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Qishloq Ovozi

Tajik opposition activist Sharofiddin Gadoev

In mid-February, Tajik state television showed opposition figure Sharofiddin Gadoev, formerly from the banned Group 24, announcing he had returned to Tajikistan from self-exile voluntarily and denouncing other opposition figures who fled the country.

Shortly after his surprising reappearance in Tajikistan, a video Gadoev had recorded earlier while he was in Europe was posted on the Internet in which Gadoev said if he was somehow back in Tajikistan, he was there against his will.

After pressure from many parties, including the governments in Germany and the Netherlands, Gadoev returned to Amsterdam on March 2 and told a very different story about what happened in Tajikistan than the one told by Tajikistan’s state media in February.

RFE/RL's Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on Gadoev’s case -- and on previous situations where the accounts of the Tajik authorities are in question.

Joining the discussion from Amsterdam was Gadoev and his lawyer, Viktoriya Nadezhdina. From Europe, Mahmudjon Faizrahmon from the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan participated in the talk. From Washington, the veteran Central Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, Steve Swerdlow, took part. I also had a few things to say on the topic.

Majlis Podcast: Another Tajik Government Narrative Falls Apart
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev

At the start of February, a fire killed five girls, aged 3 months to 13 years, in their home in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. It happened when both parents had to work overnight.

The tragedy released the frustrations of many people in Kazakhstan who struggle to support large families. Mothers of such families led protests, calling for greater benefits and less paperwork from a government that has for years encouraged large families in the sparsely populated country.

As has happened before in Kazakhstan, other issues were added to the initial cause of discontent and as the second half of February started, there were even some scattered calls for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev to leave office.

In response, on February 21, Nazarbaev told the government to resign.

A new prime minister was named and shortly after more than $3 billion was promised for greater benefits and wages and infrastructure projects.

On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderates a discussion on this whirlwind of activity in Kazakhstan in February and where it all might be leading in the coming months.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan William Courtney participated in the discussion from Moscow.

From Washington, D.C., Erica Marat, an associate professor at the National Defense University and author of The Politics Of Police Reform: Society Against The State In Post-Soviet Countries, joined the Majlis.

From Glasgow University, our longtime friend Luca Anceschi, professor of Central Asian Studies, took part in the session.

And, naturally, I had something to say, too.

Majlis Podcast: Where Is Kazakhstan Headed?
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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.