Tajikistan’s government is seeing human rights activists and others leave the country after it passed a law on NGOs similar to those of Russia and Azerbaijan. The amendments to an existing law on non-governmental organizations stipulate that NGOs must report the sources and amounts of their funding to the central government, and expanded the powers of the government to examine foreign donations and expenditures. Eurasianet.org reports that a number of NGO leaders left the country when the law was tweaked in July, and that more left for abroad in the following months.
While the legislation does not characterize NGOs that receive donations from abroad as foreign agents like its Russian counterpart, rights activists note that it does not accomplish the goals of fighting terrorism and bolstering national security that Justice Minister Rustam Shohmurod cited in presenting the bill last summer. Analysts note that the bill has come as the government also cracks down on perceived foreign religious activity in the country, likely spurring radicalization of Islamists. President Emomali Rakhimov has decried religious dress and visual forms of expression such as beards as foreign imports with no place in the country. Tajikistan sentenced the first of 23 officials from its banned Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) to nine years in prison after finding him guilty on charges of religious extremism and terrorism. Other charges against provincial IRPT head Hasan Rahimov purportedly included inciting racial and religious hatred and illegally possessing weapons. His relatives reported that he was sentenced in a closed-door trial on November 27. The IRPT was banned in August.
Rahimov and the other 22 individuals affiliated with IRPT were arrested on October 6 for purportedly aiding Islamist politician and former Deputy Defense Minster Abdulhalim Nazarzoda in his battle with Tajik police outside Dushanbe in September. The pressure on NGOs and Islamist groups alike comes against a backdrop of increased border security concerns, and Russian considerations of reestablishing border control with Afghanistan that it left to the Tajik government in 2006.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- The National Bank of Kazakhstan has issued 20,000 tenge notes as the currency continues to fluctuate against the dollar as part of what the president has considered a long-term economic crisis. As the reason for the issuance, the bank cited international practice in which the highest denomination of national currency should be approximately half of the average monthly wage. The bills were released on Kazakhstan’s Day of the President on December 1, a national holiday. Former Chairman of the National Bank Kairat Kelimbetov had the bills prepared in 2013, but later announced that they would not be released into circulation. The bank’s new Chairman Daniyar Akishev hinted at the possibility of seeing the bills this year in mid-November. Previously, the largest denomination was 10,000 tenge.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of shooting down a jet last week to protect its ability to provide the Islamic State (IS) with oil. He made the statement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where an invitation from Turkey to have President Erdogan meet with Putin has yet to come to fruition. Erdogan called the claim about IS a lie, charging Putin with proving his rhetoric as NATO moved to bolster Turkey’s air defense system after the downing of a Russian jet last week. In retailiation, Russia approved detailed lists of sanctioned Turkish products, most of which are foodstuffs. Analysts noted that Ukraine stands to benefit from the sanctions, as the agricultural minister proposed Turkey substitute Russian food products for Ukrainian.
- The World Trade Organization announced that Kazakhstan has become a full-fledged member state. In a report presented to the regular session that made the announcement, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo described the 19-year-long accession process as the most complicated in the organization’s history, but noted the high quality of agreements reached between the WTO and Kazakhstan as a result of the prolonged entry talks. Kazakhstan’s government stated in a press release that the negotiations produced practical solutions balanced between Kazakhstan’s obligations as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and now WTO. Kazakhstan’s Accession Package was formally approved by the WTO on July 27, at which time concerns were raised that its commitments to lower tariffs would also apply to the EAEU.
- Uzbekistan received $13.8 million from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the purposes of addressing the country’s aid epidemic. Head health official Saidmurod Saidaliev announced the grant for 2016-2017 during a conference on HIV prevention and treatment in Tashkent. Government officials in the past have made statements about progress made with treating the estimated 40,000 citizens living with HIV, but have come under allegations of embellishing statistics. The United Nations Development Programme signed a consolidated agreement with the Global Fund in 2012 to become its principal recipient. Saidaliev did not mention details about how the funds were to be allocated.
- At a conference in Tehran where major energy companies were present, Iran announced a new type of contract for foreign businesses to invest in oil. Purportedly $30 billion in projects was unveiled to the companies at the conference, and foreign oil giants Shell and Lukoil have allegedly already mentioned fields they would consider developing. Iran said the projects could begin after sanctions were lifted as early as January 2016. It has promised to boost crude production up to 500,000 barrels a day upon easing of sanctions under the nuclear deal reached in July, almost 200,000 barrels more than political competitor Saudi Arabia’s average for August 2015.