Fundamental rights in Central Asia: July - October 2014
A new report provides an overview of human rights developments in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in early July-early October 2014. The report addresses issues related to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, equality before the law and non-discrimination, as well as access to justice.
These are some of the major developments covered by the report:
- Access to well-known news websites was blocked after they provided coverage of what was believed to have been an inter-ethnic brawl in southern Kazakhstan at the end of August.
- Lawyer and human rights defender Yevgeniy Tankov was sentenced to three years in prison for waving a plastic fly swatter against a judge in the courtroom.
- Mortgage holders were detained, warned and fined for peacefully calling for their interest payments to be written off, while a journalist who filmed the dispersal of a peaceful protest was locked up for 15 days.
- The publication on social media of a poster showing Russian writer Alexander Puskin and Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly kissing was followed not only by lawsuits against the agency designing it, but also an anti-LGBT campaign, including an appeal to adopt a law banning “propaganda of LGBT people.”
- Top Muslim clerics issued a controversial fatwa that declared it a “great sin” to “agitate” against the authorities or cooperate with organizations, political parties and media intent on “destabilizing” society.
- In early October, hundreds of websites were suddenly blocked, including social media and news sites. As usual, the government’s Communications Service denied all responsibility for this.
- Online calls for holding an anti-government protest in Dushanbe on 10 October put the authorities on their heels: a full-scale rehearsal of a protest dispersal was held at the capital’s main square and the exiled opposition group behind the calls was banned as “extremist.”
- Lawyer Shukhrat Kudratov, who has represented an imprisoned opposition figure and spoken out on the role of the authorities in this case, was arrested on charges of bribing a judge.
- While a new Agrarian political party was founded, this did little to enhance true political pluralism as it happened under close control by the president and the party head is a known loyalist of his.
- A new, rare public protest took place in Ashgabat when residents refused to let authorities go ahead with a campaign to remove air conditioners from their houses in the midst of sweltering summer heat.
- Authorities continued to mass-mobilize citizens for lengthy, official festivities aimed at demonstrating the glory of the nation and praising its leader, not sparing those who were fasting during the Ramadan.
- Apparently because of a lack of conscripts to send to the Turkmen-Afghan border, the government mulled plans to force high school students to graduate before they had completed their studies under the new 12-year program introduced last year.
The report is based on monitoring conducted by Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Nota Bene (Tajikistan) and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (based in exile in Austria). International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium) has assisted with compiling and editing the report, as part of a joint project implemented by the four organizations.