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Qishloq Ovozi

Saturday 21 July 2018

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Times are tough in Turkmenistan. (file photo)

This week's Majlis Podcast looks at the worsening economic situation in Turkmenistan.

It is a topic we’ve discussed before on the Majlis, more than once, but this time we wanted to consider the revelations contained in a recent report by The Economist, which found some $23 billion in German banks that belongs to someone in Turkmenistan, the same country where bread and cooking oil are being rationed.

RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion on the dire economic straits that Turkmenistan finds itself in and the apparent reluctance of someone, or some group, in Turkmenistan to tap into these funds in foreign banks, which likely belong to the country and people of Turkmenistan anyway.

The author of the report, Max Lambertson from The Economist Intelligence Unit, joined the discussion from France (where he was on vacation). Our good friend Luca Anceschi, author of many works on Central Asia and professor of Central Asian Studies at Glasgow University in Scotland, sat in on the talk also. And Farruh Yusufy, the director of RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, participated from somewhere in the United States where he was on holiday (Thank you Farruh!).

I had heard about the billions of dollars kept abroad but the findings in Max’s article amazed me, since Turkmenistan’s people could really use that money. So, I had something to say also.

Majlis Podcast: Turkmenistan -- Flush With Cash But Somehow Broke
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes.

Kazakh oligarch and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov arrives under police protection at the courthouse in the central French city of Lyon in October 2014.

Governments in Central Asia continue to use, and some would say abuse, the right to appeal to international law enforcement agencies to apprehend citizens of Central Asian states who have fled their homeland and then were portrayed by their governments as criminals.

For example, there are hundreds of cases where Central Asian governments have alerted Interpol about their fugitive citizens and officially requested they be detained and extradited. In many cases the charges against these exiles are dubious. But even if they are not extradited, an Interpol warrant hinders exiles' movements and complicates efforts to make a new life in another country.

The University of Exeter's website hosts the Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database, which looks at "the extra-territorial security measures deployed by the five Central Asian states and the human rights threats abuses and concerns faced by individuals in exile and opposition movements abroad."

Leading Central Asian scholars from several universities, and organizations such as Amnesty International, Fair Trials International, the Memorial human rights center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Human Rights Watch, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia take part in the project.

In late June, the updated findings of the project were presented at Chatham House, the U.K. Parliament, and the University of Exeter.

To learn more about what the project has found and revealed, RFE/RL media-relations manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on the CAPE project. Our guests were all involved in putting together the database.

From the University of Exeter we were joined by John Heathershaw, who is one of the directors of the CAPE project. Maisy Weicherding from Amnesty International also joined from the United Kingdom, while Natalia Gontsova of the Civic Assistance Committee participated from Moscow.

Majlis Podcast: Squeezing The Space For Central Asia's Exiles
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes.

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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. Content will draw 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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