers earning only the equivalent of around $100 per month.

As a result, of the approximately 82,000 teachers in Kyrgyzstan, nearly half are 50 years old or older, so Kyrgyzstan will need thousands of new teachers in the coming years.

The Kyrgyz government is paying more attention to teachers and has doubled their salaries in 2022.

Kyrgyzstan will need new teachers and previous low wages and lack of incentives have led many qualified people to seek another profession.

Mayor Tutuev seems to understand that rewards motivate teachers to produce good students and Kyrgyzstan will be the winner from such policies.

Tajik Supreme Court Says Commission 44 Is a Criminal Group

Tajikistan’s Supreme Court considers a group of activists and local leaders from the country’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) to be a criminal group, a source with knowledge of the court’s proceedings told RFE/RL’s Tajik service.

Commission 44 was formed in the wake of violence in GBAO in November 2021 when a local man was killed by security forces.

The death sparked four days of protests in the regional capital Khorugh during which two more people were killed and dozens detained.

Forty-four local activists and community leaders worked with authorities to ease tensions, then six members of their Commission joined employees of the prosecutor general and military prosecutor’s offices to investigate the causes of the unrest.

By January 2022, Commission 44 members complained the investigation was focusing on determining who the organizers and participants of the protest were, not on punishing the killers of the young man whose death sparked the unrest.

Commission 44 continued to object to the focus of the investigation until May 16, when protests started again in GBAO.

Government troops responded with force and Tajik authorities initiated an “antiterrorism operation,” though there was and still is not any evidence of a terrorist threat in GBAO.

In late May, Commission 44 member, Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, also head of the Association of Pamiri Lawyers, was detained along with three other Commission 44 members and three more were in custody by June 7.

On June 29, two Commission 44 members — Khujamri Pirnazarov and Shftoly Bekdavlatov – were sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Why It’s Important: Tajikistan’s Supreme Court has not formally declared Commission 44 a criminal group yet, but if the source RFE/RL’s Tajik cited is correct, it seems only a matter of time before that happens.

The fate of Commission 44 echoes that of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

Like the IRPT, Commission 44 was trying to work with the government in good faith, but Tajik authorities instead chose to brand them as enemies and imprison their leaders.

In the future what group in Tajikistan not totally loyal to the government can trust a government offer of cooperation?

The Latest Majlis Podcast

On the latest Majlis podcast, we look at Central Asia’s efforts to open up trans-Caspian trade routes now that traditional trades with Europe through Russia have been disrupted due to sanctions on Russia for its war on Ukraine.

This week’s guests are:

What I’m Following

A Preventable Murder

In Uzbekistan, a 24-year-old nurse was beaten on August 24 by her estranged husband. The attack took place in a kindergarten where she had taken their two children in front the teachers and the other children at the school, including her own children.

Part of the attack was caught on video.

Police detained the husband on the day of the attack, but the next day the husband was free, despite a promise from a police inspector to the young woman’s father that the husband would be held in custody.

According to the victim’s father, police tasked the mahalla, or neighborhood, head to watch over the husband. All Uzbekistan’s neighborhoods have a local chief who works with authorities.

The husband asked to go and start filing papers for a divorce and the mahalla chief allowed him to leave.

The husband went the home of his father-in-law where his wife and children were staying that evening, and killed her in front of their children.

There are already calls for stronger punishments for domestic and gender-based violence.

Gulnoz Mamarasulova, a member of the special commission investigating the violence in Karakalpakstan, posted on Twitter, “Isn’t it time to strengthen punishments for even small acts of violence in the family, instead of waiting for some woman to be beaten and killed by her husband?” but such calls have been made before when similar incidents have occurred without any signs of improvement in the situation.

Despite the fact that the attack was captured on video and took place with small children as witnesses, the neighborhood chief agreed to release the man, which reflects the mentality surrounding domestic violence.

Gender violence is a huge problem not just in Uzbekistan, but throughout Central Asia and despite increasing numbers of reports about the problem, little seems to have been accomplished to stem it.

Will this latest tragedy be a turning point in Uzbekistan?

Fact of the Week

Approximately 85 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s teachers are women.

Thanks for Reading

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See you next week for more on what’s happening in Central Asia.