This week in Central Asia, journalists in Kazakhstan marked their professional day on Saturday. According to the Kazakhstan Today news agency, there were some 2,000 publications in the country, of which almost 80 percent were independent. The agency stated that while there was no official censorship in the country, journalists did practise self-censorship, thereby avoiding such "dangerous" topics as "big" politics, corruption and criticism of local authorities.
In neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, Amarkul Aitaliev, a senior official at the Kyrgyz Ecology and Emergency Situations Ministry, appealed on Monday for urgent help to avert the danger posed by a Soviet-era uranium mine threatening the densely populated Ferghana Valley. "Ecological catastrophe could hit the whole Ferghana Valley," he said. The uranium waste dumps remaining from the Soviet era were located in the area prone to flooding and avalanches in the largely mountainous state.
On the issue of old uranium mines in Kyrgyzstan, it was also reported on Monday that the World Bank would invest US $5 million in the rehabilitation of uranium storage facilities located near the town of Mayly-Suu in the southern Kyrgyz province of Jalal-Abad.
On Tuesday, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan agreed to introduce a simplified border-crossing procedure for people, transport and technical equipment. The agreement was reached during talks on delineating the Kyrgyz-Tajik border held in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. It was reported that the parties defined the procedure for exchanging topographic and cartographic information needed for delineating the border.
Meanwhile, the Tajik parliament approved a draft law making amendments and additions to the criminal code, abolishing the death penalty for women and reducing from 15 to five the number of death penalty articles for men, as a result of Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov's initiative on the issue.
Tajik Asia-Plus news agency reported on Tuesday that an international humanitarian university had been established in the country. The institution aims to provide Tajik citizens with education at international standards, while preserving, developing and enriching culture and language along with ancient and national traditions.
Still in Tajikistan, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Tuesday held a conference in Khujand, the second-largest city in the country. The OSCE stated that over 70 percent of the victims of human trafficking did not know whom to apply to in a crisis situation. The conference summed up the campaign against human trafficking conducted in the northern Sughd Province, which showed that the media, NGOs and law-enforcement bodies had to work more closely together in dealing with the issue.
On Wednesday, Rahmonov proposed creating an international coalition to combat increasing drug trafficking from neighbouring Afghanistan. He reportedly proposed the plan to the OSCE, UN and several regional organisations. In 2001, the Tajik authorities had seized about eight mt of drugs, including about four mt of heroin. In 2002, it was down to six mt, but in the first five months of this year alone, five mt of drugs, including 3.1 mt of heroin, were seized.
On Thursday, Asia-Plus agency reported that a rise in water levels in the Zarafshon and Fondaryo rivers could cause massive floods in the Panjakent District of Sughd Province, citing the Tajik Ministry of Emergency and Civil Defence. Sirojiddin Mulloyev, a senior official at the ministry, was quoted as saying that more than 1,000 people located on the river banks might be affected.
Kazakh Gazeta.kz newspaper issued a report on the same day about refugees in Kazakhstan. It stated there were some 12,000 Chechen, more than 4,000 Tajik and some 2,350 Afghan refugees living there. Most had been recognised as refugees by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but faced problems regarding employment and social benefits.
Going to Uzbekistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based advocacy group, issued a report this week on radical Islam in Central Asia and the issue of Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (The Party of Islamic Liberation). "The very repressive policies, particularly of the Uzbek government, have created a situation where people are much more likely to be radicalised," Robert Templer, the ICG's Asia programme director, told IRIN from Brussels. Templer noted the need for more profound political and economic reforms to resolve widespread poverty and corruption, the main causes of social discontent which provide a basis for Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities.
Meanwhile, in Turkmenistan, the issue of ethnic Russians remained at the top of the agenda for another week. There had been unconfirmed reports claiming that Russian citizens in the largely desert, but energy-rich state were being evicted. Commenting on the issue, Anatoliy Fomin, head of the Russian community in Turkmenistan, told IRIN from Moscow that there had been such incidents. He said many Russians were queuing at the Russian embassy and railway station to flee the country.
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