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Central Asia: Neighboring Opposition Movements Keep Close Eye On Kyrgyz Events

Will the Turkmen opposition be closer to unseating Saparmurat Niyazov? The uprising in Kyrgyzstan -- where weeks of opposition protests led to the storming of the government building on Thursday -- could mark Central Asia's first real departure from post-Soviet leadership. The governments of nearby Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan are watching developments in Kyrgyzstan with trepidation. But opposition leaders in these countries are following events with a different mindset.

Prague, 24 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Nigora Hidoyatova is the leader of the Uzbek opposition Free Peasant party. She argues that the regional fallout from the current unrest in Kyrgyzstan should not be underestimated.

"Without a doubt, the events in Jalal-Abad and Osh have enormous significance for the region. It finally indicates the collapse of those totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that came to power in the post-Soviet period," Hidoyatova said.

Hidoyatova was speaking before demonstrators in Bishkek occupied the presidential compound.

Hidoyatova suggests that Central Asia's current generation of leaders are an increasingly alienated elite whose days are numbered.

From Kazakhstan to Tajikistan, Central Asia's administrations are dominated by leaders whose power bases date back to the Soviet Union.
"I think events in Kyrgyzstan will affect other Central Asian states, especially Kazakhstan. Also, they could impact Turkmenistan, and Turkmen people might understand they also are responsible for their own fate."

The international community has criticized those regimes for their lack of respect for human rights and major curbs on political freedom -- including the outlawing of opposition parties. They enjoy limited ties outside the region, and their leaders have also balked at the kind of economic and bureaucratic reforms that critics say are necessary for true modernization.

In nearby Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Niyazov has shrouded himself in a cult-like image to bolster an administration that has been in power since 1990.

Khudaiberdy Orazov, the leader of Turkmenistan's Watan (Motherland) party, says he's certain the Kyrgyz uprising will have an impact outside its borders.

"I think events in Kyrgyzstan will affect other Central Asian states, especially Kazakhstan. Also, they could impact Turkmenistan, and Turkmen people might understand they also are responsible for their own fate," Orazov said.

In Tajikistan, recent elections consolidated power in the hands of President Imomali Rakhmonov and his allies. International observers from the OSCE concluded that the voting fell short of international standards.

Shokir Hakimov is the deputy chairman of Tajikistan's opposition Social Democratic Party. He told RFE/RL that regional leaders are especially worried that protests in Kyrgyzstan might inspire opposition movements in other parts of Central Asia.

"The difficulties that the democratization process is facing in Kyrgyzstan are the same as in Tajikistan and the whole region. So impact [from events in Kyrgyzstan] cannot be avoided," Hakimov said.

A spokesman from the Tajik Foreign Ministry, Igor Sattorov, urged "a peaceful solution" to the uprising in Kyrgyzstan.

"These events cannot leave us indifferent. Tajikistan, which recently lived through the horrors of a civil war, has always called and continues to call for a peaceful resolution of these problems at the negotiating table, within the law and according to the constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic," Sattorov said.

That view likely reflects sentiments elsewhere in Central Asia, where other -- more authoritarian -- regimes remain in control.

(RFE/RL's Uzbek, Tajik, and Turkmen services contributed to this report.)

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