Posts Tagged ‘Kirgistan’

Global: Gewalt gegen Frauen in Minderheiten

Freitag, Juli 8th, 2011

“Minority Women Fight Back Against Mistreatment

By Elizabeth Whitman

Women in minority and indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to wide-ranging forms of violence, abuse and discrimination, according to a new report released Wednesday by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), a human rights group that works on behalf of minorities and indigenous peoples.

With limited access to political mechanisms of justice and protection, they are disproportionately the targets of attacks and discrimination, during times of conflict or peace, the report said.

Dalits in India, Muslims in Britain, Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan, Batwas in Uganda, Aborigines in Australia – these are just a few of the communities spanning the globe who are sometimes welcomed, but more often not, by the dominant national cultures.

The disproportionate levels of abuse and discrimination that these women face – including rape, other forms of sexual violence, and trafficking, from government forces, paramilitaries, or members of their own communities – can be attributed to the fact that their identity exists at the intersection of two rather marginalised groups, women and minorities, making them easy targets.

In spite of the compound disadvantage, these women are standing up for themselves and challenging the status quo, even as government policies fail to provide the rights and protections they deserve, or, in some cases, attempt to write discrimination into their very laws.

One hundred percent of Batwa women in Uganda interviewed by MRG said that they had experienced some form of violence, whether ongoing or in the past year.

Dalit women in India experience horrific discrimination as part of the “Untouchables” within the traditional caste system. Even though “untouchability” is illegal according to India’s constitution, in practice, it is alive and pervasive in many forms.

In Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, ethnic Uzbek girls and women were subject to widespread rape and sexual violence. Yet in women’s crisis centres sympathetic to them, they could not receive residential support due to “hostility among ethnic Kyrgyz clients”, the report said.

Speaking up

In countries where discrimination towards minorities is the norm, women from these groups have a particularly difficult time ensuring that they are protected, in law and in reality, from attacks and that perpetrators do not enjoy impunity, especially where socio-economic and geographic factors entrench discriminatory practices further.

Because minority and indigenous women often hail from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and remote areas, they have less access to education, employment, or justice. Without these opportunities, their channels through which to fight violence and discrimination are extremely limited, and opportunities to ameliorate the situation are scarce.

Nevertheless, “many are actively fighting for their rights as women, for the rights of their communities and for their rights as minority or indigenous women,” the report stated, even at the risk of violent reprisals from majority communities or their own.

Dalit women “have come out very powerfully to fight for their rights and for justice,” said Manjula Pradeep, executive director of Navsarjan, a grassroots Dalit human rights organisation.. “They are the ones that are really fighting for the rights,” even if they receive little support from families and community members, she said.

For instance, over the nearly two decades that Pradeep has worked with Navsarjan, she has witnessed a shift in reportage of cases of abuse. When she first began, few cases of violence against Dalit women were reported to police. Now, she says, women are coming out and speaking about sexual abuse by landlords and employers.

The double standard applied to Dalit women exemplifies the horrors they face. “At one level you don’t allow a Dalit woman to fetch water from a public well, but on the other side you rape the woman,” Pradeep said. “At one level you see her as a defiled person, somebody who is very impure, but you rape the same woman.”

Developed countries have poor records too

Politicians in the developed world sometimes speak as if the violation of women’s rights was simply a problem in the developing world,” Mark Lattimer, executive director of MRG, told IPS, “but the evidence shows that that is simply not the case.

In Australia, for instance, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women determined that indigenous women “have fewer opportunities, are less likely to participate in public life, and have more restricted access to justice, and to quality education, health care and legal aid services.”

In Britain, Muslim women endure verbal and physical assault, and different countries in Europe have sought to ban the hijab or fine those wearing it.

Nor is discrimination limited to the practices of daily life – it reaches the higher echelons of society as well. Lattimer noted that “in almost every developed democracy, minority women are grossly underrepresented in politics, in the judiciary, in corporate boardrooms and in other positions of power and influence.”

What we need to do is listen to women who speak out and risk their lives to protect their rights, he concluded, “and take seriously their own recommendations for how their rights should be protected.”



(Quelle: IPS News.)

Afghanistan/Irak: Korruptionstreibstoff Krieg

Dienstag, Mai 10th, 2011

“World Corruption Special Report

By David Smith

World Corruption Special Report

“We Will Pursue Fighting Corruption”

Iraq and Afghanistan sit near the top of a list of the world’s most corrupt nations despite years of occupation by Anglo-American forces and more than $1 trillion of US taxpayers’ money having been spent on the two nations since 2001.

Not withstanding the killing of Osama, we are entitled to ask the question: was this money well spent?

The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from the Berlin-based watchdog rated Somalia, with a score of 1.1 out of 10, as the world’s most corrupt nation, closely followed by Afghanistan and Myanmar with scores of 1.4, and Iraq on 1.5. The least corrupt were New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark, on 9.3 (See table attached). 

“Unstable governments with a history of conflict dominate the bottom rungs of the list,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.   

Dr Jon Moran, a reader in security in Leicester University’s Department of Politics and International Relations, said we should not be surprised that war-torn states dominate the list. The recent histories of both Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the link between war and corruption. 

“In Iraq, sanctions after the first Gulf War, combined with the existing corruption of Saddam Hussein’s regime created a siege economy in which corruption became endemic,” Moran said.

“Smuggling and black markets became important for everyone from the ordinary citizen to the elites. This is a legacy that is still evident today in the way the Iraqi Government is run.”

The corrupt Government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is prepared to use violence in defence of its interests. One story is enough to illustrate this fact: Iraq judge Radhi al-Radhi, who was investigating corruption as head of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, was forced to flee to the US in 2007 after 31 of his investigators were assassinated by al-Maliki’s men. The assassins also tortured 12 members of the investigators’ families by drilling holes into their bodies, before killing them, too.

In becoming more corrupt from top to bottom, Iraq has followed a familiar historical pattern. “There is plenty of evidence to show how war-torn or blockaded states often see increases in corruption as smuggling networks, black markets and extortion become a way of gaining and distributing resources. It was evident in Yugoslavia in the 1990s,” Moran said.

The Second Gulf War, and subsequent occupation of Iraq, made an already bad situation even worse. “To the existing corruption was added the effects of the chaotic and politicized US occupation,” Moran said. “Although US society has a highly developed system of legal and agency regulation of political and economic corruption – stronger than the UK, for example – in the highly charged ideological occupation of Iraq, this was ignored.

“A number of the basic rules of good governance, which the West often urges developing countries to adopt, such as controls on the disbursement of funds and strong auditing regimes, were missing. The journalist Patrick Cockburn has argued Iraq is the site of some of history’s biggest frauds.”

A third reason for corruption in Iraq is the poor security situation, said Moran. “The lack of basic security after 2003 fuelled violent crime. Basic services disappeared and everyone was forced to use contacts, and black markets and other desperate measures to simply get by.”

The origins of corruption in Afghanistan, Moran said, also have their antecedents in former war and occupation.

“Afghanistan already had a serious problem with corruption under the Soviet-backed governments of the 1970s and then after the Soviet invasion in the 1980s the country became a site of opium, arms smuggling and black markets,” he said.

The Taliban eradicated opium crops in 2000-2001, but their attitude to drugs has been inconsistent. “They were also not averse to trading it themselves and now they are using it to fund their insurgency,” said Moran. “Afghanistan has always been a major supplier of opium, but the war has created a surge in opium growth. Lack of security, corrupt local security, and the encouragement by the Taliban of opium-growing have all contributed.”

Ned Conway, a researcher at the Institute for Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus Studies (MECACS) at the University of St Andrews, said the Taliban made money from opium by offering protection to narcotics networks. “The Taliban does not produce opium, but it collects taxes from everyone involved, including farmers, processors, all the way up to the drug barons and kingpins in Pakistan,” he said.

The Anglo-American security forces are too overloaded to fight corruption and prevent opium production.

“The ISAF are relatively thin on the ground and they are expected to do everything from fighting the Taliban, to promoting democracy, to training the police and army and providing local services and eradicating opium,” Moran said.

In his analysis of the corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ned Conway, at the University of St Andrews, focuses on the direct role of Anglo-American money.

“There are two reasons why pouring billions of dollars into Iraq and Afghanistan has made them more corrupt,” he said. “Firstly, if the host government doesn’t have the institutions to make sure the money is accounted for, then people take advantage of the situation. We have members of government who receive bribes in return for contracts and contracting companies which never follow through on projects they were paid to complete.

“The second reason is these countries are incredibly dangerous. If inspectors do not have freedom of movement, so that they aren’t able to check up on a project’s progress in a high conflict area, implementing appropriate anti-corruption safeguards is very difficult.”  

It has become impossible to police the situation so that corruption has become a way of life. “The problem is mainly with the sub-contracting or sub-sub-contracting,” said Conway. “You may think you’re giving your money to company X to complete a project, but often there is a chain of sub-contracts before a shovel hits the earth, and all along the way, each sub-contractor takes a cut.”

Conway, however, has some sympathy with the innocent people caught up in the culture of corruption. “In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is to some degree expected. Take the Afghan Border Police officer who makes $130 a month. That is not enough to live on, so the individual is forced to find more ‘creative’ ways to support his family. Is it wrong? If you asked him, he would probably say that President Hamid Karzai is taking a much bigger piece of the pie, so why can’t he? On top of that, he probably won’t be caught. In fact, his boss might even encourage the behaviour.” 

Conway believes the Anglo-American occupation will leave different legacies in Iraq to Afghanistan.

“Iraq is in a much better situation than Afghanistan. Large groups of people have a voice now that was stunted under Saddam Hussein, and that voice for the most part manifests itself in the political arena, not in armed conflict. Iraq has its share of problems, and could fall back into true chaos, but more or less the country is much better off,” he said. 

“Afghanistan is more difficult. Its system of governance is doomed to fail. There is too much power in central government, not enough power in the provinces. There are also no industries that might ‘save’ the country, whereas in Iraq oil will guarantee money coming into the budget. Afghanistan wants to be a transit state for pipelines and for trade, but that is impossible as long as there is violence.”


  1. Somalia – 1.1 
  2. Myanmar – 1.4  
  3. Afghanistan – 1.4  
  4. Iraq – 1.5
  5. Uzbekistan – 1.6
  6. Turkmenistan — 1.6
  7. Sudan – 1.6
  8. Chad – 1.7
  9. Burundi – 1.8
  10. Equatorial Guinea – 1.9
  11. Angola –1.9
  12. Venezuela — 2.0
  13. Kyrgystan — 2.0
  14. Guinea — 2.0
  15. Democratic Republic of Congo — 2.0


Find more world corruption index figures and data on our new Corruption Perception Index database.


Jan Toporowski, chair of the department of economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, analysed some common characteristics of corrupt countries;

Weak banking systems:                                

“It is difficult to generalise as the countries have different patterns of corruption. But countries at the bottom tend to have weak banking systems involving a lot of informal payments. A combination of weak laws, suspect payments and weak asset markets makes it difficult to do business. In countries like Uzbekistan, and many African countries, the rich elites want to increase their wealth, but the traditional sources of wealth – such as land – are not appreciating much. So these elites – in these resource-rich lands – turn to ‘informal’ ways of holding onto wealth,” he said.

Traditional societies:

“Iraq and Afghanistan may be democracies, but democracy is not the only factor. To avoid corruption, it’s important to have a modern ‘impersonal attitude’ to finance. This is what characterises modernity in terms of finance. It means people don’t get too attached to share certificates, or land. They sell on for a better price, or buy and sell against their assets. In the traditional societies of the Middle East, many people still store their wealth in gold and not many people borrow against their wife’s jewels.”

Developing countries:

“Most developed countries have been through a period of high corruption, before legal frameworks of accountability are put in place. Developing countries have huge inequalities of income, which leads to more corruption because people are envious of other people’s money. With more equal distribution of income, the incentive to make that extra bit of money through corruption is not there.”

Professor Toporowski says the long-term solution is modernisation of financial sectors. The emergence of a commercial middle-class, which uses modern bank accounts and modern systems of payment, would stop ‘informal’ approaches to business. 

“Education changes attitudes. They become educated by studying abroad to the US, or Britain, and taking back ideas which help their countries to modernize. We call them ‘modernising elites’. The education systems in the developing nations are important, too, in bringing about change. In this respect, Somalia is at a disadvantage as literacy is a recent thing there, whereas Myanmar is a relatively urbanised and relatively educated society, so we might expect change to occur more quickly there.”

And check out the Corruption Perception Index, new on the Economic Statistics Database. 



Kirgisien: “Ethnische Spannungen” gezielt geschürt

Samstag, Juli 17th, 2010

“Ethnologin: Die ethnische Karte gespielt

Judith Beyer über den Konflikt in Kirgistan

Moderation: Liane von Billerbeck

Nicht Ethnizität ist für die Ethnologin Judith Beyer vom Max-Planck-Institut der Auslöser für den Konflikt in Kirgistan. Der Zwist zwischen Kirgisen und Usbeken werde eher von den Anhängern des Ex-Präsidenten Bakijew als Mittel zur Eskalation geschürt, um die Lage im Land zu destabilisieren und das für den 27. Juni angekündigte Referendum zu verhindern.

Liane von Billerbeck: Von über 2000 Toten in Kirgistan ist die Rede, Hunderttausende Usbeken sind auf der Flucht vor der Gewalt, viele konnten sich über die Grenze nach Usbekistan retten, bevor sie geschlossen wurde. Zwei ethnische Gruppen, so scheint es jedenfalls, stehen sich im Konflikt in Kirgistan gegenüber: Auf der einen Seite die usbekische Minderheit, auf der anderen Seite die Kirgisen. Ob dieser Eindruck stimmt und welche Ursachen dieser Konflikt hat, das habe ich vor unserer Sendung Judith Beyer gefragt, die Ethnologin vom Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung in Halle an der Saale ist vergangene Woche aus Bischkek zurückgekehrt. Frau Dr. Beyer, ich grüße Sie!

Judith Beyer: Hallo!

von Billerbeck: Die Kirgisen gegen die Usbeken – so vereinfacht wird dieser Konflikt im Ferghanatal dargestellt, also als ein ethnisch konnotierter Streit, der in schwerste Gewalt mündete. Sie sind gerade aus Kirgistan zurück. Wie haben Sie diesen Konflikt erlebt und wahrgenommen?

Beyer: Zuerst muss ich sagen, dass ich zwar im Land war, aber im Nordwesten des Landes, in der Region Talas, die von diesen Unruhen zu dem Zeitpunkt, wo sie ausgebrochen sind, erstmal gar nichts mitbekommen hat. Also wir haben erst zwei Tage später überhaupt über Gerüchte diese Nachrichten erfahren und mir ist das Ausmaß dieser Gewalt erst im Nachhinein klar geworden, wo ich wieder in Deutschland war und Zugang hatte zu Internet und westlicher Presse. Zum ethnischen Konflikt muss man sagen, dass das sicherlich eine verkürzte Sichtweise ist und dass man sehr genau unterscheiden muss zwischen möglichen Auslösern dieses Konflikts und der Art und Weise, wie er sich jetzt entwickelt hat.

von Billerbeck: Worum geht es denn eigentlich bei diesem Streit, was ist der Hintergrund für diese Gewaltausbrüche?

Beyer: Es gibt verschiedene Theorien dazu, bis jetzt ist keine bestätigt worden. Es ist sicherlich verkürzt zu sagen, dass das ein ethnischer Konflikt ist zwischen Usbeken und Kirgisen, der auf langen historischen Problembeziehungen aufbaut. Es scheint viel mehr so, dass der Konflikt von außen geplant worden ist und kaltblütig durchgeführt wurde. Es gibt auch eine Menge von Gerüchten, die sagen, dass Kirgisen Usbeken umgebracht haben, dass Usbeken Kirgisinnen vergewaltigt hätten, und diese Gerüchteküche brodelte in den ersten Tagen und hat dann dazu geführt, dass auch in der Bevölkerung eben diese Sichtweise, die Sie vorhin geschildert haben, nämlich dass es die Kirgisen und die Usbeken sind, die da kämpfen, diese Sichtweise eben verstärkt worden ist. Ich würde nicht von einem ethnischen Konflikt reden, sondern von einer Ethnisierung der Gewalt, das heißt diejenigen, die ein Interesse an dieser Eskalation hatten, wussten ganz genau, dass wenn sie diese ethnische Karte spielen, dass das der Weg ist, mit dem die Situation am schnellsten eskalieren kann. Und die wichtige Frage wäre eigentlich: Wie ist das denn möglich gewesen?

von Billerbeck: Für mich ist zuerst die Frage, wenn Sie sagen, diejenigen, die den Konflikt geschürt haben – wer war das denn, wer hat denn diesen Konflikt ausgelöst? Denn wenn man sagt, das ist kein ethnischer Konflikt, dann muss es ja trotzdem irgendwelche Gründe geben, dass es möglich ist, dass da so eine Gewalt ausbricht, dass man sich fast erinnert fühlt an ich sag mal Jugoslawien oder Ruanda, das sind so die Bilder, die dann plötzlich so aufscheinen.

Beyer: Ja also für die Bevölkerung und für die Präsidentin der Übergangsregierung Rosa Otunbajewa ist klar, dass Anhänger des Ex-Präsidenten die Verursacher dieses Konflikts sind, die sogenannten Bakijew-Leute, wie sie in der Bevölkerung genannt werden, würden auf diese Art und Weise eben in Zusammenarbeit mit der organisierten Kriminalität versuchen, den Staat weiter zu destabilisieren, um auch das für den 27. Juni angekündigte Referendum zu verhindern, in dem das Land eine neue Verfassung wählen soll und Rosa Otunbajewa als Präsidentin im Amt bestätigen soll. Die offizielle Version lautet also, je instabiler die Lage ist und je weniger souverän die Sicherheitskräfte agieren können, desto einfacher wird es für diese kriminellen Gruppen und auch die Familie des Ex-Präsidenten sein, weiterhin ihre Geschäfte zu verfolgen. Und das sind vor allen Dingen Drogengeschäfte.

von Billerbeck: Das heißt, es geht gar nicht um einen ethnischen Konflikt, dieser Konflikt hat kein ethnisches Moment?

Beyer: Der Konflikt hat insofern mittlerweile eine ethnische Dimension erreicht, als dass ethnische Kirgisen gegen ethnische Usbeken vorgehen. Die wichtige Frage für mich ist aber, wie es dazu kommen konnte. Das heißt, Ethnizität ist nicht der Auslöser des Konflikts gewesen, sondern eher das Mittel zur Eskalation.

von Billerbeck: Wenn wir uns die Geschichte ansehen, Frau Beyer, Sie sind ja Ethnologin: Wie ist das Verhältnis zwischen diesen beiden Gruppen, zwischen Kirgisen und Usbeken über die Jahrhunderte gewachsen? Wo liegen da Gemeinsamkeiten, wo liegt Trennendes?

Beyer: Also man kann natürlich unglaublich weit in die Geschichte zurückgehen, aber ich würde eher in der gegenwärtigen Geschichte anfangen, nämlich mit der Tatsache, dass sowohl Usbeken als auch Kirgisen seit langer Zeit friedlich im Ferghanatal miteinander leben, dass sie einander heiraten, Nachbarn sind, Kollegen sind, gemeinsam zur Schule gehen, dass es Freundschaften gibt zwischen ihnen und dass eben keine gewalttätige Beziehung zwischen ihnen im Alltag oder einfach aufgrund ihrer Ethnizität vorgeherrscht hat. Es gab einen Konflikt im Jahr 1990, der wird als der sogenannte Osch-Konflikt oft bezeichnet, in dem bereits einmal eine ähnliche Welle der Gewalt Südkirgistan überrollt hat. Damals ging es ganz konkret um Forderungen der ethnischen Usbeken an die damals noch kommunistische Regierung, dass Usbekisch als offizielle Sprache anerkannt werden sollte. Und es ging um die Besetzung von Land durch ethnische Kirgisen. Das heißt dieser damalige Konflikt hatte einen ganz konkreten Auslöser und ist aber, nachdem er beigelegt worden ist, in keinster Art und Weise wieder aufgetreten.

von Billerbeck: Nun fragt man sich aber, wie kommt es dann jetzt zu so blutigen Konflikten, die also so viel Menschen die Heimat kostet, dass also Hunderttausende das Land verlassen, über die Grenze nach Usbekistan fliehen? Wir wissen ja, dass diese Grenzen aus der Stalin-Zeit willkürlich gezogen wurden. Trotzdem – wie kommt es, dass der so blutig eskaliert? Das ist ja auch eine Frage, die sich viele damals – ich sage noch mal das Beispiel Ex-Jugoslawien – auch gestellt haben: Wie kommt es, dass da Nachbarn plötzlich umgebracht werden und dass man sich anfängt zu hassen, wenn Sie sagen, es gab diesen Konflikt zwischen Usbeken und Kirgisen gar nicht?

Beyer: Seit der Unabhängigkeit des Landes im Jahr 1990 hat sich eine ethnonationalistische Ideologie im Land immer stärker und auch sichtbarer ausgebreitet. Es ist so, dass die meisten öffentlichen Ämter mit ethnischen Kirgisen besetzt sind, dass das Militär von ethnischen Kirgisen geleitet wird und dass das Bildungssystem zu einem Propaganda-Apparat umfunktioniert wurde, durch den auch die Geschichte des kirgisischen Staats neu geschrieben wurde und hauptsächlich auf die Geschichte der ethnischen Kirgisen reduziert wurde. Das richtet sich vor allem an einem Epos aus, das Manas-Epos nach dem gleichnamigen mythischen Volkshelden und Kriegsführer, auf den sich alle ethnischen Kirgisen als einigenden Vorfahren berufen. Das bedeutet also, dass diese neue postsowjetische Identität des kirgisischen Staats eng an genealogische Konstruktionen gekoppelt wurde, die Nichtkirgisen ausgeschlossen hat. Der erste kirgisische Präsident Askar Akajew hat Kirgistan zwar noch als das gemeinsame Haus aller dort lebenden ethnischen Gruppen bezeichnet, aber de facto hat es keinerlei Teilhabe an dieser neu zu formenden Nation gegeben, die sich eben hauptsächlich entlang der Vorstellung von gemeinsamer Abstammung vollzogen hat. Und diese ethnonationalistische Tendenz hat sich auch unter der Amtsherrschaft des zweiten kirgisischen Präsidenten Kurmanbek Bakijew, der durch die sogenannte Tulpenrevolution 2005 an die Macht gekommen ist, weiter fortgesetzt. Das heißt, es hat eben seit der Unabhängigkeit des Landes sehr wenig Bemühungen gegeben, eine plurale und auf Integration aller Bevölkerungsgruppen basierende Gemeinschaft zu fördern.

von Billerbeck: Frau Beyer, Sie waren vorige Woche in Kirgisien, sind gerade zurückgekommen. Wie wird denn der Konflikt im Land diskutiert? Sie haben ja geschildert, dass Sie weit entfernt waren und erstmal gar nicht mitbekommen, was da passiert ist. Wie wird der im Land diskutiert?

Beyer: Also ich habe gerade gestern wieder mit Talas telefoniert und genau diese Frage gestellt und die meisten Dorfbewohner in dem Dorf, wo ich lange Zeit gelebt habe, sind ethnische Kirgisen, also es gibt dort keine anderen ethnischen Gruppen, und für die ist im Moment völlig irrelevant, wer da unten leidet. Das Wichtige ist, sagen sie, dass diese Gewalt beendet werden muss und dass man humanitäre Hilfe in den Süden bringen muss, und sie haben eine relativ große Summe an Geld in kurzer Zeit zusammenbekommen und schicken gerade also humanitäre Hilfe in den Süden. Das heißt, für den Großteil der Bevölkerung ist es eben nicht ein Konflikt, der zwischen uns Kirgisen und den Usbeken stattfindet, obwohl es leider auch viele Stimmen gibt, die genau das behaupten. Aber gerade Leute, mit denen ich viel zu tun habe, sagen eben, wir sind alle Bürger dieses Landes und wir müssen einander helfen, wir müssen gucken, dass diese Gewaltwelle abebbt und den Leuten geholfen wird.

von Billerbeck: Was sagen Sie nun, wie kann dieser Konflikt gelöst werden? Wer muss da helfen, muss da Hilfe von außen kommen aus Moskau, von der UN, was ist Ihr Rezept?

Beyer: Ein Rezept gibt es leider nicht. Also wenn man wieder die Bevölkerung fragt, dann hätten die natürlich am liebsten, dass die Hilfe aus Russland kommt, die Präsidentin der Übergangsregierung Rosa Otunbajewa hat auch als Erstes den russischen Präsidenten Medwedew um Hilfe gebeten. Aber sowohl Russland als auch das benachbarte Usbekistan sind gerade sehr vorsichtig und halten sich aus diesem Konflikt raus, schicken also keine Militärtruppen und auch keine Schutztruppen. Das heißt, das Land ist im Moment auf sich alleine angewiesen und wir können nur hoffen, dass der kirgisische Staat, der im Moment wirklich sehr instabil ist, diese große Aufgabe bewältigen kann. Er kann auf keinen Fall diese humanitäre Katastrophe alleine bewältigen und ich denke, das ist da, wo man jetzt sofort ansetzen muss. Also die Bevölkerung im Süden und auch an der usbekischen Grenze ist auf humanitäre Hilfe angewiesen und selbst wenn diese Hilfe mittlerweile auch das Land erreicht, muss man sicherstellen, dass sie die Familien im Süden erreicht, die im Moment sich immer noch versteckt halten.

von Billerbeck: Die Ethnologin Dr. Judith Beyer vom Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung aus Halle an der Saale über den Konflikt in Kirgistan. Ganz herzlichen Dank für das Gespräch!

Beyer: Bitte schön!”


(Quelle: Deutschlandradio Kultur.)


Siehe auch:

Konfliktforschung: “Ethnien und Religion sind keine Kriegsursachen”

Kasachstan: Glänzende Gewinne im Tabakgeschäft – dank Kinderarbeit

Donnerstag, Juli 15th, 2010

“Big Tobacco Profits from Kazakh Child Labour, Report Says

By Amanda Bransford

NEW YORK, Jul 14, 2010 (IPS) – Hoping for better opportunities than they can find at home, many families from Kyrgyzstan travel to find work. Neighbouring Kazakhstan has the strongest economy in Central Asia, and tobacco farms attract workers fleeing Kyrgyzstan’s high unemployment.

Upon arriving at their new employers’ farms, however, many find hardship and exploitation instead of the advantages they’d hoped for, as a new report by Human Rights Watch reveals.

Kyrgyz workers travel to Kazakhstan for the nine-month growing and harvesting season, often with their children in tow. Those interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that they performed difficult physical labour far more hours per day than permitted under Kazakhstan’s labour laws, and received very little rest, often not getting time off for weekends or holidays.

Many migrants arrive at their destinations already behind, forced to pay the intermediaries who transported them.

They usually have little or no cash and will not receive payment until the end of the season, rendering them dependent on their employers for food, housing, and medical care – the cost of which will be deducted from their final wages.

Wages for the entire family are paid in a lump sum to the head of household, usually the family’s adult male.

This pay structure, along with the widespread requirement that workers hand their passports over to the landowner for the duration of the season, make it very difficult to leave an abusive situation, the report says.

‘Of course there was a desire to leave and throw it all away, but how?’ said one worker quoted in the report. ‘Our passports were with the landowner, and we had no money. If we left, then all of our work would be for nothing. And without money, how would we even get back home from there?’

A few workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch experienced debt bondage in Kazakhstan. They were charged so much for their transport and living costs that they ended the season in debt to their employers, and were forced to work another season instead of receiving payment.

Others were made to do additional work for the landowners without pay.

Of particular concern to Human Rights Watch is the situation of children, who often work alongside their parents, missing school in the process. Tobacco cultivation is both physically demanding and potentially hazardous, and should not be performed by children under 18. Many parents expected children to work, but those that wished for their children to attend school did not always have access.

Forced labour and child labour are illegal under Kazakh as well as international law. Most migrant workers lack legal status in Kazakhstan, however, and are often unwilling to seek help from authorities.

Human Rights Watch believes that Phillip Morris International, the company that buys the tobacco grown in Kazakhstan, has an important role to play in ensuring that human rights standards are met.

‘Philip Morris International and its subsidiaries have responsibilities to protect human rights under international standards of corporate responsibility as well as under national laws of the jurisdictions in which they operate,’ Human Rights Watch’s Jane Buchanan told IPS.

‘Recent experience in the apparel industry has brought to light an international consensus that companies have responsibilities for the labor practices that take place in their supply chains. No company should benefit or profit from exploitative practices at any point in the supply chain,’ she said.

Representatives from Phillip Morris International met with Human Rights Watch to discuss the situation and have vowed to put a stop to abusive labor practices.

Human Rights Watch hopes the report will lead to national policy changes in Kazakhstan as well.

Among other changes, says Buchanan, the organisation advocates the creation of complaint mechanisms through which abused migrant workers can seek redress. The country must recognise migrant workers’ rights, says Buchanan, and make stronger efforts to prevent child labour, including by guaranteeing access to education for all school-age children in Kazakhstan.

‘It’s time for the government to stop acting as if migrant workers don’t have rights and take decisive action against abusive employers,’ she said. “


(Quelle: IPS News.)


Siehe auch:

Tobacco giant Philip Morris sold cigarettes made using child labour
Kasachstan: Wanderarbeiter auf Tabakplantagen betrogen und ausgebeutet

Kirgisien: Der lange Schatten Stalins

Mittwoch, Juni 23rd, 2010

“Kyrgyzstan – Stalin’s harvest

The latest outbreak of violence in the ethnic boiling-pot of Central Asia will take generations to heal

Jun 17th 2010| Osh

A PLAINTIVE siren wails as a government unit, invisible in the darkness, patrols. “We will shoot anyone on the streets. Military curfew. Do not leave your homes,” comes the clipped command in Russian over the loudspeaker. A round of tank-artillery fire rings out. A machinegun crackles a response. This is “calm”, of a sort, after the bloody mayhem of inter-ethnic violence between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority that broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan on June 10th. But in Osh, as elsewhere, the wounds that have been opened may take generations to heal.

By June 17th nearly 200 people, both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, had been confirmed dead. Other estimates are far higher. Local Muslim custom requires that the dead are buried within 24 hours. Many people are burying family members at once without registering their deaths. Some 45,000 Uzbeks have registered as refugees in neighbouring Uzbek-majority Uzbekistan. According to the United Nations’ children’s agency, a total of 100,000 people, mostly women and children, have crossed the frontier. On June 15th Uzbekistan closed its borders, saying it could take no more. Perhaps a further 200,000 people have been displaced within Kyrgyzstan itself.

By day, at least, the streets of Osh are now quiet. Charred vehicles are winched onto dumper-trucks. But markets remain closed. Residents have opened their jars of pickled vegetables, usually reserved for the winter. The town is roughly divided into Uzbek mahallas (neighbourhoods) separated by corridors of mixed-ethnic communities. To the east and west of the city are large concentrations of mostly ethnic-Kyrgyz homes. Behind the barricades marking the entrances to the mahallas, life has been transformed. Women and children have gone. The men who have stayed behind to protect their homes are red-eyed with fatigue. In every mahalla men show pictures on their mobile phones of the dead they have buried. One man presses a DVD on a visiting journalist, saying “Show the world this.” It depicts a mass funeral in a field, with more than 20 graves.

Uzbek men are now replacing fallen trees with welded iron barriers, to keep out their attackers “until the peacekeepers arrive”. Travelling between the roadblocked mahallas and the government-controlled centre of town is a dangerous journey. At each end, men armed with sticks eye each other across the divide.

Those who fled also face grim conditions. On June 12th at the border, Uzbekistani guards hesitated as hysterical women sobbed and stumbled towards them. They raised their rifles, but did not shoot. Then they began to allow them across. After the first stampede the bodies of four children lay, crushed to death, in the dust.

Nor are the 45,000 who have registered as refugees in Uzbekistan necessarily that lucky. Most are confined to newly erected camps, even if they have relations nearby. This is causing anguish among the refugees, but is in keeping with the control-freak tendencies of the regime of Islam Karimov, the president, for whom stability, or at least an outward semblance of it, is all.

Most of the refugees are not far from the town of Andijan, where several hundred protesters were shot dead in 2005. The Fergana Valley region of eastern Uzbekistan has also seen an intense crackdown on Islamist extremism, though the bar has been set very low. Some youths have been charged for holding prayer groups.

A well-off local Uzbek near the border on the Kyrgyzstani side is putting up some 200 people, mostly women and children, who are sleeping rough in his yard. At dawn a young man wakes up wailing. His neighbours at home have been shot dead, his house has been burned, and his wife and children are lost.

An Uzbek cameraman has footage of an armoured personnel-carrier going through a crowd of agitated Kyrgyz men as it approaches some Uzbeks. A soldier lowers his rifle. The crack of bullets whizzing past is unmistakable and the cameraman dives for cover. The government claims that some of its vehicles were seized on June 10th. The leader of Kyrgyzstan’s interim administration, Roza Otunbayeva, has admitted how weak her army is.

Simmering and boiling over

The origins of the unrest lie both in the recent turmoil in Kyrgyzstani politics, and in the country’s history as a former state of the Soviet Union. Alone in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has had two “revolutions” since independence in 1991. Its bigger neighbours, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, have had, in Mr Karimov and Nursultan Nazarbayev respectively, one authoritarian leader since 1991. But Kyrgyzstanis have twice overthrown presidents seen as corrupt, nepotistic and dictatorial.

The “Tulip Revolution” of 2005 brought down Askar Akayev, a Soviet-era strongman, who now teaches maths in Moscow. However, his replacement, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, soon started following the fashion among regional leaders. Like Mr Akayev, he beefed up the powers of the presidency. (The constitution has been changed to this effect seven times since 1991.) He also hounded his opponents while tolerating the fast-growing business interests of his family, notably his son, Maksim, who was this week detained as he landed on a private plane at a British airport, seeking political asylum.

Mr Bakiyev is also in exile. After the security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in April, and more than 80 people were killed in clashes in Bishkek, the capital, he was forced to flee. Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, naturally sympathetic to the plight of a fellow post-Soviet strongman, offered him sanctuary.

He was replaced by the interim government, led by Ms Otunbayeva, a former ambassador and foreign minister. It is largely made up of disaffected members of Mr Akayev’s or Mr Bakiyev’s regimes. The small political class is both close-knit and fractious. In an interview with The Economist in May, Ms Otunbayeva grumbled about the difficulty of getting her colleagues to agree on anything.

However, they were committed to a referendum on June 27th, in which voters would be asked to approve a switch to a parliamentary system. Ms Otunbayeva insists the vote will go ahead, though with so many people displaced, and security still doubtful, that may be unwise. The first elections under the new system, which would incorporate many safeguards against the rise of another dictator, would be held in October. If genuine, this would be a radical shift not just for Kyrgyzstan, but for Central Asia as a whole.

The interim government blames the violence on the Bakiyevs. They retain support among ethnic-Kyrgyz residents of the south, the family’s base and stronghold. Several times since April there have been clashes between government forces and Bakiyev loyalists. The government’s case is bolstered by a recording posted on YouTube in mid-May, purporting to be of a telephone conversation involving Maksim Bakiyev. In it he says he intends to bring down the government by causing unrest in the south. A foreign-ministry official says mercenaries from the badlands of Tajikistan and Afghanistan were hired.

It is not just the interim government that detects an organising hand behind the violence. A UN spokesman, too, said there was evidence indicating that it began on June 10th with five simultaneous attacks in Osh involving men wearing masks and carrying guns. One target was a gym known to be frequented by criminals, an attack on which was bound to provoke a violent reaction. Aleksandr Knyazev, a political scientist from Kyrgyzstan, says the perpetrators were both Bakiyev-financed criminal gangs and ethnic-Uzbek groups financed by someone else.

The south is another country

Even if the spark came from outside—and first reports suggested that the initial cause was no more than a fist-fight in a gambling den—there was no shortage of dry tinder. In the chaotic weeks after Mr Bakiyev surrendered his seat in Bishkek, opportunistic mobs indulged in looting and score-settling across the country. In the north, around Bishkek, Kyrgyz gangs attacked enclaves of Russians and Meskhetian Turks.

It was in the south, however, that latent resentments manifested themselves most bitterly. Kyrgyzstan is divided both geographically—by high mountains—and ethnically (see map). In the north the legacy of Soviet rule is evident in a more Russified culture. Most of the country’s ethnic Russians live there, but so do Dungans (or Hui, a Muslim people of Chinese origin) and some ethnic Germans. The south is closer to Central Asian traditions and is more ethnically mixed. Most of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbeks, who make up about 15% of its 5.4m people, live in the south, along with some Tajiks. Indeed, around Kyrgyzstan’s bit of the Fergana Valley—the eastern rim of the ethnically mixed heartland of modern Uzbekistan—Uzbeks form a narrow majority.

This is not the first time ethnic conflict in the area has claimed lives. In June 1990, during the last days of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic, street brawling in Osh over land disagreements turned bloody. About 300 people died before Soviet troops restored order, and a curfew was imposed for the whole summer. Mr Akayev was appointed president, with instructions to keep the country’s ethnic frictions in check.

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries formed by the break-up of the Soviet Union. But the north, around Bishkek (formerly Frunze) is more developed, with some industry. The south is more agrarian and devoutly Islamic. Only two usable roads through the mountains link north and south. It takes a day to drive from Bishkek to Osh.

Mr Akayev, the strongman, was a northerner. Under him southerners felt neglected and unrepresented. When the southern Mr Bakiyev came to power he appointed a northern prime minister, Feliks Kulov, in an effort at inclusion. Ms Otunbayeva, the interim president, was born in Osh, the second-largest city in the country and the south’s biggest. But after many years in the north and abroad she is no longer seen as a real southerner.

Uzbeks, who are under-represented in central government, regional administrations and the army, have long felt politically excluded. Whereas historically the Kyrgyz were nomadic herders, Uzbeks were settled farmers. Now the stereotype is that they make a living in the bazaars. The two groups often have very different outlooks, for example on the role of women. Kyrgyzstan is the first Central Asian country to have a woman as president.

The south is also a nest of spies from Uzbekistan—including taxi-drivers, businessmen and others, on the lookout for extremists or for other threats to the Karimov regime, such as members of a banned opposition party. The killing in 2007 of Alisher Saipov, a prominent ethnic-Uzbek journalist in Kyrgyzstan, shows Uzbekistan’s readiness to meddle elsewhere to further Mr Karimov’s perceived interests. Its secret service is said to have long crawled all over Osh and Jalal-Abad, the other big southern town, as if it was its own back yard. As the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, says in a 2008 report, northern Kyrgyzstani politicians complain that Uzbeks in the south make excessive demands for political rights, but have allowed Uzbekistan’s secret service free rein there since the Andijan massacre.

Blame Uncle Joe

Until the Soviet Union started to define its Central Asian territories in 1924, the region never had precise borders. Before Russian colonisation in the late 19th century, the boundaries of the different khanates shifted back and forth. The nomadic Kyrgyz and Kazakhs largely ignored the concepts of states and boundaries anyway.

After the October revolution of 1917, new autonomous republics were created. In 1924 Stalin divided the region into different Soviet republics. The borders were drawn up rather arbitrarily without following strict ethnic lines or even the guidelines of geography. The main aim was to counter the growing popularity of pan-Turkism in the region, and to avoid potential friction. Hence, the fertile Fergana Valley (formerly ruled by the Khanate of Kokand) was divided between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Some of these borders were redrawn several times until 1936. After 1991, this led to lively demarcation disputes among the newly independent countries. In addition, some small pockets of territory are nominally part of one country but geographically isolated from it. Kyrgyzstan, for example, has seven enclaves, two belonging to Tajikistan and five to Uzbekistan.

Uzbeks in exile

This has been only one cause of prickly relations between the “stans”, which are linked by Soviet-era roads, gas pipelines, electricity grids and other infrastructure. Water, in particular, is very sensitive. Mountainous Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are the sources of much of the water that irrigates Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The upstream countries want to develop their enormous hydropower potential. This is opposed, especially by Uzbekistan.

The downfall of Mr Bakiyev seems to have opened a new rift between Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours. Neither Mr Karimov in Uzbekistan nor Mr Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan wants to see protest spread across his country’s borders. Both closed them after the April unrest, putting severe economic strain on the interim government. Kazakhstan also limited the time Kyrgyzstani migrant workers could stay. “Our neighbours are very hostile,” says Isa Omurkulov, the mayor of Bishkek, who then plays up to their fears by threatening to “export our revolution”. After the unrest in the south, Kazakhstan sent more troops to its border.

Friends like these

All three big external powers in Central Asia—America, China and Russia—have a big interest in the region’s stability. China sees it as an important source of gas and other energy supplies. It is also, more alarmingly as seen from Beijing, a possible inspiration for Islamist nationalists in what was once “East Turkestan” and is now China’s region of Xinjiang.

Both America and Russia, for their parts, maintain military bases in Kyrgyzstan, both near Bishkek. The American Manas air base, or “transit centre”, as it is now called, is used for supporting American and NATO troops in Afghanistan. It is an important part of a northern supply route developed because of the vulnerability of convoys coming through the Khyber Pass from Pakistan. Russia’s base in Kant is part of an agreement by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which groups together seven members of the former Soviet Union, to set up a counter-terrorism base in the region. But the former imperial power still sees Central Asia as very much its own stamping-ground.

The Manas base has been a source of friction. Last year Mr Bakiyev promised Russia it would be closed and was promised aid. He reneged on the deal when America increased the rent it was paying. That is one reason why Russia was suspected of having a role in his downfall. And though domestic pressures were probably enough to unseat him, Russia was certainly quick to recognise and help Ms Otunbayeva’s government.

Russia did not, however, rush troops to its aid when Ms Otunbayeva asked for them, as the violence in the south span out of control. It limited itself at first to sending paratroopers to secure the base at Kant, and then sending relief supplies. In April Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, described Kyrgyzstan as “on the verge of civil war”. Russia presumably has no desire to be sucked in, as it was in Afghanistan in 1979—and certainly not without international backing.

Ms Otunbayeva insists there are no plans to throw the Americans out of Manas. But many of her colleagues accuse America of having pandered to Mr Bakiyev’s corrupt and dictatorial whims in exchange for access to Manas. They allege that Maksim Bakiyev profited from the fuel-supply contracts for the base. This claim is being investigated by America’s Congress. The privately-held company which has the Pentagon contract denies any knowledge of Maksim Bakiyev’s involvement in the firms they deal with. NATO has suspended flights by air-to-air refuelling tankers from Manas.

Even if the world’s big powers share an abiding interest in the stability of Central Asia as a whole, and hence of Kyrgyzstan in particular, they seem to have little idea how to achieve it. So far they have tended to compete for influence. But with an eye on the ethnic and religious tensions in the region, and the vulnerability of brittle authoritarian systems, it may be time to start co-operating.

(Quelle: The Economist.)


Siehe auch:

The ethnicisation of violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Crisis in Kyrgyzstan and the Interests of Empire

HIV-Alarm in Zentralasien

Dienstag, Juni 1st, 2010

“HIV Alarm in Central Asia

Large-scale population movement contributes to virus spreading across broad cross-section of society.

By Dina Tokbaeva, Beksultan Sadyrkulov, Aslibegim Manzarshoeva – Central Asia

Nigora discovered she was HIV-positive when she had a blood test in her seventh month of pregnancy. When her doctors spoke to her husband, he revealed that he had unprotected sex while working abroad, and his test showed up positive as well.

‘I wasn’t even aware of the disease, so I didn’t take precautions,’ he said.

Nigora’s baby was born HIV-free, but her first child was infected through breast milk.

Her story fits a pattern that is becoming increasingly in this region. Hundreds of thousands of people from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, generally but not always men, spend long periods of time abroad, often in Russia. There they are at risk of contracting HIV through high-risk behaviour such as unprotected sex, or in some cases sharing needles to inject drugs. When they come home, ignorance of HIV or shame about discussing it can mean they unwittingly pass on the virus to their partners.

Statistics show a steep rise in HIV infection rates across the Central Asian states. The statistics show the highest incidence among drug users who share hypodermic needles, followed by sexual contact, in some cases involving commercial sex workers. Although comprehensive statistics are not available, it is clear that HIV is not nearly as prevalent among migrants as a group.

However, what sets the migrants apart from other categories is that when infection occurs, families in their home towns and villages across the Central Asian countries are potentially vulnerable.

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – the subjects of this report – stand out among the five regional states because exceptionally large sections of the population are either migrants themselves or have family members who are. Given the low level of public knowledge about the issues, unless a migrant’s wife undergoes testing during pregnancy, she and her family may remain unaware they are HIV-positive.

Experts say population mobility can lead to more rapid and wide-ranging transmission than, say, the use of shared needles, which occurs within a narrower section of the community.
‘If we consider the size of labour migration from Central Asia – as an example, it is estimated that one-fifth of the population of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are currently in labour migration – it is possible to imagine the significance of the problem,’ said Vasily Esenamanov, HIV programme advisor with the Central Asia office of DanChurchAid and ICCO, aid groups from Denmark and The Netherlands, respectively. ‘Labour migrants are [part of the] general population, not marginalised, and not so locked within their own stratum like injecting drug users or men who have sex with men.
‘What is visible from the official statistics is that the virus is bridging to the general population, meaning that new cases are not isolated to risk groups such as IDUs, but also found among women who are not using drugs and children. This is a critical issue as the virus can then catch speed and spread more rapidly in the population in general.’

According to Zamira Akbagysheva, head of the Congress of Women in Kyrgyzstan, ‘Labour migrants are more susceptible to HIV than static populations. Mobility…. frequently provokes riskier behaviour. Separation from family and from long-term partners, the sense of liberation from social constraints, and receptiveness to one’s new environment – all tend to encourage frequent changes of sexual partners.’


As of the end of December, Tajikistan had 1,853 people recorded with HIV, 80 per cent of them male. In Kyrgyzstan, the number of recorded cases stood at 2,837 as of March 2010; 70 per cent were men.

In both countries, the commonest route for infection was via reused hypodermic syringes. Most cases involve users of injected drugs. Infection through dirty needles used in hospitals is another route – around 120 children were infected in this manner in southern Kazakstan in 2006 and 170 in Kyrgyzstan two years later. In March, the regional news site reported that around 150 children in the Namangan region of eastern Uzbekistan were infected through medical negligence in 2007 and 2008.

In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, sexual contact accounted for about a quarter of cases.

In Uzbekistan, the most recent figure is for 2008, and indicates that 1,250 people were officially recorded as HIV-positive, a very low figure given that Uzbekistan had some 27 million people that year compared with Tajikistan’s seven million and Kyrgyzstan’s five million.

A human rights activist told IWPR that the overall figures for HIV/AIDs appeared to be grossly underestimates, and no figures disaggregated by risk category had been issued in the last two years.

He said work done by him and his colleagues suggested that migrants would amount to a low percentage of an accurate overall figure. At the same time, ‘bearing in mind that the number of labour migrants is incomparably larger than that of [specific] risk groups, the total number of migrants infected is of course much larger…. Another facet of the problem is that increasing numbers of women are going abroad to work and many unfortunately engage in prostitution, which of course increases the risk of HIV infection.’

An Uzbek analyst who asked not to be identified said surveys conducted by local NGOs suggested there were at least 7,500 people living with HIV in 2009, and the percentage of those who were migrants was ‘approximately 25 to 30 per cent’.

In Tajikistan, the number of recorded cases grew by 30 per cent year on year in 2009 and 35 per cent in 2008, although doctors say the increase is partly attributable to better diagnosis, thanks to funding from the United Nations Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Dr Katoyon Faromuzova, Tajikistan national coordinator for the International Organisation for Migration, notes that some experts believe that official statistics need to be multiplied by a factor of ten to arrive at more accurate figures. But she personally thinks the official figures are close to the truth, thanks to more effective testing that targets groups like pregnant women.

Zuhra Nurlaminova of Tajikistan’s official Republican AIDS Centre agrees that people are much more ready to come forward now that there are dozens of test clinics around the country.

‘Previously, there wasn’t any express-service testing….there wasn’t the required equipment. Public awareness was very low,’ she told IWPR. ‘But now there are public-service ads on television and banners in the streets, so there’s a lot more people coming in,’ she said. ‘Whereas it used to be that virtually no one would come in for an anonymous test, now there are a lot more admissions.’


Measuring the number of cases involving migrant workers contracting HIV abroad is a lot more difficult. Officially, there were 197 such cases in Tajikistan in 2009, or 11 per cent of the total. Kyrgyzstan does not separate out figures for migrant workers, although the authorities recognise this category is a high-risk one.

Sagynbu Abduvalieva, head of infant pathology for Kyrgyzstan’s National Centre for Mother and Child Protection, estimates that migrants account for up to 20 per cent of HIV-positive people in the country.

In Uzbekistan, the analyst who spoke to IWPR said the available evidence indicated that as elsewhere in the region, intravenous drug users were the most at-risk category, but ‘migrants and prostitutes come in equal second place, with not much between them’. He noted that the overall number of migrants from Uzbekistan – predominantly consisting of male manual labourers – includes some women travelling to other countries to work as prostitutes.

Potential HIV carriers among the families of migrants are even harder to track given the paucity of official data, he said. ‘It’s precisely these ‘family’ carriers who are the group that is most hidden and hard to capture in the statistics,’ he said. ‘They are latent [carriers] and because of the stereotypes that have grown up, they don’t generally fall within the risk group as it is commonly conceived.’
In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Esenamanov said, ‘There is no evidence supported by official statistics. However, many local organisations working in the area of HIV in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan state that there is evidence of a rapidly growing number of infections among wives of men who return from labour migration…. This can indicate that number of infections through labour migrants is growing rapidly and that HIV is bridging to the general population. ‘

Mohira Hamidova, an HIV prevention specialist with the national AIDS Centre in Tajikistan, also sees a correlation between migration and the rise in sexual transmission rates.

‘It used to be that injecting accounted for more than 70 per cent of cases, but now that has gone down to 54 per cent, while the sexual transmission route has risen as a proportion,’ she said.

‘My work involves working with pregnant women infected with HIV. Of the total number now under observation at the Centre, 102 are pregnant and 70 per cent of that number are the wives of labour migrants. We identify them among all the women who undergo testing at clinics and maternity hospitals, and only then does it become apparent that they were infected by their labour migrant husbands.’

Nurlaminova was less certain that migrants play a pivotal role in transmission.

‘It would be wrong to say labour migration is the basic problem; instead, it is drug users. Labour migrants account for just 11 per cent,’ she said.

Faromuzova says that in Tajikistan, migrants do constitute a risk group.

‘If young men are cut off from their families and go away for a long period, they become at risk. For one thing, it occurs because they find themselves in that social environment. For another, they are cut off from their families but still have psychological and other needs. Young people are away from their parents’ influence and feel liberated. So they are at risk for that reason.’

The reason the migrants are an important group to watch, said Esenamanov, is that they represent such a large proportion of the total population – one fifth of the populations of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The numbers of people involved in migration are staggering – from 400,000 to one million from Kyrgyzstan, anywhere between 600,000 and 1.5 million from Tajikistan, and between one and four million from Uzbekistan. Most go to Russia, and smaller numbers to Kazakstan. As Esenamanov noted, ‘This is incomparable [larger than] the number of sex workers, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and other risk groups.’


Migrant workers in Russia and Kazakstan are typically engaged in low-status manual work, and are vulnerable to rights violations by employers and local police.

While immigration authorities in Russia and Kazakstan now demand HIV tests as a condition of entry, a high percentage of workers from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan avoid these procedures and work illegally in the grey economy.

Matluba Rahmanova of Tajikistan’s AIDS Centre said that while the clinic tested dozens of migrants taking the legal route every day, and less than one per cent of them tested positive, ‘One should not forget most migrants leave the country without these certificates – those who are working abroad illegally.’

‘It’s important to understand the labour migrants are a vulnerable group,’ explained Esenamanov. ‘They seek work abroad in order to feed their families, often end up in very low paid and insecure jobs, and are harassed by authorities and local citizens in Russia. Many, but not all, have a low education and come from rural areas. There are few and limited educational programs and materials available about reproductive health – sexually transmitted diseases [STD] and how to prevent them – and our extensive baseline study shows a very low level of knowledge about the risk of HIV and other STD, which of course increase the risk, and high-risk sexual behaviour such as non-use of condoms.’

Esenamanov said HIV infection could come through contact with prostitutes. He cited a study by the Humanitarian Action Foundation in St. Petersburg which showed that 50 per cent of local sex workers are intravenous drug users, and 95 of that category are HIV-positive.

‘Therefore, the risk of contracting HIV is quite high when visiting commercial sex workers. [The migrant] does not use a condom as he is simply not aware of the need to do so, or does not think this is necessary, and contract HIVs,’ he said. ‘After returning home not aware of having HIV they infect their wives.’

Labour migrants who inject drugs through shared needles can also contract acquire HIV, and pass it on to their wives. In Kyrgyzstan, Akbagysheva said husband-to-wife transmission was a significant factor.

IWPR interviews with migrant workers past and present suggest widespread ignorance about HIV, its transmission, and preventive methods.

‘We ‘gastarbeiters’ only seek [medical] help under extreme circumstances, for example for industrial injuries,’ said Yoldash, a young man back from Moscow and living in Jalalabad in the south of Kyrgyzstan. ‘There’s a class of people who are educated, and they safeguard themselves against HIV, but those who are uneducated don’t protect themselves.’

Jasur, now at medical school in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, also spent time working in Russia. He said that most of his fellow-workers there had little education and were uninformed about HIV. While some might put themselves at risk by injecting drugs, he said he believed ‘the sexual transmission route for HIV infection took first place.’

The rights activist from Uzbekistan agreed that ‘the overwhelming majority of labour migrants have a very weak understanding of HIV/AIDS and the risks, infection routes, and preventive measures. Many don’t have a clue what HIV is.’


Women in traditional rural communities, said Esenamanov, ‘cannot demand that their husbands get tested or use condoms; nor do they know of HIV at all. Women infected by their husbands give birth to HIV-positive children, as these women are not aware of prevention of vertical, mother-to-child transmission.’

Nurlaminova agreed that male labour migrants were commonly unaware of their HIV status. ‘They discover they are ill when their pregnant wives undergo testing.’

She said dealing with couples was more straightforward when the husband was aware he was HIV-positive, but added that ‘it’s a lot more complex when it’s the wife who’s the first to discover she is infected. Fearing that she will be unjustly accused of adultery, she will wait for months while she thinks about how to tell her husband.’

Awareness levels are generally low in the rural communities from which migrants often come.

‘Urban people are better informed about the issue. They’ve heard of AIDS, they know the transmission routes and many take precautions for sexual contact,’ said Nurlaminova, adding that the majority, young people from rural areas, ‘generally don’t know much about it, or else they know nothing at all.’

She went on, ‘Another feature of labour migrants here is that most of these ordinary village lads never use condoms. When you talk to them, some of them don’t even know what those are, and neither do their wives.’

Pia Dyrhagen, who was a programme officer with DanChurchAid in Central Asia until December, initiated a project on HIV/migration for together with local organisations about two years ago. She says anyone identified as HIV-positive faces high levels of discrimination. ‘Neighbours, villagers and even family members refuse to talk to them and turn their back on them if meeting them in the street,’ she said. ‘There are cases of chidren not being admitted to school when the head of school found out the child was HIV-positive. In Tajikistan [our NGO] partners speak of cases of suicide among women who were HIV infected by their husbands who returned from migration.

‘All this because people don’t know enough about the virus.’

This lack of awareness is in part due to education programmes that have hitherto focused on narrower high-risk categories.

‘The fact that this transmission route takes place among the general population is the most critical issue,’ said Esenamanov. ‘Whereas intravenous drug users and commercial sex workers in Central Asia have been receiving targeted information for the last seven years, nobody has been disseminating information about sexually transmitted diseases among the general population, at least not in a very structured and engaging way, as this group had not been prioritised… by the donor organisations. The high level of taboo surrounding sex and the use of condoms makes it a difficult topic to talk about, especially in schools and other official institutions.’

He noted that people living with HIV tended to be stigmatised ‘in medical institutions, among representatives of authorities and religious leaders, but also among the local population’.

‘If the spread of HIV should be curbed, it is necessary to engage all the parties involved in a dialogue where all problems can be discussed openly and with mutual respect,’ he added.


There are signs that governments in the region are becoming aware that migrants constitute a risk category, and need to be targeted with special awareness-raising campaigns.

Hamidova pointed out that in Tajikistan, the wives of labour migrants were now counted as one of five categories of women subject to mandatory testing when they visit gynaecological clinics or maternity hospitals.

‘Doctors refuse to examine them unless they undergo the test,’ she said, adding that the provision of rapid HIV testing facilities in all such institutions last year has greatly helped identify HIV cases, and women not included in the five key categories, which also includes women who inject drugs or have partners who do so and commercial sex workers.

According to Esenamanov, ‘the Kyrgyz and Tajik governments have both made migrants a priority group in their respective national strategies for HIV’. He said his organisation had found the authorities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan responsive, and the main challenge now was ‘finding effective measures to curb the spread of HIV and finding the resources to carry these out’.

In Uzbekistan, a recent law stipulates that HIV tests for certain groups should be free and confidential. But it has yet to focus on migrants as a particular category.

‘The [Uzbek] authorities’ failure to recognise migrants as a risk group alongside prostitutes and drug abusers is one of the reasons why they have not to date been included in mandatory prevention work and registration,’ said the analyst interviewed in Uzbekistan.

The human rights activist also in Uzbekistan said that while the government was trying to tackle the spread of HIV, it placed severe restrictions on information and statistics relating to the problem. Some of the leaflets produced to help people understand the issues had been denounced as ‘pornographic’ by officials, he said.

In one case reported by IWPR earlier this year, psychologist Maxim Popov was sentenced to seven years imprisonment after a court in Uzbekistan found that a book he produced to educate young people about sexually transmitted diseases and shared needle use was illegal because it allegedly encouraged young people to use narcotics. Popov headed a group called Izis which worked with drug users and sex workers to prevent HIV/AIDS, and ran a needle exchange programme for addicts.

Esenamanov told IWPR that donor organisations in Central Asia did not prioritise labour migrants as a specific target group until recently. That was now changing and a range of international and local NGOs were working together to curb the spread of HIV among labour migrants and those with whom they come into contact.

‘So far – one year after project start – there are many positive results and it is the hope that it will be possible to continue the project and expand the scope,’ he said.

Bonivur Ishemkulov, project coordinator with the United Nations Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Kyrgyzstan, said a number of NGOs were now focusing on migrants as well as other groups.

A project to prevent HIV specifically among migrant workers was launched last December, as a component of the Central Asia AIDS Control Project, a 27-million US dollar initiative funded by the International Development Association and Britain’s Department for International Development. An education centre in the Tajik capital Dushanbe will coordinate work in in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan as well as Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, the HIV prevention project launched by the Congress of Women in Kyrgyzstan in February is trying to provide information direct to migrant workers.

‘Our trainers are now going round the markets, airports and railway stations giving out leaflets and posters for migrants to read and find out how to protect themselves,’ she said.

Many of the experts interviewed for this report were at pains to point out that while targeted awareness campaigns were essential, that did not mean the large number of Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Tajiks people travelling abroad to earn a living should be lumped together as some kind of dangerous group.

Dr Faromuzova expressed concern that migrants, often the most enterprising part of the labour force, should not become the target of ‘fear, discrimination and stigma’.

‘It isn’t enough that they are providing for their families, easing social tensions and helping develop their country – they could have this label slapped on them as well,’ she warned.

Akbagysheva agreed, saying, ‘We can’t make scapegoats out of the labour migrants. But we definitely have to work with them.’

Dina Tokbaeva is IWPR editor in Kyrgyzstan. Beksultan Sadyrkulov is a pseudonym for a reporter in Bishkek and Aslibegim Manzarshoeva is an IWPR-trained journalist in Dushanbe.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

(Quelle: Institute for War & Peace Reporting.)