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Not Quite the Silly Season: Recent Stories from Central Asia

25/07/2009

Let’s not pretend: the big story at the moment is the Afghan elections. If you fancy some distraction, however, some recent pieces on Central Asia might prove of interest.

We have MSM articles on topics we have touched on here: the New York Times, for example, takes on the ‘returning militant’ meme. Mansur Mirovalev offers a lengthy firsthand account (and photo essay) of the ‘ghost buses’ that carry Uzbek migrant workers to Russia.

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting details the futile attempts of Turkmen NGOs to officially exist in a country where like-minded conversation – even about beekeeping – equals dissent.

At New Eurasia, blogger Orazdurdy kicks off a Tajik travelogue with his account of Khorog, the regional capital on the Afghan border. He notes:

“The bazaar is patrolled by Tajik soldiers and police officers to prevent any backdoor drug deals. Not that this is the most likely spot for a deal to go down: the Panj River, which separates this region from Afghanistan, is at certain spots so narrow that you could throw a bag of heroin across the border. Patrols of young soldiers with Kalashnikovs trekking the entire 370-kilometer border isn’t going to do much to prevent this, either.  And check this out: locals say (on the down low, of course) that they can pocket $1500 within an hour for a kilo of heroin (notwithstanding that the same kilo in London would cost £45,000).”

Along these lines, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports on smuggling on the Tajik-Afghan border, providing further details on the flow of drugs north and stream of guns south.

RFE/RL reports on the suspicious deaths of a number of celebrated Kazakh athletes, and the belief that organised crime groups are to blame.

And finally, ForeignPolicy.com has determined the World’s Worst Daughters – and small surprise, Gulnora Karimova of Uzbekistan heads the list.

While it may be silly season here in the UK, I haven’t worked out yet the Central Asian equivalent of the fame-hungry squirrel or killer slime – but then, August isn’t over yet. Let’s see what next week brings!