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Qishloq Ovozi

A banner that reads "No to selling votes and paying bribes for votes" in Kyrgyzstan.

On November 28, voters in Kyrgyzstan return to the polling stations to cast ballots in a rerun of last year’s parliamentary elections.

Even during the campaign, those October 4, 2020, parliamentary elections were so riddled with violations that shortly after the results were announced, with pro-government parties predictably winning the vast majority of seats, unrest broke out in the capital, Bishkek, and by the morning of October 6 the government had been ousted.

Events after that took a series of twists and turns that included the election of a new president and a vote on changing the constitution in January 2021, followed by a national referendum on changes to the constitution and local elections in April.

Now, the country will finally vote for new parliamentary deputies and replace a parliament that has already served for more than one year since its mandate expired.

The structure and powers of parliament have changed, and the system of voting is different, with these upcoming elections featuring candidates competing in single-mandate districts, and on party lists.

On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderates a discussion on the November 28 elections, what has changed in the structure and role of parliament, in the way people will vote, and how many people can be expected to turn out and cast ballots for the fourth time in less than 14 months.

This week's guests are: from Bishkek, Aijan Sharshenova, a research fellow at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek; Medet Tiulegenov, a professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog.

Kyrgyzstan Prepares To Conduct Parliamentary Elections Again
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes or on Google Podcasts.

The Uzbek state security service returns a man to Uzbekistan wanted on charges of links with the Islamic State.  

When the Taliban seized control of most of Afghanistan in mid-August, one of the inevitable ripple effects was going to be a crackdown on suspect Islamic groups in the Central Asian states north of Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan has emerged as the Central Asian country most actively engaging with the Taliban government, in no small part because Tashkent wants to keep trade routes through Afghanistan open.

But Uzbek officials are also taking measures to ensure that no one in Uzbekistan finds inspiration in the Taliban conquest and wants to try changing the Uzbek government.

RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, reported on September 10 that 29 women were detained in the capital and districts in Tashkent Province for spreading Hizb ut-Tahrir propaganda among the population. On September 17, a group of 12 men were detained, also in Tashkent, for spreading Hizb ut-Tahrir propaganda on the Internet.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global organization based in London whose ultimate goal is to unite all Muslim countries into an Islamic caliphate, though it says it uses peaceful methods to pursue that goal.

Operatives of Uzbekistan's state security service delivered a member of Islamic State who fought in Syria and Iraq. He was allegedly going to participate in an operation in a Central Asian country.
Operatives of Uzbekistan's state security service delivered a member of Islamic State who fought in Syria and Iraq. He was allegedly going to participate in an operation in a Central Asian country.

Six people described as “leaders” of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group were detained in the southern Kyrgyz town of Kyzyl-Kiya in early October and, on November 4, another Hizb ut-Tahrir leader who was an Uzbek citizen was also detained in southern Kyrgyzstan.

In early October, Ozodlik spoke with an official in the Uzbek Interior Ministry who said, under condition of anonymity, that while many suspected Islamic radicals have been under observation in recent years, there have not been any raids or special operations against such groups since Shavkat Mirziyoev became Uzbek president in 2016.

The same source indicated there has been a policy change recently, claiming that some 200 people were detained in September as part of Operation Safety Zone, most of them from the banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But in Uzbekistan it is not only Hizb ut-Tahrir members who are being detained.

On November 9, the State Security Service (MHH) detained a group of “jihadists” in Syrdarya Province.

Reports did not identify any specific group or say how many people were in the “jihadist cell” that was uncovered, only that the leader’s initials were “B.T.,” he lived in the Havast district, he and his associates regularly posted material online calling for jihad, and that B.T. was planning to go to Syria to join an unspecified terrorist group.

On November 8, the MHH brought a suspect back from an unnamed neighboring Central Asian state who was trying to make his way to Syria.

The man, identified only as S.S., was a member of Katibat al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, an Uzbek jihadist group that was active in northwestern Syria and was allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda wing in Syria.

S.S. was arrested and jailed in 2018 when he was identified as part of a group on Telegram posting and discussing sermons by extremist clerics and calling for jihad.

There were reports on October 30 that the MHH “returned” an Uzbek citizen identified as I.O. from an unnamed country.

I.O. was accused of being a member of the Islamic State militant group who fought in Iraq and Syria from 2015 to 2021.

The MHH said the man returned to Central Asia with the intention of carrying out a terrorist attack in a Central Asian state in September, though no details were given about which country it was.

In a sign that the Uzbek authorities’ search for terrorists is never-ending, on September 30 the MHH announced it had detained a suspect in the deadly February 1999 bombings in Tashkent.

The MHH identified a man as Y.J. and said he had trained in Chechnya and was a member of the "Islamic Movement of Turkestan."

Uzbek authorities were praised for freeing many Muslims who were wrongly imprisoned under authoritarian President Islam Karimov.

But many of those who were freed were under observation, a fact the Uzbek government confirmed and has confirmed again since the Interior Ministry source who spoke with Ozodlik said: ”Most of [those recently detained] were previously included on the [blacklists and had] previously served in prisons.”

The Uzbek government has reasons to be nice to the Taliban, but Tashkent does not want Taliban influence or inspiration inside its country. The more concerned Uzbek officials are about such possibilities, the more frequent the detentions and possible imprisonment of members of "suspect" Islamic groups.

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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 the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

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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