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Weekly news wrap

This week started with a bang in Central Asia following the alleged assassination attempt on Turkmenistan’s President Saparmurat Niyazov on Monday in the capital, Ashgabat. The 62-year-old president, who escaped unharmed, has been in power for the past 17 years, before independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Whereas Niyazov has accused exiled political opponents of the plot, human rights groups have raised concerns over a possible crackdown and new round of domestic repression. Police have already reportedly arrested some 16 suspects. The self-styled father of all Turkmens or "Turkmenbashi" has constructed a personality cult around himself and controls the largely desert but energy-rich nation with an iron fist by allowing no opposition.

In neighbouring Uzbekistan, Theo van Boven, the UN Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on torture is on a two-week visit. The envoy is expected to travel to many parts of the country to meet officials, civil-society representatives and human-rights activists. He will also visit various places of detention. Torture, particularly of political opponents and in prisons, is one of the major concerns of rights groups in this most populous of the five Central Asian states.

In a related development, Iskander Khudayberganov was sentenced to death for alleged religious extremism and anti-state crimes on Thursday in the capital, Tashkent. His court case had earlier attracted international attention with rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch calling for a fair and impartial trial, as well as investigations into allegations of torture by the authorities.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution this week on extending international cooperation for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the northern Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan. The former Soviet Union tested its nuclear weapons in Semipalatinsk for 50 years, resulting in the devastation of the area.

In Tajikistan, the local media reported that almost 70 percent of Tajik women face discrimination. Citing recent research, the report claimed that the situation was of particular concern in rural areas. Many women were driven to suicide by violence and a lack of rights in the family.

Meanwhile, the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported that Tajiks were subsisting on a meagre diet due to poverty. With salaries averaging US $10 per month the six million people of this tiny mountainous country were unable to maintain a balanced diet, resulting in an adverse effect on their health.

Finally, in Kyrgyzstan, the opening of a new World Bank office was praised. Over the past decade, the Bank has provided over US $600 million in assistance in addition to helping the former Soviet republic in its transition to a market economy.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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