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Central Asia in Focus: Kazakhstan Publishes List Resembling Russia’s ‘Foreign Agent’ Registry 

KAZAKHSTAN — Kazakh Journalist Dinara Egeubayeva was included on Kazakhstan’s list. Social Media photo.

In the Region

Kazakhstan Publishes List Resembling Russia’s ‘Foreign Agent’ Registry

Kazakhstan’s Finance Ministry published a list on September 19 of 240 organizations and individuals who allegedly receive foreign funding.

Publication of the list is causing concern among independent media, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society groups which say the move echoes Russia’s “foreign agent” law.

Russian authorities have used that law to pressure and close down many rights organizations, independent media, and NGOs.

Included on the Kazakh list are Reuters news agency, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Freedom House, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, and the independent freedom of speech watchdog Adil Soz (Fair Word).

Journalists Dinara Yegeubaeva and Ainur Koskina were also included.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the move was “too reminiscent of the ‘foreign agent’ hysteria we have witnessed in Russia in recent years.”

CPJ noted the publication of the list is not a surprise.

Amendments to Kazakhstan’s tax regulations in 2018 require legal entities to file reports on foreign funding.

Those and later amendments, including one that requires the State Revenue Committee to publish a list of those receiving foreign funding, were enacted in 2022 and came into effect in the second half of 2023.

Authorities have repeatedly said the measure aims to “increase the level of citizens’ trust” in legal entities and NGOs.

Why It’s Important: Unlike in Russia, Kazakhstan’s current laws do not impose any restrictions on the organizations and individuals on the list of those receiving foreign financing.

However, considering how Russia has used its foreign agents’ registry, those on the list just released in Kazakhstan have good reason to be concerned.

Amnesty International, UN Criticize Tajikistan Over Treatment of Pamiris

Amnesty International released a report on September 21, criticizing Tajik authorities for their campaign against the Pamiri minority.

Amnesty said since May 2022, when Tajik government forces used violence to end protests in the country’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), “hundreds of Pamiris have been detained.”

GBAO is a high-mountain area that accounts for more than 40 percent of Tajikistan’s territory. Only 220,000 people live there, and most are Pamiris, who are Shiite Muslims and followers of the Aga Khan.

Government control over GBAO remained tenuous after Tajikistan’s civil war ended.

When an announced peaceful protest in the GBAO capital Khorugh was set to start on May 16, 2022, security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators.

Then, the government announced the start of a counter-terrorism operation that left dozens of Pamiris dead.

Amnesty International wrote, “Since May 2022, the Tajikistani authorities have stepped up their efforts to remove all vestiges of actual autonomy of the region and a crackdown on civil society in GBAO.”

That campaign has already seen more than 200 “civil society activists and human rights defenders…imprisoned…after convictions in unfair trials.”

Meanwhile, a report from UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor condemned the arrests and prison sentences given to Pamiris.

Lawlor visited Tajikistan in December 2022. Her delegation’s report on the visit was published in May, but just released to the public last week.

The report expressed concern at “the alleged practice of classifying criminal cases and imposing non-disclosure obligations on lawyers” and also “the alleged pattern of holding closed trials, often without regard to due process standards.”

Why It’s Important: Tajik authorities continue to press ahead with their repressive campaign in GBAO without even acknowledging the criticisms coming from international rights groups and UN special rapporteurs such as Lawlor.

Tajikistan’s government seems to be hoping the world will forget about the Pamiris, making continued mention and criticism of Tajik authorities’ actions even more important.

Public criticism keeps the Tajik government aware that what they are doing to the Pamiri community is noticed and will continue to be exposed.

The Latest Majlis Podcast

This week’s Majlis podcast looks at the C5+1 summit of the U.S. and Central Asian presidents on September 19 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

It was the first time the six presidents met together.

U.S.-Central Asian ties have been close this century as some of the Central Asian states played logistical roles in the U.S. operation in Afghanistan in 2001-2021.

The Central Asian governments are readjusting their relationships with many countries since their longtime ally Russia launched its full-scale war in Ukraine.

What is the state of U.S.-Central Asian relations and did the summit give us any idea which direction those ties are headed?

This week’s guests are:

What I’m Following

Horrific Attack on Woman in Kyrgyzstan

Gender violence continues to plague Kyrgyzstan. A woman in a Bishkek suburb was brutally attacked by her former husband on September 20.

Human Rights Watch released a report on September 21 saying the “assault highlights police failures in Kyrgyzstan” and called on authorities to “step up domestic violence protections.”

The woman had been attacked by her former husband for two years. She had complained to police but was always convinced by her ex-husband’s family to withdraw the complaints.

Questions are again being asked in Kyrgyzstan about whether current laws to protect women are sufficient.

Kazakhstan to Release Files from Soviet-Era Repression

The press service of Kazakhstan’s prosecutor general’s office said more than 2.4 million files on victims of political repression from 1929-1956 will be released to the public.

The prosecutor general’s office said 311,000 people who were victims of repression during those years have been posthumously rehabilitated.

Files have been transferred to the president’s archive and are available for viewing to those interested.

Fact of the Week

Turkmenistan exported natural gas worth $6.63 billion during January-August 2023, a five percent increase over the same period in 2022.

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading Central Asia in Focus! I appreciate you sharing it with other readers who may be interested.

Feel free to contact me on X (formerly Twitter) or by responding to this email, especially if you have any questions, comments, or just want to connect about topics concerning Central Asia. See you next week for more on what’s happening in Central Asia.

Until next time,
Bruce