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Qishloq Ovozi

Uzbek authorities have targeted bazaars for what they perceive to be their role in spreading extremist ideas. (file photo)

Authorities in Uzbekistan have hit a new low. A commission from Tashkent arrived at the Baraka Savdo Bazaar in Margilan recently, inspected the area, and then complained to the owners that on the premises of the bazaar there were facilities for washing.

I could probably just stop here, but I suppose there are a few details worth adding.

Merchants from Baraka Savdo told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, that members of the Tashkent commission first checked the documents of the sellers at the bazaar, inspected the conditions at the bazaar, and then went to the toilets. Not because nature was calling.

It turns out that what bothered the commission was that the bathrooms at the bazaar could potentially be used for “Taharat,” specifically Wud’hu, the ritual ablutions before Islamic prayer. One merchant speaking to Ozodlik called the commission’s operation “Taharat control.”

Members of the commission closed the toilets temporarily. They also confiscated suspect basins and teapots that could be used to hold water because that water could be used to wash hands and faces. And then those people might pray.

The commission ordered the market’s administration to disconnect all the water heaters from the sinks in the bazaar bathrooms. One of the commission’s members complained to the chairman of the bazaar, accusing him of “creating all the conditions for reading Namaz.”

A representative of the Baraka Savdo Bazaar confirmed to Ozodlik the visit of the commission and inspection but did not want to talk about the situation with the water. He did say, “No one on the bazaar grounds is reading Namaz. No one is making ritual ablutions. No one here wears religious clothing or hijab, there are no prayer rugs and no religious literature here either.”

A source in the Margilan administration told Ozodlik a group did come to Baraka Savdo Bazaar and said it was part of routine checks that go on at all bazaars. The source said bazaars were a frequent venue for people trying to spread extremist ideas and therefore anti-extremism announcements are regularly made through loudspeakers. The source said there is also special room with counter-extremist material set up in all bazaars. The source could not explain the interest in washing facilities.

This sort of attention is nothing new for Margilan. The city and Baraka Savdo Bazaar were among the areas targeted in the hudjum – or forcible removal of the hijab -- campaign of 2015.

Farruh Yusupov of Ozodlik contributed to this report.
This 13-Year-Old Kyrgyz Girl Supports Her Whole Family
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It is a great pleasure to work with my friends in RFE/RL’s Central Asian services. They do some amazing work, and I have a front-row seat for it all.

I do not boast about them as often as I should in the Qishloq. They are making a difference to the people in Central Asia, and as one example I offer the story of 13-year-old Aychurek Sulaymanova from Bishkek, courtesy of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk.

Like many 13-year-old girls in Bishkek, Aychurek goes to school in the morning. She is in seventh grade. But when school ends, Aychurek becomes an adult.

Aychurek, her mother, and her younger brother live in a basement apartment that was once part of a factory housing project. Aychurek’s mother is ill and confined to a wheelchair.

So for the last 2 1/2 years, every day when school ends, Aychurek scours Bishkek’s bazaars looking for plastic and cardboard. She searches until darkness starts to fall. Then she takes her day’s haul to a recycling area, where she is usually paid between 100 and 150 soms [about $1.30-$2].

On the day Azattyk spoke with Aychurek, she had collected some 10 kilograms of plastic. Asked what she spends the money on, Aychurek replied, “Bread, food. Yesterday two women repaired something in the entryway [to Aychurek’s building] and I had to pay 100 soms.” Aychurek also buys medicine for her mother with the money she earns.

Once home, Aychurek cooks the evening meal for the family. “I fry potatoes, I make soup, I can cook chicken and I can also make plov, manti, and oromo,” she says.

Azattyk reported about Aychurek on February 22. The next day -- let me repeat that, the very next day -- February 23, people started dropping by Aychurek’s home, and they didn’t come empty-handed. Through WhatsApp and social networks, Kyrgyz at home and around the world worked to set up a fund for the family. Special transportation is supposed to arrive on February 24 to bring Aychurek’s mother, Yryskan, to a bank to open an account to receive the donations.

And it all started with an Azattyk report.

I’ll be touting more of our Central Asian services’ successes at the Qishloq in the coming weeks and months.

Based on material from Azattyk’s Sabyr Abdumomunov

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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.



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